From time-honored traditions to inaugural celebrations, check out the most festive holiday events in Arizona, where all is merry and bright.
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Now through Dec. 24: Santa Experiences at Scottsdale Fashion Square
From a series of special Santa experiences and family-friendly events–many of which raise funds for local nonprofits–there’s plenty to help put shoppers in a festive holiday spirit now through Christmas Eve. For photos with Santa, pre-booking saves time in line; plan your visit and book your photo op by visiting fashionsquare.com/SantaPhotos. On Dec. 4, Santa invites children with sensory needs to create their own magical moments during a Sensory Santa event from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Four-legged family members can get in on the festivities, too, with Scottsdale Fashion Square’s Santa Paws Pet Photo experience for four-legged friends from 4 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5.
Now through Dec. 31: The Immersive Nutcracker, A Winter Miracle
The Immersive Nutcracker, A Winter Miracle, taking place at Lighthouse ArtSpace Phoenix, is the experiential retelling of a young girl’s magical Christmas Eve journey. This 30-minute, family-friendly experience features whimsical animated characters alongside footage of professional ballet dancers, set to the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. There are several daily showings, and tickets are $30. On Dec. 18, parents and children alike are invited to meet Mrs. Claus at 2:45 p.m., preceding the showing of The Immersive Nutcracker. Every ticket to this special event ($55) will include a cup of hot chocolate and snack for the children to enjoy during storytime.
Now through Jan. 2: Christmas at the Princess
For its 13th year, the celebrated Arizona holiday event, Christmas at the Princess as Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, is bigger and better than ever. During the six-week holiday festival, guests can enjoy ice skating, Lagoon Lights, the Princess Express Train, S’mores Land, beloved holiday characters, pictures with Santa and much, much more. New this year, Chateau Champagne is the ultimate holiday hangout for the 21-and-older set and the custom-built interactive Make-A-Wish Playhouse (this is the resort’s first year partnering with Make-A-Wish) is a must to check out, among other fresh attractions. Admission is complimentary for registered hotel guests; dine at the resort’s signature restaurants and spend a minimum of $75 per vehicle to receive 50 percent off valet pricing (up to four general admission wristbands to Christmas at the Princess); self-parking and admission is $80 for up to four wristbands; and valet parking and admission is $120 for up to four wristbands.
Now through Jan. 5: Pratt Brothers Christmas & Holiday Spectacular
This walk-through holiday spectacular, taking place at Bell Bank Park, will feature millions of glittering lights, live entertainment, a Christmas town, tasty treats and activities galore for the whole family through Jan. 5. The event’s standout attractions include Santa Experience, which allows families to enjoy a meet-and-greet with the big guy, while Christmas Forever guests will find themselves in a 360-degree light show, including six million lights masterfully synchronized to popular Christmas songs, along with snowfall and pyrotechnics. Tickets start at $14.
Now through Jan. 6: Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge Arizona
Great Wolf Lodge Arizona hosts its annual Snowland celebration, Nov. 18 through Jan. 6. Families will enjoy a glorious winter wonderland with themed crafts, snowfalls, selfie stations, seasonal drinks (for adults and kiddos), a scavenger hunt, visits with Santa and more. And, of course, guests have access to the resort’s indoor waterpark and get to admire its gorgeous holiday decor.
Now through February: Igloo Village at Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock
All season long, the center of the action in Sedona is an illuminated igloo village featuring dining under the stars in sparkling globes, holiday décor, a wealth of culinary offerings, seasonal sips and much more at Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock from 4 to 9 p.m. nightly. Located in the resort’s outdoor garden at ShadowRock Tap + Table, the igloo village is available now through the end of February and consists of five igloos that can accommodate two to six guests in addition to two holiday chalets that seat up to eight guests for private parties. In addition, guests can indulge in a full calendar of winter wonderland activities, like Holly Jolly Happy Hour, holiday-inspired spa treatments and Fit-mas classes.
The District at Tempe Marketplace kicks off the season on Wednesday, Nov. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. with the annual lighting of the 60-ft. Christmas tree. The festive celebration will also feature live shows, an LED drum line performances, the first snowfall of the season, Christmas in Color installation and even free photo ops.
Nov. 23 through Jan. 5: Arizona Lights in the Night
Hop in the car and head to Arizona Lights in the Night, a drive-through holiday light show taking place Nov. 23 to Jan. 5 at the Thompson Event Center in Mesa. Families can soak in the magic of over one million lights synchronized to holiday music and even enjoy a one-of-a-kind VIP train ride experience (available through pre-purchased tickets online). Tickets start at $39.95 per vehicle, available online and at the gate. VIP train tickets are available for $150 to $250, depending on the night and must be pre-purchased online.
Nov. 23 through Jan. 15: ZooLights at Phoenix Zoo
An annual traditional for many locals, this year ZooLights guests can expect new animal lanterns and light displays, an enhanced Santa experience and a music and light show that will transport you around the globe. Plus, guest entry to ZooLights includes admission to Dinosaurs in the Desert. ZooLights takes place nightly from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30.
The adored annual Fantasy of Lights Holiday Street Parade & Tree Lighting will return to Tempe for a festive evening from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25. Roaming carolers and snacks vendors scattered along Mill Avenue will add to the festive ambiance and kick off the evening. Live music from local artists at the stage in Centerpoint Plaza will help build the energy for the parade, which begins at 6 p.m. Following the parade, Santa Claus will join the Tempe City Council in lighting Downtown Tempe’s 40-ft. holiday tree. Santa will remain at Centerpoint Plaza to visit with families and pose for cell phone photos, while entertainment featuring local artists will continue until 8 p.m.
Nov. 25 to Jan. 1: Enchant
Enchant–which takes place in various U.S. cities this holiday season–will transform Salt River Fields at Talking Stick into a light extravaganza for the whole family. The 10-acre event features an immersive walk-through light maze created from over four million sparkling lights, a 100-ft.-tall holiday tree, an ice-skating trail, live entertainment, Santa visits and a village marketplace for unique gifts. And thanks to its sponsor, the Hallmark Channel, Enchant will feature a “Hallmark Cozy Christmas” lounge, wine tasting and a chance for fans to win a set visit to a Hallmark movie while in production. Tickets start at $34 for adults and $20 for kids ages 3 to 17.
Nov. 25 to Jan. 1: Desert Farm Lights
From Nov. 25 until Jan. 1 at Justice Brothers Ranch, take in one million twinkling lights at the inaugural Desert Farm Lights celebration. Stroll through the half-acre colorful Christmas maze; take a ride on a giant gingerbread slide; meet Santa for a free photo; enjoy yard games and bounce houses; and much more during this winter wonderland event. Early bird pricing is $17 for those 13 and older, and $13 for kids ages 2 to 12.
Nov. 26: The Santa Social
Scottsdale Quarter ushers in the holiday season with The Santa Social on Saturday, Nov. 26, from 2 to 8 p.m. in The Quad. The event, now in its 10th year, will feature family-friendly activities, like photos with Santa (in front of an old-fashioned red Chevy), selfie stations, live entertainment, a tree lighting ceremony and a classic Christmas movie under the stars. The tree lighting is at 6 p.m., followed by a showing of “Home Alone” (bring blankets). The Santa Social is free; costs apply for Santa photos.
Nov. 26 to Dec. 31: Scottsdazzle
Scottsdazzle–Old Town’s signature month-long holiday extravaganza and adored longtime Arizona holiday event–kicks off Nov. 26 with its Sing-Along & Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Then, throughout the season, locals can enjoy a packed, and wonderfully festive, Scottsdazzle calendar of craft workshops, wine tastings, dining events, family-friendly activities, traditional holiday celebrations and so much more.
Nov. 28 to Jan. 1: CitySkate at CityScape Phoenix
From Nov. 28 through Jan. 1, glide on down to CitySkate at CityScape Phoenix in Downtown Phoenix. The real outdoor ice skating rink will feature twinkling lights, festive décor and a variety of fun festivities for the entire family. Skate lessons are available; general admission tickets are $20 ($5 if you bring your own ice skates).
Guests are invited to the SHOPS at Gainey Village on Thursday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. to savor its seventh-annual Holiday Wine and Dine Christmas event. The free event will include live music by the Volcano Steel Drum Duo, Electric Violinist, Natasha, The Sahanas Brothers Guitar Duo and Miguel de Maria; horse-and-carriage rides by Scottsdale Horse and Carriage; baked goods, coffee and hot chocolate by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf; festive treats; and pictures with Santa. Those of age can even enjoy complimentary wine tastings at participating restaurants.
Dec. 2 to Dec. 24: Holiday Happenings at The Wigwam
The Wigwam will be host to a festive lineup of holiday happenings this season, kicking off Dec. 2. On Friday nights through Dec. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m., take in the holiday light display, carolers, firepits with s’mores kits and libations during Holiday Nights in Lights. From 9 to 11 a.m. on weekends through Dec. 24, reserve your spot for Breakfast with Santa–another of The Wigwam’s highly anticipated holiday events.
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia hosts its annual tree lighting Dec. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Cortijo Plaza. During the family-friendly Arizona holiday event, locals get to witness the lighting of the 20-ft. Christmas tree; enjoy complimentary cider, hot cocoa and holiday cookies by the fire; get creative with children’s crafts and cookie-decorating; listen to live music; and take complimentary pictures with Santa.
Dec. 3: Pictures with Santa at Park West
On Saturday, Dec. 3, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Park West in Peoria hosts a festive event featuring free pictures with Santa Claus set against the backdrop of a classic Airstream camper and Christmas tree, as well as face painting, balloon artists and more.
Dec. 8: Pawliday Yappy Hour
Royal Palms Resort and Spa is ringing in season’s greetings with its Pawliday Yappy Hour, co-sponsored by the Arizona Humane Society. On Dec. 8, from 4 to 6 p.m., this resort is decking its Orange Grove with holiday cheer and featuring festive treats and sips for both people and their pups. A $10 donation to the Arizona Humane Society will grant attendees a complimentary professional photo with Santa Paws and a take-home puppy craft. No ticket purchase necessary, and cocktails will be available for purchase.
Dec. 9 and Dec. 10: W Scottsdale Winter Wonderland
On Dec. 9 and Dec. 10, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., W Scottsdale will transform into a whimsical Winter Wonderland complete with ice skating performers, twinkling lights, a frosty ambiance with aerial show, music by the property’s resident DJ and a 360 photo booth. Tickets start at $25 for non-hotel guests and can be purchased here; hotel guests get in for free.
Dec. 9 and Dec. 10, Dec. 16 and Dec. 17: Home for the Holidays at Taliesin West
Taliesin West’s first-ever Home for the Holidays experience will feature special activities, crafts, holiday music and performances on select December weekends from 4 to 8 p.m. Visitors are invited to explore the Community Gingerbread House Showcase, build and decorate 3D house ornaments, watch holiday cartoons in the Cabaret Theater and much more. Admission is $25 for adults; $15 for kids 6 to 18; and free for children 5 and under.
Dec. 9 to Dec. 23: Phoenix Ballet Presents Slawomir Wozniak’s “The Nutcracker”
Phoenix Ballet presents Slawomir Wozniak’s The Nutcracker on select dates from Dec. 9 to Dec. 23 at Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Phoenix. Phoenix Ballet brings its unique style to the iconic holiday show, while still honoring its rich history and story of Clara and her Nutcracker prince. Tickets for the family-friendly ballet start at $20.
Dec. 9 to Dec. 24: Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker
Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker is as quintessential to Christmas as Santa himself, making it one of the most cherished Arizona holiday events; celebrate this beloved show at one of 15 performances, Dec. 9 to Dec. 24. Taking place at Symphony Hall in Downtown Phoenix with accompaniment by The Phoenix Symphony, single tickets and premier packages are now on sale.
As part of its fun holiday offerings, Arizona Biltmore hosts cookie-decorating (1 to 2 p.m.) and wreath-making (3 to 5 p.m.) classes on Dec. 10. During the cookie class, participating resort guests of every skill level will receive house-made pre-baked cookies alongside frosting, candy and toppings. During the wreath-making class (open to the public and guests), participants learn to make beautiful wreaths alongside professionals in the floral business.
Dec. 10 and Dec. 17: Breakfast with Santa at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Offered on two consecutive Saturdays, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, from 9 to 11 a.m., enjoy Breakfast with Santa at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Savor a buffet breakfast, accompanied by a special appearance by Santa himself. The cost is $65 for adults and $27 for children ages 5 to 12; children 4 and under are complimentary. Reservations are required; call 480.513.5085.
Dec. 10 to Jan. 3: Phoenix Frost at Arizona Center
Starting Saturday, Dec. 10, and running through Jan. 3, Arizona Center will transform into Phoenix Frost, which will host a variety of free events this winter. For example: on Dec. 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., enjoy the second-annual Winter Wanderland with over-the-top decor, performances, live ice sculpting, pics with Santa, arts and crafts for kiddos and much more. Other festive family events will follow throughout the season.
Dec. 12 and Dec. 13: Harry Connick, Jr.: A Holiday Celebration
Mesa Arts Center hosts Harry Connick, Jr.: A Holiday Celebration on Monday, Dec. 12, and Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m. The adored musician will perform his Christmas soundtrack, featuring his definitive take on Christmas classics, as well as his own originals like, “(It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus” and “When My Heart Finds Christmas.” Tickets range from $50 to $200.
Dec. 17: Happy Howlidays Celebration
The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center hosts its Happy Howlidays Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. Guests at the festive, family-friendly sanctuary event will enjoy a self-guided tour of the sanctuary; a holiday-themed Knowledge Hunt with prizes; a visit and photo with Santa; fun games; and hot cider, hot cocoa and cookies to snack on. Note: Dress warm for this outdoor event. Tickets are $30 per person and children under 3 are free.
Dec. 17: Santa Soirée at Uptown Plaza
On Saturday, Dec. 17, from 4 to 6 p.m., shoppers will get in the holiday spirit with pictures with Santa crafts, face paining and holidays tunes in the courtyard of Uptown Plaza. Plus, live entertainment will be hosted by Funergy. The first 150 guests get to decorate an LED glow tree ornament to take home.
Dec. 18 to Dec. 25: Nightly Menorah Lighting
With the start of Hanukkah on Dec. 18, there will be eight fun-filled nights of Menorah lighting at the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion in Carefree. These eight events will begin at 5:30 p.m. every evening. Gift bags will be available for children every evening as well as chocolate Hanukkah gelt for all. On Tuesday, Dec. 20, there will be a special Valley of the Sun JCC Family Night during which families can take part in Hanukkah games, arts and crafts, storytelling, songs and more. Admission is free, and live streaming will be available each evening, as well.
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice Celebration
Welcome the winter solstice with a relaxing evening of meditation, sound healing and intention setting at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North on Wednesday, Dec. 21. The event begins at 5 p.m. with guided meditation and sound healing, led by instructor Christina Noble. Complimentary wassail will be served at the event, which is open to both locals and resort guests. The experience is $25 per person, and guests should bring their own yoga mats. To reserve a spot, call The Spa at 480.513.5145.