While a White Christmas is unlikely for the Valley of the Sun, there is no shortage of festive events and holiday cheer to help residents ring in the season. ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo has become one of the most popular and beloved Arizona holiday traditions. This year, there are two ticket options: Any Night tickets range from $16-$18 per person and Value tickets are $10-$12. Value tickets are only valid on select nights. Children under the age of 2 are free and if you purchase your tickets online at www.phoenixzoo.org, an automatic $2 discount is applied.
Just a five-minute drive from the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden shines bright with Las Noches de Las Luminarias. Enjoy a cup of hot cider while strolling through the gardens as the sounds of bells and mariachis ring through the night sky. This year, a new outdoor exhibit–Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light–will be on display featuring eight fiber optic installations throughout the garden.Tickets are $30 for adults and $12.50 for children ages four and up. Tickets are available for purchase at www.dbg.org. In the heart of downtown Phoenix, for the sixth year, CityScape is home to the Valley’s largest and only real holiday ice rink. New this year, a 36-foot tall Christmas tree will be on display in the center of the rink. In addition, a nightly light show will take place, and there will be periodic snowfall in Patriot’s Park.
Admission is $12 on weekdays and $15 on evenings and weekends. Student discounts are available with an ID. Purchase tickets at www.cityskatephx.com. Hop aboard Phoenix’s version of The Polar Express-the Metro Light Rail–and head downtown to Civic Space Park on Dec 4 for PJs in the Park. This free viewing of The Polar Express and Elf comes with hot chocolate, holiday treats and a visit from Santa Claus. For more information about PJs in the park, visit www.dtphx.org. On Dec 12, Tempe Town Lake will light up the night during the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade This free event features up to 50 festively decorated boats taking to the water and over one thousand luminarias lining the paths of the lake.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.downtowntempe.com. Head west to historic Downtown Glendale to witness the state’s largest free holiday light display–Glendale Glitters. In its twenty-second year, Glendale Glitters offers 16 blocks of festive illumination with 1.5 million LED lights. This year’s theme is “A Few of my Favorite Things.” This free, family-friendly event will also feature various entertainment. For more information, visit www.glendaleaz.com. For those who prefer a Winter Wonderland, there are two experiences worth heading north. The North Pole Experience (NPX) in Flagstaff is a critically acclaimed family holiday adventure. Scott Pace, founder of Chasco Toys, created the interactive experience in 2009 after his twin daughters asked to visit the “Real North Pole.”
NPX is home to Santa’s Workshop and “provides an authentic and memorable Christmas adventure for families with children of all ages,” according to Morgan Vanderwall, Public Relations Representative for NPX. “The experience has been visited (by) thousands of families from Arizona, the Southwest, as well as many guests traveling to NPX from around the globe each year.” NPX has been featured on CNN and The Travel Channel. To purchase a Golden Ticket for this one-of-a-kind event, visit www.northpoleexperience.com.
About thirty minutes west of Flagstaff is Williams, Gateway to the Grand Canyon and home of The Polar Express. The Polar Express is a holiday, family experience based on the classic children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. Brought to life by The Grand Canyon Railway, The Polar Express takes guests on a nocturnal journey to The North Pole. Children and families are encouraged to wear their pajamas and sing Christmas carols. Cookies and hot chocolate will be served as the famous story is read aloud. Once guests arrive at The North Pole, Santa Claus and his reindeer will greet them. Santa will board The Polar Express, visit with and present keepsake bells to each child. Tickets range from $24-$69 and can be online at www.thetrain.com.