Planning to experience Phoenix Christmas? Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, known for its vast, rugged, and spectacular landscapes, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Phoenix becomes a complete package for families when the holidays begin, offering additional fantastic experiences to the visitors besides many fabulous landmarks and attractions.
As temperatures dip across the country, this beautiful city comes alive with festivals and markets to welcome the holiday season.
Although I usually spend Christmas in Flagstaff(since I love mountains!), Phoenix is ideal for the city comforts and lots of action-packed holidays, especially if you are with kids.
Whether you are looking to add to the list of Christmas events in Phoenix for this year’s festivities or this is your first time experiencing Phoenix Christmas, check this guide either way as you’ll end up discovering something new!
Check these winter guides to plan your holidays:
BEST PHOENIX CHRISTMAS EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
TAKE PART IN THE LARGEST LANTERN FESTIVAL
One of the fun events that you should not miss to experience Phoenix Christmas is the Lights of the World, the largest light and lantern festival in North America.
Head to the Arizona State Fairgrounds downtown to take in the dazzling holiday light displays in this lantern festival.
Inspired by the traditional lantern festivals of China, the event, which runs through the early New Year, features more than 10 million dazzling lantern displays highlighting different cultures and civilizations worldwide.
After admiring this magnificent display, have fun playing carnival rides and games, and enjoy daily performances, including acrobatics and live music.
GET INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRITS AT GLENDALE GLITTERS
If you want more Christmas holiday lights in AZ near Phoenix, head to Glendale for the famous Glendale Glitters Festival, just 20 minutes drive away.
Glendale Glitters is known for its extravagant holiday block parties in the Southwest.
Glendale Glitters displays lights around Murphy Park in Historic downtown Glendale with a spectacular light display that will be illuminated each evening from 5 PM until 10 PM, as well as many festive and free holiday events.
Watch the annual Hometown Christmas Parade held usually on the first Saturday of December packed with hundreds of floats, lights, displays, and more.
Each Friday and Saturday in December, local acts will take to the stage for free holiday performances.
Bookworms like me should check out the fun LIBCON at the Velma Teague Library where you can meet comic book artists, cosplay groups, dozens of vendors, live performances, games, prizes and crafts for kids.
Enjoy a free night out with the family, and taste the local delicacies at the food trucks.
Spend the evening watching holiday classics and other movies.
Other celebrations include Winter Wonderland and Gingerbread Nights.
Every Friday and Saturday night until Christmas, the city features fun activities, concerts, food, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
ENJOY ZOOLIGHTS WITH YOUR KIDS
ZooLights is one of the biggest holiday light displays in the Southwest. And your Phoenix Christmas trip is incomplete without witnessing this spectacular event.
Approximately two-and-a-half million twinkling lights turn Phoenix Zoo into a magical winter wonderland.
Enjoy hot chocolate, apple cider, and munch on holiday snacks available at kiosks throughout the zoo amidst revelling in the festivities.
A yearly tradition for the entire family, the ZooLights at Phoenix Zoo gets decked up with animal lanterns, and all sorts of quirky, creative displays.
Stroll through the park and head to listen to live music, and light show, and a nightly snowfall.
In addition to the lighting, there are many special events and activities planned every year catering to kids, from elves to Dinosaurs and more.
And the best part is you can enjoy ZooLights by walking or driving through, depending on the night, so check the calendar.
Check the official website for exact opening dates and timings.
WATCH THE GLITTERING ELECTRIC LIGHT PARADE
One of the unique Phoenix Christmas events is the Electric Parade.
Run by APS for more than 40 years, the annual electric parade gets creative every year with different themes, and your kids will have a fun time watching it.
Watch the parade lined with elaborate floats with glitzy light displays, cheerful marching bands, and giant illuminated balloons in quirky shapes and sizes.
Lasting for around an hour approximately, the parade covers 2 miles. It is best to come early to get the best spot to enjoy this vibrant affair.
The parade starts at Central Ave. and Montebello Ave at 7 PM.
ADMIRE THE LUMINARIA NIGHTS AT THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
One of the top things to do in Phoenix, The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the iconic Arizona landmarks home to diverse, vast varieties of desert vegetation and distinct wildlife.
Every holiday season in December, the venue hosts Las Noches de la Luminarias, a Southwestern-inspired tradition, creating a desert wonderland.
Stroll in the garden amidst thousands of stunning luminarias and twinkling holiday lights lighting the paths, basking in the glow of lights.
Plus, musical performances, entertainment and holiday delights line the Garden’s iconic trails.
You can also see sculptures adorning the landscapes, created by talented artists.
You can build an enchanted winter village at Webster Auditorium.
ENJOY THE NUTCRACKER SHOW
Ib Andersen’s The Nutcracker is a spectacular production that is definitely a must-see during the festive season.
Whether it is your first viewing of The Nutcracker, or it’s your family’s holiday tradition, one of the must-do things during Phoenix Christmas celebrations is watching this classic.
Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker, an annual holiday tradition, is one of the largest productions of the classic in the Southwest.
The classic holiday ballet tells the story of young Clara and her magical Nutcracker Prince.
Over 150 talented dancers fill the stage for the Valley’s premier annual production of Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker, one of the top productions in the country.
With top-notch costumes and set designs (some weighing more than 30 kgs!), and a beautiful score performed by The Phoenix Symphony, you will be spell-bounded by the performance.
HOLIDAYS AT THE HEARD
Another long-held Phoenix tradition, Holidays at the Heard is a must-see for families.
This Phoenix Christmas celebration is an annual Southwestern tradition celebrating the spirit of the holidays and native cultures.
Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving and running through Friday, December 31, this is one of the best events you should attend to experience authentic American Indian culture.
Watch live music and native dancers performing hoop dances twice daily.
The event is free to attend, but you need to pay to take a tour of the museum, where you can see the preserves of handmade crafts and other exhibits of the Native American groups.
Check out the gift shop to buy cute handmade, authentic Native crafts.
LISTEN TO THE SOOTHING SYMPHONY
If you love classical Christmas music, this one is for you.
One of the top Phoenix Christmas events for music lovers, Handel Messiah, is an annual Christmas tradition bringing the famous “Hallelujah” chorus to lovers of classical Christmas music.
The Phoenix Symphony, along with the Phoenix Symphony Chorus, puts on a rousing rendition of the Christmas classic every December at different locations in the Valley.
Check their website for a complete list of this year’s venues.
WATCH WINNIE THE POOH
One of the most loved characters Winnie the Pooh is more than that during Phoenix Christmas celebrations.
“A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail” is a favourite annual holiday tradition for many Phoenix families.
Head with your family to join them at the Valley Youth Theatre to watch this play, which has been presented annually for nearly 20 years.
All the woodland characters come alive in this play, a perfect event for a fun family time!
The show runs throughout December. It is best to buy tickets in advance.
Prices – $20.00 for adults and children, plus a processing fee.
FUN THINGS TO DO DURING PHOENIX CHRISTMAS WITH YOUR KIDS
SIGN UP FOR ICE SKATING
No matter how old you are, one of the most loved things about winter is Ice skating, especially when it is holiday time.
And a big draw during Phoenix Christmas is the many open areas for visitors, some of them among the best outdoor ice skating spots in Arizona.
CitySkate in Downtown is one of the most popular, real outdoor ice-skating and a favourite spot among both locals and tourists.
After Thanksgiving until Mid December/January, enjoy skating under the stars with your kids until midnight at the CityScape Center in Phoenix.
Each session lasts for 90 minutes, and entry starts at $20 per person(with various discounts available)
Avail $5 off if you bring your own skates. It gets crowded often so get here early.
Plus, if you are here during the weekend, you can meet Santa Claus in the afternoon.
Opening hours – 4 PM to 11:30 PM
WATCH THE BOAT PARADE ON TEMPE LAKE
Tempe Beach Park, one of the best lakes near Phoenix, attracts hundreds of visitors annually.
Home to the Fantasy of Lights Annual Festival, the lake transforms into a magical place for the glittering boat parade.
Held on Thanksgiving day(it is scheduled for December in 2023) on Mill Avenue, watch the dazzling display of over 40 floats, balloons, clowns, marching bands, and an appearance by Santa Claus himself.
Stay for the lighting of the giant decorated Christmas tree by Santa after the parade.
HEAD TO ONE OF THE SKI RESORTS
You can extend your Phoenix Christmas trip by planning a weekend in one of the nearby skiing resorts.
Not only will you enjoy playing in the snow making snowmen and angels, but you can also indulge in skiing, snowshoeing, and more!
Most Arizona ski resorts offer areas designated for beginners and seasoned experts, overlooking stunning views of the snow-capped peaks.
Spend the evening by the bonfire after a day of outdoor fun roasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate.
Arizona Snowbowl is around 3 hours from Phoenix, while Sunrise Ski Area in the White Mountains is about 200 miles from the capital.
Check out more about these ski resorts in Arizona in my guide here.
ENJOY SLEDDING WITH YOUR CHILDREN
If you love sledding, plan a day trip, or better, a weekend getaway to add family adventure to your Phoenix Christmas festivities.
Williams, nearly 3 hours from Phoenix, is home to many best Arizona sledding areas, including the famous Oak Hill Snow Area, off of historic Route 66, and Williams Valley Recreation Area.
CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AT THE CAREFREE DESERT GARDENS
The Carefree Desert Gardens, located about 50 minutes outside downtown Phoenix, is known for its pretty holiday celebrations.
While Halloween involves pumpkin carving, various family-friend events are on the calendar yearly, making it worth the short drive to enjoy Phoenix Christmas festivities here.
Take a self-guided walking tour to see the 25-foot Christmas tree under the largest sundial in the western hemisphere.
Stroll along the pathways adorned with twinkling holiday lights everywhere. Watch the tree lighting by Santa at the beginning of December.
Holiday concerts are performed by local artists as well.