Joy Rides | Now through December 24

In 1958, Santa’s Workshop at North Pole, Colorado installed its first ride: a tiny mining cart pulled by real donkeys. For its first two years, the amusement park near Colorado Springs had enticed visitors with booths of artisans, such as glassblowers, along with appearances by Santa and his merry helpers. But the introduction of rides 60 years ago helped transform Santa’s Workshop into a much-loved destination that now attracts 150,000 annual visitors willing to fork over $24 apiece for admission. Over the years, the village added a candy cane slide, a Christmas-themed Ferris wheel, and a bevy of other quirky rides—most of which arrived during the 1980s and ’90s, which means multiple generations have enjoyed the same entertaining activities. The best (read: least busy) time to visit during the holiday season? A Monday, which happens to be when Christmas Eve falls this year.

Kitty City | December 8-9

Photo courtesy of Baloo the Colorado Adventure Cat

Feline content has long been the life force of the internet, but the Snowcats Cat Convention will bring that digital experience to the real world at the Exdo Event Center. (Tickets start at $15.) Begin by grabbing a Meowmosa at the bar, then head to a meet and greet with an Instagram star like Baloo (pictured) or bid on a date with bachelor cat owners at the Cat-Chelor Auction. The 40-plus vendors will donate a portion of proceeds to a nonprofit of their choice—giving even dog people a good reason to attend.

Playing With Fire | December 7-9

Every winter, pyromaniacs descend on one of Colorado’s favorite mountain towns to revel in an artistic inferno. During the Telluride Fire Festival, fans of flames can mingle with fire dancers and view blazing works of art, including a sculpture garden featuring a 16-foot-tall snowflake-shaped pinwheel (on fire, of course). The currently roofless Telluride Transfer Warehouse, about to undergo a renovation from a commercial mining hub to an exhibit space, will host especially spectacular pieces from artists such as California’s Jamie Vaida, a Burning Man favorite.

Dueling Identities | December 14

Photo courtesy of Dan Sidor Photography

Shahira Qudrat has spent the majority of her life oscillating between two cultures: Afghani and American. Her family fled war-torn Afghanistan in the early 1980s and hoped to adhere to a devout Muslim lifestyle even after they moved to Los Angeles and then Colorado. (Her mother established the first Afghani language school in Denver.) Yet Qudrat simply wanted to fit in with the other teenagers, even channeling an emo vibe and wearing black lipstick to school to feel like she belonged. Now she’s sharing her experience in her new book, Authenticity in America: A Memoir of Rebellion and Dual Identity, out on December 14, which she’ll discuss during a free talk and signing at BookBar the same day. “It took me many years to figure out that all parts of my identity gave me a unique perspective that others actually valued,” Qudrat says. “I want others, especially women, to be able to embrace their own multi-American experience in the same way.”

This article was originally published in 5280 December 2018.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.