‘Tis the season for big displays of colorful lights.
From now until the holidays wrap up on New Year’s Day, joyous arrays of glowing bulbs will be popping up across the Valley as everyone gets into the spirit of the season. And we mean pretty much anywhere and everywhere, from the houses and nearby businesses in your neighborhood to popular locations like the Phoenix Zoo.
Lighting up the night in festive fashion is a big part of the holiday season, and everyone wants to get in on the fun. Some folks will keep things relatively simple with a few strings of lights. Others channel the spirit of Clark W. Griswold and cover their entire property in enough lights, inflatables, and motorized attractions to make even the grinchiest of grinches smile.
You'll find many of the latter examples in the following list of the best, biggest, brightest, and most unique light displays found around the metro Phoenix area, including a few that are as charming as one of the many specials you'll see on TV this time of year. We’ve assembled a list of a dozen of the best holiday lights displays, most of which will be up and running by Thanksgiving weekend throughout the Valley, from Glendale to Gilbert, that are worth checking out when you’re not busy wrapping packages or trimming the tree.
Candy Cane Lane
2801 East Pinchot Avenue
Every holiday season since 1988, the two-block stretch of Pinchot Avenue between 26th and 28th streets transforms into a glittery wonderland that comes alive with color and illumination after dark. Neighborhood residents adorn the towering palm trees that line this quiet side street north of Thomas Road with more than three dozen different candy cane-shaped multicolored light displays. Meanwhile, a glowing star and peace symbol both hang from the tree canopy overhead. Stop by the street on certain weekend nights and you might encounter Pinchot Avenue homeowners holding a street party of sorts, including outdoor screenings of holiday movies or giving visitors rides on a motorized cart wrapped in lights.
Dates and Times: On display nightly from Thanksgiving through January 1, starting at 5 p.m.
Emilio Palacio's South Park Tribute
7734 North 41st Avenue
It isn't hard to figure out the cartoon of choice at Emilio Palacio's house after spying his monument to South Park dominating the front of his West Valley home near Northern and 43rd avenues. Close to 100 different characters from multiple seasons of the Comedy Central show are recreated in cutout form (which is true to the toon's animation style) and that rests upon a field of white lights.
There are many favorites present, such as Big Gay Al, Mrs. Crabtree, Terrance and Phillip, Uncle Jimbo, Timmy, Jimmy, Officer Barbrady, and the Satan-worshiping Woodland Christmas Critters. In a nice touch, Cartman's alter-ego The Coon and his faux superhero sidekicks are perched along the edge of the roof while Jesus and Santa Claus are posed at the very top of the house, which harks back to South Park's origins as a short entitled The Spirit of Christmas. A mix of audio clips from the show and songs from the album Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics play over a sound system, albeit in heavily edited form, probably because not everyone in Palacio's neighborhood shares his appreciation for the profane cartoon.
Dates and Times: On display nightly from December 1 through January 1 starting at dusk
Chickie Sirakis’ Superhero Display
6060 West Charter Oak Road, Glendale
Christmas is sort of a big thing in the Sirakis family. Siblings and Arizona residents Joe, Chickie, and Roy spend countless hours during the buildup to each holiday season creating and hand-painting colorful and cartoonish wooden cutouts of various fictional characters to adorn each of their front yards. And each family member does his or her own thing. Joe, for instance, is more into Disney and recreated Olaf from Frozen and all the emotions from of Inside Out at his home in Peoria. Chickie went in an even geekier direction with her display, which includes a retinue of legendary comic book characters that currently stand guard outside of her Glendale residence. Both the Marvel and DC universes are represented, as it includes Batman, Superman, Wolverine, and Spider-Man, among others. There's also most of the characters from summer blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron as well, including the titular villain and fantastic-looking version of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster Armor.
Dates and Times: Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 5 to 11 p.m. from Thanksgiving until January 4
Loop of Lights
Pecan Creek Drive and Carolina Avenue, San Tan Valley
It's a bit of a drive to get to this neighborhood attraction located on the edge of the Southeast Valley, but one worth an extra tank of gas (especially with prices being what they are right now). 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 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 also get a festive makeover of the glowing variety.
Dates and Times: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. nightly, from December 1 until December 25
8535 South Stanley Place, Tempe
The gorgeous home of Stanley and Andrea Benson in south Tempe becomes even more eye-catching when the couple rolls out their animated Yuletide array of more than 100,000 lights. Strewn throughout the branches of three enormous trees and arranged practically everywhere else on their house and in its yard, the property is a happy hullabaloo of color. Things are made even more lively by an enormous animated Santa measuring 30 feet tall that stands over the scene as various elves deliver gifts, decorate trees, and frolic on a teeter-totter.
Dates and Times: On display nightly, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., from Thanksgiving weekend through January 1
663 W. Natal Circle, Mesa
All 14 houses situated around this Mesa cul-de-sac sparkle with scores of glowing bulbs, illuminated inflatables, and other electrically powered decorations and knick-knacks this time of year. It's been a holiday tradition that the residents of West Natal Circle gleefully participate in, and each home offers its own lighting scheme and particular theme. For instance, one yard features Christmas at Bikini Bottom with Spongebob SquarePants characters, 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.
Dates and Times: Running nightly, 5 to 11 p.m., from Thanksgiving weekend through January 1
Read on for more holiday lights.
Christmas in Scottsdale
8543 East Avalon Drive, Scottsdale
This beautiful animated display created each year by married couple John Slade and Caroline Leon at their Scottsdale home — which features more than 50,000 LED lights, a 25-foot-tall tree, and a singing snowman and Santa Claus — is a collaborative effort between the two. He programs the hour-long sequence of swirling, flickering and flashing lights that’s set to a series of amusing holiday parody songs that she picks out and edits. The result is a delight for the senses with its mesmerizing visuals, joyful tunes, and the aroma of fresh-baked cookies wafting through the air from inside the house. Plus, they’ve also got free hot chocolate and candy canes to boot. Your inner child will have a blast.
Dates and Times: Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 6 to 11 p.m., through January 3
Phoenix Winter Wonderland
4237 West State Avenue
Practically every single inch of space at David Chuchla's west Phoenix home is occupied by something Christmas-related, and we mean both the inside and outside. The exterior goes full-tilt boogie with more than 70,000 lights, 50 different trees, and hundreds of animatronic and inflatable characters while each room inside (save for his bedroom) brims with models, miniatures, and ornaments. It can be overwhelming at times, but those who think too much Christmas is never enough will definitely dig it.
Chuchla puts plenty of time, effort, and money into this monument to the “most wonderful time of the year,” spending almost six months unpacking several storage sheds worth of decorations and ephemera before meticulously arranging it as he preps for another season. In total, Chuchla spends 450 man-hours assembling everything and drops more than $1,000 on the electricity bill and just as much on new ornaments every year. The Grinch he is not.
Dates and Times: Open every night in December, 6 to 10 p.m.
Chris Birkett's Winter Wonderland
8414 East Valley Vista Drive, Scottsdale
Chris Birkett's enchanting Winter Wonderland experience that he creates every year at his North Scottsdale home isn't so much a holiday display as it is a snow-covered, multimedia extravaganza filled with charm, color, and fun. A synchronized series of choreographed light shows set to music and audio clips take place several times every hour, building to an epic conclusion where the music reaches a crescendo and air jets blast a flurry of faux snow into the air. The facade of a gigantic Disneyesque holiday castle looms overhead atop the roof while a sea of snow-covered hills and a variety of green, red, and white lights glow in the front yard, including one arrangement spelling out the message "Believe in Magic."
Around the corner are other displays along a path that winds its way past a fire pit for roasting marshmallows and through a miniature mine filled in lights and decorations that leads to his backyard where an "Island of Misfit Toys" from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is faithfully recreated around his pool. It's definitely magical.
Dates and Times: Nightly, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., from December 6 through December 31
8211 South 63rd Avenue, Laveen
There's absolutely zero chance you'll miss Mel and Patti Tasker's sprawling display out among the farms and ranches of Laveen, since it's easily visible from at least a mile away. It's probably because their house is perched atop a small hill with not much in the way of street lights out in this neck of the Valley. Oh yeah, and there's also the fact they've got upwards of 300,000 lights covering a majority of their property. It's so big that you can drive a car through it, as the display is arranged along the Taskers' circular driveway. Be sure to take it slow, however, both for safety and to give yourself time to check out each of the hundreds of cutouts of cartoon and kid-friendly characters (including everything from Astroboy to Zelda), a bestiary of zoo creatures made from lights, and an animated display set under the sea.
Dates and Times: Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday to Sunday, 6 p.m. until 1 a.m., from Thanksgiving weekend through January 2
4415 East Calle Tuberia
The home of Lee and Patricia Sepanek near 44th Street and Camelback Road features a massive cacophony of joyous visuals and cheery attractions that fill their property and make it one of most memorable displays in the entire Valley. Tall trees are strung with countless strings of animated bulbs that seemingly rain colored light down from above. Grab a cup of hot chocolate available for sale and check out all the cutesy clusters of 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 Looney Tunes characters populate several enclosed dioramas around the exterior of the house. There's even a large television screening playing holiday movies.
Dates and Times: Nightly, 5 to 10 p.m., from Thanksgiving weekend through January 1
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Christmas on Comstock
3642 East Comstock Drive, Gilbert
There are a few reasons why this neighborhood display in Gilbert tops our list. First off, it's quite enormous, encompassing more than 110,000 lights, 50,000 feet of wire, 300-plus strobes, and various snow machines and other attractions spread out among 13 adjacent homes that dot an entire block along Comstock Drive in Gilbert. It's also one of the most popular displays in the Valley, with upwards of 400 cars packed with people driving through every hour it's operating to view its illuminated majesty and synchronicity.
And then there’s the fact it reigned supreme on a 2015 episode of The Great Christmas Light Fight, the ABC reality show that determines some of the best holiday displays in America. Christmas on Comstock beat out similar neighborhood displays in Florida and Hawaii with its grandeur and spectacle, earning a $50,000 prize and trophy for its participants, as well as some national recognition. As a result, the crowds of people hoping to roll through are likely to be even bigger this year when the display lights up starting on December 1. As such, organizers recommend patience or even parking a short distance away and walking through. At the very least, it will allow you more time to check things out as opposed to having a bunch of impatient drivers behind you.
Dates and Times: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekends from December 1 until December 30.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which first appeared in December 2015.