Holidays in Phoenix's Valley of the Sun

There may not be snow blanketing the ground, but there’s plenty of holiday cheer and festivities to be enjoyed in the Valley of the Sun.


Scottsdale, well, dazzles during this city event held in Downtown Scottsdale. Dec. 12, 14 and 21 (7-8:30 pm) showcases the free Canal Concert Series at Soleri Bridge Plaza. Take in art—and enjoy artist receptions—at the Gold Palette Artwalk on Dec. 12 (6:30-9 pm), while Dec. 14 brings the Miracle of Roses Pageant (4-6 pm) and then the Santa Wine Around (6-9 pm), a wine-tasting event. Have a sweet time at the Sweet Treat Trail dessert “taste-around” on Dec. 15 (11 am-3 pm). Then, on Dec. 20 at the Old Adobe Mission, view the Live Nativity with Adult and Children’s Choir Performance (6:30-8 pm). Through Jan. 1, 2020. 


This year marks the 10th year of this event, which runs through New Year’s Eve. Held at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, it features a four-story musical tree; a 6,000-square-foot Desert Ice outdoor ice-skating rink (skate rentals are available); and holiday characters. Wander through the Lagoon Lights’ light display, which features 4.5 million lights—or view it from a Princess Express train. At S’mores Land, slide down the four-lane Polar Glide, ride the Christmas Carousel or take in the view from Frosty’s Ferris Wheel. There’s also a Build-A-Bear Pop-Up Shop. At Santa’s Secret Headquarters, learn the elf pledge and take a photo with Santa. 


CityScape Phoenix in Downtown Phoenix transforms into a wintery destination as CitySkate opens for six weeks. CitySkate transforms Central Avenue into an ice-skater’s dream, with a stunning holiday tree dramatically placed in the center of a real ice rink. Also, hundreds of holiday lights, activities, character appearances, professional figure skating performances and Santa appearances. Skate rentals are included with ticket purchase. Open through Jan. 5, 2020; times vary. 


The Phoenix Zoo sparkles with two million twinkling lights, hundreds of displays and, new this year, lanterns. The theme is “Glow Wild,” and the Wildlife Lantern Safari adds a collection of 60 hand-crafted animal sculptures scattered along the zoo’s Africa Trail. The lanterns extend all the way from the front of the savanna habitat to past the cheetah habitat. Created with metal frames and wrapped in a silk-like fabric, each lantern piece is decorated with hand-drawn details and illuminated from within. There is also a Polar Slide with 200 feet of snow tubing fun, a carousel, 4D theater, camel rides, live reindeer and a 60-foot-long light tunnel. Through Jan. 19, 2020.


Stunning light displays are on view around the Valley. Head to Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park and take a train ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad through a winter wonderland of lights and displays set up around the park through Jan. 5, 2020, from 6:30-9 pm daily. Two million animated lights, synchronized to the tunes of holiday classics, are on display at each of the drivethrough displays at both World of Illumination locations—Tempe and Glendale—through Jan. 5, 2020, which open at 6 pm nightly. Downtown Glendale also glows with more than 1.6 million lights twinkling across 16 blocks during Glendale Glitters, lit up nightly from 5-10 pm through Jan. 11, 2020. On select nights at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden through Dec. 31 (5:30-9:30 pm), view 8,000 flickering luminaria bags lining the garden’s paths during the iconic Las Noches de las Luminarias. 


Those looking to shop for the holidays can head to one of several shopping destinations. One of the largest malls in the Southwest is Scottsdale Fashion Square, which also houses Arizona’s largest collection of exclusive stores and brands. In the East Valley, Chandler Fashion Center consists of 185 stores and 20-plus restaurants. Outdoor mall shopping destinations include Scottsdale’s Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter, which sit directly across the street from each other on Scottsdale Road, while Phoenix’s Desert Ridge Marketplace, Tempe’s Tempe Marketplace and Glendale’s Westgate Entertainment District all offer an outdoor destination with a variety of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.

For stores offering gift options from local vendors, Downtown Scottsdale has a large selection of independent stores. Southwestern Reflections and Kactus Jock both offer a wide range of souvenirs and gifts. At Bunky Boutique—which has locations in both Phoenix and at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport—browse apparel, home items and accessories from local designers, while Frances offers a selection of clothing, jewelry, home essentials and artisan gifts from local artists and small businesses.