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. Starting as early as Nov. 8 with Canal Convergence, an interactive light and sound installation along the Canal Bank, the official holiday kickoff to Scottsdazzle will take place Nov. 30 with the holiday tree lighting and sing-along event, transforming the Scottsdale Waterfront Soleri Bridge. Can’t make the Nov. 30 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, gold palette artwalk, Santa Wine Around, Sweet Treat Trail, 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. 29, kicking off Arizona’s largest free holiday light display. Visit Nov. 29-30 for Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend, complete with holiday entertainment, snow, merchandise and more for all ages. Catch the dazzling lights any night through Jan. 11 from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly.
A favorite tradition of young and old, ZooLights is an Arizona staple around the holidays. From Nov. 27 through Jan. 19, 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, meet live reindeer and view hundreds of displays, or check out the new features this year like the Wildlife Lantern Safari, featuring more than 60 creatures illuminated in the night. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online. (Photo: Dave Seibert)
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, 15 (evening show) and 23 (matinee).
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 twinkling lights and the sounds of various entertainment groups. Kicking off Nov. 29, Las Noches de Las Luminarias will take place during various dates throughout the month of December.
Cruise the ice in Glendale at Westgate Entertainment District, which transforms into the ultimate winter wonderland. Start the season with the 36-ft. holiday tree lighting, a skating performance and the first snowfall (yes, snowfall!). Throughout the holidays, guests can enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides, a life-size snow globe, ice skating, snowfall shows, free concerts, 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, can be enjoyed at two Valley locations, in North Phoenix at I-17 and Jomax, and in Tempe at 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. The Tempe location is home to the largest drive-thru light tunnel in the country while North Phoenix features a 100-foot-wide nativity scene and marketplace area with treats, gifts and more. Illumination will be open nightly at 6 p.m., Nov. 14 through Jan. 5 in North Phoenix and Nov. 16 through Dec. 31 in Tempe. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.
Outlets at Anthem
The Outlets at Anthem are hosting a festive holiday season starting Nov. 16 with the lighting of Arizona’s tallest fresh cut Christmas tree. The white fir measures 80-ft. tall and 20-ft. wide and is lit up with more than 1.5 miles of LED lights and roughly 5,000 ornaments. Other holiday events at the Outlets at Anthem include Santa’s Cottage (Nov. 16 through Dec. 24), Santa’s Paws (photo opps of your pet with Santa, Dec. 2 & 3), and breakfast with Santa (Dec. 7). Plus, don’t miss the Midnight Madness Shopping Event at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.