While folks in many states are trying to find their cars beneath heaps of ice and snow, Arizonans get to enjoy seasonal fun outdoors without that kind of stress. There's a slew of holiday events going on. Maybe you can’t make it to all of them, but you can certainly try. To help you out, we have rounded up some choice happenings to help fill in your calendar. From classic holiday ballets and light-filled parades to rock 'n' roll nights and ice skating fun, there’s plenty of reasons to celebrate this season.
APS Electric Light Parade
An Arizona holiday-season staple, this parade features dozens of floats, spectacularly bedazzled with lights. Join thousands of others to enjoy this celebration of the season as it rolls through central Phoenix. Admission is free. The event happens — rain or shine — at 7 p.m. on December 5. Visit www.aps.com for more information.
This year marks a decade that Central Phoenix shop Frances — a modern boutique that dares you not to spend your entire paycheck upon entry — hosts its Crafeteria holiday shopping event. Thirty-five local, independent artists are on-site to show and sell their completely handmade goods. As you fill your shopping bag up with treasures, you can fill your stomach up with tasty eats from food trucks like Short Leash, Waffle Crush, and Mustache Pretzels. Admission is free. The shindig happens from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, December 4. Visit www.francesvintage.com or call 602-279-5467.
Westgate Winter Wonderland
There are a lot of “wonderlands” happening this time of year, and Westgate Entertainment District joins the party by turning its facility into a haven of holiday happenings. With Santa and ice skating, this is a spot to satisfy your Christmas fix. There’s also a 33-foot lighted holiday tree, nightly snowfall, and horse-drawn carriage rides. It’s free to attend, but prices vary for different experiences. All the fun happens from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays, through December 24. Information and a full schedule of activities can be found at www.westgateaz.com holiday.
Tumbleweed Tree Lighting
This is the 59th year that people have gathered in downtown Chandler for the lighting of a tree constructed of tumbleweeds. The event also features a parade of lights. This unique holiday festivity is also packed with performances from locals, like troupe Ballet Folklorico, and students from Chandler School of Fine Arts. Admission is free and happens from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 5. The parade begins at 7 p.m. Visit www.chandleraz.gov for details.
F.Q. Story Holiday Home Tour
One of Phoenix’s oldest, historic neighborhoods is all dolled up for the holidays. The tour starts on Saturday, December 5, with luminarias, and carolers. Sunday features vendors for your holiday shopping needs. Get a look at a unique mix of architectural styles this ‘hood has to offer, like Spanish Colonial, Tudor Revival, and Neoclassical. Admission is $15 to tour the homes; the street vendor fair is free. Bring a non-perishable food item to get $1 off admission price. Hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 5 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on December 6. Visit www.hometour.fqstory.org for more information.
A Very Electric Christmas: Lightwire Theater in Scottsdale
Lightwire is a theater company from New Orleans that uses a signature brand of electroluminescent artistry and storytelling to present this holiday tale about a young bird named Max and his mother as they fly south for the winter. Tickets are $29 to $49 for the 2 p.m. show on December 6. Visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org for ticket purchases and information.
Butterfly Winter Wonderland
As if butterflies aren’t beautiful enough, Butterfly Wonderland has surrounded these delicate creatures with Christmas décor, including a giant Noble Fir tree adorned with lights and ornaments, angel statues, and holiday plants. Price is included in your general admission, which ranges from $17.95 to $19.95. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through December 20, and from December 21 to 23. For more details, visit www.butterflywonderland.com or call 480-800-3000.
Dapper Downtown Holiday Show
Comedy club Stand Up Live stretches the stage at this holiday event to welcome poets and musicians to perform along with some funny folks. Atlantic Records writer and producer Ben Franklin is also on the roster. To benefit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, those who bring an unused toy can get in free. Those who don’t bring a toy must pay the $10 admission. As usual for the venue, there’s a two-drink minimum for everyone. The whole thing happens at 8 p.m. on December 9. Information and tickets are at www.standuplive.com.
Why cram yourself in the mall to get your holiday gifts when you can enjoy the crisp nighttime air while getting your shopping on and supporting local artisans at the same time? Peruse the Phoenix Public Market’s annual, free-to-attend, shopping event from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on December 10 and 17 for locally made food and handcrafted gift items. Visit phxpublicmarket.com/openair/phoestivus for all the details.
Scottsdale Holiday ArtWalk
The Scottsdale Gallery Association hosts this annual event that encourages giving the gift of art for the holidays, as hundreds of artists are featured during this festive season. Many of the galleries and shops offer seasonal themes and objects. Enjoy live music and artist demonstrations, too. Admission is free. Tool around Scottsdale’s downtown from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 10. Visit www.scottsdalegalleries.com.
56th Street Records Holiday Show
This independent record label based in Phoenix hosts a holiday showcase of some of its artists at the Trunk Space. This night features a diverse roster of artists from punk-folk rocker Andy Warpigs, to the humorous and hard rocking Nerdzerker. This shindig is hosted by Hotrock Supajoint, whom we recently told you all about. Admission is $6 and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. on December 11. Check out www.thetrunkspace.com for more information.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
This adaptation of the 1964 cult classic of the same name is performed by the All Puppet Players. See how puppet Santa fares against a bunch of puppet Martians in this holiday story that will make space geeks shiver in delight. Admission is $25. Showtimes vary from December 4 to December 19 at Playhouse on the Park. Visit www.allpuppetplayers.com or visit 602-254-2151.
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold
Join sassy Sister, the irreverent, feisty nun who wields a ruler and a sharp tongue as she unravels the mystery of what happened to the Magi’s gold. This lively show includes plenty of audience interaction. You’re on Sister’s watch at this event, you better behave. Tickets are $39; member and multiple show pricing options available. Sister’s classroom is open for various showtimes between December 11 and December 20. Visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org or call 480-499-8587.
Ultimate Tacky Christmas Party
Take this opportunity to search for the ugliest sweater you can find, hopefully not from your current winter wardrobe, and hit the DeSoto Central Market downtown for its holiday soiree. Ugly sweaters aren't all that's hideous at this party: There's also an ugly ornament exchange. Also expect hot toddies, caroling, tunes from DJ Mr. PHX, and an awkward family photo booth. Admission is free. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. on December 11. Visit www.desotocentralmarket.com.
Holiday Pops Concert
Salt River Brass continues its annual tradition of performing peppy holiday numbers to keep your seasonal spirit soaring. Singer Carol FitzPatrick also returns to join the ensemble, lending her vocal skills. There’s even a singalong. Tickets are $15 to $22 and the show happens at 3 p.m. on December 13. Visit Mesa Arts Center to purchase your tickets or call 480-644-6500.
Bar Flies: Eating Christmas
No holiday season goes by without a humorous or harrowing story – sometimes both. New Times’ monthly event allows a group of writers to vent in December with the Christmas theme at the fore. Tickets are $5. The event happens at 7 p.m. at downtown’s Valley Bar. Visit the event’s Facebook page for all the information. (Editor's note: The author of this piece is participating in this event.)
Animals come to life through lights at this popular annual event. Not the real Zoo animals, of course, but lighted displays located throughout the park. The evening event also includes special 4D film screenings, new 3D light sculptures, and the return of favorite characters Jengo and Tortuga, a talking giraffe and tortoise, respectively. Tickets are $10 to $16; special pricing for members. The fun happens now through January 10 from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Visit the Zoo’s website for ticket information and purchases, and all event details.
The Night Before Christmas at Great Arizona Puppet Theater
A classic holiday tale is told through puppets at this seasonally fun event for the whole family. Tickets are $7 to $10; special pricing for members. Shows happen from now through December 27 with different showtimes available. The theater's site has all the information.
Christmas Lights Tour
Phoenix’s own Hip Historian, Marshall Shore takes attendees on a guided tour of light displays around the Valley. You’ll start out, and return to, central Phoenix’s Clarendon Hotel where you’ll get some candy canes and a kazoo to aid in the merrymaking. You’ll be caroling, too, so get ready to sing with strangers. Tickets are $30 for this 6:30 to 9 p.m. event on December 17. Information and tickets are available at Eventbrite.
A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55
If you’re looking for a holiday musical that doesn’t drip with tradition, put this show on your must-attend list. Watch as a group of retired ladies from Sun City battle an evil landlord who’s trying to evict them from their condo— on Christmas Eve, of all days. Tickets are $15 for Sunday shows and $18 for Friday and Saturday shows. Showtimes vary from now through December 27. Visit www.space55.org.
Las Noches de las Luminarias
Hand-lit luminaria bags line the Desert Botanical Garden’s pathways for this seasonal stroll. This year also includes the exhibit Bruce Munro: "Sonoran Light," featuring the artist’s light sculptures. Sip some warm cider and listen to the sounds of handbells ringing as you enjoy this yearly happening. Tickets are $10 to $15. The event happens from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on December 10 to 13, 16 to 23, and 26 to 31. The Garden’s website has all the information.
Hometown Christmas Parade
Gather in Downtown Glendale to watch a parade full of floats, music, and entertainment with a Christmas theme. Parade attendees can bring non-perishable food items to be donated to people in need. Admission is free. Floats start rolling at 11 a.m. on December 12. Visit www.hometownchristmasparade.org for more information.
CitySkate Holiday Ice Rink
Nothing says winter quite like strapping on some sharp-bladed skates and cutting through the ice with your signature moves. From now through January 11, you can head to downtown’s CityScape multiplex to have some icy fun. There’s also a giant, lighted Christmas tree, and appearances by Santa Claus. There are a variety of hours each week that you can skate. Admission is $8 to $15. Visit www.phxicerink.com for all of the information.
The Santaland Diaries at Herberger Theater Center
Fans of David Sedaris and those in favor of irreverent humor will dig this adult-oriented holiday play based on the writer’s real life stint as a Christmas elf at Macy’s SantaLand display. Tickets are $38 to $51. Showtimes vary from December 10 to December 23. Visit the Herberger Theater Center’s website for information and ticket purchases.
Ugly Sweater Run
Run, walk, or tackle this 5K event in whatever form moves you, as long as you don a super ugly sweater while doing so. You’ll start at Tempe Beach Park, where the starting line is alive with inflatables, games, and music. The entry fee to run is $50 and proceeds benefit Save the Children. Start sweating in your sweater at 10 a.m. on December 19. Visit www.theuglysweaterrun.com for details.
Christmas at Crescent
Downtown’s premier hot spot for live music is opening its doors so you can have a sonically charged holiday with local bands Cherie, Roar, and Pro Teens. The venue’s kitchen is closed for the night, but they don’t mind if you bring your holiday leftovers if you feel the need to munch down while you rock out. The free event starts at 8 p.m. on December 25. Visit www.crescentphx.com.
The Nutcracker at Phoenix Symphony Hall
Ballet Arizona performs the classic holiday show set to Tchaikovsky’s exciting soundtrack at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Watch as a little girl’s nutcracker toy comes to life and has adventures with mischievous mice, delightful toys, and sugarplum fairies. Tickets are $20 to $99 with varying showtimes from December 11 to December 27. Visit www.balletaz.org or call 602-381-1096.