Free things to do in January in Colorado: Denver Zoo, National Western Stock Show and more

Denver Zoo Free Days

Monkey around with the family at the Denver Zoo for free in 2022. On select days, the zoo is giving back to the community with complimentary admission on Jan. 7, Jan. 22, Feb. 6, April 10, Oct. 8, Nov. 1 and Nov. 13. Tickets are not available at the gate, but through an online lottery. A five-day lottery period is held a few weeks prior to each Free Day. You can enter for up to five tickets. At the end of the lottery period, winners are randomly selected and notified via e-mail. If you’re one of the “lucky llamas,” use your vouchers to reserve timed tickets online for the respective day. All visitors must have a timed ticket for entry, including children 2 and under. The next lottery opens on Jan. 10 for the Saturday, Jan. 22, Free Day. To review all of the details, including when each lottery window opens, visit

Lafayette Oatmeal Festival

Oatmeal is the perfect winter breakfast, and you can celebrate the dish at the 25th annual Lafayette Oatmeal Festival on Jan. 8. The popular annual event features an in-person oatmeal breakfast and virtual 5K race. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to noon at The Gatehouse (1055 S. 112th, Highway 287) and boasts the “world’s largest toppings bar.” Tickets are $6 per person; children under 2 eat for free. You can purchase tickets at the event, in advance at the Lafayette Chamber, or online. The Lafayette Oatmeal Virtual 5K costs $20 per person. That fee includes a breakfast ticket and goodie bag. You can register through Jan. 7 at noon. Participants run their own 5K and submit race results by Jan. 8 at noon to be eligible for prizes.

Benchmark half-price tickets

Benchmark Theatre’s next production is the world premiere of “Our American Cousin: A Nation Divided.” The play runs from Jan. 6 to 29 at The Bench at 40West (15 Teller St.) in Lakewood. General admission is $30 ($25 for students, seniors and military), but tickets are half-price at $15 on Thursdays in January (Jan. 6, 13, 20 and 27). The new work looks at the divisions in America brought to the forefront on Jan. 6, 2021, when an angry mob overtook the U.S. Capitol. Using theater as the medium, six artists break down how this country found itself on the precipice of the destruction of democracy as we know it, and look to find a road out. The show is for ages 13 and older.

NWSS free admission

Since 1906, the National Western Stock Show has been America’s premier livestock, rodeo and horse show and attracts thousands to town this month. Many locals may take the annual event for granted, but there’s lots to see and do, especially for families with little ones. Thanks to Arrow Electronics, cowboys and cowgirls of all ages can saddle up for Free Grounds Admission Day on Jan. 11 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (The complimentary admission does not include ticketed events, such as the rodeo.) Families will benefit greatly, as the regular price for Tuesdays is $4 for children and $17 for adults. A family of four (two adults and two kids) will save $42. While Stock Show parking is free, due to construction, your best bet is to park at Coors Field in paved, well-lit lots dedicated to Stock Show attendees. Coors Field lots open at 8 a.m. daily with free shuttles taking guests the 10 minutes to the National Western complex.

MLK free concert

The Colorado Symphony honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with its annual tribute concert on Jan 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Boettcher Concert Hall (1000 14th St.) in Denver. Admission is free. The evening will feature special guest performances and honor recipients of the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. The performance promises to hit the right notes with a moving, celebratory program highlighting works by various composers. Tickets are required for admission, which are now available online. Limit 10 tickets per household. All seating is general admission. However, a ticket does not guarantee a seat, so arrive early.

National Park Service free days

Outdoor enthusiasts can take in the natural beauty of our state for free to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Jan. 17, the U.S. National Park Service is waiving entrance fees to all of our country’s 417 parks, monuments and other sites. The free day does not include amenity or user fees for activities, such as camping. It’s an opportunity to go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or just enjoy the frosty landscape of nearby Rocky Mountain National Park at little cost. If you don’t make it, there are five more free days in 2022: Feb. 21, June 11, Aug. 4, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11. The National Park Service also offers a variety of annual passes, including free or discounted passes for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth-grade students and disabled citizens.

Plains Conservation Center free days

If the weather is fair, consider a visit to the Plains Conservation Center (21901 E. Hampden Ave.) in Aurora. Managed by Denver Botanic Gardens, the center helps the community expand its knowledge of the prairie ecosystem and Colorado’s cultural history. Visitors can explore 6 miles of hiking trails where diverse wildlife can be observed including raptors, pronghorn antelope, insects, snakes and prairie dogs. A lucky few may catch a glimpse of the resident bald eagle family. Special programming includes wagon rides to the prairie and sod homestead (weather permitting). Explore the nature center, authentic tipis, sod houses, blacksmith shop and one-room school house. Families can embark on a day adventure during the center’s 2022 free days on Jan. 20, Feb. 17, March 19, June 16, July 23, Aug. 18, Nov. 19 and Dec. 15.

Smoky Hill used book sale

Come in from the cold (who knows when that will be in Colorado?) and find hot deals on great reads. The Used Book Sale at Smoky Hill Library (5430 S. Biscay Circle) runs Jan. 27-30 in Centennial. Hours vary each day. The sale features used books, including hardbacks, trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, children’s books and collectible books, all at bargain-basement prices. Sunday is Bag Day: The library supplies a bag, you fill it up and pay only $7. It’s the perfect opportunity to build your home library or add to your child’s book collection without breaking your budget.

DCPAccess tickets

Budget-conscious theater lovers will applaud the Denver Center for Performing Arts’ ongoing discount ticket program. The DCPAccess program provides tickets for the DCPA Theatre Company’s productions for just $10 each at select performances. The discounted tickets are only available online, not at the box office. When buying online, be sure to choose price level “DCPAccess.” There is a $1.50 service fee per ticket, with a limit of four tickets per show. Upcoming on-sale dates for select shows and performances include the following: Jan. 25 for “Rattlesnake Kate” and “In the Upper Room”; April 12 for “Choir Boy”; and May 3 for “Quixote Nuevo.” Tickets typically go on sale at noon, are limited and available for purchase while supplies last. In addition, Broadway, Cabaret and Off-Center shows may also occasionally be discounted. However, the ticket price for those shows may be pricier.

Weigh and win

Gain extra bucks by losing extra pounds. The Weigh and Win program offers a healthy boost for Coloradans aiming to achieve a healthier lifestyle. The program’s goal is to help participants lose weight through exercise plans, meal suggestions, access to health coaches, guided meditation, monthly prize drawings and more. In addition, based on how many pounds you lose, you can earn up to $150 every 90 days. To be eligible for cash rewards, you must start with a body mass index of more than 25. You can keep track of your progress at convenient weigh-in kiosks throughout the city. The service costs as little as $6.67 per month, with an annual membership of $79.99. However, if you’re successful in shedding pounds, the program will pay for itself. There is also a free option, but it only offers weekly health coaching e-mails and kiosk weigh-ins, no other benefits.

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