Things to Do

The Best Free Things to Do in Metro Phoenix This Week

Santa does Sixth Street.
Santa does Sixth Street. Courtesy of Downtown Tempe

Life is better when it's free. This week, you can do some last-minute shopping at Mesa Christmas Market, enjoy a bike ride past lines of luminarias at the Fifth Annual Luminaria Ride, or get a laugh at “Awkward Family Photo.” For more things to do, visit Phoenix New Times’ calendar.

Seinfeld Trivia
What, more Festivus? You bet your ass, pallie! Valley Bar’s regular Seinfeld Trivia night is getting a seasonal coat of paint. Hosted by Emily the Lewis, with music by DJ Shane Kennedy, the free event will feature $1 off craft beer cans and all-important prizes. It all goes down at 130 North Central Avenue on Tuesday, December 18. Sign-up begins at 7 p.m. and the Feats of (Trivial) Strength commence at 8 p.m. Don’t miss it, or you’ll be airing your grievances all week. Douglas Markowitz

click to enlarge Nature does Christmas right. - COURTESY OF SONORAN MCDOWELL PRESERVE
Nature does Christmas right.
Courtesy of Sonoran McDowell Preserve
Mistletoe & Holly
You’re probably used to seeing mistletoe hung under a door frame, where you might hope to catch a holiday kiss when you pass beneath it. Before all that kissing goes down, the mistletoe grows wild, where it’s kissed by the sun. There’s a McDowell Sonoran Preserve docent named Franco Farino who knows all about desert plants and holiday traditions, and he’s happy to share the lore during an easy three-mile Mistletoe & Holly hike happening from 8:45 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 19. The free event, where you’ll glean fresh facts for entertaining holiday visitors, starts at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, 30301 North Alma School Parkway. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Feeling the shopping local love. - COURTESY OF DOWNTOWN MESA ASSOCIATION
Feeling the shopping local love.
Courtesy of Downtown Mesa Association
Mesa Christmas Market
Inspired by Christmas markets around the world, Mesa is presenting a Mesa Christmas Market that brings together local artisans, live performance, traditional and nontraditional food fare, and plenty of Christmas decorations. It’s happening street fair-style, on the north side of Main Street and MacDonald in Mesa, along a street lined with white lights that’s also home to a long stretch of light rail. Check it out between 5 and 9 p.m. on Friday, December 21. The market is free, but don’t forget money for eats and last-minute shopping. While you’re in the area, enjoy all the sculptures and light rail art along Main Street. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Go brass or go home. - COURTESY OF MUSICA NOVA
Go brass or go home.
Courtesy of Musica Nova
MusicaNova's Brass Quintet
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when desert rats can send holiday photos filled with cactus and palm trees to friends and family living in colder parts. Bring your camera along on Saturday, December 22, when you can enjoy snow-free photo backdrops and live music during the Canal Concert happening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the Soleri Bridge & Plaza, 4420 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. The free concert features MusicaNova’s Brass Quintet performing holiday songs along the Arizona Canal, where you’ll also find a giant Christmas tree and public artworks that just happen to make beautiful backgrounds for holiday snapshots. Visit Lynn Trimble

Fifth Annual Luminaria Ride
Imagine you and your Willo neighborhood homies dressed in holiday attire, bicycles adorned with colorful lights, rolling at what an organizer calls a “leisurely pace” past lines of luminarias. And yes, there will be hot chocolate. Enjoy two days of fun: The Fifth Annual Luminaria Ride on Saturday meets at Amp Island in Encanto Park at 5:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. departure on Saturday, December 22. (BYOB for an exchange at the end.) The Sunday, December 23 ride, new this year, meets at Walton Park at Third Avenue and Holly Street for a 6:30 p.m. rollout. A coffee truck will be available from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sunday. See for more details. Ray Stern

Glow time.
Courtesy of South Mountain Environmental Education Center
South Mountain Aglow
Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, will soon be upon us. It’s the perfect time to head outdoors, to explore lights in the night sky and luminaria-lit pathways. The South Mountain Environmental Education Center is presenting South Mountain Aglow, a luminaria walk along a festive sidewalk trail, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 22. The free event starts at the center, 10409 South Central Avenue, and also includes entertainment, youth artworks, food trucks, and a holiday market for last-minute types who like to shop local. It’s a chance to relax for a few hours, beyond the holiday stress fueled by big crowds and bad traffic. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge This could get awkward. - COURTESY OF CHANDLER MUSEUM
This could get awkward.
Courtesy of Chandler Museum
“Awkward Family Photo”
“My outfit and hair style seemed so normal then, but now we just look back and laugh about it.” That’s how Lizzie Olson describes seeing her fourth-grade class photo shown with the “Awkward Family Photo” exhibit at the new Chandler Museum, 300 South Chandler Village Drive in Chandler. It’s a traveling show with more than 200 photos capturing awkward moments, which the museum has coupled with images shared by locals. Check it out on Sunday, December 23, when museum hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Especially during the holidays, it’s nice to know other families have awkward moments too. Visit Lynn Trimble

6th Street Market
Walk away from the television, and all that talk of politicos “taking the fifth.” There’s a delightful bit of escapism over in Tempe, where the 6th Street Market can help you refocus on priorities like family and friends. They’ve got plenty of gift options created by local artisans and makers, along with live music, and an easygoing environment where you can make new friends or enjoy some time with visiting family itching to get out of the house for a while. Santa will be there, ready to take selfies with his fans. The free event happens Sunday, December 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 24 East Sixth Street. Visit Lynn Trimble
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Douglas Markowitz was born and raised in Broward County, Florida, he studied at Sophia University in Tokyo before graduating with honors from the University of North Florida with a bachelor's degree in communications. He began writing for Miami New Times while in college and served as their music and arts editorial intern in 2017.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble