Denver New Year’s Eve 2021: Free/low-cost, outdoor and family-friendly events

If you’re feeling iffy about indoor parties this New Year’s Eve — especially family-friendly ones — you’re not alone.

Fortunately, Denver has free and low-cost outdoor events that are also kid-friendly in their timing. Remember that all events are subject to last-minute cancellation or changes due to COVID-19 mandates. See the latest at

Downtown Denver fireworks

Downtown’s fireworks displays can be viewed from almost anywhere along (or just off) the 16th Street Mall. Two shows will light up the skies this year, with the undoubtedly more kid-friendly time of 9 p.m. to be followed by a midnight display.

The identical, 8-minute shows on Dec. 31 — returning after a year off — join other free, outdoor activities along the mile-long 16th Street corridor. These include the 110-foot-tall Mile High Tree (near 16th and Welton streets), which features a stunning 60,000 strings of LED lights, and the Night Lights Denver 3-D projection art videos on the Daniels & Fischer Clocktower at 16th and Arapahoe streets.

Live DJ sets, from 8 p.m. to midnight along the mall, will also be synced to each of the fireworks shows. Dress for the weather and bring masks in case you decide to pop indoors at one of the nearby restaurants or shops.

Low-Sensory New Year’s Eve at Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo’s latest, sold-out Zoo Lights has packed the 84-acre campus with bright lights and music. That’s not so great for people with sensory processing disorders, but this year, the zoo is blocking off a night for them with Low Sensory New Year’s Eve.

From 5-9 p.m. on Dec. 31, the Zoo will tone down potential triggers by capping attendance; adding quiet rooms throughout; turning down movement effects (strobing, flashing and blinking); offering free, first-come sensory kits; turning down the volume on the Zoo’s carousel; and adding warnings before high-stimuli areas, a zoo spokesman said.

Tickets are $10-$15; kids 2 and under are free but require a ticket booking online. As of this writing, tickets are still available for the half-hour slots at

Happy Noon Year: Outdoor Dance Party

Why go to a pricey, indoor kid’s dance party when you can shake it for free? Arapahoe Libraries has the right idea with its Happy Noon Year Outdoor Dance Party, which includes winter treats, an outdoor boogie-fest and a countdown at noon, organizers said.

The free event will be held outside the library, but restrooms will be available. It runs 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 at 5955 S. Holly St. in Centennial. Dress accordingly, brings masks and brush up on the library’s COVID-19 rules at In there’s poor weather, attendees will be given information on how to attend a virtual version.

Skate the Lake New Year’s Eve

This traditional, alcohol-free event is back for its 25th showing, 3-8 p.m. on Dec. 31. Evergreen Lake hosts the festivities, which this year include broomball, corn hole, an obstacle course, a holiday movie in a heated tent, fire pits, marshmallow roasting, food trucks and DJs (in addition to the skating, of course).

Bring your own skates or check out the skate rentals, while supplies last, and bundle up, as the activities are happening regardless of weather. $25 per person. Kids 5 and under free. Free parking and shuttles from Stagecoach Park and Wulf Recreation Center. No parking on-site.

Also of note: the Downtown Denver Rink will offer free ice skating all day on Dec. 31, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Louisville, Northfield, Southlands Shopping Center and others are also offering admission-based outdoor skating on Dec. 31.

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