Despite its desert setting, the Christmas spirit permeates the Phoenix area with magical light displays, snowy scenes, cookie decorating, crafts for kids, ice skating, 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.
For the 2020 holiday season, many events have been scaled back or canceled. Be sure to check in with individual event organizers for the most up-to-date details and new guidelines in place.
ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo
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 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. nightly up until January 31, 2021. In 2020–2021, visitors can enjoy ZooLights by walking or driving through, depending on the night, so check the calendar.
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 visits with live reindeer, holiday foods and drinks, and a Wildlife Lantern Safari featuring 66 illuminated creatures.
Christmas in the Rainforest at Butterfly Wonderland
Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale transforms into Christmas in the Rainforest, kicking off the season on November 27, 2020, up through New Year's Eve, 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.
Your entrance to Christmas in the Rainforest is covered with your general admission into Butterfly Wonderland, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Las Noches de las Luminarias
During the holiday season, the extraordinary Desert Botanical Garden in Papago Park, Phoenix, will line its paths with 8,000 luminaria bags on select nights from November 27 until December 31, 2020. The Garden takes on a magical atmosphere during Las Noches de las Luminarias as the sun sets in the desert and guests stroll the pathways, lit up by this Southwest holiday tradition. You can also see the glow of Wild Rising creatures—animal sculptures made from colored, recyclable plastic.
To add to the romantic ambiance, the Desert Botanical Garden plays music to accompany the lights. Usually, there are a number of live entertainers nightly, ranging from mariachi and dance to classical crossover, but for 2020, all of the music is pre-recorded.
Holidays at The Phoenician
The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort in Scottsdale, continues a time-honored tradition of holiday events leading up to Christmas for hotel guests. While some of the events have been canceled for December 2020, such as Breakfast With Santa, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy such as holiday movies, stocking decorating, and letter writing to Santa (there's also a holiday cocktail workshop for adults). Events are planned from December 17–20, 2020.
Merry Main Street
Merry Main Street features the 5,000-square foot Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, open daily from November 29, 2020, until January 2, 2021, except for Christmas Day. Advance tickets with a specified timeslot are required for skating, and your ticket is valid for one hour on the rink and includes your skate rental.
On Fridays and Saturdays in December leading up to Christmas, Santa will be on-site and available for pictures. The other typical Winter Wonderland activities, such as craft days and the holiday market, are canceled for the 2020–2021 season.
Historic Downtown Glendale is glowing with Christmas lights during Glendale Glitters, a family tradition in the area consisting of a 16-block span transformed into an enchanted forest with over 1 million lights. The city is alight from November 25, 2020, until January 9, 2021, every night from 5–10 p.m.
All of the social events that typically accompany the lights, such as live entertainment, food trucks, and the grand finale Glendale Glitter & Glow Block Party, are canceled for the 2020–2021 holiday season.
Scottsdazzle transforms downtown Scottsdale into a holiday extravaganza loved by locals and visitors. The festival is full of different events throughout all of December and lasting until January 1, 2021, including the Gold Palette ArtWalk through galleries in the Scottsdale Arts District on December 10, 2020; holiday culinary tours; a beer festival, and a farmer's market, among other activities.
View the city's lovely holiday tree, illuminated décor, and public art installations, which are all scattered about the Old Town of Scottsdale. Many local restaurants and shops offer special deals during Scottsdazzle, so keep an eye out for extra incentives around town.
Christmas and Chanukah in Carefree
Christmas in Carefree is a holiday light display at the Carefree Desert Gardens, located about 50 minutes outside of downtown Phoenix. 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. While the tree lighting ceremony is canceled in 2020, the lights are up for visitors to enjoy throughout the season.
The Chanukah Menorah lighting festivities kick off on December 10, 2020, and continue for all eight nights of Chanukah until December 17. The event has a limited capacity in 2020, so the activities will be live-streamed each night so everyone can enjoy them from home.
Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess puts on Christmas at the Princess with all types of holiday events through December 31, 2020. 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.
The annual Christmas Day brunch is available to hotel guests and community members, but instead of eating at the restaurant in 2020, the brunch for four is available to pre-order and pick-up so you can enjoy it at home (or in your room).
Winter Wonderland Express at Enchanted Island
Ride the Winter Wonderland Express holiday train to a snow-filled Enchanted Island in Phoenix, where 25 tons of snow are brought in for a wintry day in the desert. Families can play in fresh snow, race on sleds, visit with Santa Claus at the North Pole, have a cup of hot cocoa and some candy canes, and enjoy holiday decor. The Winter Wonderland Express runs at the Enchanted Island on the weekends of December 12–13 and December 19–20, 2020, and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Rawhide Snowy Christmas
Rawhide Snowy Christmas is canceled in 2020.
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. 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.
Play at The Children's Museum of Phoenix
The Children's Museum of Phoenix is open to visitors in December 2020, but holiday events and activities are canceled.
Celebrate the holiday season at Children's Museum of Phoenix. At the annual Snow Much Fun Day, 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 include making cocoa gift jars, designing gingerbread houses, and creating an edible gingerbread person cookie. Space is limited, so register online as soon as possible.
True Star Hometown Christmas Parade in Glendale
The True Star Hometown Christmas Parade is canceled in 2020.
All the magic and wonder of Christmas is apparent at the seventh annual True Star Hometown Christmas Parade in historic downtown Glendale. 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.
Enjoy the Winter Holiday at Omni Montelucia
The Chef's Kitchen Dinner Series and Christmas Day Brunch at the Omni Scottsdale Resort are canceled in 2020.
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.
A Christmas Day brunch includes special bread, fresh fruit, seafood, and meats, plus visitors can enjoy live-action stations and music, along with patio seating.
Visit the CitySkate Holiday Ice Rink
Ice Skating at CityScape in Phoenix is canceled in 2020.
Skate on real ice during afternoon and evening skate sessions at CityScape in downtown Phoenix. 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.