Favorite Boulder Holiday Traditions
Downtown Boulder twinkles with lights, the Flatirons often have a powered-sugar-cookie dusting of snow, and a lighted star glows above Boulder from Flagstaff Mountain every evening. There's no question that the holiday season is special in Boulder, no matter how you celebrate. Here are a few favorite local traditions.
Boulder was named in this list of the 20 Best Places to Spend Christmas in the USA.
- Switch on the Holidays
- Snow Much Fun Light Displays
- St. Nick on the Bricks
- Lights of December Parade
- Flagstaff Star
- CU Presents' Holiday Festival
- Homes for the Holidays Tour
- Freezie Fest
- WinterFest at Colorado Chautauqua
- Chanukah on Pearl
- Hotel Boulderado Christmas Tree
- Holiday Tea Service
- Holiday Hike
Switch on the Holidays
Nov. 19, 2023
See downtown Boulder come alive with sparkling lights and stay on the lookout for a Santa sighting during Switch on the Holidays. Attendees count down to the grand illumination of downtown Boulder — including the iconic art-deco Boulder County Courthouse.
Snow Much Fun Light Displays
November 20, 2023-January 31, 2024
During Snow Much Fun, hundreds of thousands of colorful LED lights illuminate Boulder’s Civic Area, next to the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and throughout downtown Boulder, including all along historic Pearl Street. Each year there are fun, themed light displays. Grab a hot cup of cocoa and enjoy a wonder-filled stroll outside. This year, explore holiday lights both real and virtual on a self-guided, augmented-reality tour throughout the district. Meet a snowman, an orca, polar bears and more as you scan QR codes and explore downtown. View a map of the winter wonderland AR trail and follow along on each block!
Lights of December Parade
Dec. 2, 2023
Boulder's annual hometown parade meanders through historic downtown. During the Lights of December Parade, hear marching bands, watch floats go by and get a feel of Boulder's distinctive lifestyle during this night-time parade. The grand finale includes an appearance by the jolly old man himself — Santa Claus!
Shopping on Pearl Street — a historic, brick-paved pedestrian lane that twinkles with holiday lights — is the picture-perfect way to tackle your holiday gift list. Stop for lots of hot chocolate warm-ups and to watch street performers (including school children playing their instruments to earn a little cash over the holiday break), and enjoy free parking at city garages downtown. Over at Twenty Ninth Street, more shopping awaits — and spectacular views of the Flatirons. Plus, don’t miss Boulder’s artisan markets to support local craftspeople.
Veterans Day Through the Second Sunday in January
Boulder’s holiday star has shone from atop Flagstaff Mountain every year for over seven decades — since 1947. Its 365 bulbs are energy-saving LED lights that can be seen from anywhere in Boulder. The Boulder Chamber is the proud steward of the star, and each year they sell holiday cards featuring a rendition of the star, painted by a local artist. If you're in town over the holidays, be sure to look up!
Photo: University of Colorado Boulder
Please remember there is no hiking permitted in the area around the Boulder Star for the protection of the surrounding environment, which has seen a little too much love. The city suggests some great alternative trails for viewing the star.
CU Presents’ Holiday Festival
Dec. 8-10, 2023
Each year for 40-plus years, Macky Auditorium, located on the CU campus, has hosted one of Boulder's most beloved holiday concerts as part of the CU Presents program. The College of Music's choirs, orchestras, ensembles and soloists perform the Holiday Festival in the beautifully decorated, historic auditorium.
Photo: Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado
Dec. 9, 2023
Freezie Fest is a fun annual snowman extravaganza that includes train rides, visits with Santa and Freezie the Snowman, carolers and free "Reindeer Games" on the 1300 block of Pearl Street. It also includes Find Freezie, where shoppers dash into downtown stores to try to be the first one to spot a small, hidden stuffed snowman to win a gift card. Learn more.
Photo courtesy of Downtown Boulder
WinterFest at Colorado Chautauqua
December 8-10, 2023
Each year, at the foot of the Flatirons, the Colorado Chautauqua hosts a classic winter celebration. Enjoy carriage rides, Santa's cottage, historic cottage tours, a family holiday concert with Jeff and Paige, a guided caroling hike and much more. Learn more.
Chanukah on Pearl
Dec. 11, 2023
Join the Boulder Jewish Community Center and the Boulder County Center for Judaism for the community Menorah lighting on the 1300 block of Pearl Street Mall. This annual, all-ages, outdoor event is open to the entire community and has become a fun holiday tradition for many local families. Festivities include the Menorah lighting, music, latkes, sufganiyot (jelly donuts), hot chocolate and Chanukah favors. Advanced registration is requested.
Holiday Tea Service
Indulge in all the delicate little finger sandwiches, tiered plates of sweets, and steaming pots of tea you’ve dreamt about:
Hotel Boulderado – Set on the historic mezzanine overlooking the hotel lobby, with beautiful views of the hotel’s famous renovated stained glass canopy ceiling.
St Julien Hotel & Spa – St Julien's Sunday Gingerbread Tea features traditional tea, music and delicacies, including savory tea sandwiches, sweet petit fours and an array of different flavored scones.
Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse – An elegant afternoon tea is available by reservation. English-style white linens accompany all the tea time accouterments.
Ask any local, and chances are good that their Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Days start with a refreshing winter hike. Try it and see what it’s like! There’s no better feeling than enjoying the crisp air on the trails in the morning and later sitting down to dinner knowing you’ve earned a feast. Each year, there's a guided hike, led by a City of Boulder naturalist, on Christmas Day. Many of Colorado’s State Parks host free, guided First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, too.