Southwest Colorado draws adventurous travelers all year with its outdoor beauty, majestic mountains, and recreational activities.
Durango, Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton make up the area’s most famous historic towns, each with Hallmark-style charm and Old West history.
Yet Christmas in Southwest Colorado is perhaps the most special time to visit. With snowfall that’ll make you want to sing “White Christmas,” winter activities, and lots of small-town charm, Southwest Colorado provides a ton of festive fun during the holidays.
If you’re planning to visit the area over the holidays, check out our list of 10 things to do in Southwest Colorado at Christmas!
1. The Polar Express Train Ride
Durango’s historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, one of the region’s most popular attractions, embraces Christmas each year with The Polar Express Train Ride. The historic train transforms into an immersive experience of the classic Christmas book and movie.
This family-friendly event allows passengers to enjoy a scenic train ride to the “North Pole” to pick up Santa. Along the way, guests can sip hot cocoa and munch on Christmas treats while listening to the train’s conductor read The Polar Express.
A festive light show awaits at the North Pole, and on the way back to Durango, Santa visits each train car in person with special Christmas gifts!
2. Creede Chocolate Festival
Do you love chocolate? The tiny mountain town of Creede hosts its annual Chocolate Festival to begin the Christmas season, bringing chocolate lovers all over for some festive holiday fun.
Festival-goers can enjoy a multitude of chocolate samples made from local business owners and residents. After tasting a wide variety of chocolate delights, participants can vote on their favorites to win the People’s Choice Award.
In addition to all that chocolate, local businesses have sales during the festival to provide some fun Christmas shopping and dining. Santa and Mrs. Claus make an appearance as well.
3. Ouray’s Yule Celebration
Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America,” hosts its annual Yule Celebration every December. Locals and tourists alike gather as a community to celebrate the holiday season with a variety of Christmas festivities:
- Elf on the Shelf town scavenger hunt
- Ouray Christmas tree lighting and parade
- “S’mores-gasbord” make-your-own-s’mores and kids crafts
- Community Chili Supper
- Festive Main Street Christmas shopping
- Visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus
You’ll want to spend some time in this lovely Colorado town with gorgeous mountains in the backdrop. I recommend staying at the cozy China Clipper Inn when you visit!
4. Telluride Arts Holiday Bazaar
A Christmas tradition for over 35 years, the Telluride Arts Holiday Bazaar provides festive local Christmas shopping in scenic Telluride. Hosted by the Telluride Arts District, this spirited Christmas market provides local crafts and artisan goods, all made by hand.
If you’re seeking authentic Colorado wares for your Christmas shopping list, the Telluride Arts Holiday Bazaar won’t disappoint. Plus, you’ll get to explore the additional shops throughout Telluride, often called the most beautiful ski town in America.
5. Silverton’s Community Christmas Potluck
The historic mining town of Silverton resides along Colorado’s famous Million Dollar Highway at 9,318 ft in elevation, so you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment just by getting there.
Walking down Silverton’s beautiful main street feels like a step back in time to the Old West.
At Christmastime, you can feel like a local and join in on some simple small-town holiday fun by participating in Silverton’s annual Community Christmas Potluck. Attendees are (literally!) asked to bring a side dish or dessert and are encouraged to decorate their tables when they arrive.
Swap stories with locals and enjoy some slower-paced Christmas festivities. Afterwards, jump on some skis or a snowmobile and take advantage of Silverton’s renowned winter recreation!
6. Singing with Santa
Every year in Durango tourists and locals gather downtown with none other than Santa himself to do some community Christmas caroling and welcome the holiday season as a local tradition called Singing with Santa.
The first 1,000 kids are given free glowsticks, and the festive crowd follows Santa down Main Avenue singing along. The event culminates with the group arriving at Buckley Park to help countdown the lighting of the Community Christmas Tree.
Afterwards, everyone enjoys free hot chocolate and cookies to celebrate. Dubbed as “Christmas Town, USA,” you’ll want to visit Durango during your Christmas in Southwest Colorado adventure!
7. Ice Climbing at Ouray Ice Park
Looking for something unique to do over the holidays in Southwest Colorado? Consider participating in one of the area’s favorite winter activities–ice climbing.
If you’re brave enough, the best place to ice climb all winter is Ouray Ice Park. From mid-December until March, enthusiastic ice climbers from around the world come to Ouray for its famous Ice Park.
If you’ve never ice climbed before or need gear, you can utilize one of the many guide services that partner with the park.
Afterwards, reward yourself with some holiday relaxation and mountain views with a dip in Ouray’s natural hot springs right in town.
8. Telluride’s Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade
Annually in Telluride on Christmas Eve, everyone gathers at night outside to watch a trail of glowing red lights descend a nearby mountain towards town.
While you may think it’s Santa delivering presents, it’s actually about 100 volunteers with bright red torches skiing down the slopes into town for Telluride’s Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade.
A festive tradition for over 45 years, the Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade unites locals and tourists in anticipation of Christmas Day. The warm red glow upon the snow-covered backdrop will remind you that Christmas is just around the corner!
9. Christmas at the Strater Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown, Durango considers the historic Strater Hotel as its unofficial Christmas Town, USA headquarters, and it’s easy to see why.
A great place to stay during your Christmas in Southwest Colorado visit, the Strater Hotel also hosts several local Christmas festivities. Visitors can enjoy Durango’s Holiday Craft Fair inside the hotel, as well as meet Santa by the Christmas tree.
Holiday poetry readings on Christmas Eve and the city’s annual Christmas Day buffet round out the Strater Hotel’s festive fun each year.
10. Christmas Day at a National Park
Looking for something to do on Christmas Day during your Southwest Colorado visit? With many places traditionally closed on Christmas, consider spending the holiday outdoors at the area’s two nearby national parks, both open on Christmas Day.
If you’re near Durango, be sure to check out Mesa Verde National Park nearby. Famous for its ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings, this remote national park feels like a different world entirely.
If you’re further north, visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose. The park’s dramatic, deep canyons will take your breath away.
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Did we miss any of your favorite things to do in Southwest Colorado at Christmas?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more to the list!