For Kyle and Sammy Pratt, decorating their house for the holidays isn’t simply a matter of retrieving a box of lights from storage sometime after Thanksgiving. It’s an almost year-long obsession that starts in March, long after most people have stashed away their wreaths and ornaments and artificial trees.
“We spend an absolutely crazy amount of time planning,” Kyle says. “That’s what we focus on, 24/7, for months: how to up the ante and do things no one else is doing.”
Christmas Forever, the brothers’ over-the-top annual holiday display at their north Scottsdale home, is one of the Valley’s most popular yuletide destinations, attracting thousands every November and December. The Pratt boys — Kyle is 25, Sammy is 22 — started doing Christmas Forever five years ago, and they consistently crank things up to 11. Picture a sprawling gingerbread house perched on a field of white lights, with showstopping effects like CO2 cannons, fireworks, and flame jets.
But the Pratts are far from the only ambitious holiday-display enthusiasts to be found in the Phoenix area. Between now and the New Year, you’re likely to see cars, people, and even pets kitted out in festive lights. Like the Pratts, the holiday die-hards behind these displays are of the opinion that too much Christmas is never enough. They sink thousands of dollars and a great deal of their free time into enough ornaments, animated figures, and complicated lights to cover their homes.
Some of these DIY displays are homespun and kitschy; others are more high-tech efforts with computer-driven effects and synchronized light shows. A few are so large they take up entire neighborhoods. Best of all, they’re free (though some creators might appreciate a small donation), providing a no-cost alternative to commercial events like ZooLights or World of Illumination.
And in a year wracked by a pandemic, these efforts also offer some much-needed cheer and a dose of comfort.
“This year more than ever, we feel like we can help bring some normalcy to the end of 2020 by having something people can enjoy that’s free and, most importantly, safe,” Pratt says.
Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of the biggest and best holiday light displays to be found in metro Phoenix this year, as well as information about how the individuals behind them are handling the complications of the pandemic. Happy holidays.
Miracle on 34th Lane22415 North 34th Lane
It’s hard to miss James MacGregor’s residence while traveling down 35th Avenue north of Deer Valley Road. The colorful glow of his display — powered by 40,000 individual bulbs — can be seen from blocks away. Once you arrive, you’ll find a variety of decorations in MacGregor’s front yard (including a miniature Ferris wheel and carousel) and a 20-foot-tall mega-tree towering above it all. If you’re feeling generous, he’s accepting donations benefiting Hospice of the Valley.
Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 10:30 p.m., from November 27 to December 31, weather permitting.
Pinchot Avenue’s Candy Canes2801 East Pinchot Avenue
During the holidays, the rows of palm trees lining a two-block segment of Pinchot Avenue between 26th and 28th Streets are adorned with dozens of candy cane-shaped lights. Meanwhile, a glowing star and peace symbol both hang overhead from the tree canopy. These decorations are a neighborhood tradition dating back to the late ’80s and help add a festive flair to an otherwise sleepy central Phoenix street.
Dates and times: Nightly starting at dusk from November 26 until January 1.
A Winters Dream37868 North Bonnie Lane, San Tan Valley
Brandon and Alina McCaslin have spent the past couple of weeks transforming the exterior of their San Tan Valley from a frightening hellscape of demons and ghouls to a more innocent milieu filled with glowing reindeer, gifts, candy canes, and lights aplenty. They'll also offer falling snow on Saturday nights and a mailbox where children can drop off letters to Santa and get a personalized message back (a $3 donation is requested).
Dates and times: Operates 6 to 10 p.m. every night from December 1 to 25.
Pelky Residence1335 North Papillon Circle, Mesa
Mike and Shelley Pelky pack a lot of revelry and reverence into the display at their Mesa home, which is practically overflowing with packs of plastic snowmen, a herd of reindeer, a chorus of angels, a nativity scene (on an elevated platform), and other seasonal favorites. A total of 150,000 lights cover the house. There’s also a candy cane forest and a throng of pop-cultural holiday characters, including a few from the 1964 Rankin/Bass-animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Dates and times: Nightly, starting at dusk through December 25.
The ChrystMas House8611 North 30th Drive
Phoenix resident Nick Chryst says his family wanted to “keep things really fun” with their yard display this year, owing to the current state of the world. So they went with a dinosaur theme, which Chryst says will include enormous inflatable brontosauruses, stegosauruses, and a T-rex or two. “They’ll all have Santa hats on, so it’s still Christmas-y,” Chryst says, laughing. The prehistoric scene will glow with thousands of lights and feature a cascading LED waterfall flowing off the roof into an illuminated lake. “Everyone loves dinosaurs, so we’re hoping people will be into it,” Chryst says.
Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 10 p.m., starting December 1.
Peanuts Airport1146 North Quail Lane, Gilbert
The holidays and the Peanuts gang are a pairing that dates back decades, which explains why folks got pretty uppity in recent months at the news that specials like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving originally weren’t being broadcast on television this year. Thankfully, the issue’s since been resolved and A Charlie Brown Christmas will air on PBS on December 13.
If you need something to tide you over until then, consider checking out this charming Peanuts-themed display in the front yard of the Metz family of Gilbert. Laid out like an airport, complete with a runway and control tower, it features an inflatable version of Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace bringing his Sopwith Camel in for a landing while cutouts of Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Lucy, and other characters are waiting to greet him. It’s playful, amiable, and fun, just like the classic comic strip and its animated specials.
Dates and times: On display nightly, 5 to 10 p.m., from December 1 to January 1.
North Phoenix Lights18639 North First Avenue
North Phoenix resident Carl Jimenez puts up holiday displays for several occasions: St. Patrick’s Day, Pride Month, Halloween, Easter. In December, he hauls out thousands of lights, wreaths, and vintage plastic blow molds resembling Santa and snowmen to cover his driveway, garage door, and the front of his house. Music of the seasonal variety is available via 92.9 FM if you’d like a festive accompaniment. Jimenez is also accepting donations benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.
Dates and times: On display, 6 to 9 p.m., starting December 1, with hourly music and light shows beginning on December 12.
Sirakis Family7914 West Dahlia Drive, Peoria (Joe’s display)
8820 West Echo Lane, Peoria (Catherine’s display)
Members of the Sirakis clan go all out and over the top when it comes to celebrating the holidays. They spend countless man-hours each year crafting hand-painted colorful and cartoonish wooden cutouts of various fictional characters to adorn their front yards or sell online. This year, Joe Sirakis will feature close to 50 Disney-themed cutouts outside of his home on Dahlia Drive, including a Mickey Mouse topping a 25-foot-tall mega-tree. He’s wrapped his place in 26,000 lights. A few miles north, his sister Catherine is planning a North Pole scene with cutouts, 38 different inflatables, and 12,000 lights.
Dates and times: Joe’s display is up and running as of November 23, from 6 to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 6 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Catherine’s goes from 6 to 11 p.m. nightly, weather permitting, starting on November 27.
Garrison Family Christmas4420 East Anderson Drive
What started with a few dozen strings of incandescent bulbs a decade ago has become a custom-sequenced cavalcade of 25,000 high-intensity LED lights at the north Phoenix home of Nikki and Chris Garrison. While the pandemic has nixed plans of making the display even bigger, the Garrisons have added new songs and sequencing effects into their 2020 holiday music mix, which is blasted out to onlookers through a low-power FM transmitter.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., starting November 27 to January 1, weather permitting.
A Molar Christmas8252 West Camino De Oro, Peoria
Much like a certain misfit elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, local dentist Charles Gatti has a yen for both proper tooth care and Christmas. And every year, his Peoria home becomes his own personal Christmas Town featuring more than 128,000 individual lights, a half-dozen leaping arches, a 25-foot-tall mega-tree, and video screens in an upstairs window. A low-power FM transmitter broadcasts a holiday mix.
Dates and times: Operates nightly, 5 to 10 p.m., from December 1 to 31.
Santa’s Runway2329 North Recker Road, #104, Mesa
Kris Kringle won’t have much trouble parking his sleigh at Danny Dingman’s Mesa townhouse. More than 65,000 lights and hundreds of decorations transform the entirety of the residence, from roof to driveway, into a glowing celebration of the holidays. There are even landing lights to help Santa touch down safely, as well as a cast of Disney characters and numerous luminarias.
Dates and times: Operates nightly through December 31.
ReinDeer Valley Christmas3302 West Adobe Dam Road
This display located in the Deer Valley area (hence the name ReinDeer) offers plenty of pizzazz with nightly synchronized light shows featuring 50,000 bulbs flashing in tandem with a mix of rock and pop. Consider bringing along a few nonperishable food items or canned goods, which will be donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. Patrons who want to leave their car are asked to maintain social distancing.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., November 29 to January 1, weather permitting. Hours on holidays may vary, so check the Facebook page.
Christmas on Orchid Lane6320-6481 West Orchid Lane, Chandler
Prepare to be amazed as you take a trip down this upscale street located northwest of Kyrene and Ray roads in Chandler. A total of 15 neighboring homes participate in this annual display, each offering a beautiful collection of lights and themed decor. No two displays are the same. Nonperishable food items are also being accepted if you’d like to donate.
Dates and times: Operates 6 to 9 p.m. every night from November 28 through December 31.
Santa Train541 East Mountain Sky Avenue
The pandemic isn’t derailing Frank and Dianne Polimene’s annual holiday display outside their Ahwatukee Foothills home. All the interactive and animated elements that make up the scene will return for 2020 — everything from an illuminated volcano and dancing Santa to the 1/6-scale train driven by St. Nicholas that chugs around an 80-foot-long track in the front yard. There will be a few changes because of COVID-19, though: The couple won’t hand out candy canes this year, and they’ve installed footswitches to activate it all. Visitors are asked to remain in their cars when possible or use masks and social distancing if they’d like a closer look.
Dates and times: Runs nightly, sunset to 11 p.m., through January 1.
Richins Family396 West Liberty Lane, Gilbert
The color-drenched light display created by Chad Richins of Gilbert is so impressive it landed him an appearance on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2017. It’s also so vast it goes beyond his two-story home, encompassing a handful of nearby residences. Upwards of 125,000 LEDs and video projections paint the scene with vibrant hues as music plays and animated sequences of singing trees, dancing musicians, and cascades of light grab your attention.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., through December 31.
Christmas on Upland Drive2617 West Upland Drive, Chandler
Dozens of homes on this upscale street in Chandler will sparkle with glowing bulbs, illuminated inflatables, and other electrically powered decorations. It’s a tradition dating back to the ’90s that typically sees all the homeowners rocking their own distinctive lighting scheme. Certain nights during the holiday season will offer food trucks, horse-drawn carriages, and even movies being screened (check the Facebook page for more details).
Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 11 p.m., from December 1 to January 2.
Scary Christmas House4431 West Escuda Drive, Glendale
Prior to 2015, Bob Spacy Jr. had never seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. Now, it’s become one of his favorite movies ever and the source material behind his family’s yearly display. Over the past three years, he’s been gripped by a Jack Skellington-like fervor to create, building handmade versions of the props, elements, and cast from the beloved animated film. “My wife and daughter introduced me to it, and I just fell in love,” Spacy says. “Every time I watch it now, I’ll see something and think, ‘How can I make like that?”
The collection takes up the front portion of their three-bedroom Glendale home and includes Jack’s Christmas formulae, a pair of monster wreaths, and macabre toys like Undead Duck. A 12-foot-tall Oogie Boogie stands over the scene, which is awash in purples, greens, and deep blues from more than 75,000 lights. He also shows the movie itself on a one giant video screen while another shows Jack’s ghostly dog, Zero, flying about. Fans of the flick will dig it.
Dates and times: Runs 6 to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday; 6 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through January 3.
Mesa Christmas1610 East Hermosa Vista Drive, Mesa
Every night during the holiday season, the palatial home of local pediatrician David Kipp comes alive with festive lights and music. Arrays of LED lights, illuminated arches, and various video screens decorate the front of the house and are incorporated into choreographed audio-visual shows set to Christmas carols and holiday songs that run on a 30-minute loop. Kipp requests that visitors stay on the sidewalk, wear masks, and stay at least 6 feet from others. If you’d rather stay in your car, there’s plenty of street parking, and the music will be broadcast over 107.5 FM.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 9 p.m. through December 31.
Emilio Palacio’s House7734 North 41st Avenue
Every holiday season, Emilio Palacio shows off his love for South Park by turning his west Phoenix home into an epic tribute to the crass Comedy Central cartoon. Plywood cutouts of more than 75 characters from the show dot his front yard and roof, ranging from Cartman, Stan, Kenny, and Kyle to such favorites as Mrs. Crabtree, A.W.E.S.O.M.-O, and Towelie. You’ll find Santa Claus and Jesus from “The Spirit of Christmas” perched atop the house and the Satan-worshiping Woodland Critters on the lawn.
Palacio has been putting up the display since the early 2000s, much to the chagrin of some of his nearest and dearest. “My wife and other people have given me a lot of flack over it, saying, ‘Why would you want to keep doing it?’” he says. “I’m like, ‘You know what? It’s fun, and my kids love it.’”
Dates and times: On display, dusk until 11 p.m., from December 1 through January 1.
Christmas on Milky Way4606 West Milky Way, Chandler
Frank Kostyun tends to reach for the sky when it comes to yuletide decorations. To wit: The Chandler resident has completely rebuilt and refurbished elements of his astro-themed display, replacing the constellation of two dozen stars made from color-changing LEDs that dot his roof and twinkle in concert with custom-programmed animation set to music. He’s also adding a 45-foot-tall mega-tree adorned with pixel lights that will stretch into the heavens; he had to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to construct it, due to being two blocks from a local airpark.
Dates and times: Runs 6 to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday; 6 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from December 1 to January 3.
Christmas Lights on Voltaire4600-4800 East Voltaire Avenue
When Steve Hoffmann transformed his north Phoenix home into a wonderland of lights and decorations in 2013, his neighbors took notice. “They all started asking, ‘How can we be a part of it?” he says. “They started having their own lights, and it’s just grown from there.”
The cooperative display has since expanded to more than 40 houses along Voltaire Avenue between 46th and 48th streets, as well as on the adjacent Sharon Drive and 46th Place. Each participating residence is wired up in an interconnected and synchronized light display programmed by Hoffmann and timed to the beats, flourishes, and crescendos of yuletide tunes played over a low-power radio transmitter set to 98.1 FM. The neighborhood becomes a popular destination during the holidays as thousands of locals walk or cruise the route after nightfall.
Dates and times: Operates, 5:30 to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 5:30 to 11 p.m., Friday through Sunday, from November 26 to January 1.
Phoenix Winter Wonderland4237 West State Avenue
Winter Wonderland’s David Chuchla admits he considered going dark for 2020 because of COVID-19, but changed his mind after his Halloween display went off without a hitch.
“Plus, I’ve got so much Christmas stuff in my house I didn’t know where else to put it,” Chuchla says, laughing.
It’s good news for the thousands who come to see the vast amount of decorations and ephemera (several storage sheds worth, in fact) covering every inch of his home’s interior and exterior. Outside, there are 80,000 lights, 50 different trees, and hundreds of animatronic and inflatable characters. Inside, almost every room (save for his bedroom) is brimming with models, miniatures, figurines, and ornaments. If you’d like a peek, Chuchla says he’ll require masks and at least 6 feet between groups.
Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 10 p.m., from November 26 to December 29.
Taylor Family3611 East Kachina Drive
Holiday pro-tip: Get an eyeful of Kim Taylor’s famed holiday display while you still can. The 56-year-old Ahwatukee resident says this is the last year he’s adorning his half-acre property with a massive collection of lights, figurines, and hundreds of cutouts of cartoon characters. (There are also flocks of emoji, a place to mail letters to Santa, games, and a sleigh where you can pose for photos.)
“We’ve been here for 17 years, and we’re planning to downsize and get a smaller house,” he says. “I’m also getting up there — my body takes a beating putting everything up.”
At Taylor’s house, you’ll find a 20-foot-tall castle inspired by Frozen, which towers over the display and was highlighted in a 2016 episode of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight showcasing his efforts. While Taylor doesn’t have any firm COVID-19 rules, he’s asking visitors to “use common sense” when it comes to safety. “Drive by and look at the lights or get out and experience it by walking around while social distancing and wearing a mask if you feel like it’s needed,” he says.
Dates and times: Nightly, dusk to 11:30 p.m., through January 2.
Moon Valley’s 12 Homes of ChristmasMoon Valley neighborhood
Any discussion about the best holiday lights in the Valley would be incomplete without mentioning the well-decorated homes found in the Moon Valley area of north central Phoenix. The various subdivisions found west of Seventh Street between Greenway Parkway and Thunderbird Road become a holiday wonderland as owners dress up their domiciles in festive and creative ways during the yuletide. It’s part of a yearly contest where residents judge which are the best of the best in early December. This year, the results of the contest and a list of every participating house will be posted in free app devoted to Moon Valley’s light displays on December 7. It’s available at app.moonvalley.org.
Dates and times: On display nightly through early January. Hours vary by house.
Sepanek Family4415 East Calle Tuberia
It wouldn’t be the holidays in Phoenix without this legendary display outside the Arcadia home of Lee and Patricia Sepanek. And the couple say they aren’t scaling back because of COVID-19. “We’re up and running already and haven’t changed anything for this year,” Lee says. All of the crowd-pleasing hallmarks will be there, including a vast collection of decorations, more than 250,000 lights strung through trees and covering the property, and various window displays featuring miniatures and dioramas.
When it comes to safety, Lee estimates that “around 99.8 percent” of people stopping by have been wearing masks and keeping their distance. “Everybody’s being really careful and we haven’t had any issues yet,” he says.
Dates and times: Operates nightly, 6 to 10 p.m., through January 3.
Birkett Family’s Winter Wonderland8414 East Valley Vista Drive, Scottsdale
Chris Birkett’s Winter Wonderland boasts everything one could ask for in a holiday attraction: lights for days, a Disney-esque flair (complete with a majestic fairy tale castle), quaint miniatures, multimedia shows, and a whimsical slogan (“Believe in Magic”).
Birkett is making special considerations this year in light of the pandemic. He’s staying open an hour past the normal closing time to allow crowds to thin out and provide unobstructed views from the street for people in vehicles. He’s also requiring face coverings and will provide free PPE masks to those without one. Individually wrapped snacks are for sale, and hand-sanitizer is available.
One new addition to Winter Wonderland this year is more comedic than cautionary: Birkett splurged on an inflatable that depicts the Griswold Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It cost more than a membership to the “Jelly of the Month Club,” but was worth every penny. “That movie’s become a holiday classic,” Birkett says. “I had to get it.”
Dates and times: Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 11 p.m., from December 7 through 31.
Tasker Residence8211 South 63rd Avenue, Laveen Village
Patti and Mel Tasker got a head start on the holiday season this year, throwing the switch on the drive-through display on their sprawling acreage in early November. “Since [local radio station KEZ] 99.9 FM already started playing Christmas music, we figured we could open,” Patti says. “People are also really bored right now and want to get the holidays started.”
So far, the turnout has been enormous, partly due to the fact that they’re located right off Loop 202’s new South Mountain extension, which debuted late last year. Patti says the luminous display, which features more than 300,000 lights, is quite visible from the freeway. “It’s tripled the amount of people we’ve had coming by,” she says. “People taking the 202 tell how they thought it was a fair or casino.”
It also helps that the Taskers’ setup is conducive to pandemic safety. Drivers roll through and check out hundreds of cutouts of cartoon and comic book characters (including everything from Astroboy to Zelda) populating the display, as well as a bestiary of zoo creatures made from lights without leaving their vehicles.
Dates and times: Open 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. nightly through early January.
Christmas Forever11330 North Sundown Drive, Scottsdale
Kyle and Sammy Pratt started planning this year’s edition of Christmas Forever with a few goals in mind, like redesigning their gingerbread house facade and revamping their multimedia showcase of lights and music. In recent months, they’ve added another: minimizing the spread of COVID-19. To that end, they’ve installed hand-sanitizer dispensers, eliminated possible touch-points, and aren’t giving away hot chocolate or cookies like in years past. Masks are also heavily encouraged.
“We didn’t want everyone coming to our house to have to worry about [COVID],” Sammy says. “That way, they can just lose themselves in the spectacle.”
And the Pratt boys indeed have plenty of spectacle planned, including more pyro and fog effects, new lighting schemes and video projections, and an improved music mix. They’ve also added more scent-emitting “smellitizers,” which will fill the air with an aroma of gingerbread each night. “It kind of immerses you into a holiday environment,” Kyle says.
The pair also have a few other tricks up their sleeves, but they’re staying tight-lipped about them. “Our biggest [thing] has been the element of surprise,” Kyle says. “So we have some new special effects that will blow people away.”
Dates and times: Runs nightly, 7 to 10 p.m., from November 28 to December 31, excluding Christmas Eve.