The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess transforms into a winter wonderland in the desert during the sixth annual Christmas at the Princess festival, November 19, 2015 through January 3, 2016. This is one of my favorite times of year at the AAA Five Diamond resort in North Scottsdale. Be sure to check out my complete resort profile here.

There is a four-story musical tree, Desert Ice Skating Rink, snow magically falling in the desert night, nearly 3 million Lagoon Lights, new holiday characters and visits each night from Santa Claus.

Enchanted Plaza's Musical Tree

The four-story musical tree is the centerpiece at the celebration. There are 70,000 LED lights that “twinkle and dance” to some of my favorite holiday songs. I am always fascinated by this tree. Somehow hearing these traditional songs and watching the lights takes me back to my childhood.

Tree lighting at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess by Susan Lanier-Graham

Tree lighting at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

The lighting ceremony is at 6:45 pm on Thursday, November 19, 2015 and then the tree plays from 6 to 9 pm every night throughout the season. The palm trees in the plaza are synchronized to the tree's music and the five-foot snowflake tree topper is gorgeous day or night.

I enjoy sitting at the Plaza Bar, adjacent to Enchanted Plaza and the tree, sipping a cocktail by the fire pits and listening to the music. I've had the pleasure of doing this with my husband every year for the past five years and remains perhaps one of my favorite memories of all the years here in the desert.

Twinkling Lagoon Lights

I've always loved Christmas lights. I admit it, I'm a bit of a Christmas geek. I love the lights and the twinkle and the bright colors. One of my favorite things at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess are the millions—2.8 million to be exact—of LED lights that decorate the lagoons.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Lagoon Lights by Susan Lanier-Graham

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Lagoon Lights. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

There are arches blinking off and on like a water show, a giant teddy bear, fishing Santa, swans on the water, a pirate ship, candy cane forest and the 30-foot long Nessie, the Lagoon's own Loch Ness Monster.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Teddy Bear Lagoon Lights by Susan Lanier-Graham

Teddy Bear in lights. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I adore all of the characters, but the hundreds of trees wrapped in lights, some draped in icicles and snowflakes, always make me smile. I'm looking forward to the new light features this year, including five skating penguins, a 17-foot-long infinity tunnels with ever changing lights and the glowing butterflies near the East Pool.

Princess Train takes visitors to see the Lagoon Lights

Princess Train takes visitors to see the Lagoon Lights. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

While I enjoy walking along seeing the lights I always have to jump on board the Princess Express Train for a ride around the Lagoon Lights. The train depot is located near La Hacienda Trellis (follow the signs) and overnight hotel guests receive an express pass to board.

Desert Ice Skating Rink

After two decades in the desert, I must admit it gives me a unique thrill to watch people ice skating in the desert. Yep, this is an ice rink made with real ice. In the desert. Snow magically falls as skaters take to the ice. The rink is open to the public nightly during the festival. The price is $15 per person per session and you can rent skates for $5.

Ice Skating at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Ice Skating at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Photo courtesy Fairmont Scottsdale Princess by Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC

You can watch the skating if you'd rather. While it's great fun to watch standing on the sidelines, you can book an ultimate experience by renting one of the rink-side fire pit tables where you can order up s'mores, cocktails, and hot cocoa. Remember to bring your blanket or rent one with your rink-side experience. Reservations and pricing information for the luxury experience is available by calling 480.513.6014.

Rink-side firepits at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Rink-side fire pits at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Photo by susan Lanier-Graham

On November 19 & 24, December 1, 8, 15 & 19, you can enjoy skaters from the Ice Den of Scottsdale showcasing their skating talents. The shows feature members of the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona. the performances are choreographed by the Ice Den skating staff and sanctioned by the Coyotes Skating Club and U.S. Figure Skating.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Princess Carousel by Susan Lanier-Graham

Christmas at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Photo courtesy Fairmont Scottsdale Courtesy by Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC

On select nights, the Arizona Coyotes' mascot Howler will be on the ice. On those special Arizona Coyotes Fan Nights, if you show up wearing Arizona Coyotes licensed logoed apparel, you will receive half-off parking admission, photos with Santa and skating. You can find details on the hotel website.

Fun for Kids of All Ages

Christmas at the Princess brings out the kid in each of us—at least, it brings out the kid in me. You can hop on the Christmas Carousel, which is open each evening for complimentary rides.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Princess Carousel by Susan Lanier-Graham

Princess Carousel. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Of course, Santa is there Wednesday through Sunday evenings from November 19 through December 22. Head over to La Hacienda Plaza where, from 5:30 to 8:30 pm, you an have your photo taken with Santa ($10 each and available for immediate pickup).

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - visit with Santa

A Visit with Santa. Photo courtesy Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

For the most adorable holiday items, head to Kringle's Korner Holiday Shopping. This cute boutique has hats, sarves, mittens, pajamas, seasonal décor, hand-painted collectible ornaments (mine have a special place on my tree), toys and gourmet chocolates.

Of course, there's also plenty of shopping opportunities in the resort's other shops, including the Well & Being Spa's Community Market, Maverick store for men and Anna J women's boutique.

The holiday spirit

The celebration embraces the holiday spirit. A nightly menorah lighting with latkes and applesauce takes place in the resort lobby through Hanukkah, from December 6-14, 2015 at 5:30 pm.

The Fragrance Garden becomes the Nativity Garden, where an 88-foot narrated Nativity light and music show tells the story of Christmas. Seating is provided for the 10-minute program. Shows are nightly every ten minutes from 5 to 9 pm.

Create holiday memories at Fairmont Scottsdale

Create holiday memories at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

During the festival, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess sponsors a Toys for Tots drive with the Scottsdale Fire Department. The resort's a drop-off location from November 19 – December 20, 2015. Local residents an pull right up to the Toys for Tots box at the front drive where a bellman is happy to handle the donation for you.

Keeping with the giving theme, you can poop into the Well & Being Spa lobby and purchase a holiday ornament for $20 from the Tree of Hope. While you'll get a $20 off any a la carte spa or wellness treatment, 100 percent of the proceeds benefits Cox Charities throughout the Phoenix area.

Lagoon Lights

Lagoon Lights. Photo courtesy Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

During the Christmas at the Princess Festival, you can book the Magic Memories Holiday Package and a portion goes to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs through Cox Charities. The packages includes overnight accommodations, a skating session with skate rental for two adults and two children, express VIP access to the Princess Express Train and complimentary one-day admission to well & Being Spa for two adults. Prices for the Magic Memories Holiday Package start at $274 per night, plus taxes and a $29 resort fee. Second rooms on this package may be booked at 50 percent off, not including the amenities listed above. The package is based on availability fro November 19, 2015 though January 3, 2016. Book online at

New for 2015

there are always a few new things at Christmas at the Princess. This year features these fun new events/attractions:

  • A new cast of holiday characters visiting from the North Pole: Christmas Princess Noel brings her charm to the Princess and shows little princesses (and princes) how to waive, curtsy and bow; Peppermint the Penguin is Christmas Princess Noel's best friend and loves to hang out at the skating rink, eat peppermint bark and drink peppermint mochas; and Selfie Elfie is Santa's most mischievous elf who loves hanging out taking selfies, most often near the Princess Express Train Depot.
  • A Christmas Petting Zoo, open fro 5 to 9 pm daily, featuring sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and an alpaca. The petting zoo is on the west side of the property and is complimentary.
  • S'mores Land is a Christmas campfire area with seven fire pits where families can roast s'mores with packaged s'mores kits available from Kringle's Kup. It's close to the Christmas Carousel, making this a perfect spot to hang out.

Food for the Holidays

It's always a pleasure for me to dine at the restaurants at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, but there are some extra special treats during the holidays.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess dining at La Hacienda

Dining at La Hacienda. Photo courtesy Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

New this year, you can join Santa, Princess Noel, Peppermint Penguin and Selfie Elfie for a breakfast on December 19, 2015. The buffet breakfast is at 9 am and costs $50 for adults and $35 for kids 3 to 12 years, plus tax and gratuity. You can check out the special menu here. Reservations are required by calling 480.585.2694.

There are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day specials at the restaurants. In addition, you can enjoy the dishes of all the resort's restaurants at a Christmas Brunch on Friday, December 25, 2015. The brunch, to be held in the Palomino Ballroom, is $95 for adults and $40 for kids over 5, plus tax and gratuity. This special brunch is offered from 10 am to 3 pm on Christmas Day. Check out the special brunch menu, plus details on dining at the resort's restaurants, here. Reservations are required by calling 480.585.2694.

What to know if you go

Christmas at the Princess is open to the public from November 19, 2015 through January 3, 2016 at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Admission to the festival is complimentary for hotel guests. Admission/parking for non-hotel guests is $30 for self-parking with up to 10 people per vehicle or $40 for valet after 4 pm without dining. Valet/admission is complimentary when dining at one of the resort restaurants—Bourbon Steak, La Hacienda, Ironwood American Kitchen or Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar—with a minimum $75 spend. The light shows, rides on the Princess Express Train and the Christmas Carousel are complimentary. Skating, photos with Santa, shopping and dining are priced separately.

Holidays at Fairmont Scottsdale

Holiday decorations – for both Christmas and Hanukkah – adorn the lobby each December. Photo courtesy Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
7575 E. Princess Drive
Scottsdale, AZ
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