Guide to Christmas in Phoenix: Events, Holiday Lights, and Attractions

the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess
Courtesy of the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess

Despite its desert setting, the Christmas spirit permeates the Phoenix area with magical light displays, snowy scenes, cookie decorating and other crafts for kids, ice skating, and breakfasts and other activities with Santa all season long.

From getting your picture taken with Santa at local venues to attending a holiday performance, watching tree lightings, going on a driving tour of Christmas lights, or taking the family out to dinner on Christmas Day, you and your family will find plenty to do this holiday season in Phoenix and the surrounding area. Many events are free, but there may be parking or other fees for certain activities, and all dates, times, and offerings are subject to change without notice.

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ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo

ZooLights at Phoenix Zoo
Judy Hedding

Each year the Phoenix Zoo puts up a display of holiday lights that transform the animal exhibits into a winter wonderland full of activities that are fun for the whole family. ZooLights will take place from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. nightly up until January 19, 2020.

Because ZooLights takes place in the evening, you won't see many live animals, but you will see lighted animal sculptures. The event will feature millions of lights as well as a 200-foot-long Polar Slide, visits with live reindeer, holiday foods and drinks, and a Wildlife Lantern Safari featuring more than 60 illuminated creatures. Those who also purchase a Polar Pass can attend a fun showing of The Polar Express 4-D Experience.

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Rawhide Snowy Christmas

Snowfall at Rawhide Western Town
Courtesy of Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse

Join Santa for the nightly snowfall and tree-lighting ceremony at the Rawhide Western Town and Event Center in Chandler during the seventh annual Rawhide Snowy Christmas, which will take place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through December 22, 2019, from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Seeing thousands of lights, entertainment, and Santa are all part of the free celebration. Drop off your letter to Santa at Rawhide’s “Delivery to the SW Pole” mailbox or grab a photo with Santa throughout the event.

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Christmas in the Rainforest at Butterfly Wonderland

Winter Wonderland
Courtesy of Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale transforms into Christmas in the Rainforest, kicking off the season happening through December 28, 2019, with colorful holiday décor and thousands of butterflies from around the globe in the biggest glass conservatory in the U.S. Guests enjoy an art exhibit with hand-blown glass, a beautiful Christmas tree, weekend performances by a local Native American flute player, and a chance to peruse the Butterfly Treasures Gift Shop.

Regular admission applies to this event.

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Las Noches de las Luminarias

Las Noches de las Luminarias
Courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

For the 2019 holiday season, the extraordinary Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park, Phoenix, will line its paths with 8,000 luminaria bags on December 13–15, 17–23, and 26–31. The Garden takes on a magical atmosphere as the sun sets in the desert and guests stroll the pathways. You can also see the glow of Wild Rising creatures—animal sculptures made from colored, recyclable plastic.

Along with the romantic ambiance, the Desert Botanical Garden features a number of live entertainers nightly, ranging from mariachi and dance to classical crossover, Americana, Gypsy Soul, and swing.

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Have Fun Holidays at The Phoenician

The Phoenician, Scottsdale
Judy Hedding

The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort in Scottsdale, continues a time-honored tradition of having breakfast with Santa on December 14, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Mowry & Cotton; you'll also decorate cookies and have a photo memento to take home. Reservations are required.

Guests of the resort can grab a cup of hot chocolate or apple cider and join a guided exploration of the 250 varieties of cacti and succulents on the 2-acre desert retreat—which are decorated with holiday lights during the season—on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. in December. Make reservations 24 hours or more in advance.

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Merry Main Street

Merry Main Street in Mesa
Courtesy of City of Mesa

The festivities in downtown Mesa take place until January 4, 2020, with music, food, and fun for everyone.

Merry Main Street features the 5,000-square foot Winter Wonderland Ice Rink Other key attractions include Jack Frost’s Food Truck Forest at Pioneer Park and numerous Santa's sELFie photo stations for making holiday card photos. Friday and Saturday evenings feature arts, crafts, and local vendors along Main Street.

Take advantage of the Merry Main Express Free Fare Zone to ride the light rail between Country Club Drive and Mesa Drive from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the last three weekends of December 2019.

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Glendale Glitters

Christmas lights in Glendale
Courtesy of City of Glendale

Historic Downtown Glendale presents various holiday events through January 11, 2020, at Glendale Glitters, a family tradition in the area consisting of a 16-block span transformed into an enchanted forest with over 1 million lights. Visitors will find entertainment, food, handcrafted seasonal gifts, a children’s snowfield, and more. 

The Glendale Glitter & Glow Block Party on January 11, 2020, is the grand finale and most popular event in downtown Glendale, with over 20 hot air balloons, 1.6 million LED lights, rides, live music, and food. Admission to all events is free, though there may be a charge for some activities.

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Play at The Children's Museum of Phoenix

Children's Museum of Phoenix
Judy Hedding

Celebrate the holiday season at Children's Museum of Phoenix.

At the annual Snow Much Fun Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on December 14, 2019, you and the kids can play in 40 tons of snow—until it melts—and visit with Santa as well as explore the three levels of the museum. The event is free if you have paid the usual museum entry fee.

Holiday-themed fun workshops in 2019 include making cocoa gift jars on December 14 and designing gingerbread houses on December 14 or 15. On December 17, kids can create an edible gingerbread person cookie. Space is limited, so register online as soon as possible.

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Visit the CitySkate Holiday Ice Rink

CityScape ice rink
Courtesy of CityScape

Skate on real ice during afternoon and evening skate sessions at CityScape in downtown Phoenix through January 5, 2020. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the rink and include skate rental.

During the CitySkate season, every Saturday and Sunday from 2-6 p.m. families can visit with Santa Claus or warm up at the hot chocolate stand provided by Copper Blues each Friday and Saturday—it's staffed by Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops earning a portion of each beverage sold.

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Christmas in Carefree

Carefree Christmas Festival
Courtesy of the Town of Carefree

The Christmas in Carefree festival includes a Carefree Desert Gardens "Glitters" event from 5-10 p.m. nightly in December and through January 1, 2020. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour to see the 25-foot Christmas tree under the largest sundial in the western hemisphere and stroll garden pathways of Sonoran desert flora and fauna decorated with thousands of sparkling lights.

The 2019 Chanukah Menorah lighting festivities kick off on December 22 with a choir and holiday treats and continue through December 29 at 5:30 p.m. nightly in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Hosted by Congregants from Temple Chai, as well as members of the Jewish Social Group of Cave Creek and Carefree, the event is open to all faiths.

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True Star Hometown Christmas Parade in Glendale

Hometown Christmas Parade in Glendale
Courtesy of Glendale Christmas Parade

All the magic and wonder of Christmas is apparent at the seventh annual True Star Hometown Christmas Parade in historic downtown Glendale at 11 a.m. on December 14, 2019. Churches, businesses, and community groups from around the area participate, and proceeds benefit Glendale’s local food bank Hope for Hunger. In addition to the cash donations, a city-wide food drive provides thousands of pounds of non-perishable, canned food to Hope for Hunger.

This free event is open to the public. The parade route starts at 51st Avenue and Glendale Avenue, then goes west on Glendale to 58th Avenue.

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Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is holding its 10th Annual Christmas at the Princess through December 31, 2019. Visitors can enjoy over 4 million sparkling LED lights, holiday characters, ice skating, light shows, shopping, photos with Santa Claus, roasting marshmallows, and many other festive activities. Don't miss the Christmas tree at the resort, which has 70,000 LED lights that dance to classic holiday songs in the Enchanted Plaza.

Make reservations in advance with a credit card for the Christmas brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on December 25, 2019, in the Palomino Ballroom. The festive meal is prepared by chefs from four restaurants: Bourbon Steak, La Hacienda, Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar, and Ironwood American Kitchen.

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Scottsdazzle

Scottsdazzle transforms downtown Scottsdale into a holiday extravaganza loved by locals and visitors. Highlights of the event lasting through January 1, 2020, include the Gold Palette ArtWalk through galleries in the Scottsdale Arts District from 6:30–9 p.m. on December 12, 2019, holiday culinary tours, a fashion show, and a farmer's market, among other activities.

Every night in December you can take a 90-minute Old Town Holiday Lights Tour on an illuminated segway. Also, enjoy the free Canal Concerts on December 14 and 21 from 7–8:30 p.m. at the Scottsdale Waterfront / Soleri Plaza, while also viewing the city's lovely holiday tree, décor, and public art installations.

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Enjoy the Winter Holiday at Omni Montelucia

At the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia in Paradise Valley, you can get into the Christmas spirit with a Chef's Kitchen Dinner Series featuring four courses with fresh seasonal ingredients—guests observe as the meal is being prepared—along with fine champagne, held at 6 p.m. on December 18, 2019.

A Christmas Day brunch from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 25, 2019, includes special bread, fresh fruit, seafood, and meats, plus visitors can enjoy live-action stations and music, along with patio seating. 

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Winter Wonderland Express at Enchanted Island

Winter Wonderland Express train
Judy Hedding

Ride the Annual Winter Wonderland Express holiday train to a snow-filled Enchanted Island in Phoenix on December 21–22, 2019. Families can play in fresh snow, sled, visit with Santa Claus at the North Pole, have a cup of hot cocoa and some candy canes, and enjoy holiday decor from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Regular prices for rides and attractions apply.

Another fun outing at Enchanted Island: On December 22, 2019, you can have breakfast and do activities with Santa from 9:30–10:30 a.m. Tickets are limited and must be bought in advance.

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