Tempe Festival of Lights Opening Night Parade
Tempe Festival of Lights Opening Night Parade

Even in the Valley of the Sun, the light doesn’t last long in the winter evenings. Fortunately, that gives us an opportunity to shine our own lights, whether incandescent or LED; in bright white or a rainbow of colors; as strings or shapes; in the trees or along the ground; and however else lifts our spirits.

While plenty of people decorate their own houses — some of them amazingly well — few can compete with the massive light shows on this list. If you want some holiday light in your dark winter life — plus live music, food, ice skating and more fun — make plans to swing by these spots. We organized them based on their starting dates.

Tallest Christmas Tree In The State

Be on hand for the lighting of the tallest Christmas tree in the state. Soaring to 80 feet in the air, this tree will glow with 80 strands of LED lights and 5,000 ornaments. Don’t forget about the 3-foot tall copper star tree topper. In addition to the main attraction, celebrate with live music from national and local artists, including Raini Rodriguez from Disney Channel’s “Austin & Ally.”

WhereOutlets at Anthem, 4250 W Anthem Way, Phoenix
When: November 12 at 5 p.m., then through January
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.outletsanthem.com/

Gilbert Water Tower Lighting

Gilbert’s famous water tower gets the holiday treatment with a full lighting during the annual Gilbert Days and Downtown Concert Series. The free concert will feature Cisco and the Racecars.

Where: Water Tower Plaza, 45 W Page Avenue, Gilbert
When: Thursday, November 17 at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: https://www.gilbertaz.gov/concerts

Lights of the World

Prepare for an international light extravaganza as you tour luminous replicas of famous cities, landmarks and animals from around the globe, plus other time periods, including the dinosaurs. Based on the 2,000 year-old Lantern Festival, each of the 75 displays use traditional Chinese lantern techniques, plus cutting-edge light technology, to leave you in awe. Plus, you can enjoy carnival rides and games, international food, and performances of music, dance and acrobatics, and more.

Where: Rawhide Western Town, 5700 W North Loop Rd, Chandler
When: November 18 to January 29; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays to Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays
Cost: $24.99 adults, $14.99 kids 3 to 12, $19.99 seniors and military, Free for kids under 3
More info: http://lightsoftheworldus.com/

Zoolights

For the 25th year, Phoenix Zoo welcomes the holidays with millions of lights, a three-story holiday tree, light displays and music-in-motions shows on the lakeside. While you won’t get to see many animals — few of the animal enclosures contains lights — Jengo the Talking Giraffe and Tortuga the Talking Tortoise will be available for entertainment.

Where: Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
When: November 23 to January 8, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. nightly
Cost: Varies by day; either $12.95 per person or $19.95 per person
More info: http://phoenixzoo.org/event-items/zoolights/

Glitters Spectacular Weekend

During the holidays, Glendale holds several weekend festivals starting with Glitters Spectacular Weekend, which sees 16 blocks of Historic Downtown Glendale draped in 1.5 million lights. Plus, visitors will enjoy live entertainment, holiday gifts, horse-drawn carraige rides, a snow field and petting zoo for the kids, visits with Santa and more.

Where: Historic Downtown Glendale
When: November 25 to 26, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., lights nightly afterwards from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.glendaleaz.com/events/
or https://www.glendaleaz.com/glitters/ (Warning: some old information)

Las Noches de las Luminarias

The Desert Botanical Garden already offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Valley, but it gets even better during Las Noches de las Luminarias. In addition to thousands of twinkle lights on the grounds, volunteers put out — and light by hand — 8,000 luminaria bags along the paths for a truly magical evening stroll. Also scattered around the grounds will be nine musical ensembles to set the mood.

Where: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
When: Weekends and other select days, November 25 to December 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: $30 adults, $12.50 kids 3 to 12
More info: dbg.org/luminaria

Merry Main Street

Head to downtown Mesa as the city displays a four-story Holiday Tree and tens of thousands more lights. Plus, enjoy Santa’s Marketplace, a 4,000 square foot outdoor ice rink, Jack Frost’s Food Truck and Holiday Happenings concerts at Mesa Arts Center. The festivities start November 25 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the tree lighting on Macdonald Street, plus music, food and other fun.

Where: Downtown Mesa
When: November 25 to January 1; Tree lighting on November 25 at 5 p.m.
Cost: Free entry; $10 for one hour of ice skating; Varies for other activities
More info: http://merrymainst.com/

Mesa Arizona Temple Christmas Lights

The already spectacular Mesa Temple takes on new splendor with hundreds of thousands of lights and several nativity scenes spread around the grounds. Plus, from December 1 to Christmas, enjoy nightly concerts from local performers and groups.

Where: Mesa Arizona Temple, 525 East Main Street, Mesa
When: November 25 to December 31, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Concerts begin at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.mesachristmaslights.com/

Scottsdazzle

Downtown Scottsdale rings in the holidays with a tree lighting ceremony at Soleri Plaza. Imported from Italy, the tree boasts more than 1 million lights that can shift to any color. Plus, enjoy live music, holiday treats and more. Also going on in the area through December will be concerts, “Friday’s On 5th Ave,” a life-size Menorah, horse and carriage rides, “Cowboy Christmas,” and plenty more.

Where: Downtown Scottsdale
When: November 25 to January 1; Tree lighting on November 25 at 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: http://scottsdazzle.com

Ahwatukee Foothills Festival of Lights

For the holidays, the southern-most village of Phoenix explodes with light as Chandler Boulevard from 24th street to Desert Foothills Parkway gains “The Million White Lights.” You can celebrate the return of the lights at the Kick-Off Party, which will feature rides and inflatables, a beer/wine garden, live entertainment, the Marketplace Street Fair with nearly 100 vendors and a Harley Parade with 100 riders.

Where: Desert Foothills Park, 1010 South Marketplace Way, Phoenix
When: November 26, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., then nightly through January 1.
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.folaz.org

CitySkate

For seven weeks, APS and CityScape Phoenix transform downtown Phoenix into a winter wonderland with a huge outdoor ice rink, a 36-foot holiday tree, performances from The Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera and more top-notch organizations, plus other light displays. For the opening night, Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” along with Santa, will be on hand to skate and take photos.

Where: CityScape Phoenix, 1 E Washington St, Phoenix
When: November 26 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., then daily through January 8.
Cost: Free entry; Skating costs $10 per person from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and $15 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
More info: http://cityscapephoenix.com/events/cityskate-grand-opening-event/

Fantasy of Lights

Join 35,000 spectators in the Opening Night Parade of Tempe’s annual Fantasy of Lights, which sees Mill Avenue’s trees decked out in luminous holiday style. Following the parade will be a tree lighting ceremony in Centerpoint Plaza. Santa will be on hand for photos and present requests.

Where: Mill Ave., Tempe
When: November 26 at 6 p.m., the nightly through the New Year.
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.downtowntempe.com/events/opening-night-parade

APS Electric Light Parade

Instead of walking around a light display, let the light display come to you. In this case, the light displays consists of dazzling floats and performers in the 30th Annual APS Electric Light Parade through downtown Phoenix. It will be crowded so show up early to get a good spot.

Where: Central Ave. & Montebello Ave. to 7th St. & Indian School Rd., Phoenix
When: December 3 at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/special-events/electric-light-parade

Tumbleweed Tree Lighting & Parade of Lights

A unique yearly tradition since 1957, The Tumbleweed Tree consists of nearly 1,000 tumbleweeds attached to a 25-foot wire frame. The whole affair gets a coat of white paint (25 gallons), fire retardant (20 gallons) and glitter (65 pounds). Finally, 1,200 lights bring the tree to brilliant life. Following the lighting ceremony, enjoy the Parade of Lights through downtown Chandler.

Where: Dr. A. J. Chandler Park, 3 S Arizona Ave, Chandler
When: December 3 from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., then nightly through the New year.
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.chandleraz.gov/default.aspx?pageid=165

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade

Tempe Town Lake lights up courtesy of up to 50 boats in a wide range of sizes, decorations and lighting. The paths of Tempe Beach Park will also get the illumination treatment with luminaria for a dazzling evening. In addition to the lights, enjoy live music, Santa selfies, food, beverages and — to cap off the evening — fireworks!

Where: Tempe Beach Park, 80 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe
When: December 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (parade at 7 p.m., fireworks at 8:45 p.m.)
Cost: Free
More info: http://www.downtowntempe.com/events/boat-parade

– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org