Arizona is a top “snowbird” destination, which means that lots of people travel here to escape the cold and snow of winter. However, these are the things that define a traditional Christmas season, which means it can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Fortunately, there are lots of places in Arizona that make Christmastime fun and festive with local events. These are the top eight towns in Arizona to celebrate Christmas!
Mesa, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix that has lots of things going on during the Christmas season. Main Street is lit up at night, and there’s a large Christmas tree and ice skating rink in town too. The Superstition Mall and the Fiesta Mall are decorated for Christmas and great places to get photos with Santa. Make sure to see the Christmas lights on the Mesa Arizona temple grounds at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The light displays, nativity scene, illuminated palm trees, and flower gardens are free to the public and open nightly here from November 24 through December 31. Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis, with all of its dazzling effects and Christmas songs, will be performed at the Ikeda Theater on December 16.
Prescott, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The town of Prescott is also a fun place to visit during the Christmas seasons because of its festive events, light parade, and light displays. The annual courthouse lighting in town takes place in the evening on December 2 this year at the Courthouse Plaza on Cortez and Gurley Street. The Christmas parade takes place before the courthouse lighting and features floats, pets, and Santa too. Another fun local event is Frontier Christmas at the Sharlot Hall Museum, which takes you back on a nostalgic trip to the first Christmas celebration in Prescott in 1864. Here you can learn about Christmas traditions from the late-1800s and how locals celebrated the season back then.
Williams, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Williams is a small town west of Flagstaff that is near the Grand Canyon. The most festive thing to do here during the holiday season is take a ride on the Polar Express train. This is an enchanted ride that departs from the Williams Depot and takes you through the moonlight wilderness with elves and characters for fun entertainment. There are lots of great photo ops here, as well as story time, chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, and a ride to Santa’s Village. The train ride lasts about 90 minutes, and there’s an extra-special magical journey on Christmas Eve.
Glendale, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
A festival called Glendale Glitters kicks off this year on November 24, and it takes place on weekends in December too. Here you’ll find family-friendly entertainment, excellent food, hand-crafted holiday gifts, a petting zoo, a kids’ snow field, and visits with Santa. There will be 1.6 million LED lights on display to light up the trees in historic downtown Glendale, and the trees will stay lit nightly through January 6. Lights will illuminate 16 blocks within the downtown area, and lots of local shops create fun holiday displays and hang decorations. Downtown Glendale is also a great place to shop for holiday gifts and one-of-a-kind items. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage ride with your family or sweetheart.
Flagstaff, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
If you think that an Arizona Christmas is all about hot weather and desert landscapes, then make sure to visit Flagstaff this winter. This northern Arizona town is at the base of the mountains and actually gets a lot of snow each year. Make sure to check out the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff to see Santa’s workshop, visit the toy factory, see Mrs. Claus’ bakery, and even see an elf university. Tours last about an hour and 35 minutes and run during the day and in the evenings too. Regular adult tickets are $39-45, and children’s tickets are $33-39. Another fun place to visit around Christmastime is the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, which is typically all decked out with Christmas décor.
Phoenix, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
As the largest city in Arizona, you’d better bet that there are some festive events taking place at Christmastime here. You can attend the annual electric light parade on Central Avenue, go ice skating at the city’s rink, and attend a variety of holiday concerts. One of the most unique ways to celebrate the season is to check out Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Here you’ll find thousands of luminaries along the garden paths, as well as live music, a sculpture garden, and delicious food and drinks nearby. Other beloved Christmas events in Phoenix include Handel’s Messiah at the Phoenix Symphony, a Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail performance, The Nutcracker performance by Ballet Arizona, and ZooLights at the local zoo. The CitySkate ice rink at CityScape in Phoenix is also decorated with festive lights and is a fun way to spend an evening out in the city.
Tucson, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The 68th annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights takes place in Tucson this year from December 9-26, from 6-10pm every night. This is a fun place to walk through, or you can drive through on December 26. Leashed dogs are welcome on the walk too. Tohono Chul Park and the Tucson Botanical Garden often have festive light displays. While in Tucson, you can also check out the downtown parade of lights and festival that includes a tree lighting ceremony.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Lake Havasu City is known as a premier place to party by the water, but it’s also a fun town to celebrate Christmas. The English Village by the London Bridge is lit up at Christmastime to get you in the mood for the season. You can go ice skating at the London Bridge Resort from late-November through early-January, and there’s an annual Festival of Lights that is free to attend and allows you to see around 500,000 lights brighten up the London Bridge. It’s also fun to take a nighttime cruise through the Bridgewater Channel to see the buildings and water lit up. On December 3, you can attend Lake Havasu Community Choir’s Annual Christmas Concert at the Lake Havasu Performing Arts Center & Little Theater.