The Christmas season is upon us again. As the old adage goes, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” While Arizona doesn’t exactly come readily to mind when we think of the idyllic Christmas. Palm trees, sand, red mountains, and 60 degree weather isn’t quite the same as snow glistening in the night. Yet nonetheless, Arizona has much to offer during this time of year. For those who want a change of pace from the usual ‘white Christmas’ or for those who just want to escape the bitter cold of the midwest and north east, here are the best cities in Arizona to visit during the holiday season.
To anyone visiting the metro area in Arizona, Scottsdale is a must-see. Rated among the top 100 best cities to live in, Scottsdale has just about everything you could want. From boutique shopping and fine dining to tourist attractions and resorts, Scottsdale is one of the premier places to visit in Arizona. During the Christmas season especially, Scottsdale does its best to bring out festive holiday cheer from everyone. One ‘can’t miss’ stop in Scottsdale during the Christmas season is the annual ‘Christmas at the Princess.’ Every year during December, the Princess resort transforms into a magical winter wonderland adorned in over 4 million lights. Complete with fire pits perfect for roasting chestnuts, a ferris wheel and carousel, you can even see a slew of your favorite holiday characters.
Other attractions such as McCormick-Stillman Railroad Lights and Scottsdazzle make Scottsdale a must-visit for anyone looking to take a trip to Arizona during the holidays.
If you want a true classic Christmas experience in Arizona, you need to go to Flagstaff. Located in the northern parts of Arizona, Flagstaff sits an elevation of a cool 7,000 feet. Flagstaff is also one of the few places in Arizona that regularly gets snow. It is also where you can ride the Polar Express for real. The train ride takes you from Williams (located just over 30 miles west of the city, and arrives at the “North Pole,” where kids can meet Santa and his reindeer.
Flagstaff is also home to the Winter Wonderland and Tree Light ceremony that takes place each year on the first Saturday of December. If you’re looking to have white Christmas, then Flagstaff is the place to go.
For more than forty years, Tlaquepaque arts and shopping village has been the site of Christmas festivities in Sedona. Each year the shopping area is lit with 6,000 luminarias. Sedona’s festival of lights is one of the best Christmas celebrations in the entire state. For those who are just visiting, one of the best and easiest ways to see the town is by riding the Sedona Christmas Trolley. With all the lights hanging on trees and over the town, Sedona stands out as one of the merriest places to be in Arizona during the Christmas season.
Yet no matter how bright the lights at Tlaquepaque may be, none shines brighter than the red rocks that surround the town. Sites such as Bell Rock Path are great to see any time of the year, but especially during the holidays.
If Santa Claus ever got tired of the snow and decided to buy a vacation home, it’d be in Glendale. Every year Glendale transforms into what can best be described as a Southwest version of the North Pole. Over one million lights illuminate the historic town of Glendale. For twenty-six years in a row, the holiday celebration known as ‘Glendale Glitters’ has boasted the largest free light display in Arizona. A full sixteen block area lights up the town, making Glendale one of the best and most festive cities to visit in Arizona.
More than just a college town, Tucson is a quintessential Southwestern town. As soon as November rolls around, Tucson wastes no time ushering in a flurry of holiday fun. Perhaps the city’s biggest winter time event is the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair. The event spans over a whole weekend in the middle of December and features more than 200 arts and crafts booths and dozens of food vendors. Other holiday happening in Tucson include Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul, Luminaria Nights at Tucson Botanical Garden, and the annual downtown parade of lights.
There’s a reason that Prescott is called “Arizona’s Christmas city.” Perhaps no city in Arizona does Christmas bigger. Everyone down in Prescott likes Christmas a lot, and fortunately for them there are no Grinches to ruin the holiday spirit. From the annual Christmas parade, parties all over the city, to the world’s largest gingerbread village, Prescott is the best city in Arizona to enjoy the holidays. From events like the Wildlights and Animal Sights at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary to the town’s famous Courthouse lighting there’s no better place to spend the Christmas season than Prescott.
Just south a ways from Scottsdale is the town of Mesa. Mesa’s festivities take place on Main street as a part of ‘Merry Main Street.’ From the erection of the town’s 4 story Christmas tree and the ice skating rink to Jack Frost’s Food Truck Forest, Mesa has everything you need to have a most wonderful time of the year. On Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9 you can enjoy the Mesa Christmas market located on the north side of Main Street and Macdonald.
Arizona isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind when you think winter time and the holidays, but it is well worth the visit. Each of these cities have their own unique ways to celebrate Christmas in the desert. If you’re planning a trip to Arizona for the holidays, you can’t go wrong with either of these cities.