A Driving Tour of Neighborhood Holiday Lights in South Metro Denver: Littleton, Englewood, and Centennial
Christmas Holiday Lights in Littleton, Englewood and Centennial
This little drive will take you past a few of south Denver's major light displays. You'll start at Southglenn Mall and then head to far south Englewood at the Kloewer residence (5041 S. Elati), move south and west through downtown Littleton on Littleton Boulevard, and end up at the Hudson Gardens lighting display.
I've included the address of each so that you can enter them into your phone or GPS device.
Lights at the Southglenn Mall
6991 S Vine St, Centennial, CO 80122
This shopping area makes a good starting place since it’s easy to find (at the corner of University and Arapahoe) and has quite a few places to grab a bite or a drink before you set off. The center street of this outdoor mall (in front of the theater) has a nice, tasteful display of lighted trees, as well as a fireplace and a skating rink. They also have a Santa inside that you can visit, and lots of other special events and services, such as Clydesdale carriage rides, carolers, and even Santa photos with your pet. Check their website for dates and times.
If you want to grab a bite, or get a hot drink before you go out, there are several restaurants. Local favorites are the Mellow Mushroom pizza joint and the Peet’s Coffee and Tea. You can also get sushi, pizza, soup, stir-fry, salad bar, and all kinds of drinks at Whole Foods Market.
Lights on House at 6636 S. Lafayette
As you head west on Arapahoe Road the cool white lights that decorate the trees and the roofline will catch your eye off to the right. Make a right on Lafayette, and you will see a tree and yard decked out with all manner of things—Cookie Monster and Big Bird with the sleigh, penguins, Minnie Mouse, a reindeer pushing a lawn mower. Make sure you take a look at the windows to catch a glimpse of the Grinch lurking about. If you get out of the car and walk around to see the display, you can also hear the Christmas music that’s piped from the porch.
If you have time, wend your way through the neighborhood for a bit. While the other houses aren’t as elaborate, there are still some feats of engineering (how did they get those red lights so high on that tree?) to admire. This neighborhood seems to have more decorating spirit than most of the ones I’ve seen in Littleton.
Just make sure you head back west on Arapahoe Road so that you can turn left (south) on Broadway.
Lights 6636 S. Lafayette, Centennial, CO
Synchronized Lights and Music on 7148 South Grant Street
This display has 35,000 lights which are synchronized to music transmitted on the radio at 98.1 FM on your dial. Thanks to Caleb Schallenmuller who pointed out his display to me. It’s quite the sight.
The lights are bright, with bold colors, and the music is definitely on the energetic side of the spectrum. My little phone camera doesn’t do justice to the depth of the color, but you can see that he has quite a few features to work with for his synchronized lights: roof lines, stars, trees, arches. The photo doesn’t show it, but there is also a big triangular tree shape to the right which has various strands that light up. He gets quite a bit of variety, and quite a bit of the flashing “Wow factor” from this display. I’ve included a brief video excerpt which will give you an idea of the mood of the display. Again, you really have to see it in person to get the full effect of the bright lights.
Excerpt of Light Show at 7148 S. Grant St
The Kloewer's, 5041 S. Elati, Englewood, CO 80110
This home, two blocks west of Broadway and one block north of Belleview, has a postage-stamp yard, but the Kloewers manage to pack just about every inch of it with lights, figurines, and all manner of Christmas décor.
You can see the lights from your car as you drive past, but you're going to want to get the kids and bundle out so that you can walk around and get the full effect. The brightly lit outline of a train, which adorns his driveway fence, is the highlight of this display.
Right across the street is another display that is not as elaborate, but still has quite a bit to see.
Holiday Lights at 5041 S. Elati, Englewood, CO 80110
Detour - Synchronized Light Show at 5136 S. Pennsylvania Street
This pleasant show is just a little east of the Kloewer's house. The modest-sized house is absolutely covered with lights, with a few trees and such for emphasis. If you like more traditional Christmas music, this is the place for you. They've chosen a nice selection of standards with instrumental and vocal selections (in contrast to the shows which are heavy on rock.) It's charming, and I especially like the addition of the brighter twinkle lights. It give the whole thing quite a bit of character. You can see an excerpt from their "Little Drummer Boy" selection below to get an idea of what the show is like.
To get back on the tour, go back to Belleview and head west.
Synchronized Light Show 5136 S. Pennsylvania St.
Lights on Littleton Boulevard
Once you have finished taking in the previous displays,go back to Belleview and turns south on Windermere. It will intersect with Littleton Boulevard, and you will head west/
As you travel west on Littleton Boulevard (which changes its name to Main Street), you will come to a bridge festooned with lights, the entrance into the glittering display of downtown Littleton. Craft shops and trendy restaurants line either side of the street, each with one or two deciduous trees out front. Many cities string lights on trees, but the city of Littleton seems to be in a contest to see how many thousands of lights they can put on each tree. They avoid being overwhelming by sticking to a simple color palette of warm white lights.
When you reach the end of the fourth block, the street curves to the left, and as you come out towards Santa Fe Dr., you'll see the grand finale: several large evergreen trees lit from top to bottom with brightly colored lights. The shops in this little area also make it a point to add to the display with lights outlining roof lines and gables.
Holiday Lights in Littleton: Tree at the End of Littleton Boulevard
Holiday Lights: Shop on Littleton Boulevard
Lights on Home on Caley Ave
As you travel past the lights on Littleton Boulevard, move over to the left lane so that you can turn left when you get to Santa Fe, to Church Ave.and then Prince Street. If you like the Peanuts (R) gang, turn left onto Caley Avenue. After two blocks, look off to your left to see the house at 2240 W. Caley Ave. There are several little scenes of Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy and the whole gang.
Often, these little dioramas go up late, even as late as the 20th of December, so check back later if you don't see them. Also, they don't seem to be set on a timer, which means that they go on and off whenever the homeowner gets to them. Still, it's worth taking a little 2-block detour if the Peanuts characters warm your heart.
Christmas Holiday Lights at 2240 W. Caley Ave.
Lights on Windermere Street
As you travel down Caley, go about six blocks, then make a turn south on Windermere street. You'll see decorated houses all along the way.
Lights on Windermere
Luminaria on Windermere Street
If you continue on Windermere, cross Ridge Road and keep going until Windermere ends in a cul-de-sac, you will see a neighborhood that sets out blocks and blocks of luminaria.
These decorations are simple in concept: a votive candle is placed in a a paper bag that has a layer of coarse sand in the bottom for stability. The effect is cheerful, soothing, and charming.
I talked with a woman who lived in the neighborhood, and she said that the luminaria are set out only on Christmas eve. It's a tradition that has endured for over 20 years.
Our family found it best to park the car and walk around the neighborhood. If you try to drive in your car, you'll find that the car's lights wash out the subtle light of the luminaria, ruining the effect.
Luminaria on Windermere StreetClick thumbnail to view full-size
Christmas Holiday Lights on Jackass Hill
That's right. It's called Jackass Hill Road, an apparent homage to the mules who were pastured there during WWI.
Despite the name, this street is home to a collection of suburban homes, many with a balcony that faces the road. The people who live in them have started and maintained a charming tradition: they decorate their balconies with words for the season. Look off to the right as you are coming down the hill, and you will see one house with a lighted "JOY," another with "PEACE," "HOPE," and several others. See how many you can spot!
When you get to the light on Mineral Ave., you can turn right. Then in just a few blocks, turn right again, and you will be on Santa Fe Drive.
Off to the left, you will see the Aspen Grove mall which has several tasteful snowflakes decorating the stores.
In about 2.5 miles, you can turn left into Hudson Gardens. This is the only place that charges a fee, but it is worth it to see the amazing light display.
Christmas Holiday Lights at Hudson Gardens Event Center, 6115 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, CO 80120
Hudson Gardens is a crown jewel for Littleton, a botanic garden with beautiful vistas and landscaping. Starting in October, they string lights on the trees, bushes and bridges and turn the place into a lights extravaganza. One thing I especially like about their display is that many of the trees are next to a pond which reflects the lights.
They change the colors and design every year, so you will see something different from the pictures I've included. The photos do give you an idea of how big the trees are and how many lights they put on them.
The tickets are a little less than other metro area attractions and you can take a picture with Santa for free. The venue sells hot beverages and has wagon rides available. If the lot is full, there is a large lot across Santa Fe where you can park for free. Just make sure you cross at the light, since Santa Fe is such a busy street.
Holiday Lights at Hudson Gardens, Littleton, CO
Best of South Metro Lights
Our family has lived in South Metro Denver for 20 years, and these sites are our picks for best lighting displays in the area. In about two hours and 10 miles, you can see them all.
Keep reading for more about light displays in the Denver area.
If You Want More: Chatfield Farms
8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Rd, Littleton, CO 80128
Website: Santa's Village
Recommended Amount of Time: 1.5-2 hours
We used to love going to this ranch-turned-arboretum for the holidays. It was a pretty long walk around to see all the lights, but the sheer amount of lights, coupled with the stunning barn & silo made it worthwhile. There was alos the old farmhouse you could wander through while warming up.
But, in 2017, they changed quite a few things and re-branded it as Santa's Village. Unfortunately, Santa's Village turned out to be a few Tuff Sheds with Christmas lights, and the pleasant walk was turned into a ride. It might have been pleasant enough if you got to ride in the wagon pulled by a horse, but most of us ended up in one pulled by a tractor. Noisy, smelly, and impossible to take pictures from.
They say they've changed it for 2018 and will let you walk or ride, which would be an improvement.
They still have a nice fire to warm yourself, visits with Santa, and lots of lights. If you live in the area, it's worth going there, but I'll reserve judgement until I see how the changes work out this year.
If You Want More: Holiday Lights at the City and County Building of Denver
1437 Bannock St, Denver, CO 80202-5337
These lights are a bit of a drive from south Denver, but they are free and pretty impressive. The City and County Building is a massive white semi-circular building with a row of columns in the front. As such, it makes a perfect canvas for an array of brightly-colored lights which, 9 News tells us, can be seen from the space station.
Around 2015, the city acquired the technology to do a 15-min light show synchronized with music. I’ve been to it for 3 or 4 years now; the sound is good quality and the lights are bright and impressive. I especially like the snowflakes and twinkle lights.
It’s a bit of a mystery to figure out when the shows happen. I spent an afternoon calling people at the building, and the answers they gave me were wrong. From experience, I’ve learned that the shows happen around 5:45 and 6:30. They may be subject to change, but if you can get there around 5:30 or 6:15, you have a shot at catching them. Here is a link to the official Upcoming Lightings calendar, which will let you which dates the lights will be on. Even when the music show isn't running, the lights stay light from 6-11 pm. I've posted some pictures below, but of course they don't do the colors justice. You need to go in person to see how bright & saturated they are.
If you go on a weeknight (excluding the week between Christmas and New Year’s) and get there about 15 min. early, you can often park right on the street in front of the building. Otherwise, there are paid parking lots around.
I’d recommend parking within a block or two because the area is a little bit dicey with some people camping out in Civic Center Park. I’d advise staying in a group and keeping your wits about you.
That said, our family of three has never had any problem. Across the park to the east, there is currently an art installation by Ai Wei Wei, the famous Chinese artist. He has a semicircle of bronze statues of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. It’s a fun photo-op to get your picture taken with your animal.
If you Want More: Mile High Tree 14th and Curtis Streets
Recommended Amount of Time: 30-60 minutes
Parking: Plentiful, medium cost
Snacks: Yes, mostly beer
The Mile High Tree is a new 2019 addition to the lights downtown. It's actually a lighted cone that stands 100 feet high and is placed in the sculpture park west of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. You can see it as you drive by on Speer, but you should really get out of the car and walk over to it to get the whole experience.
You can park in the DCPA lot, or one of the other lots around town. You can also get there on the light rail.
The light on the tree have two modes. One I call "screensaver" mode, which swirls with different patters as music plays. The other is a coordinated music and light show which takes place every 15 minutes.
You can walk inside the cone to see the show, which is also a cool way to experience it. There are also a number of photo ops around the place, things like giant lighted snowflakes and stars. This being Denver, you can find a selection of beers at a nearby stand.
If you make the trip downtown to see this tree, I'd recommend also trying to catch the light show at the City & County Building and the lights projected onto the Daniels and Fisher tower on the 16th street mall. They are all within walking distance. And, there are quite a few restaurants nearby, if you want to make a night of it.
Photos of the Changing Colors of the Mile High TreeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Excerpt from Mile High Tree Music and Light Show
If You Want More: Zoo Lights 2900 E 23rd Ave, Denver, CO 80205
Size: Large (70 acres)
Recommended Amount of Time: 1.5-2 hours
Price: Moderately High
I've put the Denver Zoo at the top of the list because it's such a big display, and so many of the lights are recognizable, kid-friendly animals. You can also get some great shots of the lights on your phone.
The zoo is one of the biggest Denver light displays with 70 acres of decorated trees, shrubs, and--of course--lighted displays bent into the shapes of animals. The elephants with the colorfully-decorated elephant on its back is one of my favorites. I also like the Chinese dragon. The zoo also features several "animated" displays of animal movement--which is just really the lights turning off and on on different sections to suggest movement. Some things you can see are a frog "jumping," two bighorn sheep crashing together, and a cougar (I think) turning its head. There are peacocks and flamingos and if you have a kid who likes creepy crawlies, they can keep their eyes out for lighted snakes and other little creatures.
I also like the lanterns strung up by the elephant house and the globe lights that turn colors on the bushes near there. They give off a softer light than the bright LED lights that are so common.
When I've read the online reviews, it seems that most people are unhappy with the parking and the crowds. One a busy night when the show first starts, driving and parking around the area can be a be a nightmare, it's true. The streets around the area are not wide, and even though they've added and underground parking garage, there's not enough parking for a big crowd. I do have a tip for that: go later. My family usually pulls in around 8 pm. We get a great parking spot and have never had to wait in line to get tickets. At that time of night, the zoo isn't crowded, and we can see what ever we want, even on the weekends. Even though they say the event closes at 9 pm, they don't chase you out, and we've been able to see the whole thing in an hour and a half. If you can, plan to go on a weekend night and let the kids stay up a little late.
Another thing that people seemed disappointed about is that they don't see many animals. Well, it's night time and most of the animals are tucked in and asleep. You need to go with the mindset that you are mostly there to see the lights. That being said, you can see a few animals. The giraffe house and the elephant house are usually open, and you can get pretty close to the animals there. We've also been able to catch sight of a mountain goat and some penguins.
New! Music and Light Show
This little music and light show is a new feature that was added in 2019. It's a tree about 10-12 feet tall that plays a coordinated show every so often. It's not as grand of stunning as some of the others downtown, but it's worth circling back to see when it's showtime.
Excerpt from First Light Musical Holiday Tree Show
If You Want More: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St Denver, CO 80206
Size: Medium (24 acres)
Recommended Amount of Time: 1 hour
Price: Moderately High
Parking: Difficult at the beginning, Medium a couple of hours in
In 2017 CNN chose Denver Botanic Gardens as one of the 7 best places to see lights in the United States. The Gardens are a bit of a drive from South Denver, but relatively quite close if you consider that the other sites they chose are in places like Las Vegas and Austin. Our family has been going to the Gardens’ Blossoms of Light for about 10 years now, and they manage to be impressive and classy at the same time. We especially like the new field of changing lights. Depending on how they are programmed, they give you the feeling of the ground undulating around you.
The Denver Botanic Gardens are my second-favorite place to go to see lights at the holiday season. You can see a dazzling amount of lights on the trees and shrubs, as well as a big bank of large trees outfitted top to bottom with lights. The Gardens have a few unique features that I haven't seen in other displays. First off, there is the Chihuly glass sculpture, a 14-foot tower that looks like a collection of red, orange, and yellow icicles.
The Gardens has quite a few water features, and they use them to nice effect, illuminating a waterfall, and placing lighted balls on top of their water lily pond.
There are two places to get snacks (which are usually pretty highbrow.) One is and indoor place right near the entrance. The other is an outdoor area towards the back of the Gardens.
Blossoms of Light - Denver Botanic Gardens 2016
© 2014 Adele Jeunette