A trip to the desert in the winter doesn’t mean you have to forego classic holiday traditions, like ice skating, snow falls and carriage rides. In Phoenix, there’s plenty of festive fun to be had for the whole family without those frigid temperatures.
A trip to the desert in the winter doesn’t mean you should have to forego the classic holiday tradition of ice skating. And Downtown Phoenix is home to an urban rink that’s favored among locals and travelers alike. Nestled into CityScape, the central hub of Downtown, CitySkate opens on Nov. 23 with a tree-lighting ceremony. Open through Jan. 6, CitySkate will also feature art installations, a hot cocoa stand, visits from Santa, holiday movie nights and more. Tickets can be purchased on site, with a limited number of express passes available online.
For a twinkling display of more than 1 million customizable colors, head to the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Kicking off Nov. 24 with the official holiday tree lighting and sing-along event, Scottsdazzle will transform the Scottsdale Waterfront Soleri Bridge. Can’t make the Nov. 24 event? Scottsdazzle will host themed activities, entertainment, decor and more throughout Old Town during the month of December. Look forward to golf cart joyrides, canal concerts, the Feliz Navidad Fiesta, a twinkle tour, Sugar Plum Avenue and tons more. Many restaurants and merchants will also offer holiday specials, discounts and more.
Sixteen blocks of historic downtown Glendale will be lit up by 1.6 million LED lights. Located at 58th Ave. and Glendale Ave., the lights will illuminate on Nov. 23, with this year marking the 25th year of the spectacular display. Visit Nov. 23-24 for Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend or Dec. 14-15 for Glendale Glitters Holiday Weekend for activities, food, entertainment and more. Or catch the dazzling lights any night through Jan. 12 from 5 to 11 p.m. nightly.
Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker
Enjoy the classic tradition of Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker, rated the “Top 3 in the USA,” by The New York Times. On stage at Symphony Hall Dec. 13-24, the show features more than 150 performers including 30 world-class professional ballet dancers and is accompanied by the Phoenix Symphony. For even more family fun, visit during Family Fun Nights, which offer extra perks like coloring stations, face painting and ballet class for children, all at no charge. Family Fun Nights are Dec. 13, 16 (evening show) and 21 (matinee).
A favorite tradition of young and old, ZooLights is an Arizona staple around the holidays. From Nov. 21 through Jan. 13, the Phoenix Zoo will be lit up nightly from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. with millions of lights. Youngsters can slide down a 200-foot-long Polar Slide or check out the new features this year like live reindeer, a Stingray Bay and a 4-D Theater. A variety of entertainment will add music to the night, including the nightly lake show, set to Lindsey Stirling’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Please keep in mind, animal viewing is limited during ZooLights. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online. (Photo: Dave Seibert)
Las Noches de Las Luminarias
Dive into this Southwestern holiday tradition which illuminates the Desert Botanical Gardens with more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags, thousands of twinkle lights and the sounds of Electric Desert, a Light and Sound Experience by Klip Collective. Guests will enjoy the sights and sounds of nine entertainment ensembles and a variety of experiences. Las Noches de Las Luminarias will take place during the month of December (with the exception of Dec. 24-25).
Cruise the ice in Glendale at Westgate Entertainment District, which transforms into the ultimate winter wonderland. Start the season on Nov. 21 with the 36-foot holiday tree lighting, a skating performance and the first snowfall (yes, snowfall!). Throughout the holidays, from Nov. 21 to Jan. 7, guests can enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides, a life-size snow globe, ice skating, nightly snowfall shows, free concerts every Friday and Saturday, visits with Santa and plenty more. Tickets for ice skating can be purchased at the gate or online.
Illumination: Symphony of Light
The world’s largest animated holiday light show, Illumination, has added a second location for guests to enjoy this year. The original location will remain at I-17 and Jomax Rd in North Phoenix, with a second option at Tempe’s Diablo Stadium. The 25-minute drive-thru attraction includes holiday icons, drive-thru tunnels and nearly 2 million lights, dancing candy canes, twirling gingerbread men and giant snowflakes, all in tune with holiday music played over your own FM dial. This year, the Tempe location will reveal the largest drive-thru light tunnel in the country while North Phoenix will introduce a new 100-foot-wide nativity scene and expanded marketplace area with treats, gifts and more. Illumination will be open nightly at 6 p.m., Nov. 18 through Jan. 5 in North Phoenix and Nov. 16 through Dec. 31 in Tempe. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.
Elf: The Musical
Everyone’s favorite Christmas movie is coming to life at Phoenix Theatre this holiday season. From Nov. 14 through Dec. 30, catch Buddy The Elf, Santa Claus and all the other loveable characters in this jolly musical.