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Arizona may be famed mostly for its desert landscape and natural wonders, but it’s also a cool state to celebrate the holiday season. A plentiful array of events emerge around the end of November and feature dramatic lightings and fun activities for those of all ages. Some are traditional, others not so much, but the month of December will be filled with an abundance of exciting celebrations. Out of all the jolly happenings, these are the best holiday lights events in Arizona.
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Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is something out of a storybook, with the interior of the lavish hotel being adorned with Christmas trees galore, garland and ornaments, while outside every inch of the landscape twinkles. Ride the adorable train around to see all the splendor, then stop by the S’mores station for a sweet treat. Princesses, yeti’s and even Santa can be roaming around. In addition to a real ice skating rink, there’s a slippery slide and a classic carousel. After all the exploring, cozy up in your Christmas pajamas and enjoy cookies and treats before bedtime in your room at the festive getaway.
Imagine a kid’s excitement when just going to the zoo on any day during the year, then imagine mixing that in with millions of Christmas lights. Every year, the Phoenix Zoo wows kids and adults alike with the glistening Zoolights event, which carries from November to January. Animal displays, trees and walkways through the park are illuminated, and even the lake is dotted with figures that synchronize with holiday tunes from favorite musicians. Marvel at the Skittles tree, named for its multihued decor, greet some of the animals that have decided to stay up past bedtime, fly down the 200 foot Polar Slide and see real reindeer!
Located in Phoenix, World of Illumination is the largest animated light show in the world, featuring nearly 2 million lights synchronized to holiday music. It’s a 25-minute drive-through event with special attractions like a 26-foot-tall snowman and a 500-foot-long super tunnel. Don’t forget the hot chocolate and blankets, so you can roll the windows down to hear the accompanying music! A walk around space with food and play areas sits parallel.
Scottsdale transforms during the holidays, into “Scottsdazzle”. What might be the most awesome way to explore Christmas lights ever, is the town’s festive Segway tour, in which folks are scooting around in tinsel garb while stopping to refuel with warm cider and snacks. Otherwise, just come to shop or dine in the festive atmosphere. Keep an eye out for other fun events like the Java Jingle.
Desert Botanical Garden’s in Phoenix puts on a celebration of Southwestern tradition via a vibrant lights display locals have come to know as Las Noches de Las Luminarias. Lanterns, or luminarias, line paths of the gardens with a warm, stunning glow that will bring a twinkle to your eye.
Ahwatukee Festival of Lights in Pheonix has an incredible kickoff party the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and it’s a free event with music, food vendors, music and even a beer tavern. Carnival rides do require tickets that do have to be purchased, but the entire day is devoted to introducing the season in the most lively way. Once the mile long lighted wonderland comes to life, visitors can trek up and down Chandler Boulevard, until early January, to take in the spectacle.
Old Towne and Catlin Court districts which make up Historic Downtown Glendale, become enrobed in countless tiny bulbs come November. Appropriately named Glendale Glitters, the town does just that all the way into January. Palm trees and buildings wrapped in classic strings are switched on after a countdown ending with everyone exclaiming “Glendale Glitters”, and the nearly two million lights offer a free holiday activity for all during the season.
First, you’ll ride through the rainbow tunnel, then through an igloo village with fluttering snow flurries —McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale offers a mini steam train ride around its detailed illuminated “villages” and scenes. Guests can hop aboard small open-air carts and chug around the park, where lights can be seen up, down and all around. And Santa isn’t just waiting in some old room for the kiddos to tell them what’s on their lists, he’ll be waiting in a historic train car.
While seemingly simple, the lighting of the Gilbert Water Tower has become a significant tradition in the Arizona town. A sky-high water tower stands in the historic district and is illuminated during a special event to welcome the holidays. Symbolically celebrating all cultures, and the community of Gilbert, the tower glitters all season in various colors, some of which represent different causes submitted by locals. Come out and ride in a horse-drawn carriage after snacking on goodies from the food trucks—this may become your new tradition.
Lights of the World is actually a festival blended with an unbelievable walk through light displays. Phoenix and Tucson both host this gigantic holiday celebration of both lanterns and traditional bulbs. In addition to colorful Eiffel Tower figures and tunnels, multiple carnival rides fill the grounds so it truly is a full night affair. Shows featuring acrobatics, sea lions and other captivating acts might make one of the largest light displays North America, one of the best as well.