Process of Illumination

The Valley is lit up like a Christmas tree

If you're dreaming of a white Christmas in Phoenix, maybe you'd better hit the snooze button. But if a bright Christmas will make up for any unfulfilled fantasies about precipitation, there are plenty of local light shows to give you a jolly holiday glow. Offering Yuletide eye candy and more for little or no money, these professional displays are sure to outshine the blinking bulbs wrapped around your neighbor's palm trees.

Every night through January 6, the eighth annual APS Fantasy of Lights puts the twinkle in downtown Tempe. Enjoy a stroll down glittering Mill Avenue, take in some free, live entertainment, or lace up your skates and go for a glide around the Fantasy on Ice outdoor ice-skating rink. Call 480-967-4877 for details.

Holiday fun is only human -- or is it? Animals are part of the festivities at APS Winter Nights, held at the Wildlife World Zoo, where 200,000 lights illuminate the grounds. Nightly activities from 5:30 to 9 o'clock include "Wild Encounter" animal shows, as well as train, boat and carousel rides. The event continues through January 6, and admission is $6. Children 2 years and younger get in for free. The zoo is at 165th Avenue and Northern in Litchfield Park. For details call 623-935-9453.

Perhaps the area's grandest holiday show is the Arizona Celebration of Lights. With more than four million lights and 300 displays in a one-and-a-half-mile drive, this is the state's largest professional light display. The event runs every night from 6 to 10 (even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!) through December 30. Admission is $12 per carload, but visitors get a $1 discount for every nonperishable food item they donate (up to six items). And guests who donate an unwrapped children's toy valued at $15 or more will get a discount of $6 per carload. Donations benefit the Westside Food Bank and the Christmas Angel program, while proceeds support The Crossing teen center in the northwest Valley. The whole show is at the Community of Joy campus at 75th Avenue and the Loop 101, exit 17, in Glendale. For details call 623-561-3231 or visit www.joyonline.org.

Twelve blocks of downtown Glendale are transformed by sparkling lights every night through January 12 during the Glendale Glitters Holiday Extravaganza.And Fridays and Saturdays in December offer Enchanted Evenings of holiday music, food, crafts and horse-drawn carriage rides in Murphy Park, at 58th Avenue and Glendale. Santa will be there, too. Everything happens between 6 and 10 p.m., and admission and parking are free.

The Phoenix Zoo's 10th annual ZooLights boasts dozens of displays, including dolphin, elephant and giraffe exhibits. Presented by America West Airlines, the dazzling spectacle runs nightly from 6 to 10 through January 6. Costumed fairies and gnomes greet children and the young at heart alike at 455 North Galvin Parkway in Phoenix. Cost is $7 at the gate or $6 in advance. Call the ZooLights hot line at 602-273-1341, extension 7810, for details.

 
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