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8 Best Towns to Celebrate Christmas in Arizona

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 Mesa Arizona Temple Christmas Lights
Credit: Mesa Arizona Temple Christmas Lights by Jerry Ferguson via Flickr

Mesa

Mesa is a popular 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 is decorated for Christmas and is a great place 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 scenes, illuminated palm trees, and flower gardens are free to the public. The Nutcracker will be performed at the Mesa Arts Center.

Prescott Prescott at Christmas
Credit: Prescott at Christmas by © John Sirlin | Dreamstime.com

Prescott

The town of Prescott is also a fun place to visit during the Christmas season because of its festive events, light parade, and light displays. The annual courthouse lighting in town takes place 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 Williams Arizona
Credit: Williams Arizona by © Lynda Dobbin Turner | Dreamstime.com

Williams

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 to 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 storytime, 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 Glendale Glitters
Credit: Glendale Glitters by wikimedia.org

Glendale

A festival called Glendale Glitters offers family-friendly entertainment, excellent food, hand-crafted holiday gifts, a petting zoo, a kids’ snowfield, and visits with Santa. There will be 1.6 million LED lights on display to light up the trees in historic downtown Glendale. 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 Flagstaff at Christmas
Credit: Flagstaff at Christmas by bill8570 via Flickr

Flagstaff

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. Another fun place to visit around Christmastime is the Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, which is typically all decked out with Christmas décor.

Phoenix Phoenix at Christmas
Credit: Phoenix at Christmas by © Eutoch | Dreamstime.com

Phoenix

Phoenix is full of exciting things to do as the largest city in Arizona, so you know there are 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 Tucson, Arizona
Credit: Tucson, Arizona by © Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

Tucson

There’s a lot to see and do in Tucson this holiday season. The LightsUp! A Festival of Illumination at Tucson Botanical Garden features more than a million twinkling lights, as well as custom-built installations. Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul and the annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights in Tucson are other must-see holiday light spectacles. The 1890s-themed town Old Tucson debuts its Yuletide celebration on select nights throughout December, while Tucson Holiday Ice is an outdoor ice rink in the heart of downtown. You can even transport yourself to North Pole’s sister city during Enchanted Snowfall at the upscale shopping destination La Encantada. While you’re here, try tamal. The delicious masa and shredded meat combo is a Mexican Christmas tradition that’s also popular in Tucson. Indulge at the oldest Mexican restaurant in the U.S., El Charro Café, or the equally appealing Tucson Tamale Company.

Lake Havasu City Festival of Lights, Lake Havasu City
Credit: Festival of Lights, Lake Havasu City by Festival of Lights

Lake Havasu City

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, and there’s an annual Festival of Lights that 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. You can also attend the Lake Havasu Community Choir’s Annual Christmas Concert at the Lake Havasu Performing Arts Center & Little Theater.

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