There are so many fun winter/holiday things to do around Arizona when December rolls around and I always want to do it all! This post will be linked heavily, just to make sure you can access all of the details to the info I’m giving you! Feel free to click on any link that interests you. (Important note: None are affiliate links and I’m not being paid to link any of them.)
One of my favorite things to do is go to the Desert Botanical Gardens and see the Las Noches De Las Luminarias. They set more than 8,000 luminaria bags out all over the garden and hand light them all every night that the exhibit runs. There are multiple performances scattered throughout as well as handbells being played throughout as you walk the path and take it all in (hot cocoa in hand, of course!). It’s such a unique experience and the Desert Botanical Garden is simply amazing to begin with (it’s so awesome we actually had our engagement photos done there!) The Tlaquepaque Village in Sedona also puts up about 6,000 luminaria displays as well!
If you love Christmas lights, there are definitely lots of places to see a ton of Christmas lights besides driving through neighborhoods. Although, going through neighborhoods is fun, too! My husband and I like to drive through different neighborhoods on our way home from whatever random place we’ve been at. One year, my in-laws brought their bikes up and we rode our bikes through our own neighborhood with them and our awesome neighbors looking at lights. That was a lot of fun- you should try this for a low-key, free night of fun!
But, if you love lights…like really LOVE lights, then here are some places to check out in Arizona to get your fix:
ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo (there are millions of lights; some are animated shows).
Glendale Glitters (1.6 Million lights spread out over several blocks–and it’s FREE).
A Rubino Christmas (although, this is the last year it will be in Scottsdale).
Candy Cane Lane as known by the locals (this is on a residential street in Yuma where nearly all of the houses put lights up and it’s pretty cool). It’s across from Smucker Park.
The APS Electric Light Parade. While there are light parades all throughout Arizona, I love this one. Perhaps it’s because I was in it when I was about 8. Although my part was super small and it consisted of everyone in my group literally wearing Christmas lights as we walked and danced our way through the parade, it was such a cool experience and it’s one of those oldie-but-goodie things to do in the valley.
The celebration has already happened for this one, but each year, Arizona’s Christmas City, Prescott, lights up their courthouse in downtown Prescott with a million lights. It’s usually in early December, but you can go see the lights after the official celebration as well. (tip- it’s pronounced like Press Kit if you want to sound like you’re a native.) Former Governor Rose Mofford actually issued a proclamation claiming Prescott to be Arizona’s Christmas City for all of the festivities that occur each year. Prescott has a giant Gingerbread Village where people from all walks of life create gingerbread homes and put them on display for all to enjoy…and it’s FREE to walk through (although donations are encouraged and the donations benefit Yavapai Big Brothers, Big Sisters). By giant village, I mean that they claim it’s the largest gingerbread village in the world! I bet it smells amazing in that place!
In Tucson, the Reid Park Zoo does ZooLights as well, complete with hot cocoa, entertainment, and miles of lights!
In Flagstaff, the Little America Hotel also showcases a million lights and kicks off the season with a festive lighting and they offer a Christmas Day brunch as well that’s pretty popular.
In both Lake Havasu City and Mesa, you can find a boat parade of lights. These are pretty cool because people deck their boats out with lights and then parade the boats on the water for spectators.
Additionally, while this is catered to the metro Phoenix area, azcentral.com posts a list each year of 100 different light displays. That can be viewed here.
There are also a handful of ice skating rinks that pop up this time of year. The most popular is in downtown Phoenix, called CitySkate. They literally block off a road in the middle of downtown and transform it into a winter wonderland ice skating rink. I’ve yet to go but I really want to. I think it’d make for a fun and different date night. I’ve never ice skated and I guess my husband’s only done it like once, so we’ll see how
fun bruised we end up. There are a ton of spots to eat nearby as well, so once you’re done skating your heart out, you can go grab a bite to eat. One restaurant even has an awesome patio (with heaters) that overlooks the rink.
Out at Westgate (right by where the AZ Cardinals play), you can take a carriage ride or have breakfast with Santa and in Downtown Chandler you can do the most Arizona-ish thing possible: check out the Christmas Tree constructed with tumbleweeds. Yep, you read that right. On the night they light it up, there’s also a parade of lights and performances from locals.
There are literally so many things to do this time of year no matter where in Arizona you’re at and unfortunately I can’t list them all. Although, I think this is a pretty good start! Hopefully, whatever you’re doing includes soaking up the beauty of winter. Those of you who get packed in by snow might disagree that winter is beautiful, but for someone who sees sunshine nearly all of the year; winter is beautiful in the desert. As we often say, you don’t have to shovel sunshine!
Hopefully you get out and do something to celebrate the magic of the winter and all it brings, wherever you are. If you’re in Arizona, let me know if you go anywhere on this list or if you have other favorites!!