Santa Claus has a posse, and quite a big one at that. And no, we're not just referencing his cabal of elves or the herd of reindeer that haul his jolly ass across multiple time zones on Christmas Eve. In case you weren't aware, Kris Kringle's crew also includes such little-known cohorts as Darth Santa, Cowboy Claus, Santa Sasquatch, or anthropomorphized X-Mas trees.
While you'd be hard-pressed to find them in the pages of any Christmas book or starring in a holiday special, they're the sort of characters that can be found in abundance every year at Santarchy in Scottsdale. And those are some of the tamer ones, by far. (We're still trying to forget S&M Santa from a couple years ago.)
Thousands of people participate in the insane and inane event -- which is celebrated nationwide and is essentially a massive urban prank, culture jam, bar crawl, gonzo fashion show, and theater of the absurd that's been wrapped up with a bizarre bow -- that conquers Scottsdale's downtown for one wild weekend night during the holiday season. And this year's edition takes place on Saturday, December 6.
Everyone's clad in a costume that runs the gamut from regular old Santas, elves, or reindeer to anything and everything even remotely connected to the holidays, wintertime, or the vast Kringle canon, ranging from Jack Skellington and Ralphie Parker in his pink bunny suit to a human menorah. Then there are all the creative mashups like a "Walter White Christmas" (think Breaking Bad characters decorated in tree trimmings) or a Gangnam Style Santa.
No matter their attire, the members of this ho-ho-horde have one goal in mind: to drink Scottsdale dry by bellying up to the bar at a series of downtown and Old Town establishments and to spread some benevolent bedlam while doing so. It's a tad chaotic (hence the name) and can be a bit overwhelming for newbies. With that in mind, we present a guide for gearing up and getting the most out of this year's Santarchy on Saturday.
Time/Place: Saturday, December 6, from 6 p.m. until well after midnight, in downtown Scottsdale and the entertainment district. As in years past, participants will mass at Dos Gringos, 4209 North Craftsman Court, for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or so before everyone heads eastward to the next destination.
The full list of stops will be posted on Santarchy's Facebook event page on Friday, December 5. Updates on where everyone is at during various points throughout the event will be sent out via AZ Cacophony's Twitter.)
Price: It's free to participate in the event and every stop along the way typically won't have a cover charge. As far as libations go, however, you'll have to pay for those yourself.
Age Limits: As most of the stops are drinking establishments of some sort, it's strictly a 21-and-over affair.
Getting There: Take the 101 to Indian School Road, head west to Scottsdale Road, and then drive north until you hit Third Avenue. Conversely, you can take the 202 to the Scottsdale/Rural Road exit and then travel north. With either route, hang a left at Third Avenue and go about a block west.
There's a four-story parking structure behind Dos Gringos that's free to the public, as well as tons of spaces along Craftsman Court and the surrounding business district. And since Santarchy begins earlier in the evening, a fair amount of spaces should be available.
If you arrive later on or wind up parking a good distance away, consider grabbing either a pedicab or golf cart to catch up with the rest of the crowd. (Such options are also good for resting your feet between bars or getting back to your car at the end of the night.) Most drivers operate on a tipping system where $5 to $15 per ride, depending on the distance, is sufficient. Just make sure your bag of presents or other costuming items don't drag on the ground.
Weather: It's going to be chilly, but not freezing. According to the latest forecast, temps will be in the neighborhood of 70 degrees at the start of the evening before dipping into the 50s by last call.
Food and drink: As you may have guessed, every stop will offer intoxicants and adult beverages in abundance -- possibly even a drink special or two. The availability of food, on the other hand, will vary from place to place. Dos Gringos, for instance, will offer $3 Coronas and margaritas, as well as a taco bar.
However, if you want to grub beforehand (so as to give yourself something to soak up all the excess alcohol) or just pre-game, there are always nearby fast-casual options like Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers, ChopShop, and Brat Haus. There are also Brooklyn-style slices for sale at Gus New York Pizza Lounge and Joe's Pizza.
What to Bring: An appropriate costume (duh), which is covered in detail below. Comfortable walking shoes are also a must, considering how much you'll be hoofing it through a good chunk of downtown Scottsdale. A coat is wise if your outfit isn't substantial. Naturally, your ID is pretty much mandatory, a smart phone would be helpful to stay abreast of where everyone's going next, and a camera will help.
And bring cash, of course, because getting drinks from swamped bartenders is already a big enough hassle as it is (especially in Scottsdale) and a stack of greenbacks will help speed things up. It's also good for tipping and for potential bail money, should your evening become, um, dramatic. We suggest loading the pocketbook beforehand as certain ATMs in Old Town can be a little stiff with fees.
Other than that, consider bringing a new, unwrapped toy, which Arizona Cacophony members donate to local children in need, and definitely don't forget some wrapped candy or small gag gifts to hand out. A sense of adventure, a flair for (harmless) mischief and shenanigans, a healthy sense of humor, and a love of pranks, ribald antics, and general silliness is also important.
That's because a typical Santarchy is almost akin to a holiday inspired calvalcade of the bizarre with healthy dose of performance art and crazy characters. To wit: we've witnessed snowball fights, impromptu cartwheel contests, and eye-catching performances by the poi-slingers of the Mourning Fyre dance troupe.
With all that said, however, you don't want to let things too wild.
What Not to Bring: A disruptive, combative, or surly attitude. Ditto for a desire to vandalize property, start fights, protest or pontificate on the politics of Christmas (unless you're doing so in a tongue-in-cheek way), or go toe-to-toe with the Scottsdale Police Department. It's unacceptable to Santarchy's organizers, who state as much on the event's Facebook page:
Twisting the holiday paradigm until it screams for mercy is fun! Getting arrested is not. Santa Claus is friendly, respectful, and cooperative with police officers, security guards, bouncers, and store owners and doesn't break any laws! "Disorderly Conduct" is not a city in China. Have your own special twisted fun, but don't fuck it up for the rest of us!
Like trying to circumvent a traffic jam at a bar by picking up a 40-ouncer, with or without a paper bag, or six-pack to drink on the sly, since (last we checked) public consumption is still a no-no in Arizona.
Another thing that Santarchy's organizers frown upon is crappy, half-assed costumes, which leads us to most important part of the whole experience.
What to Wear: At Santarchy, costumes are not only encouraged, but required -- and the weirder and more creative, the better. There are two rules, however, it has to be inspired by the holidays in some way and be a full costume to boot. In other words, slapping on only a holiday t-shirt, pullover, or a jaunty red stocking cap ain't gonna cut it. As organizers state: "Slacks and a hat are NOT a Christmas costume. An ugly sweater is DEFINITELY NOT Christmas costume. There are events for that stuff, but this event is not one of them."
Other than that, you've pretty much got carte blanche. You can even go with skimpier attire, if you're feeling brave, like the female attendee last year who had her entire body airbrushed with red and white paint to become a human candy cane. Just keep a modicum of modesty and keep your naughty bits covered.
If you're looking for a basic Santa or Mrs. Claus attire, either to go as an O.G. Saint Nick and his missus or to use as the basis for some mashup, most Valley costume shops -- including Easley's, Mardi Gras in Scottsdale, Mesa's Groovy Ghoulies, and Arizona Fun Services in Tempe -- have said outfits for sale and rental. Other seasonally themed costumes for elves, gingerbread people, snowmen, and whatnot are also available.
Our advice: its better to buy a lesser priced option, since you'll avoid having to explain some stain stemming a party foul when returning your getup. Basic suits made from thin cotton can be purchased for around $20 to $40 with fabric quality and prices going up from there.
What to Do: Drink and have a fun time doing so. Go ham. Sing various Christmas carols loudly and off-key. Carouse with your fellow holiday revelers and Santas. Befuddle and amuse onlookers. Give cryptic answers to anyone who asks what the hell is going on. Take photos. Watch Mourning Fyre's red-hot performance involving fire-dancing and stilt-walking at one of the stops. Spread some holiday cheer. And, lastly, find a safe way home or a safe (and legal) place to sleep it off.
Where to Stay: If you aren't up for driving home, the
Days Inn Scottsdale will be offering a special "Santa rate" for $65 per room (including both singles and doubles). There will also be a shuttle to and from the various Santarchy stops from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (UPDATE: Rooms are now sold out.)
Schedule and Stops: Here's the finalized schedule for Santarchy, which includes different points along the way where participants can go to one of many multiple bars. Each stop will also feature a drink special or two.
6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.: Dos Gringos (toy drop off)
7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.: Rockbar Inc., Kelly's at Southbridge, Diego Pops, and Geisha a Go Go.
8:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.: Wasted Grain (toy drop off), DJ's of Scottsdale, and Giligin's 9:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.: INTL, Whiskey Row, Hi Fi Kitchen and Cocktails, Derby, and The Mint
10:15 p.m.: Finale and after-party at Maya Day and Nightclub, which will feature no cover for Santarchy participants, $2 specialty shots, and a performance by Mourning Fyre.
What to Expect:
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Editor's note: This blog was updated since its original publication to include additional schedule information.