Best Ways to Enjoy Christmas in Phoenix

Written by Judy Karnia

November 14, 2022
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Christmas is a wonderful time to visit Phoenix. Discover the best ways to enjoy Christmas in Phoenix and throughout the Valley of the Sun.

The Phoenix area abounds with Christmas events and light displays. With the evenings rarely dropping below 45 degrees and often remaining much warmer, you can linger at concerts and wander slowly through colorful lights. Throughout the Valley, many offerings delight all ages and tastes. Lounge by the pool or hike a desert trail during the day, and fill your nights with Christmas fun in every part of the Valley of the Sun. Even someone who grew up in Chicago can appreciate attending holiday events without battling the snow and cold. Here are our picks for the best ways to enjoy Christmas in Phoenix.

Zoo Lights

As you gaze across the pond in the Phoenix Zoo, the LED lights covering the trees dance along with a festive song. Chat with a giraffe, marvel at over 50 life-like animal lanterns, crane your neck at the lights climbing up towering tree branches, drink hot cocoa, and meet Santa, all in one night. Check the Phoenix Zoo website for special events, such as college marching bands and concerts.

Flowers and hummingbird made out of lights at Zoo Lights.

Animal light displays fill the trails at Zoo Lights. Photo by Judy Karnia

Las Noches de Las Luminarias

My favorite family tradition entails a few hours at Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Every trail is lined with luminarias—paper bags glowing with candles. Enjoy a delicious hot cup of spiked white chocolate while listening to holiday tunes and surrounded by lush desert flora. Several local bands occupy various spots around the garden, from brass quintets to mariachi bands to dueling pianos. Sit for a while, tapping your feet to some Christmas tunes. Then wander along in the pleasant night air to the next group.

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Luminarias and lighted Christmas tree at Desert Botanical Garden.

Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy of Visit Phoenix


The Scottsdale Waterfront comes alive around Christmas with the tree lighting on Thanksgiving weekend and then events throughout December. Scottsdazzle includes a sing-along, wine tasting, art walks, concerts, and colorful displays around the canal. Enmesh yourself in the show by riding a decorated Segway through Scottsdazzle, and the downtown streets draped in strings of lights.

Lighted stage at Scottsdazzle with band performing.

Concert at Scottsdazzle. Photo by Judy Karnia

Christmas Activities Around Phoenix

Holiday revelers have many options to take advantage of the pleasant December weather. In downtown Phoenix, CitySkate Ice Rink at CityScape allows you to pretend it is cold. Glide along the ice and sip hot cocoa. In Queen Creek, in the southeast part of the Valley, Schnepf Farms turns their fruit and vegetable farm into a holiday party. Enjoy elaborate light displays and snow while riding the train, buying gifts at Santa’s Toy Shop, ice skating, and checking on Santa’s Reindeer. You can also head to Vertuccio Farms for a spectacular ten-acre light display, fire pits, various games, pony rides, and a petting zoo.

Santa and Mrs. Claus at City Scape.

Santa and Mrs. Claus visit CitySkate. Photo courtesy of Visit Phoenix

Christmas Lights Displays

You can celebrate the holidays throughout the Phoenix area by strolling, bathed in the glow of countless lights. At McCormick Stillman Railroad Park, ride the Paradise & Pacific Railroad around the park’s perimeter to experience an up-close view of the animals and characters formed with colorful bulbs. Complete your evening with hot cocoa from Harley’s General Store, a carousel ride, and a trip through the 10,000-square-foot building filled with complex model train sets.

In Gilbert, the Riparian Preserve and Water Ranch welcomes visitors outside their usual daytime hours. Visit the 110-acre nature area filled with ponds and walking trails. Riparian After Dark allows you to enjoy a nighttime ramble bathed in the holiday glow and then grab a snack at food trucks.

Salt River Fields, in Scottsdale, hosts Enchant, a spectacular event with the Christmas Light Maze, ice skating, and a village of craft and food vendors. Head further north in Scottsdale to revel in the bright festivities at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess during Christmas at the Princess. Book a stay at the resort to linger in the holiday fun.

Lights display across pond at Fairmont Princess resort during Christmas in Phoenix.

Light display at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Photo by Judy Karnia

Arizona Lights in the Night in Mesa provides a drive-through experience with more than a million lights set to fun holiday music. To marvel at even more brilliance, visit the Phoenix Fairgrounds for Lights of the World for elaborate displays and rides. World of Illumination sets up camp in three Phoenix Valley locations, where you can drive through a spectacular show set to music.

Christmas Parades

Christmas parades in Phoenix do not entail frostbitten toes or bundling up in ten layers. You can relax on a lawn chair while showing off your ugly Christmas sweater. You can cheer the floats in this weather without getting a sore throat.

You probably wouldn’t expect a parade on the water in the desert of Phoenix, but one of the season’s highlights is the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake. Relax alongside the water while all sorts of decorated boats glide along, then enjoy the ensuing fireworks display.

While the Fiesta Bowl Parade technically celebrates a college football game, it has provided a festive holiday activity since the 1970s. Thousands participate with vibrant floats, marching bands, antique cars, musical groups, and equestrian units spreading along the parade route through Phoenix streets.

In the northwest suburb of Glendale, the Hometown Christmas Parade creates a gathering of community groups and businesses as part of the local holiday celebrations. Glendale Glitters also includes a joyful light display in Murphy Park, Movies by Moonlight, and artful performances.

Lights display at Glendale Glitters during Christmas in Phoenix.

Light display at Glendale Glitters. Photo courtesy of the City of Glendale

Christmas Concerts

Nothing inspires the holiday spirit more than classic Christmas music. Phoenix offers many opportunities to allow enjoyable and inspiring tunes to fill you with holiday cheer.

The Musical Instrument Museum houses a premier concert hall with amazing acoustics, comfortable seats, and great views. Many musical genres fill their schedule, including Irish music, big band jazz, Hanukkah songs, gypsy soul, and a boys’ choir. Follow up some traditional tunes with more contemporary styles.

Concert at Musical Instrument Museum.

Holiday concert at Musical Instrument Museum. Photo courtesy of MIM

The Phoenix Symphony joins in the holiday cheer with a presentation of Holiday Pops and a New Year’s Eve concert at Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix. The symphony collaborates with the Phoenix Symphony Chorus and soloists to stage Handel’s Messiah in locations around the valley. It also teams up with Ballet Arizona to perform the ballet most traditionally associated with the Christmas season, The Nutcracker.

Scene from Nutcracker Ballet during Christmas in Phoenix.

The Nutcracker by Ballet Phoenix and the Phoenix Symphony. Photo courtesy of Visit Phoenix

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Visit Phoenix at Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time to visit Phoenix with family and friends. You could easily fill two weeks with light displays, concerts, parades, and fun activities. The weather allows you to enjoy holiday celebrations all evening long. There is enough nip in the air to make hot cocoa comforting but not enough to send you scampering indoors after a brief glimpse at lights. Throughout the Valley, many venues welcome you to enjoy the holidays, with whatever activities bring good cheer to you and yours. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning to spend Christmas in Phoenix or the Southwest.

Christmas is a wonderful time to visit Phoenix. Discover the best ways to enjoy Christmas in Phoenix and throughout the Valley of the Sun.


Best Ways to Enjoy Christmas in Phoenix

Written by Judy Karnia

Judy Karnia currently enjoys living in the desert of Scottsdale, AZ. She grew up in Chicago and practiced veterinary medicine for 28 years. She has traveled throughout the United States and a few foreign countries and enjoys exploring cities and natural areas. She is a freelance travel writer and certified nature therapy guide.

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