David M. Brown
In the spirit of the holidays, let’s hop in our roof-landing sleighs, snap the belts tight on our swift Teslas and visit imbibe in events—some familiar, others less so—throughout Arizona. Most locations won’t have snow, but the warmth of celebration and joy is everywhere. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyful Kwanzaa.
Sierra Vista: Santas in the Park
DECEMBER 1 TO DECEMBER 26
Santas take center stage in Sierra Vista’s Veterans Memorial Park this December.
At the Friday, December 1, tree-lighting ceremony, the Sierra Vista Community Band will play holiday songs, and free hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Approximately 50 Old World Santas will be showcased, designed by artists Susan Bell, Sue Ann Vannoy and Laura Sudduth. They will be on display through Tuesday, December 26.
“Ever since 2006, these Santas have encircled the park’s trees in December,” says Adam Curtis, Sierra Vista spokesman. “They offer residents and visitors a glimpse of how Santa Claus is seen in different households around the world.”
The 59th annual Christmas Light Parade is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 2, along Fry Boulevard, with the theme of “Christmas in Candyland.”
Santas in the Park, Veterans Memorial Park, 3105 E. Fry Boulevard, Sierra Vista, 520.439.2210, sierravistaaz.gov, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, December 1, to Tuesday, December 26, free.
Scottsdale: Father Christmas and the Snow Queen
DECEMBER 1 TO DECEMBER 17
This is the second revival of Alan Austin’s Father Christmas and the Snow Queen by Theatre Artists Studio, through December 17, Fridays and Saturdays, and Sundays. Performed previous in 2009, this holiday romp follows the traditional English panto style, a musical play based on traditional children’s stories with songs, dances, jokes, outrageous characters and audience participation.
Father Christmas and the Snow Queen, Theatre Artists Studio, 4848 E. Cactus Road, Scottsdale, 602.765.0120, thestudiophx.org, various times Friday, December 1, to Sunday, December 17, $25, with discounts available for seniors, military personnel and groups of 10 or more.
Flagstaff: North Pole Experience
TO DECEMBER 28
A family-focused holiday attraction, The North Pole Experience takes youngsters and the young at heart to see Santa through December 28.
Hosted by Little America Hotel, the Christmas adventure starts by taking guests on a trolley ride through the magic portal to Santa’s Workshop in the forest. Families then work side-by-side with the elves, building toys and learning all of Santa’s Workshop secrets.
They receive access to Santa’s main factory floor with toy slides and ceilings, attend Elf University, visit with Mrs. Claus, who reads stories, and enjoy cookies and snowman soup in the bakery. The group then meets Santa, who gives each child with a paying ticket a Teddy bear.
“We also invite everyone into Santa’s mail room, his personal office and his top-secret ‘Area 47’ Sleigh Hangar, with his famous sleigh, mission control center, radar systems and more,” says Scott Pace, North Pole Experience president.
North Pole Experience, Little America, 2515 E. Butler Avenue, 928.779.7900, northpoleexperience.com. See website for prices and times.
Phoenix: Black Theatre Troupe’s Black Nativity
DECEMBER 1 TO DECEMBER 17
Last season’s sold-out holiday event by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes returns to the Black Theatre Troupe stage.
Featuring uplifting musical selections and text, Black Nativity’s joyous company of singers, actors, dancers and musicians delivers its powerful message of joy, hope, victory and liberation.
“This tremendous song-play touches a special chord in the hearts of all at a very special time of the year,” says David J. Hemphill, executive director.
Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center, 1333 E. Washington Street, Phoenix, 602.258.8129, blacktheatretroupe.org, various times Friday, December 1, to Sunday, December 17, $38.
Sedona/Williams: L’Auberge de Sedona & Grand Canyon Railway
TO JANUARY 6
Santa has your ticket to ride for the 17th Polar Express Train Ride. “All who truly believe” can enjoy the Grand Canyon Railway from the city of Williams to the North Pole, through January 6 on select dates.
The 90-minute holiday ride, inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book, includes visits from chefs who deliver hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies from Santa.
South of Williams, in Sedona, L’Auberge de Sedona creekside resort is offering a discounted Polar Express Package with a special children’s amenity and a packed picnic. Polar Express tickets are not included.
lauberge.com/packages/polar-express/. Pricing varies per package.
Phoenix, Desert Botanical Garden: Las Noches de las Luminarias
TO DECEMBER 30
The Southwest’s largest botanical garden will feature magical evenings through December 30. Guests will see 8,000-plus hand-lit luminaria bags, thousands of white twinkle lights and dramatic nighttime desert views.
This year, visitors to the 39th annual event will experience trailside sculptures by Japanese-American artist Jun Kaneko and musical performances by some of the Valley’s top performers.
Liberty Wildlife, Yellowbird/Duncan Family and cowboy and cowgirl poets and musicians entertain. A buffet is available, and garden’s Patio Café and Gertrude’s restaurant will be open.
Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, 480.941.1225, dbg.org, various times to Saturday, December 30, $10-$25.
Fort Verde: Annual Candlelight Tour
DECEMBER 8 AND DECEMBER 9
Enjoy the celebration of a Victorian Christmas with traditional candlelight tours at Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde Friday, December 8, and Saturday, December 9.
Fort Verde State Historic Park is one of the best remaining authentic Indian Wars-era military forts in the Southwest, with displays, exhibits and four walkable original adobe buildings that interpret the lives of those who helped shape Arizona.
“Our historic homes along Officer’s Row and the museum will be decorated in Victorian Christmas fashion, while reenactors dressed in period clothing guide you through the historic homes and tell stories as written and shared by soldiers and others from the past,” says Sheila Stubler, park manager.
Fort Verde State Historic Park, 125 E. Hollamon Street, Camp Verde, 928.567.3275, azstateparks.com/fort-verde, 5 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 8, and Saturday, December 9, $4-$7.
Scottsdale: Sister’s Christmas Catechism
DECEMBER 8 TO DECEMBER 17
Sister rules, with or without a chastising ruler to the knuckles, in Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold, on Stage 2 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts December 8 to December 17.
Unusually jolly, Sister (played by Patti Hannon) teaches you, her students, the Nativity story and asks for help to solve the greatest Christmas caper: Who took the gold the three wise men gave to Baby Jesus? Help expose the sinner(s) for the fun and points upstairs.
Each performance is unique because of audience interplay, and people of all ages and faiths will be entertained.
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second Street, Scottsdale, 480.499.8587, scottsdaleperformingarts.org, various times Friday, December 8, to Sunday, December 17, tickets start at $31.
Gilbert: 12K’s of Christmas
The 12K’s of Christmas family festival on Saturday, December 9, celebrates health, fitness and the joy of Christmas, while supporting local animal rescue groups. It features a 12K run, 6K run/walk and a 1.2K Santa “Sled Run,” plus a Christmas bazaar, Santa’s Pet Village with pet adoptions and Christmas-themed entertainment.
All participating rescue groups and Arizona Pet Project, the nonprofit arm of Maricopa County Animal Care & Control, receive proceeds from the event.
The 1.2k run/walk begins at 9:12 a.m. and the 12k/6k at 10:12 a.m.; the overall festivities start at 7:30 a.m. There is a fee to run or walk in the event, but event admission is free. Everyone receives a collectible finisher’s medal, and first-, second- and third-place age-group awards will be given.
12 K’s of Christmas, Freestone District Park, 1045 E. Juniper Road, Gilbert, 480.609.3978, 12krun.com. 7:30 a.m. Saturday, December 9, free admission, fee to run or walk in the event.
Globe/Miami: Festival of Lights
The 30th annual Festival of Lights at Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum showcases 2,600 luminaries atop ancient ruins walls, lighting the way for visitors to celebrate the magic of the season.
The Salado people inhabited the site from 1225–1400 CE. The city of Globe, about an hour northeast of the Valley, manages the site, whose museum has what is thought to be the world’s largest collection of Salado artifacts.
The Yellow Bird Dance Group and Native American storytellers will perform, and crafts and food will be available onsite.
“The festival is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Once the sun sets, the ruins are hauntingly beautiful cast in the glow of so many luminaries,” says Leana Asberry, museum supervisor.
Festival of Lights, Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum, 1324 S. Jesse Hayes Road, Globe, 928.425.0320, globeaz.gov/visitors/besh-ba-gowah, 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, December 17, free. Shuttle parking is at 230 S. Broad Street in the Historic Train Depot.
Phoenix: Holidays at the Heard
DECEMBER 26 TO DECEMBER 30
The annual family-friendly Holidays at the Heard offers music from Valley musicians and groups, indigenous dance performances, artist demonstrations and art activities
“Heard is the perfect place to celebrate the joyous holiday season, while embracing what makes the Southwest a unique winter wonderland,” says Shaliyah Ben, the Heard Museum’s director of public programming. “And Holidays at the Heard is a great way to enjoy the distinctiveness of the Heard Museum while celebrating the holidays through the lens of indigenous communities.”
Holidays at the Heard, Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, heard.org/events, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, December 26, to Saturday, December 30, free for members, $7.50-$18 nonmembers.
Show Low: Deuce of Clubs Drop
In the White Mountains of Arizona, about four hours from the Valley, the city of Show Low celebrates the New Year with the year-ending Deuce of Clubs Drop.
The event includes entertainment, music, free photo booth, fire pits to keep warm by, and a food vendor that serves hot cocoa and other treats. At 11 p.m. in the Festival Marketplace revelers count down the remaining seconds of the year as the illuminated deuce of clubs drops to the ground. Fireworks complete the evening.
Deuce of Clubs Drop, Festival Marketplace, 1031 E. Deuce of Clubs, Show Low, 928.532.4141, showlowaz.gov, 11 p.m. Sunday, December 31, free.
For more fun events, visit our events page.