Christmas in Arizona is not your typical winter experience in the US. Arizona is one of the top destinations in the United States for people wanting to escape the extreme cold weather, especially in the midwest and northeast.
Whether you are planning a winter holiday with your family or your partner or want to go solo, in this list, we bring you the best places to visit to enjoy Christmas in Arizona.
While Arizona doesn’t precisely come readily to mind when we think of Christmas, there are many fantastic winter getaways in Arizona for Christmas if you are willing to go away from the famous and mainstream Christmas destinations.
Delightful weather for winter waits for you here, unlike being surrounded by layers of snow, as Arizona’s desert cities enjoy sunny days with temperatures in the 60- and 70 degrees.
Plus, towering palm trees, deep sand, red, brown and orange mountains, home to the enormous boulders, prickly saguaros, magnificent rugged landscapes, and wilderness only a few miles away from urbanized cities are what make Arizona Christmas unique.
Do not worry if you find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit without the traditional festival entities like snowy weather.
Fortunately, there are lots of unique Christmas destinations in Arizona, where you will find the streets laden with palm trees brightly illuminated, surrounded by markets, loads of major urban extravaganzas as well as Christmastime fun in small towns.
Not only will you have a unique winter holiday, but you will also see how Arizona Christmas is celebrated across the state.
Check out the best destinations to enjoy a splendid Arizona Christmas with your loved ones.
TOP CITIES FOR BEST ARIZONA CHRISTMAS
One of the top cities for enjoying Arizona Christmas is Prescott, which rightly owns the title Arizona’s Christmas City since 1989.
This compact city turns into a magical paradise with tons of activities coming live, comprising festive events, light parades, and light displays, making it one of the top winter holiday destinations for enjoying spectacular Christmas in Arizona.
Since it is at an elevation of 5,367 feet, Prescott is also cooler in December compared to other Arizona cities.
If you are lucky, you might also enjoy snowfall making a white Christmas possible.
Prescott’s top highlights are the colourful light displays as the whole town glows with Christmas lights, decorations and displays.
Each year, Prescott kicks off the season on the first Saturday of December with a spectacular lighting display at the beautiful Yavapai Courthouse at the Courthouse Plaza on Cortez, a tradition doing back over 66 years, which is followed by a lovely Christmas Parade and lighting on Gurley Street, adjacent Whiskey Row commercial area, and other neighbourhoods in the evening.
The Christmas parade starts at the courthouse featuring floats of all shapes and sizes, singing, dances, and Santa.
Head to the Prescott Resort and Conference Center to see a large gingerbread village display
Attend the Frontier Christmas event at the Sharlot Hall Museum to get transported back to experience traditional Christmas celebrations held in Prescott in 1864 at luminary-lined pathways and decorations.
You’ll also find a large gingerbread village at Prescott Resort and Conference Centre.
If you like attending a gala, watch Christmas City Charity Ball enjoy live music and tasty food or dance to Christmas numbers.
If you are with kids, hop on a horse-drawn carriage to take a ride through town. The Christmas City Charity Ball also has a dance competition, live music, and delicious food.
Apart from enjoying Christmas festivities in Prescott, there are many amazing things to do in this small town.
Explore this historical own on walking tours, enjoy delicious food, and plan day trips to nearby landmarks.
During Wild Lights, check out the grounds at Heritage Park Zoo decked up with even more lights or Fain Park’s Valley of Lights drive-thru Christmas spectacular. For historical displays, head to Fort Misery cabin.
If you are looking for colourful Christmas celebrations, one of the best places to visit for Arizona Christmas is Sedona, which also sometimes receives mild snowfall.
You will see many illuminations throughout the city, markets, shops, events, and special shows during Christmas in Sedona.
Sedona is excellent weather that allows you to explore the many fantastic outdoor things to do, from the best slot Canyons near Sedona to national parks and Arizona monuments where you can enjoy hiking, camping, Jeep tours and biking.
Experience the magical walk-through Tinsel Town light display at Posse Grounds Park, where you watch dancing trees to many Christmas songs.
For over forty years, the Tlaquepaque arts and shopping district has been the central Christmas attraction in Sedona as the area comes alive with over 6000 luminaries.
These luminaries are icons for holidays in the Southwest, traditional paper-bag lanterns with candles set in sand.
One of winter’s must-do hikes in Sedona is the gorgeous Red Rock trails. Watch the Nutcracker at the Sedona Performing Arts Center and the Blazin’ M Ranch Christmas Show.
Check out the arts and crafts village with shops where you can taste some hot chocolates and Christmas cookies and shop for antiques.
You can also enjoy breakfasts with Santa at the Sedona Teen Center.
If you are only here for a short time, riding the Sedona Christmas Trolley is one of the best ways to see most of the town.
LAKE HAVASU CITY
Not many know that although Lake Havasu is one of the popular summer destinations in Arizona, winter is also a fabulous time.
If you want to experience Arizona Christmas by the waterside, Lake Havasu is the best choice, especially for a romantic getaway.
Lake Havasu is known for its British architecture and culture, so you will also experience European Christmas in the winter in Lake Havasu City.
Take a boat ride along the Bridgewater Channel to see the lights, or see the colourful annual boat parade of lights where brightly decorated boats beautify the nights.
The colourful festival starts with a swim race across the Bridgewater Channel. You can watch or participate in the swimming race.
Check out Lake Havasu’s English village by the London Bridge to experience Old World charm. Stroll under this gleaming London Bridge lit with over 500,000 lights as a part of the annual festival.
At the Lake Havasu Performing Arts Center & Little Theater, attend the Lake Havasu Community Choir’s Annual Christmas Concert.
Enjoy ice skating with Santa at the London Bridge Resort’s outdoor rink open to visitors in December.
With so many unique attractions and fun things to do in Phoenix, it is one of the top-visited destinations in the Grand Canyon state.
As the largest city and the capital, it is undoubtedly one of the best places to enjoy Arizona Christmas.
Among the many top Christmas attractions are the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, which transforms into an illuminated paradise.
Home to over 50000 desert plants, this 140-acre park and its trails are lined with 8,000 flickering luminaria bags from the beginning of December and throughout the month at Noches de las Luminarias festival amidst towering saguaros and spiky agaves.
Watch the annual electric light procession on Central Avenue, another colourful attraction.
Also, enjoy the live music, visit the sculpture garden, and have excellent food and drinks after exploring the trails.
Enjoy ice skating at the city’s rink at CityScape, especially if you are with kids.
If you love music and theatre, check out Phoenix Symphony and Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker performance, some of the popular performances.
One of the best places to visit for celebrating colourful Arizona Christmas is Mesa, known for its colourful decorations and festive atmosphere.
Located close to Scottsdale, Mesa is one of the best places to enjoy Christmas in Arizona with kids, thanks to the many family-oriented activities and events offering endless fun.
The festival kicks off at Merry Main Street in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, the centre of Christmas attractions in Mesa, where you can find the gigantic four-story Christmas tree.
It is one of the top attractions where all the shops are decorated with holiday displays.
If you are here on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9, head to the north of the main street to explore the Mesa Christmas market.
Check out the other popular light displays, including the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, surrounding palm trees, flower gardens, public buildings lit up, and nativity displays.
You can enjoy ice skating under the stars at the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, also decorated with lights, which attracts thousands of travelers and locals.
If you are with kids, do not miss visiting The Superstition Mall and the Fiesta Mall, decorated for Christmas and places to get photos with Santa.
Enjoy the performance of The Nutcracker at the Arcbest Corporation Performing Arts Center.
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.
To experience traditional festival celebrations in a bigger city, Tucson is also one of the best destinations for Christmas in Arizona.
Thanks to the pleasant weather, it is a perfect escape from the cold and snow.
Christmas arrives early in Tucson as the city begins its decorations and many events, and festive special musical performances in November, with
Witness the city’s biggest wintertime event, the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair, which runs over a weekend in December.
More than 200 artists from different places set up their arts and crafts booths in this fair with a history of over 50 years, and close to half a million visitors head to participate in this extravaganza.
Also, check out food booths, entertainment areas, and fun activities for children while you are here.
Head to Reid Park Zoo to enjoy the holiday spirit and see the beautiful decorations or enjoy the holiday nights and festive light displays at Tohono Chul Park and the Tucson Botanical Garden.
The annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights in Tucson is a must-see event that you can enjoy on a walk or drive-through.
Watch the many live nativity presentations held across the city. Attend the downtown parade of lights and festival, which includes a tree-lighting ceremony.
If you are craving snow, head to Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, an hour’s drive from Tucson, where you can enjoy skiing and snowshoeing, apart from getting views of white winter.
Considered Arizona’s Official Winter Wonderland, Flagstaff is one of the best places to enjoy Arizona Christmas if you want a snow-filled festive wonderland.
Flagstaff, located at an elevation of over 7000 feet in northern Arizona at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, has an annual average of 100 inches of snow a year and is the best Arizona destination to have a white Christmas.
This university town houses loads of holiday activities and shopping opportunities, with something available for everyone.
If you are here on the first Saturday of December each year, head to the Flagstaff Parks and Recreation Department to watch the Winter Wonderland and Tree Lighting ceremony in the historic downtown, which is one of the top attractions in festivities.
Head to the Nordic facility to enjoy a cross-country skiing and snowboarding vacation at the nearby Snowbowl Resort. It has a great mix of ski runs for experienced and beginner skiers.
Whether you are with kids or want to treat your inner child, hop the pretty Polar Express beginning from Williams and arriving at the North Pole, where you can meet Santa after listening to the stories with a cup of hot cocoa.
- Check out the North Pole Experience at the Little America Hotel to meet Santa Claus and the elves and attend a toy-building workshop conducted by them.
- Visit the sleigh in the Area 47 Sleigh Hangar.
- Enjoy some tasty treats.
For more colourful Christmas decor, check out the Riordan Mansion State Historical Park with your family to see gorgeous Victorian-era holiday decorations and traditions.
Glendale is one of the most family-friendly destinations for enjoying Arizona Christmas, packed with activities and entertainment.
Glendale Glitters is the centre attraction, named after over a million Christmas lights that adorn the town throughout December.
This event, which has been going on for over 25 years, is one of the top drawers to the historic town of Glendale as the whole sixteen-block area lights up the city.
It is the largest free light display in Arizona, so if you are looking to spend Christmas in Arizona basking in lights, Glendale should be top on your list.
Apart from these millions of LEDs, enjoy the decorative displays in local shops, which are the best stores for excellent holiday gifts. Here you can also go for horse-drawn carriage rides.
Check out the annual Christmas parade, and enjoy Santa visits, musical performances, and various delicacies.
Participate in the favourite local tradition of the annual hometown Christmas Parade to see Santa and his elves.
Do not miss Glitter and Glow Block Party if you are with kids, as you will be treated to giant illuminated hot-air balloons next to the Christmas lights.
If you are looking for a resort-style holiday, head to The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, one of the best destinations for Arizona Christmas.
The Fairmont’s Christmas at the Princess begins annually in mid-November and continues through the Christmas holiday.
During the day, you can enjoy the sunshine at the Princess by lounging by the pool or playing golf on the adjacent course.
A row of brightly lit palm trees welcomes you to this colourful resort that hosts many fun activities and events every Christmas attracting thousands of locals and tourists.
The beautifully landscaped grounds of the Princess are decorated with over four million holiday lights.
You’ll love the brightly-lit trees, ice skating rink, train rides, Ferris wheel, and roasting s’mores over a fire pit.
Funny characters come alive, which the kids love, ranging from a fishing Santa to the Grinch in its many ponds, and gigantic Christmas trees towering in its outdoor courtyards.
When in Scottsdale, do not miss the gorgeous McCormick-Stillman Railroad Lights and enjoy rounds of Golf as the city is a top golfing destination.
OFFBEAT PLACES TO VISIT FOR ARIZONA CHRISTMAS
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Grand Canyon National Park needs no introduction, but a Christmas holiday amidst the wilderness?
Surprisingly, Grand Canyon in winter is one of the best seasons. What better than opting for Arizona Christmas surrounded by a dusting of snow blanketing the canyons?
Winter is a fabulous time to enjoy the spectacular beauty of this park without any crowds or hot scorching weather.
Unlike during other months, you can drive through the Grand Canyon Park in winter and admire the splendid views of the vibrant and gorgeous landscapes, especially stunning sunsets and sunrises, as sun rays cast shadows and hues on the canyon walls.
The Grand Canyon and its surroundings, including restaurants, operate at regular hours and are decorated for Christmas.
Some winter trails are available for hikes, but they carry layers as it gets cold and breezy.
You can stay at one of the accommodations within the park itself, another advantage of visiting during winter as it is impossible to secure a stay in these historic hotels located within the park.
You can also camp and enjoy stargazing at night if you want a more intimate experience with nature. Dress warmly and plan to stay overnight in one of the lodge accommodations.
ORGAN PIPE NATIONAL MONUMENT
One of the offbeat destinations for enjoying Christmas in Arizona amidst its fabulous natural landscapes and outdoors is Organ Pipe National Monument.
Winter is the best time to visit Organ Pipe, located north of the Mexico border.
One of the top Arizona national monuments, it is a splendid spot for stargazing and camping under the stars to admire the starry night skies and go hiking the trails to explore its wilderness during the day time thanks to the pleasant weather.
If you are looking for a small-town charm, Williams is one of the best places to celebrate Arizona Christmas.
You can spend overnight here while visiting Flagstaff, which is close to the Grand Canyon.
Williams is renowned for its celebrated Polar Express train, the 90-minute extravaganza loved by adults and kids alike.
On this enchanting ride starting from Williams, you will be treated to lots of fairy tales by elves as you pass through the moonlight wilderness savouring chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate
If you are here at the end of November, do not miss attending the annual Christmas parade and holiday displays adorning Williams.
One of the best places to enjoy Arizona Christmas is Lake Powell, where you can spend your holidays on a houseboat surrounded by stunning landscapes.
The average maximum temperature in December is around 45 degrees, providing perfect weather to be on the lake with fewer tourists and escape the cold and snowstorms of the north.
One of the few destinations for enjoying white Christmas in Arizona is Payson, one of the best Arizona Christmas destinations to add to your bucket list if you are looking for a holiday without many crowds.
Attend the annual Electric Light Parade, one of the top attractions where Main Street comes to life with brilliantly lit floats and carolers singing the musicals.
The Swiss Village Christmas lighting is another popular event not to miss if you are traveling with your family, as you can meet Santa and enjoy a cup of hot cider.
Enjoy rides and games, shop for local crafts, and listen to live musical performances to get into the holiday spirit.
Other attractions you must check out include Gospel Choirs, Brunch, and Christmas Dinners.
Payson hosts the unique and popular Holiday House Lighting Contest, where people decorate their homes to add to the fun, and children sing Christmas carols.
Among the best small towns in Arizona for a Christmas holiday is Bisbee, which hosts the popular festival of lights by the Mining and Historical Museum.
Main Street is decked up with millions of lights and holiday displays adorn the shops, restaurants, and public buildings.
Meet Santa, explore Bisbee Farmers’ Market in Vista Park held every Saturday, and check out the Copper Queen Hotel dressed as a gingerbread house.
Bisbee has all that makes it a laid-back holiday destination for families.
If you want a bit of history added to the festivities, check out the historic town of Tombstone, which is one of the best offbeat Arizona Christmas holiday destinations.
Christmas in Tombstone gets kicked off with a tree-lighting ceremony and carolling at the end of November at Allen and 5th Streets.
Attend the Christmas light parade to watch luminaries and floats pass by and the annual Christmas Ball held by the Tombstone Children’s Fund.
Join the Tombstone Tour of Homes that gives you peeks inside a dozen historic homes and buildings.
Another sunshine Christmas destination in Arizona is Yuma, a popular family-friendly town perfect for an offbeat getaway.
Watch the Christmas lights hung on the historic Main Street in town.
One every second Saturday night in December, there is an annual light parade with an annual theme of colourful floats, festive performances, dancers, animals, and marching bands.
During the day, join the local tours to get glimpses of the town’s rich history, or plan a day trip to the Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area.
An offbeat destination to enjoy white Christmas in Arizona is Greer, the high-altitude town known for its fantastic views and skiing.
You can enjoy staying in the cabins overnight for a relaxing Christmas or get adventurous and enjoy sledging, tubing and snowshoeing. Check out Santa’s Greer Village for crafting, carolling, and tasting local dishes.