41 Must-Attend Holiday Events in Metro Phoenix

41 Must-Attend Holiday Events in Metro Phoenix
Benjamin Leatherman

The yuletide season can be an exercise in utter chaos. Or, at the very least, busy. There are gifts to buy, feasts and fêtes to plan, trees to trim, halls to deck, and family gatherings to attend. Making your to-do lists even longer are the hundreds of special events over the next six weeks, including recitals, gatherings, parties, and celebrations related to the holidays.

See also: Phoenix New Times Holiday 2013 Calendar

In order to help you simplify things and rule the yule (not to mention cross off a few errands), we've scoped out the scene and put together a rundown of more than three dozen must-see events from now until New Year's.

And just like Santa's list, it covers both the naughty and the nice, as well as places to score gifts, check out all the pretty lights, and get in some revelry and merriment. Because that's what this time of year is about, right?

Arizona Celebration of Lights
Arizona Celebration of Lights
Benjamin Leatherman

Arizona Celebration of Lights Through January 6 Westside Sports Complex

We'd hate to see the electric bill that the organizers of this enormous annual holiday light extravaganza have to pay, since it's likely substantial. That's only because approximately 7 million individual lights (LED or otherwise) make up this drive-thru attraction in the West Valley that features more than 300 individual displays while broadcasting Christmas music via a low-power FM transmitter to the cars passing through. Hours are 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with a $15 admission per car; and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with an admission of $20 per car; and 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Sunday for $20.

White Christmas November 20 to December 23 Phoenix Theatre

The actors and actresses of the Phoenix Theatre will stage the theatrical version of the 1954 Christmastime classic, which was penned by the late Irving Berlin, during the holiday season. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $30 to $45.

Christmas at the Princess November 21 to January 6 Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The North Scottsdale resort takes on a bit of a North Pole feel for the yuletide with a variety of activities and attractions, like the lighting of its four-story musical holiday tree, the opening of its ice rink, and a performance by Olympic skating champion Dorothy Hamill, and other festivities on Thursday, November 21. (Other "Magical Moments on Ice" performances are scheduled throughout the season.) Plus, free sugar cookies and spiced cider will be available. Meanwhile, the grounds of the Princess will also feature a high-definition animated light shows at 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. nightly, a nativity garden, a "Lagoon Lights" fantasy land, and more. Admission is free while the rink is $15 for adults and $10 for children. Skates are available to rent for $5 each.

Give Back With the Arizona Ghostbusters November 23 Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

The local Ghostbusters enthusiast group will roll over to Bookmans in Mesa in their Ecto-1 for this afternoon event that's filled with "delightful geekery and giving back." The group will be accepting unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots and donations to charities, as well as staging various as contests and prizes. Admission is free.  

Ballet AZ performs The Nutcracker.
Ballet AZ performs The Nutcracker.
Rosalie O'Connor

The Nutcracker Festival November 24 Dorrance Theatre

Catching a performance of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov's world-famous ballet, first performed in the late 19th century, has been a holiday tradition since, well, practically forever. Ballet Arizona will kick off its annual month-long run of the show with a day of family-friendly festivities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its newly christened headquarters. In addition to performances of the ballet by student dancers, brunches and stations for creating ornaments and decorating pointe shoes are promised. Admission is $60 per person. Regular performances of the The Nutcracker will also take place from December 6 to December 24 at Symphony Hall. Times and ticket prices vary.

Gingerbread House Contest November 29 to December 31 Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel

A word to the wise: No matter how delicious-looking the dozens of whimsically decorated gingerbread houses inside the hotel's Park Lounge might appear, please refrain from reaching over and breaking off a piece for yourself. You'd be ruining one of the dozens of painstakingly decorated confection-laden creations made by the students from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, each of which is inspired by the film The Polar Express for the contest. Hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free.

First Snow Fall November 27 Tempe Marketplace

Although the forecast for the day before Thanksgiving states that temperatures will be in the high 60s, it's apparently going to be snowing. This unseasonably frosty weather phenomena will be limited to the District Stage at the marketplace, where snowflakes will fall upon shoppers following a special ice skating performance and the lighting of a 60-foot tree at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Yarnball Storytellers: Thanks A Lot November 27 Lawn Gnome Publishing

Tales of turkey days past will be woven by the participants of a special themed edition of Lawn Gnome's weekly Wednesday night storytelling session from 8 to 10 p.m., which is hosted by local author Dan Hull and will feature poets, comedians, spoken word artists, and anyone else who'd like to join in the fun. Admission and participation are free.  

ZooLights November 28 to January 12 Phoenix Zoo

There will be plenty of new things to do at the zoo during its popular holiday attraction this year. Like strolling through a Wizard of Oz-themed wonderland (complete with yellow brick road and appearances by the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow), or enjoying two different "Music in Motion" light shows, which include floating light tubes and enormous shimmering spheres. The polar slide, zip line, carousel, and camel rides will also be available, albeit for an additional fee. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Admission is $10 to $14.

Thanksgivukkah November 28 Crescent Ballroom

Due to an anomaly in the 2013 calendar, an infinitesimally rare convergence of holidays will be taking place. Namely, the first night of Hanukkah just happens to occur on the exact same day as Thanksgiving. The folks at the Crescent will celebrate this exceptionally extraordinary occurence, which won't transpire again for tens of thousands of years, with a two-fold holiday event starting at 7 p.m. and will offer drink specials all night and other fun.

Ornament Marketplace November 28 to December 1 Heard Museum

If the usual assortment of tinsel, angels, and tree lights is seeming a little tame, spruce up your tannenbaum this year with any of the exotic and authentic handmade ornaments that will be sold by the silversmiths, ceramicists, jewelers, woodworkers, and other Native American artisans that will populate the Heard during this four-day event. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 28 through 30, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on December 1. Admission is free.

RedMonkey's Work That Turkey November 28 Monarch Theatre

As hard as it might be to refrain from drowning yourself in carbs on Thanksgiving, we recommend eating light during the big feast. You'll not only avoid the dreaded food coma but also have enough energy to go wild out until the wee hours at Pete "SuperMix" Salaz's annual T-Day dance party, which runs from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Both DJ Jask Thaisoul and The House Music All Star Band will perform. Admission is $10.  

Winter Wonderland at Chris Birkett's Scottsdale residence.
Winter Wonderland at Chris Birkett's Scottsdale residence.
Benjamin Leatherman

Winter Wonderland November 28 to December 31 Birkett Entertainment

Scottsdale resident Chris Birkett goes all out during Christmastime to transform his family's home into one of the most impressive light displays in the entire Valley. Practically every inch of the exterior -- not to mention the front, back, and side yards -- become a wondrous milieu of wooden soldiers, Disneyesque castles, sparkling displays, and even the characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the Island of Misfit Toys. There's also faux snow that blasts through the air every 20 minutes, as well as free hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows. Hours are nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

Holiday 3-D PaintScaping Holiday Art Show November 29 to December 31 Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

The exterior of the buildings in the Dreamweaver's Canyon at the posh Scottsdale resort will come alive with color and cheer every evening via 3-D imagery of snowfalls, wrapped packages, nutcrackers, and lights that will be projected onto the walls. Shows run every 30 minutes from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Alternative Black Friday Vintage Market November 29 Patriots Square at CityScape

As always, the masses will descend upon big box retailers across the Valley on the day after Thanksgiving, resulting in the usually chaotic bargain-hunting hullabaloo. However, those with a yen for all things vintage (not to mention a modicum of common sense) will be perusing the retro and mid-century wares from 20 local boutiques and vendors, including Meat Market Vintage, Antique Sugar, Steel Magnolia, GROWop, and Ruby Mae from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Live music will be offered, and local beers and mimosas will be served.

Glendale Glitters November 29 to January 12 Downtown Glendale

Glendale's historic Catlin Court and Old Towne will shimmer, sparkle, and shine from more than 1.5 million lights decorating the trees, buildings, and darn near every object and structure within a 16-block radius will burn brightly every night from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. The Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend will kick things off with special ceremonies in honor of the event's 20th anniversary. Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan will throw the switch to turn everything on at 6 p.m. There also will be live entertainment, dancing and theatre troupes, and more. Themed two-night celebrations are planned throughout the run of the event, such as Winter Wonderland on December 13 and 14; Jingle Bell Rockin' Nights on December 20 and 21, and the massive Glendale Glitter and Glow Block Party (including a number of hot air balloons) on January 11.  

Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden.
Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden.
Courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

Las Noches de las Luminarias November 29 to December 31 Desert Botanical Garden

Meanwhile, evenings will become enchanted at the garden as the luminous glow of approximately 8,000 individual luminarias and countless strings of twinkle lights that line its paths accentuate the already striking scenery, as well as the intricately exotic glasswork of Dale Chihuly. Various carolers and musicians will also perform throughout the garden on select dates. The luminarias will be on display almost every evening (with the exception of December 5 through 8, Christmas Eve, and Christmas night) from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. General admission is $30 for adults, $12.50 for kids 3 to 12, and free for children younger than three.

CitySkate November 30 to January 13 CityScape

Better get the blades on your skates sharpened up, since a chunk of Central Avenue between Washington and Jefferson streets will be blocked of once again (sorry commuters) to create the Valley's biggest ice rink. The grand opening at 3 p.m. on November 30 will include performances by local skating clubs and theatre ensembles, arts and crafts, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton stopping for a lighting ceremony of the city's official Christmas tree at 5 p.m. Regular hours are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 3 to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

Holiday Hidey-Hole December Film Series December 3 to December 30 FilmBar

The cineastes at the downtown Phoenix indie movie house are planning a number of special screenings and themed seasonal events over the course of an entire month. It starts on December 3 with the 2011 celluloid weirdo fest Christmas in Acidland followed by Breakfast at Tiffany's with complimentary mimosas on December 8.

Other highlights include a showing of Ghostbusters II on December 14, which will also feature the Arizona Ghostbusters bringing out a life-size rendition of the the film's villain, Vigo; the horror flick Silent Night, Deadly Night on December 11 and December 16; The Hebrew Hammer and an ugly sweater contest on December 22; and Monty Python's Life of Brian on Christmas night. Local Star Wars expert Dustin Diehl will also discuss and show clips from the saga's infamous holiday special on December 18.

Other screenings of these flicks will be offered throughout the month. Showtimes and admission prices vary. See for more.

Cactus Garden Holiday Light Tour December 4 to December 28 The Phoenician

The general public and Phoenician guests can join in on guided jaunts through the upscale resort's two-acre swath of desert cacti and other flora, all wrapped in lights. The tour will depart every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 6 p.m. from the Grape & Grain Retail Shop. Participation is free.  

Sweet treats from Crafeteria in 2012.
Sweet treats from Crafeteria in 2012.
Melissa Fossum

Crafeteria December 6 Medlock Plaza

Thousands will descend upon the quaint CenPho shopping center's parking lot to peruse the vast and quirky array of high-style and high-quality handmade items for sale at this popular marketplace, which is organized and curated by Frances and Smeeks owner Georganne Bryant. A total of 40 crafters and other creatives will be participating, showcasing and selling everything from leather goods, apparel, and accessories to cards, stationary, and other paper artistry. Hours are from 6 to 10 p.m.

PJs in the Park December 6 Civic Space Park

Throw on the most cheerful holiday pajamas you own (as well as maybe some slippers and a robe) and head for this downtown park for a double feature of The Polar Express and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation under the stars starting at 6 p.m. Hot chocolate and treats will be given out. Admission is free.

Arizona Craft Rave December 7 Arizona Historical Society Museum

The organizers of this 10-hour "make and take" crafting fiesta hosted by Kathy Cano-Murillo (a.k.a. The Crafty Chica), Lovely Luna, and onetime Jackalope Ranch contributor Cyndi Coon of Laboratory 5. They will provide the materials, expertise, and space for participants to be able to create such all manner of unique (and glitter-laden) DIY items. All you need to bring is your imagination. Stations will be set up and manned by artists and designers to provide instruction in various projects, which range in cost from $5 to $15 and include shrines, frames, paper artistry, and needle felting. Hours are from noon until 10 p.m.

Holiday Pet Festival December 7 WestWorld of Scottsdale Your wee beastie has been pretty good this year, save for those misadventures with the toilet paper. So why not reward 'em with something special? Like, perhaps a designer sweater, gourmet gluten-free pet food, a rhinestone-laden collar, or even their own hand-painted portrait. Such things will be available at this massive event dedicated to four-legged domesticated creatures that will offer more the 60 different pet-oriented vendors, as well as various local animal rescue organizations. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.  

APS Electric Light Parade 2013 December 7 Downtown Phoenix

Featuring more than three dozen illuminated floats and mobile displays created by local businesses, organizations, and schools, this after-dark procession will follow a two-mile route along the streets and thoroughfares of CenPho. The parade this year's will involve a wild western theme, so expect to witness enormous glowing cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats as it rolls from Central and Montebello avenues to Seventh Street and Camelback Road starting at 7 p.m. Get there early if you wanna grab a good seat.

Home Sweet Home December 7 CityScape

Local artists, architects, celebrities and (of course) bakers will all create and design a festive array of handcrafted gingerbread houses to be displayed and auctioned off at this affair from 5 to 8 p.m. in the lobby of the RED building that will benefit the Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix. Raffles, food and drink, and live music are also promised. Tickets are $20 via The houses can also be viewed for free from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily starting on December 2.

Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding December 7 Comerica Theatre

The Valley's shock rocker in residence will feature a slew of legends of the realms of metal and hard rock -- including the members of KISS, Motley Crue's Vince Neil, and Rob Zombie -- during his Christmastime charity event and concert. John O'Hurley (a.k.a. J. Peterman from Seinfeld) will host. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 to $280.  

Santarchy participants stroll through Old Town Scottsdale in 2012.
Santarchy participants stroll through Old Town Scottsdale in 2012.
Benjamin Leatherman

Santarchy December 7 Old Town Scottsdale

Every kind of Kris Kringle both imaginable and unimaginable -- including sexy, strange, surreal, and even samurai versions of Jolly Old Saint Nick -- will descend upon Scottsdale's Old Town and Entertainment district on a Saturday night in early December for the Arizona Cacophony Society's annual Santarchy bar crawl. Imaginative costumes inspired by the Santa Claus mythos and its characters (the weirder and funnier the better) are required to participate in the free event. More details about the event can be found via

Phoestivus Market 2013 December 11 & December 18 Phoenix Public Market

As its name portends, this locavore-friendly outdoor bazaar is indeed inspired in part by the infamous Seinfeldian holiday, right down to its inclusion of the Airing of Grievances, the Feats of Strength, and a Phoestivus Pole. It will also boast carolers, a beer garden, and a staggering selection of merchants and vendors -- including 65 of the arts and crafts variety, six different farms, and 42 different food trucks and comestible creators -- that will do business on two successive Wednesday nights in mid-December. Hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Ugly Sweater Christmas Party December 12 Practical Art

That god-awful and gaudy pullover that grandma gave you eons ago can finally be unearthed and put to good use, as the boutique and gallery will host a shindig from 6 to 9 p.m. devoted to hideous and unsightly sweaters. Enjoy snacks, beverages, and Christmas music or get a picture taken wearing that knitted abomination in the photo booth. Prizes will be given out at the end of the evening for the best worst sweater. Admission is free.

Star Wars Holiday Party December 14 Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Can't make it back to Kashyyyk in time for Life Day? The folks at Bookmans' North Phoenix location are planning an intergalactic holiday affair from 5 to 7 p.m. as a part of their "Month of Merriment" series that will include appearances by Star Wars cosplayers, a photo booth, and other revelry from that galaxy far, far away. Admission is free.  

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade December 14 Tempe Town Lake

Boats will quite literally become floats at this nautical nighttime cavalcade that will traverse the length of the lake. Around 50 vibrantly decorated and lighted watercraft will participate in the parade, which commences at 7 p.m., while a variety of luminarias will adorn the sidewalks around the lake. Live entertainment, a visit from Santa, and a fireworks finale will also take place. The event starts at 5 p.m. (For landlubbers, the regular Fantasy of Lights Parade is scheduled to transpire along Mill Avenue on November 29.)

Chow Bella's Eating Christmas December 17 Crescent Ballroom

The scribes of our sister blog Chow Bella, as well as other local artists and wordsmiths, will dish up food-related yarns of both a humorous and poignant nature related to the holiday season -- including anecdotes of familial dysfunction, kitchen mishaps, or other memorable moments -- while reading their stories from the "Eating Christmas" series starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations of canned food items will be accepted.

Ceremony of Carols - A Chorale Christmas December 19 to December 22 Various Venues

December is most definitely a busy month for the Phoenix Chorale. The Grammy-winning ensemble will stage its annual recital series, which includes festive traditional favorites and a rendition of Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols during six separate concerts at various churches across the Valley over four nights. Venues and performance times vary. Advance tickets are $15 for students, $26 for seniors and military, and $31 general admission. See the Phoenix Chorale website for more details.

Jingle Beers: The 25 Beers of Christmas December 19 O.H.S.O.

The yuletide season tends to get even more festive and cheery when there's beer involved. Fact. Which means that this fête at O.H.S.O. should prove to be plenty lively when the nanobrewery's staff will tap 25 or more winter and special seasonal brews from 5 to 9 p.m. in honor of Christmas. Salud!  

The Phoenix Boys Choir.
The Phoenix Boys Choir.

Phoenix Boys Choir & Handbell Ensemble Holiday Concert December 21 Tempe Center for the Arts

The angelic voices of the boys choir's prodigiously talented vocal wunderkinds will be joined by a chorus of handbells ringing out as they perform carols, spiritual selections, and other traditional songs as a part of the center's Lakeshore Music series. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. See for ticketing information.

7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe December 21 Space 55

The quirky performance artist haven and playhouse is bringing back its annual Christmastime event for 2013, which will once again include a virtual variety show of seven minute-long sessions featuring holiday-related music, stories, spoken word bits, comedy vignettes, and maybe even some yodeling. The curtain goes up at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $10.

Winter Solstice Celebration December 21 Irish Cultural Center

The occurence of the shortest day of the year, which has been observed and celebrated by various civilizations for many millennia, will be celebrated while the sun goes down. An afternoon-to-evening event starts at 4 p.m. includes music, poetry, food, rituals ceremonies by local druidic/neo-pagan group Grove of the Rising Phoenix, and solstice-related discussions and presentations. Call 602-258-0109 for admission prices and more info.

Mary X Mas December 25 Location TBA While the rest of the Valley is resting and recuperating after a day of ripping wrapping paper and engaging in other Christmas rites, ravers and EDM-heads will be at Dr. MD's annual underground dance party at an unspecified location somewhere in the Valley sprawl. Local DJs perform on multiple stage while festively dressed go-go girls (including some sporting elf and sexy Santa costumes) will be featured during this not-so-silent night of frenzied raver fun. See the Facebook event page for more info.  

Fireworks over Mill Avenue in Tempe in 2012.
Fireworks over Mill Avenue in Tempe in 2012.
Benjamin Leatherman

Circle K New Year's Eve Block Party December 31 Mill Avenue District

After a couple years' absence, one of the biggest Auld Lange Syne events in the Valley will make its return to Tempe's main drag to help celebrate the end of 2013 and welcome 2014. The block party will run from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and encompass a good portion of Mill Avenue from Third Street to University Drive and feature live music on different stages, food trucks, games, activities, family fun zones, and -- of course -- the midnight countdown with fireworks and confetti blasts.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl January 1 University of Phoenix Stadium

Two of college football's elite teams from the 2013 season will square off for gridiron glory on New Year's Day during one of the most prominent bowl games in the nation. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $95 for the upper level and go for as much as $735 for the pimp seats.

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