5. Bearizona

Wild Wonderland at Bearizona in Williams, Arizona

2016 marks the 2nd year of the Wild Wonderland holiday festival at Northern Arizona’s popular drive-thru wildlife park, Bearizona. It’s not the largest event in the state & it is a bit pricey for what you get, however, this unique & beautifully organized display is well worth a visit if you happen to be traveling in or around Williams, “the Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” in December. By the way, a winter visit to the Grand Canyon is the best time to visit due to the dramatic drop in crowds and rare opportunity to see the red rocks dusted with snow.

In addition to a fun, colorful display of pines, you’ll get to see a few animals (bobcats and baby bears are pretty active at night), watch a fantastic synchronized show accompanied by your favorite holiday tunes, and take lots of festive family photos. You will even get to watch foxes and baby bears open their Christmas presents! Williams is another chilly Northern Arizona city, so grab a hot cocoa to warm up and enjoy the rare-for-Arizona wintry setting.

2016 Dates & Times: Weekends only, Nov 30th-Dec 30th (closed Christmas Eve & Day), 5-8pm
Address: 1500 Historic Rte 66, Williams, AZ 86046
Admission: $20 per person (Promo available on website – also check Groupon for special discounts)

6. Glendale Glitters

Glendale Glitters Christmas light show in Arizona

Starting right after Thanksgiving each year, Glendale sparkles with over 1.5 million colorful lights covering the 16 block historic downtown neighborhood. This massive display is the largest free holiday event in the state! This dazzling display is one of the best in the metro area, and is well worth a visit if you find yourself in the Phoenix area this time of year. On any given night of the week, you will be able to enjoy all sorts of unique entertainment.

After your stroll, you can take a horse drawn carriage ride ($25 per ride), browse through unique antique shops, check out the downtown Christmas tree, and/or try out a local restaurant (Haus Murphy’s is a great German restaurant with a nice holiday ambiance). As the largest free light display in the state, you can expect massive crowds every weekend. For a laid-back experience without the insane crowds & endless vendors, as well as ease of parking, plan your visit on a weekday.

2018 Dates & Times: Nov 23-Jan 12, 6-9pm
Address: 5847 W Myrtle Ave Glendale, AZ 85301
Admission: Free

7. Tinsel Town at the Village of Tlaquepaque

Tinsel Town is an annual holiday tradition in Sedona, a gorgeous Northern Arizona town known more for its’ stunning red rock formations than its’ holiday traditions. As Sedona is determined to be Arizona’s next top Christmas destination, new events continue to be added to the holiday lineup each year. Tinsel Town is located at the beautiful Village of Tlaquepaque, a Mexican themed dining, shopping, and arts village. Around Christmas time, the village is very beautiful with lots of displays featuring holiday classics like Snoopy, Rudolph, & the Nutcracker. The giant ornament photo opp is amazing.

Seasonal events include free screenings of holiday classics, art walks, a sweet stroll, and the lighting of over 6000 luminaries on Dec 8th. Be sure to check out El Rincon for dinner: it’s a great Arizona style Mexican restaurant with a wonderful holiday ambiance. The village is home to lots of great boutique shops and a fantastic Christmas shop. And of course, you cannot leave Sedona without checking out a trail or 2 (check out my top 12 trails in Sedona). Fortunately, the winter weather is typically warm enough to still enjoy the trails.

2018 Dates & Times: Tlaquepaque tree lighting on December 7th from 5-7pm
Address: 336 AZ-179, Sedona, AZ 86336
Admission: Free

8. Valley of Lights

Valley of Lights Christmas show in Prescott, Arizona

Valley of Lights is a wonderful drive-thru light display in Prescott. The show is pretty spectacular considering the free admission tag (donations accepted). Featuring a fun drive-thru candy cane tunnel & displays of favorite holiday characters like the Peanuts gang & the Grinch, along with a few Southwestern themed specialties, you really cannot skip out on this one if you happen to be visiting this cute cowboy town over the holidays.

2018 Dates & Times: Nov 22-December 30th, 6-10pm
Address: 2200 N 5th St, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314
Admission: Free – donations encouraged

9. Tumbleweed Tree

Tumbleweed tree in downtown Chandler Arizona

Chandler, one of the nicest suburbs in the Phoenix area, is home to an especially nice little downtown area. Over the holidays, they put up a truly unique desert variation of a Christmas tree that you will not find anywhere else. Chandler’s annual tradition (2016 marks the 60th year!) of putting up a Tumbleweed tree as opposed to a traditional tree is a truly unique sight that you must check out if you happen to be in Phoenix this time of year. Chandler’s tumbleweed tree is the last standing in the Southwest, so take the opportunity to see this unique tree while the tradition still continues.

The collecting of tumbleweeds begins in October (about 1500 are collected) to create this truly unique desert original. The process of adding the tumbleweeds to a wire frame, spray painting & glittering the tree, and adorning it with lights and decorations, is a lengthy process that takes workers almost 2 weeks! The ending result is magnificent both day and night.

2018 Dates: The tree lighting ceremony takes place on Dec 1st at 8pm
Address: 3 S Arizona Ave Chandler, AZ 85225
Admission: Free

10. Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Winterhaven festival of lights in Tucson

Saving the best for last, the over-the-top light display put on by the Tucson community of Winterhaven each year is one not to be missed. This long running neighborhood light display has been drawing locals and visitors for 69 years and continues to this day to be the best way to get into the holiday spirit in Tucson. From December 8th-26th( from 6-10pm), you will be able to stroll the streets of this eclectic neighborhood and take in all the crazy decor.

Most of the houses decorate quite crazy with 2017 themes including Christmas Vacation, U of A, and
Stranger Things. If you like unusual light displays, Winterhaven is the place to go. The amount of creativity the residents put into their displays truly is impressive. Asides from lights, you will find carolers, movie screenings, hot cocoa stands and more. For an extra fee, you can sign up for the Winterhaven hayride which will take you around all the displays.

2018 Dates & Times: Dec 8-26, 6-10pm (no cars except the 26th)
Address:3334-3398 N Christmas Ave, Tucson, AZ 85716
Admission: The festival is free to attend although they do encourage donations. In 2017, the festival collected $23,820 and 49,631 pounds of food.

A few more amazing displays…

Reid Park Zoo Lights – Tucson’s little zoo offers quite a nice display with thousands of colorful lights and a fantastic synchronized show. This zoo is super small and easily walkable. Plus, the admission price is super low – this is one of the better bang-for-your-buck attractions in Southern Arizona.

Christmas at the Princess – This popular seasonal event at the exclusive Scottsdale Fairmont Princess is going strong in its’ 8th year. 4 million lights, ice skating at a unique desert themed real ice rink, and special choreographed shows are just a few of the highlights in a long list of seasonal fun.