The Best 2017 Holiday Happenings in Metro Phoenix

Twinkling light displays, Santa sightings, snowfalls, ice skating and more

What would the holiday season be without ice skating, horse-drawn carriage rides, twinkling lights, and other fun festivities? The Valley has it all—here's where to find the best events.

Holiday Event at The Shops at Gainey Village

On Dec. 2, The Shops at Gainey Village kicks off the holiday season with a free afternoon event featuring holiday music by Disneyland’s Good Time Carolers, pictures with Santa Claus horse and carriage rides around the center, a trackless train, face painters, balloon artists, personalized stuffed animals by Stuffed by You ($), raffles, prizes, drinks and food. 8777-8989 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Gingerbread House Decorating Class

Kids—and kids at heart—enjoy creating a unique (and tasty) gingerbread house at LON’s at The Hermosa. The pastry chefs host classes Dec. 16 and 17. All materials are included, in addition to snacks and beverages to help fuel your creativity. $. 5532 Palo Christi Road, Paradise Valley

Lon's at The Hermosa

Santa HQ

The North Pole’s most prominent resident sets up shop at Santa HQ at Scottsdale Fashion Square through Dec. 24, where, in partnership with HGTV, interactive technology transforms and customizes his workshop and observatory (reservations recommended). Among the activities: get “scanned” at the Naughty or Nice O’Meter, spend time at an observatory catching a glimpse of Santa’s world through special tablets, take an “Elfie” (a photo as a dancing elf). Bring an unwrapped toy to participate in Help Through Holiday Giving. $. 7014 E. Camelback, Scottsdale

Santa HQ at Scottsdale Fashion Square

Winter Wonderfest

Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is transformed into a shimmering, awe-inspiring winter wonderland reminiscent of the North Pole. Tour Santa’s House and Toy Workshop, view the décor from atop a 6-story Ferris wheel, shop at more then 50 vendor booths, sample sweet seasonal treats and take a turn on the zip line or in the bounce house. Tickets for a ride on Santa’s Train benefits Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Photos with Santa and additional activities too. Fri.-Sun. through Dec. 24. $. 20000 S. Maricopa Road, Chandler 

Christmas Movies at The Quarter

Scottsdale Quarter screens free Christmas movies every Friday evening during December in The Quad. Blankets, chairs and food welcome. 15059 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Winter Wonderland

Celebrate the season at Westgate Entertainment District’s winter wonderland. The destination is decked out with a real ice skating rink, a 35-foot holiday tree, nightly snowfall, nightly shows, horse-drawn carriage rides and visits from Santa. Open through December, not all activities available every day; check calendar. $ for some activities. 6751 N. Sunset Blvd., Glendale

Westgate Entertainment District

Winter Wonderland

During the month of December, Butterfly Wonderland becomes Winter Wonderland. The largest glass-enclosed butterfly conservatory in America is bedecked with blue white and silver décor. And on certain days, seven-foot living angles with expansive wings add an ethereal aura to the Conservatory. $. 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale 

Butterfly Wonderland

Las Noches de las Luminarias

The Desert Botanical Garden glows with the lights of 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of twinkle lights. Plus live music fills the air, and the bold, monumental sculptures of Japanese artist Jun Kaneko is displayed. 5:30 pm select nights though Dec. 30. $. 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix

Desert Botanical Garden

Christmas at the Princess

View the four-story musical tree; don some ice skates and take a spin on the outdoor ice rink; head to S’mores Land and roast marshmallows, slide down the Polar Glide, catch the view from Frosty’s Ferris Wheel and stop by the Build-A-Bear Pop-Up Shop; take photos with Santa at Santa’s Secret Headquarters; view more than 4.5 million lights at the Lagoon; take a ride on the Princess Express Train; and so much more marks Christmas at the Princess, a yearly all-things holiday extravaganza at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Open through Dec. 31. $. 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


The City of Scottsdale celebrates the holidays through Jan. 1, 2018, with a special art installation along the Scottsdale Waterfront, Saturday concerts on Soleri Plaza, a Santa Wine Around, a Miracle of Roses Pageant, a special ArtWalk, a Cowboy Christmas event, a Sugar Plum fairy festival, carols, merchant discounts and more. Various locations

Glendale Glitters

More than 1.5 million lights illuminate 16 blocks of Historic Downtown Glendale in a free display open nightly from 5-11 pm through Jan. 6, 2018. Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 16 include special themed events and activities. Historic Downtown Glendale


Ice skate outdoors in Phoenix as CitySkate, a real outdoor ice rink, takes over Central Avenue in the heart of downtown at CityScape Phoenix. Skating session times vary; skates included in admission price. Photos with Santa at varied times too. Open through Jan. 7, 2018. $. 1 E. Washington St., Phoenix


Holiday Lights

The popular McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park becomes a winter wonderland decked out with lights and displays through  Jan. 7, 2018 (closed Dec. 4, 24, 25, 31). In the evenings, the popular Paradise & Pacific Railroad takes visitors on a train tour of the holiday décor. $. 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale

Illumination Symphony of Light

It takes approximately 25 minutes to drive through this mile-plus attraction, which showcases beloved holiday icons and culminates at Holiday Boulevard, a winter playground with a 30-foot spiral tree light sculpture, walk-through ornament, giant snowman, Santa’s village, kid’s jumper land, food trucks and selfie stations. Open daily at 6 pm though Jan. 14, 2018. A portion of each admission price benefits Phoenix Children’s Hospital. $. 27701 N. Black Canyon Highway, Phoenix


Millions of lights, hundreds of light displays, a lakeside Music-in-Motion show, carousel and camel rides, a nightly snowfall, photos with Santa and other activities abound at one of Phoenix Zoo’s signature events. Open at 5:30 pm nightly through Jan. 14, 2018. $. 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix

Phoenix Zoo

Michelle Glicksman
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