11 Must-See Holiday Light Displays in Metro Phoenix
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
Try as you might, it's sort of impossible to escape any aspect of the holidays, now that the most wonderful time of the year has rolled around. That's especially true when it comes to all the pretty lights that are on at least one or two homes (and more than a few businesses) dotting every street in the Valley.
While most people are content with trimming their roofs with a few odd strings of bulbs or LEDs, there are those who light up their domiciles or workplaces like, er...a Christmas tree. And then some.
We've encountered holiday impresarios who spare no expense while conjuring up glittery and super-snazzy displays around metro Phoenix that shine out like beacons and encourage passersby to stop for an eyeful of color, light, and maybe even a treat or two. In addition to all the bigger and professional events throughout the Valley (like ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo or the Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden), here is a list of 11 impressive holiday light displays, both DIY and otherwise.
The Coach House Practically every inch of this Scottsdale dive bar gets gussied up with colored bulbs, cheery wrapping paper, bulbous ornaments, and shiny tinsel every single holiday season. It's been an annual tradition of the Bower family, which owns the rustic-looking landmark, for more than 25 years and includes 12,500 individual lights, 25 strands of garland, 100 square feet of wrapping paper, 50 candy canes, and more than 200 ornaments.
Thousands upon thousands of colored bulbs aren't the only things that glow brightly at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in North Scottsdale during Christmastime. There's also glowing displays of cartoon characters like Dora the Explorer and Cat in the Hat, various 15-foot-high inflatable figures towering over patrons (including a gigantic cowboy and an enormous astronaut), and the trains themselves, which are fancifully decorated and wrapped with plenty of illuminated strands.
Hours & Info: December 13 to January 4, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Admission to the park is free while train and carousel rides are $2 per person.
Eric Cyr's Holiday Lights & Ditto House We imagine that it might be a wee bit difficult being a neighbor of one of those households that's absolutely covered from pillar to post with endless lights and a merry menagerie of adornments around this time of year. How do you keep up with the Joneses next door when they go all out (and then some)? If you're Kristina Green of Maricopa, you don't.
Every December, her neighbor Eric Cyr transforms his home sweet home into a joyously enormous illuminated attraction consisting of more than 22,000 lights, prancing reindeer, and other electrified seasonal tableaux. Meanwhile, Green has a simple sign hanging from her place with the words "Ditto" spelled out in green lights with a red arrow pointing his way. It was thought up and created by Cyr and got both of them tons of Internet fame and press coverage, as well as plenty of laughs.
The Spirit of Christmas, only without Santa Claus and Jesus duking it out.
Palacio Family's South Park House It isn't hard to figure out the cartoon of choice in the Palacio household after spying the family's holiday monument to South Park that adorns the front of this West Valley home near Northern and 43rd avenues. Close to 50 characters from the Comedy Central show are recreated in plywood form and rest upon a field of white lights. The lineup skews towards the earlier seasons of the show, as evidenced by the inclusion of Big Gay Al, Officer Barbrady, Starvin Marvin, Terrance and Phillip, Uncle Jimbo, and Towlie (a.k.a. The Worst Character Ever). Sadly, they left out Mr. Hankey and (our personal favorites) the Woodland Christmas Critters.
Cute, but technically incorrect as of last month.
The Palacios aren't the only ones in the neighborhood who put on a toon-inspired display, however, as the home across the street features the Griffin clan and others from Family Guy, including the recently offed Brian. It's sort of like "Cartoon Wars" only with Christmastime decorations.
Birkett Family's Winter Wonderland Chris Birkett usually doesn't open his annual holiday display -- which covers not only the front yard of his North Scottsdale home but also backyard, garage, guest house, and swimming pool -- for public viewing until mid-December. This year, however, he threw caution to the wind and threw the switch on Thanksgiving night, which meant he had to speed up his timetable of getting everything done. It caused Birkett some long nights, but it was worth losing some sleep to once again assemble the fantastical castles built from light, not to mention all the toy soldiers, illuminated snowmen, and other whimsical displays, which are accentuated by a multimedia symphony of music and sound, streams of faux snow shot through the air, and maybe a wee bit of magic.
Hours & Info: Nightly, 6 to 10 p.m., through December 31.
David Chuchla's Winter Wonderland Meanwhile, David Chuchla pours a comparable amount of effort and cash into his similarly named yuletide attraction over on the west side, only he starts the decoration in early July. Every Independence Day, the 53-year-old empties his place of furniture and unpacks three storage sheds worth of decorations and ephemera -- including more than 70,000 lights, 50 different X-mas trees, and 100 animated figures -- that are arranged both inside and outside of the house. In total, Chuchla spends 450 man-hours assembling everything and drops more than $1,000 on the electricity bill. Oh, and he's already planning for next year.
West Natal Circle This southeast Mesa cul-de-sac comes alive after dark as all 14 of its homes twinkle with endless bulbs, animated figures, and joyful music. Each domicile features its own particular yuletide verve. Some go for a more minimalist bent with a dozen strings of LED lights and whatnot, while other ratchet things up to 11 with multiple inflatables, moving contraptions like life-sized jack-in-the-boxes, nativity displays, or cartoonish characters. A few residents also show off their impressive man-cave garages to the public, and local chorale groups are known to stop by to perform carols.
Hours & Info: Nightly through December 29, 5 to 10:30 p.m.
Holtz House Every December, Daniel and Betty Holtz turn their two-acre property into a holiday haven populated by approximately 80,000 individual lights, many of which dance across a 35-foot-high Christmas tree, seven 18-foot-tall arches, and various starbursts and snowflake patterns set to the beats and notes of seasonal songs are broadcasted via FM radio. There are also sleighs, reindeer, and other festive creations.
Allen and Beth Coughenour's House We've previously sung the praises of this Glendale couple's quaint Christmastime offerings -- which boasts an old school menagerie of vintage ornaments, quaintplastic figurines, various Peanuts characters created from plywood, and more than a million individual lights -- but wanted to include 'em once more since this is your final chance to see it all. The Coughenours have decided to cease their four-decade-long tradition of decorating after 2013, but wanted to delight the public one last time.
The Largo Family's Holiday Lights 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 & Info: Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 6 to 11:30 p.m., through January 3.
Sepanek House The yearly yuletide efforts of Lee and Patricia Sepanek have earned their Arcadia home a bit of notoriety amongst holiday light displays, and with good reason. There's no shortage of joy and cheer contained within their massive creation, whether it's strings of bulbs seemingly raining down streams of light from trees, animatronic dolls, seasonally appropriate movies being played on large screens, snow-covered dioramas, or endless arrays of vibrant ornaments. Plus, they've got hot chocolate.
Hours & Info: Nightly through January 3, 5 to 10 p.m.
Editor's Note: This blog was updated from its original posting.
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