If there's one constant to this time of year (other than nonstop Christmas music), it's lights and lots of 'em. Glowing displays of color cover businesses, public parks, and numerous other locales as everyone except the grinches get into the holiday swing of things.
Besides all the gorgeously ginormous public or commercial displays that decorate the Valley -- including Glendale Glitters, ZooLights, or Las Noches de las Luminarias - countless local residents have spent a pretty penny or countless man-hours creating impressive-looking light DIY displays for their homes, many of which involve computer-driven synchronization or other nifty high-tech amenities. We've picked out 10 of our favorite houses and neighborhood around town, each of which offers plenty of Christmas charm.
10. Bob Rix When it comes to the holiday lights crowd, the name Bob Rix is spoken about with tones of admiration. That's because the septugenarian has been decorating his Tudor-style CenPho residence in old school fashion for decades now and has both earned a great deal of respect from his peers, but also inspired dozens of homeowners to spruce up their domiciles with glitzy decorations. Bob and his brother Bernard, who were the focus of a New Times feature from 1996, are also infamous for the back-and-forth battle to outdo each other with holiday displays.
While Bernard retired from putting up Christmas lights and his signature plywood displays of angels as of last year, his brother still adorns his home, despite the fact he suffers from emphysema. Bob's decorations are decidedly old school and utilize only strings of colored lights arranged in the shape of holiday trees and candy canes. The interior of the house, however, is loaded up was vast amounts of toy trains, recreations of holiday landscapes, and more than 500 vintage Victorian-style miniature houses.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through January 2.
9. The Santa Train Local couple Frank and Dianne Polimene have been decorating their Ahwatukee for going on 35 years now and its arguably one of the Valley's best and brightest displays, if not the kitschiest. The centerpiece of the display is a scale-sized Christmas train driven by Santa Claus, complete with a hot cocoa tank car, that chugs around a 100-foot-long track encircling the display. Built by Frank Polimene, a retired hardware store owner, it's activated by the push of a button (or from the flashing high beams of passing vehicles) and also has a flatcar that's periodically filled with candy canes for visitors by a automated loader.
8. The Nevarez Family The Christmas season is one of the biggest times of the entire year for Gilbert's Ray and Terri Nevarez as they dress up the exterior of their 3,451 square foot home with more than 70,000 lights. Even better, the couple stages elaborate and impressive-looking computer-controlled synchronized light shows set to well-known and cherished holiday songs, ranging from "Carol of the Bells" to José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad."
Hours: Nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends through January 2.
7. Allen and Beth Coughenour If you happen to be a fan of classic holiday specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rankin/Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, we're certain you'll dig the ginormous display created by this Glendale couple. Around 100,000 lights (mostly of the incandescent variety) garnish the property, as do numerous glowing plastic decorations dating back to the 1970s, when Allen Coughenour began collecting 'em. He's also accumulated dozens of Peanuts-themed wooden cutouts such as Snoopy and Woodstock. Santa Claus himself (or one of his countless doppelgangers) also visits on Friday and Saturdays.
6. Gilbert Lights Just like the cheesy holiday commercials tell you, the Christmas season is all about togetherness and whatnot, so it seems apropos that the owners of four neighboring homes along Comstock Drive in Gilbert team up every year to put on one helluva collaborative light show. Utilizing more than 400 strings of multicolored lights (and up to 60 man hours to create) the interconnected display spans the quartet of residences as a part of a whiz-bang, computer-controlled glow-a-thon set to hits by Manheim Steamroller (natch) and other tunes, all of which is broadcast by a low-power FM transmitter. Illuminated balloon and a ginormous "mega tree" are also a part of the fun.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through January 1.
5. West Natal Circle Speaking of Christmastime cooperation, all 14 houses comprising this Mesa cul-de-sac sparkle with scores of glowing bulbs, illuminated inflatables, and other electrically powered decorations and knick-knacks. For more than 15 years, the residents of West Natal Circle pull out all the stops to celebrate the holiday season with each home rocking its own light scheme and particular theme. For instance, one yard features Christmas at Bikini Bottom with Spongebob SquarePants character, while another boasts a hallowed religious theme complete with cutouts depicting the birth of Jesus. More than a dozen inflatables are also viewable, including one humorous blow-up with Santa and his sleigh getting busted by a cop.
4. Jim and Linda Largo The Glendale residence of the Largo family features a joyful ballet of color, movement, and music as more than 140,000 lights twinkle and shine in a flurry of illumination while Christmas favorites fill the air every night. It's a flashy holiday spectacle that's erected every year and is almost Las Vegas-like in magnitude, as numerous tall displays adorn the roof (including a 30-foot Christmas tree, illuminated toy soldiers, and a "Season's Greetings" sign) and a pair of gigantic palm trees are wrapped in lights at the edge of the property. Another highlight is located in the living room, which is open to the public: A 10-foot-long table containing a meticulously decorated old-timey miniature village and snow-covered Christmas carnival that's circled by a model train.
Hours: Viewable from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; and 6-11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday until January 1.
3. Wavery's Loop of Lights It's a bit of a drive to get to this neighborhood attraction located on the edge of the Southeast Valley in the Queen Creek area, but is undoubtedly worth an extra tank of gas. A majority of the residents in this San Tan Valley subdivision of Pecan Creek South Waverly participate in the annual Loop of Lights, as more than 80 homes are festooned with intricate arrangements of lights, inflatables, and enough other decorations to practically fill a Wal-Mart. Domiciles aren't the only things getting decorated as fire trucks, vehicles, and even a horse-drawn carriage are stylishly lit up. An annual light parade is also held (this year's edition takes place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 15) where participants ride everything from glowing ATVs to bicycles.
2. Winter Wonderland Utilizing computerized light shows that are set to music and dialogue from movies including Edward Scissorhands, Winter Wonderland in North Scottsdale isn't so much a holiday display as it is a snow-covered, multimedia extravaganza. An ongoing series of choreographed blinking, glowing, and flashing takes place several times every hour. And it all builds up to an epic conclusion where the music reaches a crescendo and three air jets blast faux snow into the air.
Owner Chris Birkett has doing such themed displays for more than 25 years now and ups the ante every Christmas with bigger and better features. A ginormous Disney-inspired holiday castle sitting atop the roof of his house while a sea of green, red, and white lights glow in the front yard and include the message "Believe in Magic." Around the corner are other displays along a path that will wind through his side and backyard where an "Island of Misfit Toys" from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is faithfully recreated.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through December 31.
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1. Lee and Patricia Sepanek It's hard to miss the Arcadia home of the Sepanek's as you can easily spot the place from the nearby thoroughfare of 44th Street. That's because it features a massive cacophony of light and color that swamp the property and is one of the more infamous light displays in the entire Valley as a result. Tall trees are strung with strings of bulbs seem to drip from above. Meanwhile, bubbles flow overhead from a machine on top of the garage. Grab a cup of hot chocolate available for only a buck and check out all the cutesy illuminated animals, statues of Victorian-style carolers, or a small marketplace selling ornaments and other seasonal items. Plus, animatronic Christmas dolls or figurines of Disney and Bugs Bunny characters populate several enclosed dioramas around the exterior of the house. There's even a big screen TV playing holiday movies like The Polar Express.
Hours: Nightly, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. until January 2.