As a desert, Arizona is not often considered a ‘winter wonderland.’ Yet each December as the temperatures dip into the mid 50s, the Valley comes alive with winter time with festivities and celebrations throughout the yuletide. From the light displays, live music, and ice skating to the annual Phoestivus celebration, there’s plenty to do in Arizona from now until we ring in the new year. With that, here are the top 10 things to do in December in Arizona
Las Noches De Las Luminarias
One of the most unique celebrations in the state is the annual ‘night of the luminaries’ at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Each year, volunteers line up 8,000 luminaria bags along the garden pathway. Listen to music while you stroll and admire the shining lights. Live music is available for guests to listen to and enjoy as the move their way through the garden. Light drinks will also be served. For the full experience guests can dine at the Garden and bask in the ambiance while they enjoy the Garden’s special holiday-themed meal.
When: Dec, 17-23, 26, 31 2019
Where: 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix
Ice Skating at CityScape
Phoenix may not be Manhattan and CityScape may not be Central Park, but every year people from all over flock to the downtown area during ice skating season to take part in one of the best holiday traditions in Arizona. The rink is located in the heart of downtown next to the dining and shopping scene. Skaters can enjoy an assortment of holiday drinks and sip on hot cocoa as they enjoy the yuletide.
When: November 29th – January 5th
Where: 1 Washington St. #300, Phoenix
Beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving running all through the month of December, the city of Glendale hosts one of Arizona’s best winter celebrations. Each Friday and Saturday during December, Glendale transforms into Whoville as the town lights up for the holidays. Spanning 16 blocks, illuminated by over 1 million lights, Glendale Quarter is the place to be during the holiday season. Featuring food, music, activities for kids and even ‘snowfall’ Glendale Glitters is fun for the whole family. The festivities are ongoing and run through the final block party, ‘Glitter and Glow’ on January 11th.
If you’re looking for things to do to get out of the house this month, you can’t go wrong with the Phoestivus Market. Inspired by the actual German markets that mark advent in Europe known as, Weihnachtsmarkt, and of course the Festivus episode of Seinfeld. Phoestivus features foods and other products from over 200 local vendors along with tons of local shops with jewelry, art, and holiday decorations made by local artists. Just like on Seinfeld, the celebration of Phoestivus begins with the airing of grievances. Attendees will also have the opportunity to get their picture taken with the one and only hipster Santa Claus. For safety reasons, there will be ‘feats of strength.’
Where: 721 N. Central Ave, Phoenix
When: Thursday, December 19th
Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding
Before Marilyn Manson began terrifying parents in the 1990s, Alice Cooper paved the way by helping to pioneer shock rock in 1964. A Phoenix native, every year the former rocker puts on a December show that has quickly become one of the Valley’s best holiday traditions and December events in Arizona. All proceeds from the holiday themed rock show go to Solid Rock and the Rock Teen Center, Cooper’s faith based group that helps at risk teens.
This December, if you’re looking to truly enjoy the season, take a trip to the Phoenix Zoo and enjoy one of the biggest winter time celebrations in the Southwest. At night, while the lion’s sleep, the zoo transforms into a holiday haven for all ages. As you stroll through the zoo, gaze up at the more than 2 million lights illuminating the area. Have your picture taken with Santa, see live reindeer, and the three-story holiday tree.
Where: The Phoenix Zoo
When: Nightly from 5:30 – 9:30
Take your holiday under water this season at the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale. The exhibit displays over 250,000 Christmas lights and includes everything from mermaids to a swimming Santa. From now until the 23rd, stop by and have your photo taken with Santa accompanied by a cast of penguins from the aquarium. For those looking for things to spice up their holiday season, this is the perfect place to dip their toes in and dive into the season.
Where: 8414 E. Valley Vista Dr., Scottsdale
When: Running through January 5th
Lights of the World
Lights of the World is back again for a third year at the Arizona State Fair grounds in Phoenix. With all new bigger and better lights, this year’s festivities promise to bring holiday magic to all who attend. Rated, among the top 5 Christmas lights from across the US by US Today, this celebration features over 10 million lights and lanterns. Lights of the World has over 65 different displays and combines the best of the old tradition of paper lanterns with the best of new age modern light show technology.
Where: 1826 W. McDowell Rd., Phoenix
When: December 19th 2019 – January 12th 2020
Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker
If you’ve never seen Ballet Arizona’s staging of The Nutcracker, this is your chance. Now through Christmas eve Ballet Arizona is showing the Christmas classic. Arizona boasts one of the best stage performances of the play and it was rated in the top 3 in the country by the New York Times. Don’t miss one of the greatest December events that Arizona has to offer.
Where: 2835 E. Washington St., Phoenix
When: Show times vary, see their website for details
Celestial New Year’s Eve Gala
Ring in the New Year at Talking Stick Resort at the Celestial New Year’s Eve Gala presented by Raven Events. Experience decadent decor, and a live band and DJ in the 2-level showroom. With two full bars on the main and mezzanine level and complimentary champagne at mid-night, this promises to be one of the best New year’s eve celebrations in Phoenix.
When: December 31st 2019, at 8:00 pm, tickets available online
Where: 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale