People of all ages who enjoy winter events are in luck: After a year’s hiatus for most holiday happenings, there is plenty to do this month throughout the Valley of the Sun.
From drive-thru light shows and holiday ice-skating rinks to snowfalls, train rides, stage performances and more, you can definitely get your merry on.
Keep in mind that some events require advance ticket purchase and some have a timed admission procedure. Also be sure to check each attraction’s website for COVID-19 protocols.
And now, without further ado, here is a list of the fun and festive family-friendly holiday events to enjoy throughout metro Phoenix.
Phoenix Zoo ZooLights
The Phoenix Zoo is transformed with a nightly display of millions of twinkling lights, colorful animal sculptures and Music-in-Motion light shows on the main lake. New this year are the endangered species illuminated paintings by Russell Ronat — large paintings lit from behind in celebration of the 30th anniversary of ZooLights. Check out the Endangered Species Carousel and camel rides, too. A handful of drive-thru nights are available. Check the website for dates.
Details: 5:30-10:30 p.m. nightly through Jan. 15. Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. Walk-thru tickets are $20, free for age 2 and under. Drive-thru tickets are $75 per vehicle. 602-286-3800, https://www.phoenixzoo.org.
More: Phoenix ZooLights: What’s new for 2021, how much it costs
Noches de las Luminarias
Las Noches de las Luminarias will light up the trails of the Desert Botanical Garden with thousands of candles and lights with a backdrop of live music. The Dale Chihuly art-glass exhibit that is on view at the garden through June 2022 will appear lit from within. Musical performers include The King’s Carolers, Mariachi Pasion and The Sugar Thieves.
Details: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 7-23, 26-31. Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. $49.95, $18.95 for ages 3-17. Reservations required. 480-941-1225, https://dbg.org.
More: Holiday luminarias will light up Desert Botanical Garden. How to see them
Fountain Park at Westgate Entertainment District features an outdoor skating rink with real ice. All skill levels are welcome to enjoy this fun holiday tradition. Skating sessions are on a first come, first served basis; Visa and MasterCard are the only forms of payment accepted. Ticket prices include skate rental.
Details: Through Jan. 17; check website for skating session times. Westgate Entertainment District, 6751 N. Sunset Blvd., Glendale. $19, $15 if you bring your own skates, $15 for toddlers and military with ID, $120 for a season pass, $4 for socks. https://westgateaz.com.
World of Illumination
An attraction calling itself “the world’s largest drive-through animated light show” is back this holiday season. World of Illumination involves millions of lights flickering in time with holiday tunes during a mile-long driving route. It has locations in Glendale and Tempe. In Glendale, guests will enjoy a Candy Rush theme with Christmas characters, confections and a huge gingerbread village. In Tempe, a new route spans more than 1 million square feet; the theme is Reindeer Road, which will have guests traversing glacial peaks, ice caves and a lighted forest to arrive at Santa’s workshop in the North Pole.
Details: 6-10 p.m. nightly through Jan. 2. 9431 W. Northern Ave., Glendale. 2200 W. Alameda Drive, Tempe. From $39. https://www.worldofillumination.com.
More: World of Illumination has 2 big Phoenix-area holiday light shows
Holiday Light Experience
The 1.2-mile drive-thru light show at Salt River Fields features more than 5 million lights along with music. After enjoying the lights, stop by Santa’s Village for a cup of cocoa as well as other beverages and snacks, handcrafted gifts and the new Holiday Light Theatre that features festive lights on a 20- by 40-foot screen.
Details: 6-10 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 7555 N. Pima Road, on the Salt River Reservation near Scottsdale. From $40 per vehicle. Purchasing tickets ahead of time on the website is recommended. 480-656-9940, https://www.holidaylightexperience.com.
Christmas at the Princess
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has transformed into a winter wonderland complete with festive decorations and 6 million-plus LED lights. Go ice skating with family or friends, check out the light shows in the Enchanted Plaza, roast marshmallows, make s’mores and get your picture taken with jolly old St. Nick.
Details: Nightly through Jan. 2; Scottsdale Fairmont Princess, 7575 E. Princess Drive. Prices vary depending on activities; check website for details. 480-585-4848, https://www.scottsdaleprincess.com.
Christmas at Schnepf Farms
Bring the family to Schnepf Farms to experience a winter wonderland that includes a ride on the World of Illumination Express, a hayride to visit Rudolph complete with snow, or a trip through Santa’s workshop. Check out the giant inflatable obstacle course, get warm at a bonfire, try your hand at snow globe mini golf and enjoy some holiday-themed goodies.
Details: 5:30-10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31. Schnepf Farms, 24810 E. Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek. Prices vary by day and activities; check the website for details. 480-987-3100, https://schnepfchristmas.com.
Holiday Lights at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
There is something magical about the combination of a train ride and holiday lights that puts everyone in the holiday spirit. Experience this and more at the Holiday Lights event at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Hop on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad and ooh and ahh your way through the wonderland of lights and displays. Ride the historic Charros Carousel and sip hot cocoa from Hartley’s General Store. Santa will be at the park every night through Dec. 23 for visits and photos. Capacity is limited and tickets must be purchased for a specific 90-minute time block.
Details: 6-9:30 p.m. nightly through Jan. 2, except Dec. 24, 25 and 31.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale. $15, free for 2 and younger. 480-312-2312, https://www.therailroadpark.com.
Lights at the Farm
Put on your favorite comfy walking shoes and head to Vertuccio Farms in Mesa for the giant walk-through synchronized holiday light show. The events covers 10 acres and includes larger-than-life Christmas displays covered in more than 2 million lights. There’s also a skating rink, a pallet maze and miniature golf; when hunger or thirst strike, local food and beverage vendors will offer holiday treats for sale.
Details: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays through Jan. 2. Vertuccio Farms, 4011 S. Power Road, Mesa. $12 weeknights; $15 weekends; 10% off for military personnel, first responders and seniors. Skating, which includes skate rental, is $8. Advance purchase tickets and skating reservations are recommended. https://www.lightsatthefarm.com.
More: 2 million lights set to music: How to attend Lights at the Farm in Mesa
Winter Wonderland Ice Rink
With 6,000 square feet of real ice, the Winter Wonderland Ice Rink is a great opportunity for newbie and experienced skaters to enjoy some holiday fun. Admission includes a one-hour session and skate rental — be sure to bring socks — and a limited number of people will be allowed on the ice at a time. Register online ahead of time and buy tickets for a specific time; a limited number of walk-up registrations will be accommodated.
Details: Through Jan. 2, closed Dec. 25. Session times vary by day; check the website for the full schedule. Winter Wonderland Ice Rink, east side of Mesa City Plaza, 20 E. Main St. $10. https://merrymainst.com/icerink.
‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical’
Watching Rudolph on television is a beloved holiday tradition for many families. Now you can see the classic story onstage with a musical adaptation of the television special. The performance features plenty of familiar songs as well as favorite characters, including Rudolph, Santa and Mrs. Claus and Bumble the Abominable Snowman.
Details: 1 and/or 4 p.m. on select days through Dec. 24. Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. Tickets start at $13. 602-252-8497, https://herbergertheater.org.
Ballet Arizona’s ‘The Nutcracker’
Ballet Arizona is returning to Phoenix Symphony Hall with this holiday classic. Whether you have seen “The Nutcracker” dozens of times or this will be your first time to experience the classic story, you’ll enjoy watching young Clara as she battles cheeky mice and charms the Sugar Plum Fairy. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famous score will be performed by the Phoenix Symphony.
Details: Dec. 10-24; check the website for showtimes. Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St. Tickets start at $35. 602-381-1096, https://balletaz.org.
More: ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Elf’ are hitting metro Phoenix holiday stages
Nightly Snowfall at Tempe Marketplace
Those who want to experience the peaceful beauty of a snowfall can head to Tempe Marketplace, where snow will magically fall from the sky twice a night and multiple times on Christmas Eve.
Details: 7 and 8 p.m. every night through Dec. 31; every hour from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 24. Closed Dec. 25. Tempe Marketplace (near The District Stage), 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe. Free. 480-966-9338, https://tempemarketplace.com.
CitySkate has returned to CityScape Phoenix with its popular outdoor skating rink with real ice. Due to Valley Metro light rail construction, the rink is in a new location at Patriots Park and it’s a bit different in size and design, but it will still offer freshly surfaced ice, holiday lights and decorations. Prices include skate rental and 90 minutes of ice time.
Details: 5-11 p.m. through Dec. 16; 3-11 p.m. Dec. 17-Jan 5. Hours may vary on Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan 1; check the website for updates. Patriots Park at CityScape, 11 E. Washington St., Phoenix. $18, $13 for military, seniors and ages 8 and under, free for ages 3 and under. $13 on Student Discount Sundays with valid ID from middle school, high school or college. Bring your own skates to save $2. https://www.reddevelopment.com/cityskate.
Snowfall at Desert Ridge Marketplace
Desert Ridge Marketplace will transform into a figurative snow globe throughout December with a nightly snowfall twice an evening, and multiple times on Christmas Eve.
Details: 7 and 8 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31; every hour from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 24. Closed Dec. 25. Desert Ridge Marketplace (near AMC Theatres), 21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix. Free. 480-513-7586, https://shopdesertridge.com.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: December 2021 things to do in metro Phoenix: Best holiday events