Things to Do

Your Guide to Safe Holiday Events in Greater Phoenix in 2020

Here's how to rule the yule in Phoenix this year.
Here's how to rule the yule in Phoenix this year. Megan McCormick/CC BY-ND 2.0/Flickr

The yuletide season can be an exercise in utter chaos (or, at the very least, extremely busy). There are gifts to buy, greeting cards to send, trees to trim, halls to deck, and possibly events to attend.

This year, the pandemic has made the holiday hullabaloo all the more complicated, as everyone has to factor in safety and social distancing when making plans.

In order to help ease your stress a little, we’ve assembled a list of “safe” holiday events happening across the Valley in 2020. It covers places to score gifts, see enormous light displays, and get in some revelry and merriment. (Because that's what this time of year is about, right?) All will be following accepted COVID-19 protocols.

Read on and get ready to rule the yule while celebrating the holidays safely.



ZooLights 2020

Now through Sunday, January 31
Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway


Like the organizers of other holiday events are doing, the folks at the Phoenix Zoo have adapted the annual ZooLights extravaganza for the pandemic. As such, it will become either a drive-thru or socially distanced walk-thru experience, depending on the night (the former is called “Cruise the ZooLights”).

Both options will allow you to take in all the glittering and glowing sights, including more than 60 animal lanterns and a choreographed music and light showcase. Hours are 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. each night. Tickets to the walk-thru are $16 for members and $20 for non-members while “Cruise the ZooLights” is $60 per car for members and $75 for nonmembers. Check out this schedule on the Zoo’s website for full details.


Christmas at the Princess

Now through Thursday, December 31
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 East Princess Drive, Scottsdale


The north Scottsdale resort takes on a bit of a North Pole feel for the month of December with a variety of activities and attractions, like the lighting of its four-story musical holiday tree, the opening of its ice rink, and other festivities. Plus, you can roast s’mores and enjoy other treats. Meanwhile, the grounds of the Princess will also feature high-definition animated light shows. Masks and social distancing are required. Admission is $15 per person and $60 to $90 to park at the resort’s lots.


Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields

Now through Thursday, December 31
7555 North Pima Road, Scottsdale


Take an illuminating journey from the safety of your vehicle at this mile-long light extravaganza set up in the parking lot of Salt River Fields. Approximately 5 million lights and a half-dozen tunnels make up the display, which will have music broadcast over a low-power radio transmitter. Gates open at 5:45 p.m. and the attraction is open until 10 p.m. nightly. General admission is $36-$40 per car Monday to Thursday and $46 to $50 on weekends. A “fast pass” is $46 to $75 and allows you to forgo the lines with a package (which includes a gift bag and carriage ride) running you $300.


World of Illumination

Now through Sunday, January 3
Tempe's Diablo Stadium, 2200 West Alameda Drive, Tempe
Westgate Entertainment District, 6751 North Sunset Boulevard, Glendale


Both locations of this “drive-thru animated lights show” are a mile-long journey with dazzling illuminated scenes and figures that are set to a playlist of seasonal music. The Tempe version features an Arctic Adventure theme while the Glendale attraction is called Rockin’ Christmas. Hours are from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly. Admission must be purchased in advance and is $29 per car Monday through Thursday and $39 on holidays and from Friday to Sunday.

Glendale Glitters 2020

Through Saturday, January 9
Downtown Glendale, 59th and Glendale avenues


Glendale’s historic downtown area will shimmer, sparkle, and shine from more than 1.7 million lights decorating the trees, buildings, and darn near every object and structure within a 16-block radius will burn brightly every evening 5 to 10 p.m. No lighting ceremonies are planned (for obvious reasons) and visitors are encouraged to use social distancing when checking out the lights. Several new lighting designs and features will be offered throughout this year’s display.

click to enlarge Luminarias light up the night at the DBG during the holidays. - DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN
Luminarias light up the night at the DBG during the holidays.
Desert Botanical Garden

Las Noches de las Luminarias 2020

Various Dates from Friday, November 27, to Tuesday, December 31
Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway


On select evenings, the DBG will become enchanted when the luminous glow of approximately 8,000 individual luminarias and countless strings of twinkle lights accentuate the already striking scenery. Recorded music of the holiday variety will fill the air most evenings and touchless virtual photo booths will be set up throughout the garden. The luminarias will be on display from November 27 to 30 and from December 11 to 13, 17 to 23, and 26 to 31 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. A “silent night” with no music is planned for December 21. Admission for the general public starts at $29.95 for adults and $10.95 for kids age 3 to 12. DBG members can get in for $29.95.


Winter Night Lights

Friday, November 27 to Wednesday, December 30
Westgate Entertainment District, 6751 North Sunset Boulevard, Glendale


The WaterDance Plaza at the outdoor shopping center will host a synchronized projection show on select nights throughout the holiday season. It will include a 3-D Christmas tree canvas and “lyrical light show.” Hours are from 6 to 10 p.m. Visit the Westgate website for the schedule.




Christmas at the Castle

Saturday December 12
Irish Cultural Center, 1106 North Central Avenue


Gather outside of the ICC’s enormous Irish castle for a screening of the 1993 family film The Santa Clause. Attendees will occupy socially distanced spaces measuring 6 feet square. Blankets and sleeping bags will be allowed and bean-bag chairs can be rented for $30. A gourmet hot cocoa bar with mix-ins like peppermints, chocolate chips, and toffee will be available and bags of popcorn are $1 each. The event starts at 6 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $8 for children 3 to 12, and free for kids under 3.

Thunderbird Lounge Socially Distanced Night Market

Sunday, December 20
Thunderbird Lounge, 710 West Montecito Avenue


Get in some holiday shopping in a safe manner when the Thunderbird’s back patio and parking lot hosts a mix of artisans and vendors. Local food trucks and DJs will also be on hand and social distancing guidelines will be in effect. Runs from noon until 7 p.m. Admission is free.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.