Fun

Holiday Lights: Val Vista Lakes' Holiday Mountain and Boat Parade in Gilbert

​Most Christmastime displays tend to be manic and frantic orgies of light that usually border on cacophony and involve homeowners trying to cram as many bulbs as possible.

Not so with Holiday Mountain. The yearly display at the Val Vista Lakes housing community in Gilbert is more of a tranquil alternative to typically busy and noisy holiday attractions. It's akin to a quiet Christmas in the woods as more than a half-million lights decorate the verdant hill adjacent to the community's clubhouse. Visitors stroll up to the top of the hill along tree-lined paths water flows through babbling brooks.

If they happen to visit on weekend nights, Santa Claus himself will be there to greet people and offer free cookies and hot cocoa. If that weren't enough to attract the Christmas crowd, Val Vista Lakes' homeowners will hold their annual Holiday Boat Parade this Saturday, which features more than a dozen watercraft adorned with lights.

The Numbers:

Strands and lights: More than 700,000 lights decorate the mountain and surrounding property.

Inflatables: None.

Other decorations: Befitting Holiday Mountain's silvan setting, numerous illuminated deer, cougars, ducks, geese and wolves - each of which are made from glowing Christmas lights - lurk on rock and by waterfalls throughout the display. A single snowman occupies the glowing ramada wrapped in lights at the top of the hill.

Estimated electric bill: According to Tiffany Pembroke, an employee at Val Vista Lakes, there's no extra charge for the display. "We're locked in a contract with SRP and pay the same fee every month. I don't believe it goes up for Holiday Mountain or our Christmas lights," she says.

Why do you decorate? "It's fun and really brightens things up," says Pembroke. "We like to create events like this in the community and get thousands of visitors each year to Holiday Mountain."

Holiday Mountain at Val Vista Lakes, 1600 East Lakeside Drive in Gilbert, is open 6-9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; and 6-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday. Canned food donations are required for entry. The annual Holiday Boat Parade takes place from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday. Call 480-926-9694 for more info.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.