Spend the Holiday Season in Tempe, Arizona

Author: Michael Martin

Posted on: November 6, 2017
Last updated on: October 16th, 2018 at 4:38 pm


In my opinion, Tempe, Arizona is one of the best spots to get in the holiday spirit. It’s not a snowy winter wonderland, but there are all kinds of fun festive events. Below are just a few suggestions for holiday events in Tempe, but there are lots more to check out on the Tempe Tourism events page. Whether you are looking for a fun date night idea, or fun for the whole family, spending the holiday season in Tempe offers endless possibilities.

Illumination, Symphony of Light  | November 16-December 31, 2018
Tempe Diablo Stadium | 2200 W. Alameda Dr., Tempe, AZ 85282
Get into the holiday spirit at the country’s largest drive-through animated holiday light show experience. It’s called a Symphony because it is a masterpiece of art where millions of colors come to life, masterfully choreographed to your favorite holiday songs.  It is a place where the science of sound and sight come together to create a magical symphony of light. Operating hours are Monday-Thursday 6-10 p.m., Friday-Sunday & Holidays  6-11 p.m.

Arizona Mills
5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe AZ 85282 | (480) 491-9700

Other holiday fun includes:
Pet Photos with Santa –  November 19 | 6-7:30 p.m.
Story time, cookies and milk with Mrs. Claus – December 1 |  4-6 p.m.
Caring Santa is coming to Arizona Mills for children with special needs – December 3 | 9-11 a.m. Reserve your spot for a private photo experience.
Pet Photos with Santa –  December 10 | 6-7:30 p.m.

Downtown Tempe
Located between College Ave. and Farmer Ave., University Dr. and Tempe Town Lake, Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 350-6060
Downtown Tempe is the heart of this college town so it’s no wonder that there are tons of restaurants, bars, gift shops, specialty stores and more located within this popular area. Around the holidays, Mill Avenue’s trees are strung with holiday lights through the New Year making it even more festive and fun. Visit the Downtown Tempe website for more information on all of the festivities and events.

Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade – November 23, 2018 | 5-9 p.m. | Downtown Tempe
This annual tradition officially kicks off the holiday season in Tempe. Thousands of people gather in Downtown Tempe to enjoy a colorful parade, the lighting of the Christmas tree and a visit from Santa. Sixth Street Market vendors will fill up Centerpoint Plaza with hundreds of hand-crafted items including; jewelry, paintings, cosmetics and more!

Tempe Festival of the Arts – November 30-December 2, 2018 | 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. | Downtown Tempe
If you’re looking for unique gifts this holiday season, be sure to make your way to Downtown Tempe for the Tempe Festival of the Arts. One of Tempe’s most popular events, this festival continually ranks among the top art festivals in the nation. More than 250,000 visitors flock to Downtown Tempe to see the works from more than 300 artists. Admission is free.

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade – December 8, 2018 | 4  p.m. | Tempe Town Lake
80 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281
As many as 50 lighted boats of different sizes will grace the water at Tempe Town Lake to create a twinkling, magical sight for spectators followed by an incredible fireworks show. In addition, there will be food trucks, face painters, opportunities for selfies with Santa and more.

6th Street Market – Sundays through April 2018 | 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. | 6th Street Park, 6th Street and Mill Ave.
This weekly event is the perfect blend of local artisans and makers, live music, and community right in the heart of Downtown Tempe at the popular 6th Street Park surrounding City Hall. New this year, Food in Root will operate alongside 6th Street Market with 30-40 Arizona food producers. Free parking is available at the City Hall Garage or at the meters in downtown.

Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ 85008 | (480) 941-1225
This beautiful, 140-acre outdoor garden featuring the splendor of the desert with more than 50,000 plants. The Desert Botanical Garden also helps support artists and hosts many activities and festivals throughout the year, especially during the holidays.

Las Noches de las Luminarias – General Public Dates: Dec. 1 – 23 and 26 – 31, 2018 | 5:30 – 9:30 p.m.
e a part of this Southwestern holiday traditionThis year will be more vibrant in sound and light than ever, as Electric Desert | A Light and Sound Experience by Klip Collective sets the stage for holiday magic at the Garden for 29 nights. Each evening will feature more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags, thousands of white twinkle lights and the pulse of Electric Desert. At almost every turn, be greeted by the sights and sounds of nine entertainment ensembles and engaging experiences. The Garden Shop will be open each night of Luminarias and is the ideal place to find unique gifts. Dinner is also available for purchase at either the Patio Café or Gertrude’s.

Hackett House
95 W. 4th St., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 350-8181
The Hackett House is a Tempe historical landmark specializing in one-of-a-kind treasures, afternoon teas, cooking classes and Chocolate Happy Hour. This season, their holiday-themed tea parties are fun for both adults and kiddos.

Chocolate Happy Hour and Holiday Boutique | November 9, 2018 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Celebrate the beginning of the holidays with sweets, savories, drinks and shopping for beautiful holiday decorations and ornaments.

Nutcracker Tea – November 18, 2018 | 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
Hackett House will partner with the Southwest Youth Ballet to present an unforgettable Nutcracker Tea with costumed dancers interacting with the children. Costumes are encouraged. Tea is served from 1-3 p.m. and includes delicious sweets and savories.

Holiday Tea – December 8, 2018 | 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Bask in those last minutes of tranquility before the holiday season gets even more hectic with a quiet afternoon of sipping tea.

Tempe Marketplace
2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 966-9338

Holiday Tree Lighting  | November 21 | 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Kick off the holidays in style during the Holiday Lighting and First Snowfall. See a professional ice skating performance in the faux ice rink, located near The District Stage. Watch the massive 60-foot tree light up for the first time, followed by the first magical snowfall of the season.

Nightly Snow Fall  | November 21 – December 31 (excluding Thanksgiving & Christmas Day)
Experience snowfall every night at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. near the District Stage! Watch as snow magically falls from the sky, transforming Tempe Marketplace into a winter wonderland. On Monday, December 24, snow will fall every hour from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Holiday Skating |  November 23-25
Children 5 and over can “ice” skate near the tree. Skates are provided free of charge.

Phoenix Zoo
455 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ 85008 | (602) 286-3800
One of the nation’s largest non-profit zoos, Phoenix Zoo is the home to more than 1,000 animals.

ZooLights – November 21, 2018- January 13, 2019 | 5:30-10:30 p.m. nightly
Each year, Phoenix Zoo opens its doors in the evenings to showcase the amazing holiday light displays within the facility. Visitors to the Zoo can enjoy millions of holiday lights and displays, a three-story Christmas tree, snowfall nightly at 7 p.m., photos with Santa and lakeside music-in-motion shows.

Tempe Center for the Arts
700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 350-2822

A Christmas Carol, a co-presentation with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company | December 6-23, 2018
This spectacular Broadway musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol, follows Ebenezer Scrooge as he takes a ghost-guided, eye-opening journey through his past, present and future to learn the importance of family & friendship. Filled with lively song and dance, stunning sets and costumes, it will leave you and yours wrapped in the joy of the season. You don’t want to miss this holiday classic of hope, love and redemption.

Lakeshore Music presents A Very Jerry Christmas | December 22, 2018 | 7:30 p.m.
Two Valley jazz legends, saxophonist Jerry Donato and pianist Nicole Pesce, collaborate to headline a special holiday concert. The celebration includes vocalist Vicki McDermitt and guitarist Mike Eldred, along with Bob Lashier on bass and John Lewis on drums.

ASU Gammage
1200 S Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 965-3434

2018 K-LOVE CHRISTMAS | December 14 | 7:00 p.m.
The K-Love Christmas tour is back for 2018! Join us along with Big Daddy Weave, Kim Walker Smith of Jesus Culture, Brandon Heath, and Sarah Reeves for an amazing night as we prepare our hearts for Christmas.  A night of Christmas songs you love to sing as we celebrate the birth of our Savior!

MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS | December 27, 2018 | 7:30 p.m.
MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS by Chip Davis has been America’s favorite holiday tradition for over 30 years! Grammy Award winner Chip Davis has created a show that features Mannheim Steamroller Christmas classics along with a selection of compositions from Chip’s groundbreaking Fresh Aire series which introduced the distinctive Mannheim sound to all of America.

For even more things to do, visit the Tempe Tourism event calendar or call us at 800-283-6734.

Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden

Las Noches de las Luminarias

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade

Tempe Marketplace tree lighting and snowfall

Tempe Marketplace


2 thoughts on “Spend the Holiday Season in Tempe, Arizona

  1. Jimmy says:

    I just wanted to shoot a quick note and say thank you for sharing this info. I was looking for an arts festival in tempe for my family to enjoy and this was the perfect resource.

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