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Self Guided Holiday Lights Tour of Downtown Denver

a tower lit up at night

As we all know Covid-19 cases continue to soar around the city and our normal holiday traditions have definitely been put on hold. However, there is one new outdoor tradition you can safely experience this year – A self guided holiday lights tour of Downtown Denver. 

Did you know that Denver is frequently cited as the birthplace of the colored holiday lights?

As the story goes, it was Christmas eve of 1914 and David Dwight Sturgeon, the founder of Sturgeon electric had a eureka moment. Sturgeon’s 10 year son lay in his upstairs bedroom too sick to move. As the doctor departed their home, he advised the family that this could be “your son’s last night on Earth.”  Sturgeon, saddened and desperately wanting to brighten his son’s holiday, took some ordinary light bulbs and dipped them in red and green paint. He then strung the lights on electric lines over an evergreen tree outside of his son’s window. The effect delighted not only his son, but also the entire city of Denver. People came by horse-drawn carriages from miles away to see the brilliant, glowing tree. The next year neighbors decorated their trees and a new holiday tradition was born. By the late 1920s, Denver had become known as the “Christmas Capital of the World!”

Tour Details

  • Time~1.5-2 hours if you visit all these locations. 
  • Distance~ 1.5 Miles walking
  • What to bring – Bundle up! Wear a mask, coat, hat, gloves. Bring a camera and a sense of adventure.

Locations to Visit

  • Christkindl Market/City and County Building
  • 16th street mall- Mile high tree at 16th and Welton, Daniels and Fisher clock tower
  • Larimer Square
  • Union Station
  • Dairy Block



Recommended Route

Stop #1 Christkindl Market and the City and County Building

Address: 101 W 14th Ave, Denver, CO 80204


This year the Christkindle market has moved to Civic Center Park to allow for more space and social distancing. Grab a drink, some snacks, and get a little holiday shopping in before experiencing the lights at the City and County Building. The light show typically begins at 6pm. 

The annual decorating of Civic Center Park has been a Denver tradition since 1919!

Each year, he added a few more garlands and an additional light bulb or two. In 1926, he was able to persuade Mayor Ben Stapleton to let him decorate the exterior of City Hall. Next he persuaded the city officials to give him $400, which he carefully spent on additional wiring and colored bulbs to string across the front of the building.

By the time Malpiede retired in 1956, his project had blossomed into a glittering extravaganza involving as many as 25,000 bulbs, 17 miles of electrical wiring, and tons of evergreen boughs decorating Denver’s City and County Building.


Stop #2- 16th Street Mall

Mile High Tree

Address: 16th and Welton



16th Street Mall/ Daniels and Fisher Clock Tower

Walk down the mall toward the Daniels and Fisher Clocktower at 16th and Arapahoe Street and enjoy all the dazzling lights among the trees. In addition, look for the stationary Parade of Lights float displays. This year the Parade of Lights was cancelled, however they placed many of their spectacular floats along the mall for everyone to enjoy during the holiday season. 

Night Lights is now a permanent art installation that is projected on the Daniels and Fisher Clocktower. This dazzling year-round installation is projected on the Arapahoe Street side of the Daniels & Fisher Tower. The best viewing location is near the Rock Bottom Brewery. Night Lights Denver will include rotating content, designed by artists and the community, featuring a wide range of art.


Stop #3- Larimer Square


a store front at night


Denver’s oldest and most historic block comes to life during the holiday season. Due to COVID-19 the block is currently all pedestrian walking. Grab a hot chocolate or warm drink and stroll around as you explore this stunning location.

Stop #4- Union Station



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