Set deep in the foothills less than an hour west of Denver's skyscrapers, tiny Evergreen―with its historic downtown and ice-skating lake―carries on a love affair with winter that starts with the holidays.
As soon as the ice is safely solid, Evergreen Lake (29614 Upper Bear Creek Rd.; 303/512-9300), presents a scene reminiscent of a Currier & Ives lithograph. Skaters circle a section of ice set against a backdrop of pine-covered rolling hills. Farmers and lumbermen settled this valley in the 1870s and '80s, and today the town still feels a world away from sprawling suburbia. The lake opens for skating as early as mid-December and almost always by Christmas; call for hours and conditions.
Whether the water is frozen or not, Santa Claus comes to town at 5 p.m. on December 6 to light the town tree on the lake shore 1/2 mile west of downtown. Carolers will sing, their breath visible in the wintry air.
During the holidays, a Christmas tree adorned with old-fashioned decorations is on display at the Hiwan Homestead Museum (4208 S. Timbervale Dr.; 303/674-6262), a rustic 17-room mansion that has been restored to its 1890-1930 appearance.
Evergreen's Main Street (State 74) may be short, but it is crammed with shops and galleries. Sharing conjoined storefronts, Evergreen Crafters and Village Casuals (303/674-3153) are packed with interesting gift items, jewelry, and women's fashions. The Cobweb Shoppe (303/674-7833) displays an ever-changing assortment of antique glassware and linens. For collectibles try Edelweiss Haus (303/674-7659), which sells hand-painted Department 56 miniature villages and other European goods. Alison Sawyer's inspiring raku angels go fast at the Evergreen Gallery (303/674-4871).
Literally wrapped around Evergreen Gallery is SoHo Evergreen (lunch and dinner Mon-Sat, brunch Sun; 303/670-3000), a contemporary restaurant serving steak, seafood, and Italian fare. For something lighter, try Creekside Cellars (11-5 Wed-Sun; 303/674-5460) for a great deli sandwich.
WHERE: Evergreen is 45 miles west of downtown Denver; take I-70 to exit 252 and go south on State 74.
FYI: Hiwan Homestead Museum: Open 12-5 Tue-Sun for free tours. Evergreen Lake ice-skating: Open seasonally, conditions permitting; $3.50, plus $3 skate rental fee.
CONTACT: Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce: www.evergreenchamber.org or (303) 674-3412