It’s the darkest and coldest time a year, a time that would normally mean trips to cozy pubs and the theatre, museum visits, and other indoor activities to help stave off the winter blues. But with COVID cases going up and several months of winter ahead of us, we’re once again looking for fun, safe activities to help get us through the colder months.
This roundup of outdoor and virtual activities are designed to help break up the monotony and get you out of your house (and your head), from at-home paint-and-sip nights to mini golf.
We will continue to update this list as we learn of more outdoor and virtual activities.
A recent New York Times article called volunteering “an overlooked cure for loneliness” after several scientific studies demonstrated that helping others can help people feel less isolated. Find ways to volunteer at Volunteer Match, a site that matches you with opportunities based on your skills and interests. It also has a “virtual” filter so you can help others from the safety of your home. And check out our recent list of places to volunteer during the holiday season.
Tour the outdoor art gallery that is Denver
Denver is covered in murals and street art, and prides itself on its public art funding. Naturally, there are dozens of guided and self-guided tours of the city, which make for a great (and safe) way to get out of the house and experience some culture.
Denver Arts and Venues has several public art tours on its website, including mural tours, tours of specific neighborhoods, and tours highlighting work by Black, AAPI or women artists. The Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project maps murals around Denver by Chicano artists. If you want a guided tour, sign up for a two-hour tour with Denver Graffiti Tour, which stops at dozens of works around the RiNo area. And for a more curated experience, check out our series of self-guided mural tours, each designed by a different Denver artist.
Be a tourist in your own city
If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house, why not get to know your city better? Denver Walking Tours has free or private history tours, ghost tours, and self-guided audio tours. Dark Side of Denver offers ghost tours, neighborhood history tours and guided hikes. Denver Architecture has a series of free, self-guided audio tours of some of Denver’s iconic buildings and landmarks.
You can also get to know Denver on a deeper level by taking the MCA’s surrealist audio tour of the city, “Dreaming Denver.” Created by poet Mathias Svalina, this self-guided tour takes you to different spots around the city and invites you to call a number on your phone, listen to a surreal poem about that place, and tap into the city’s unconscious.
Dine in a bubble
Looking for a socially-distanced restaurant experience for when it’s cold out? We’ve put together a list of some of Denver’s heated, private outdoor dining setups, including igloos, tents, yurts and other experiences that allow you to remain in your pod.
The Downtown Denver Rink is back, and open through Feb. 20! If you’re willing to drive a bit further, you can also skate at the Longmont Ice Pavilion, the Historic Downtown Louisville rink, Beaver Creek in Avon, and Fort Collins’ Old Town Square. In February, Acacia Park‘s rink will also let you rent “ice bumper cars.”
Take a (winter) hike
The mountains may be covered in snow, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying Colorado’s beautiful scenery. Hit your favorite hiking trails using a snow traction system like spikes or snowshoes. If you don’t have your own, you can rent from REI or various local outfitters.
The beautiful thing about mini golf is that a) generally takes place outside, and b) groups are inherently separated by hole.
Colorado has a pretty great selection of courses, from the Colorado landmark-themed Colorado Journey in Littleton to Putter’s Pride’s whimsical 54-hole course in Denver to Adventure Golf, which until Jan. 9 is open as a holiday-themed course complete with festive beverages and light displays.
Take a walk on the wild side
The Denver area has several outdoor experiences that lets you get up close an personal with wildlife. Take a tour of The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, stop by Denver Zoo, or visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary, an outdoor rehabilitation center for wild animals like lions and tigers, emus, porcupines and alpacas that lets you safely observe animals from an elevated walkway.
Walk the ArtLine
Venture into Lakewood’s 40 West Art District to explore the new 40 West ArtLine. It’s a free outdoor experience that takes walkers and bikers along a four mile path along West Colfax Avenue and the W Line in Lakewood, where you can enjoy dozens of works of public art.
DIY paint and sip
Canvas and Cocktails offers virtual versions of all of its in-store wine and paint nights. You can swing by to purchase take-home art kits the day of your class, or buy supplies at your favorite craft store.
If you’re feeling extra creative, you can create your own wine and paint night at home, whether by following online tutorials, recreating photos, or just doing your own thing. All you need in some wine, paint, a canvas, some brushes, and inspiration.
Hit the stacks!
Denver Public Library is finally (mostly) open. But if you’re more comfortable browsing from home, you can still reserve books online to pick up curbside. And if you’re not sure what to get or prefer to be surprised, you can sign up for a curbside bundle, a curated mix of ten library items (books, movies, music, etc.) based on your interests and preferred genres.
Simulate the movie theatre experience in your own home
If you’re a big cinephile but going to the movies seems like too big a risk right now, try creating a DIY home cinema in a room of your home! You can get portable projectors for as low as $50 online, and pair with speakers to immerse yourself in the cinematic experience. If it’s movie theatre popcorn you’re missing, try a theatre-style popcorn recipe.
Running isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a safe way to work out, consider a virtual class taught by local fitness experts. Endorphin offers virtual gym memberships and livestreamed classes, Kindness Collective offers on-demand movement classes, and YMCA of Metro Denver offers virtual programming for members. Shoshoni has free YouTube courses, and Gravity offers regular virtual HIIT and yoga classes.
For an outdoor fitness experience, check out Zen Out Yoga; they do yoga hikes at Red Rocks.
It’s been another stress-filled year. If you’re looking for ways to clear your head, improve your sleep, or improve your overall mental health, support local businesses by taking virtual meditation classes through groups like Denver Meditation, The Meditation Place, and Shambhala.
Join a virtual book club
DPL offers virtual book clubs each week for all age groups and genres, including social justice readings and short-story happy hours. There are also tons of general and special interest book clubs on Meetup, like “Bookish Queer Women,” “19th Century Lit,” and “Sci-Fi/Fantasy.”
There are thousands of courses available on Coursera, including hundreds of free courses. They’re taught by esteemed university professors and industry leaders across all subjects and disciplines. If there’s something you’ve been dying to learn more about, check out the list of courses online! You can take free classes on Coursera provided by Colorado universities and schools around the world.
Learn another language
Take advantage of the extra time inside to pick up a new skill! Apps like Tamdem are designed to work as a virtual language exchange, allowing users to converse with native speakers from all over the world. There are also plenty of language groups on Meetup, some of which have gone virtual.
Catch an online performance
If you’re looking to support Denver’s vibrant performing arts scene but aren’t ready to gather in a large venue, look for virtual options. Through 2023, DCPA will be offering free, virtual performances of Until the Flood, an impactful one-woman show exploring the complexity of issues like police brutality and racial justice in the wake of Ferguson. Starting Jan. 21, you can watch Buntport Theater Company’s “High School Confidential,” a humorous look back at the highs and lows of high school. And if you’re missing the feeling of attending live music shows, check out Dazzle’s Live Streams, where you can see upcoming Dazzle shows or peruse old ones.
Join a virtual game night
Denver Virtual Game Night hosts online game tournaments every Sunday, inviting Denverites to play trivia, charades, drawing games, drinking games and more using its video chat software. Sign up with your team, or try a drop-in game night.
Explore one of Denver’s cultural institutions without leaving your couch
Some local museums, galleries and entertainment venues are offering virtual tours of their spaces. You can visit the Kirkland Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Colorado Photographic Arts Center anytime, from anywhere and for free!
Take an online cooking class
Looking to pick up a new skill? The Seasoned Chef’s online Cooking on Demand courses teach you how to make a specific meal or cuisine. You can take lessons on your own time, for $35 each.