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Many people might not think of Arizona when they are looking for a snow-filled winter wonderland for Christmas, but you might be surprised at how festive Arizona destinations get around this time of the year. Across Arizona, you can check out holiday lights displays, have fun with snow sports, enjoy some warmth and sunshine, and stay busy with lots of local attractions too.
Here are our favorite Christmas getaways in Arizona, but just make sure to check local event pages to confirm that certain events are still happening for 2020 due to changing health and safety guidelines. Even if an event is canceled this year, we hope this list will give you something to plan and look forward to in 2021!
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Prescott has earned the title of Arizona’s Christmas City, which is why it gets the top spot on our Christmas getaways list. It is a small city with a Christmas parade and light display at the courthouse. You can see a huge gingerbread village display at the Prescott Resort and Conference Center, and hop on a horse-drawn carriage to take a ride through town. The Sharlot Hall Museum teaches visitors about old Christmas traditions through its Frontier Christmas program. There’s also the Christmas City Charity Ball with a dance competition, live music, and delicious food. Definitely plan to visit Prescott in a future year when all the festivities are in full swing!
The vibrant red rocks of Sedona occasionally see a dusting of snow during the Christmas season, transforming the area into a winter wonderland. Posse Grounds Park features a walk-through light display, while there’s an arts and crafts village with shops, cookies, and caroling too. There are usually various Christmas events going on around Sedona, such as breakfasts with Santa and live arts and cultural performances. In lieu of public events, you can also focus your Sedona Christmas getaway this year on mountain biking, hiking, and Jeep tours to really soak up the energy and scenery.
Lake Havasu City is a popular summertime spot, but it’s also worth getting away to for Christmas. The festival of lights here is charming by the water, and there’s typically a swimming race to watch or participate in as well. The Lake Havasu Performing Arts Center & Little Theater is a beloved venue for the annual Christmas concert. This is a unique destination to visit where you can even see an annual boat parade of lights. For 2020, local residents are hosting a one-night-only boat parade event to brighten up the community’s spirits, and there’s no charge to enter your boat into the parade or to watch it.
There’s always so much to see and do in Phoenix, which is why it’s no surprise that this huge city is an awesome Christmas getaway destination. The local zoo hosts festive events, and there are typically holiday performances to see at the symphony and ballet. It’s fun to visit the Desert Botanical Garden to see the luminarias and attend the electric light parade when you’re in Phoenix. For 2020, you can still see the Desert Botanical Garden’s Las Noches de las Luminarias if you make advance reservations online.
A warm-weather destination with incredible scenery just north of the Mexico border is Organ Pipe National Monument. Come here for a unique Christmas getaway filled with inspiring landscapes and plenty of peace and quiet out among the iconic cacti of the desert. The park spans 517 square miles and has a campground for your overnight stays. This is a great place to stay warm over Christmas and enjoy lots of sunshine and starry night skies. There are hiking trails and scenic drives to help you spend as much time outdoors as possible with your family in the wilderness.
The Phoenix suburb of Mesa embraces the holiday spirit with its Merry Main Street event. The event takes place in the downtown area where visitors can enjoy ice skating under the stars at the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink and gazing at a nearly four-story Christmas tree. There are also malls throughout the area that are nicely decorated and have Santa photo opportunities. This is also a place where you can see public light and nativity displays and catch a performance of The Nutcracker. In 2020, check out the Arizona Lights in the Night drive-through light display at the Thompson Events Center in Mesa or Lights at the Farm at Vetruccio Farms.
Tucson is usually very wonderfully warm around Christmastime, which makes it a perfect escape from the cold and snow. Locals and visitors love the Winterhaven Festival of Lights here that you can walk through or drive through. The Tucson Botanical Garden usually features a festive light display, and there’s usually a downtown parade of lights with a tree-lighting ceremony too. Some local traditions have been canceled this year while others are still planned to go forward, such as craft markets and outdoor musical performances. You can even get your snow fix in by heading about 30 miles north to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley and buying a lift ticket for the day.
Williams is a famous Arizona Christmas getaway because of the Polar Express train ride that’s always a big hit with families. This Grand Canyon-area destination is a holiday season favorite because of these train rides that last about 90 minutes and take you on a magical journey you’ll never forget. For 2020, the Polar Express train rides have socially distanced seating, reduced rider capacity, and masks required for everyone. There’s also an annual Christmas parade and tree-lighting that usually takes place at the end of November in Williams.
Views of the Grand Canyon with a dusting of snow are truly magical around Christmastime. This national park is always very popular with families during the summer, but around Christmas, you can see a whole other side of the park and enjoy fewer crowds too. It’s definitely chilly here in December though, so dress warmly and plan to stay overnight in one of the lodge accommodations. There’s also a campground here where you can stay in an RV for your Christmas getaway if your camper has a good heater.
The city of Glendale really comes alive around Christmas with the Glendale Glitters event that usually involves a lighting ceremony, Santa visits, musical performances, and delicious food. Families also love the Christmas parade in Glendale as an annual tradition. For 2020, there will be over 1.7 million lights in downtown Glendale and shops and restaurants open, even though the lighting ceremony and opening night festivities are canceled. With plenty of local shops to pick up last-minute gifts and horse-drawn carriage rides, Glendale should be at the top of any Christmas-lover’s bucket list. This year, you can drive through the World of Illumination near the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale and see millions of animated lights and lighted figurines that are set in motion to music.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess really knows how to celebrate Christmas, which makes this resort a popular Christmas getaway in Arizona. You’ll love the brightly-lit trees, ice skating rink, train rides, Ferris wheel, and roasting s’mores over a fire pit when you visit. Scottsdale is a premier golfing destination where you can enjoy a great game in the warm sunshine. Scottsdale is also a top foodie destination in Arizona, so plan your getaway here to enjoy a delicious meal with socially distanced in-person dining or to-go options at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Hotel Valley Ho, Mountain Shadows, Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, or other local restaurants.
Yuma, Arizona is a popular snowbird destination, which means that many retirees travel here to enjoy the warmth and sunshine around Christmas. There are Christmas lights hung at the historic Main Street in town and also a light parade with an annual theme. This parade takes place on the second Saturday night in December with floats, dancers, animals, and marching bands. In addition to the 1.5-mile parade route, there’s also photos with Santa and festive performances to see. The electric light parade has unfortunately been canceled this year, but visitors can look forward to experiencing all the festivities next year. To get outside and enjoy the nice weather, head to the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area with an ATV or on foot for a hike.
You can enjoy Christmas on the lake by renting a houseboat and having a unique getaway experience you’ll never forget. A winter experience on Lake Powell helps you get closer to nature and enjoy some peace because boat traffic is much less than in the busy summer season. In December, the average high temperature is about 45 degrees. Renting a houseboat is a great way to give your family the gift of an experience rather than just presents.
The historic town of Tombstone, Arizona typically hosts a tree-lighting ceremony and has caroling to kick off the holiday season. Tree-lighting is usually scheduled at the end of November at Allen and 5th Streets. Families also love attending the Christmas light parade and annual Christmas Ball that benefits the Tombstone Children’s Fund. The Tombstone Tour of Homes takes you inside over a dozen historic homes and buildings to get to know the town better.
A lesser-known winter destination in Arizona is Greer, which has a high elevation and gets plenty of snow for your Christmas getaway. There is skiing here and quaint cabins to stay overnight in for an Arizona vacation. Sledding, tubing and snowshoeing are also popular in Greer, which is usually blanketed with snow from November through March. In a future year, definitely check out Santa’s Greer Village for crafting, caroling, and winter fun.
Flagstaff is the perfect place to be if you want winter weather in Arizona because it is home to Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort. The Arizona Snowbowl has a great mix of ski runs for both experienced and beginner skiers. Check the Snowbowl website for COVID-related updates. There’s also a Nordic center in Flagstaff for cross-country skiing and enjoying some winter solitude. Flagstaff is also the official Arizona Winter Wonderland offering a charming historic downtown with festively decorated storefronts, holiday shopping, and activities to get you in the mood for the season.
The town of Bisbee also gets festive around Christmas if you’re looking for a holiday getaway in Arizona. There’s typically a festival of lights by the Mining and Historical Museum, and the Copper Queen Hotel gets dressed up like a gingerbread house. You can explore the many shops along Main Street to do some Christmas shopping and meet Santa at the lights celebration too. Other local events that usually continue throughout the winter are the Bisbee Farmers’ Market in Vista Park every Saturday and Bisbee After 5, a monthly art walk that takes place on the second Saturday of each month.
You might not have heard of Payson, Arizona, but this is another lovely Christmas getaway to consider for your holiday travels. The Main Street here hosts a light parade with floats and carolers. The electric light parade is still scheduled for 2020 and will feature an appearance by Santa Claus – rain or shine. There are activities before the parade too with family-oriented crafts, music, and food from local businesses. The Swiss Village Christmas lighting is a beloved annual event in Payson that includes visits with Santa at the mall. Tonto Natural Bridge is also nearby and worth visiting when you’re in the area.