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While there are few spots in Arizona where you can enjoy landscapes blanketed in snow, there are plenty that offer some fantastic holiday events. If you’re looking to experience some of the best of the best, check out one or more of these options this season.
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During the annual six-week Festival of Lights in Havasu City, from Thanksgiving weekend to January, London Bridge and its adjacent English Village are all decked out with an array of holiday lights. The reflection of the lake provides an especially striking look, and it’s easy to get in the winter spirit by gliding around the ice rink and enjoying a visit with Santa Claus. The festival also includes the Boat Parade of Lights, when over 50 boats, adorned with dazzling lights and holiday decor, pass through the channel and underneath London Bridge.
Dates: November 29th – January 5th, 2020
Many consider the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express to be the kickoff to the holiday season, as it all begins at Williams Depot near the Grand Canyon. Similar to the book and the movie, guests can expect lively elves, chefs and other characters for constant entertainment. Everyone is encouraged to dance and act out old-fashioned holiday tunes as well as to read along to the popular Polar Express tale. Treats are included too, allowing passengers to get their fill of tasty chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, all provided by Santa’s chefs just before arriving at the North Pole. This is when Santa Claus himself comes aboard to present excited young passengers with the story’s iconic bell.
Dates: Select dates from November 8th to January 4th, 2020
A number of zoos around the country offer the popular ZooLights events, including the Phoenix Zoo. This is when the zoo is lit up with millions of dazzling holiday lights. This massive display takes 14 weeks to install, so work begins in July in order for it to be ready on opening day on November 27th in 2019. It also features a three-story-high Christmas tree, a 4D theater, lakeside music-in-motion shows, photos with Santa Claus, a nightly snowfall, festive food and drink, and more.
Dates: November 27th – January 19th, 2020
Las Noches de Las Luminarias, which translates to The Nights of Luminaries, is held for 21 nights at the Desert Botanical Garden, from the Friday after Thanksgiving through December 31st. The park glows from the candlelight of over 8,000 luminarias, which can be seen while you stroll among the cactus at night, sipping hot cider or hot cocoa. Entertainment is provided too, with holiday songs performed by choirs, along with live reggae, flamenco, rock, mariachi and classic music. If you’re into stargazing, you can star at the stars from the large telescopes provided by the Phoenix Astronomical Society too.
Dates: November 29th & 30th, December 6th-8th, 13th-15th, 17th-23rd, 26th-31st, 2019
For more than 30 years, the APS Electric Light Parade has been one of the most popular holiday traditions in Phoenix, drawing over 100,000 spectators annually in early December. In 2019, it will take place on December 7th at 7 p.m. from Central and Montebello avenues. The parade includes all the usual staples, like marching bands and glowing floats, and there will also be food vendors, local music, a free family event that includes face painting, arts and crafts, games and a photo with Santa. Each of the activity areas highlights a different holiday tradition from around the world.
Date: December 7th, 2019
Phoenix area kids don’t have the opportunity to play in the snow without traveling quite a distance, so the Children’s Museum of Phoenix brings some 20 tons of it in to let them enjoy this wintry pastime until it melts anyway. It’s all included with regular museum admission, and the museum even opens up early for breakfast and picture taking with Santa. In starts at 9 a.m. and will last until the snow melts!
Dates: December 14th, 2019
Prescott is officially designated as “Arizona’s Christmas City,” named by Governor Rose Mofford in 1989. The festivities typically start on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, kicking off with the Holiday Light Parade that winds around the Courthouse Plaza, followed by the longtime tradition of the Courthouse lighting, something that was established over six decades ago. Enjoy live seasonal music, a roaring fire, historic buildings decked out in holiday decor, a Christmas tree with vintage decorations, and living history re-enactors that tell tales of what Christmas was like in the state’s territorial days. As Prescott enjoys a four-season climate along with grand Victorian-style homes, it offers a true postcard-perfect Christmas town atmosphere.
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park is home to a massive American arts-and-crafts log cabin that gets decked out in holly and holiday ornaments throughout December. Celebrate an old fashioned Christmas by touring the historic festively decorated home, complete with garlands, wreaths, and a huge fir tree trimmed with traditional ornaments. The tours also include a look at the folklore and traditions of Christmas, and offer a variety of musical performances.
The Winterhaven Festival of Lights in Tucson began back in 1949 by the founding father of Winterhaven Water & Development Company, C.B. Richards. Ever since, the Winterhaven neighborhood is famously lit up with elaborate holiday displays, drawing hundreds of thousands of people from across the southern part of the state. Pedestrians can stroll the streets each night, and both trolley and wagon rides can be reserved for a fee.
Dates: December 14th – 29th, 2019