Spend the Holiday Season in Tempe, Arizona

Author: Michael Martin

Posted on: November 6, 2017
Last updated on: December 27th, 2017 at 3:13 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.

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

Bring your children to Arizona Mills for photos with Santa. He’ll be at the mall near the food court through December 24. Arizona Mills is a great place to find something for everyone on your list with more than a mile of outlet stores, retailers and entertainment venues.

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 24 | 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 – December 1-3, 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 225,000 visitors flock to Downtown Tempe to see the works from more than 350 artists. Admission is free.

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade – December 9 | 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, now – May 2017 | 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. | 6th Street Park
6th Steet and Mill Ave.
This new community market in Downtown Tempe features local artisans, food booths, and live music. 6th Street Market is every Sunday at the base of Tempe City Hall. 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: November 24-December 30 | 5:30 – 9:30 p.m.
The Garden will be illuminated and even more breathtaking with 8,000 hand-lit luminarias in addition to a multitude of musical groups who will perform throughout the event. Performers include the Mariachi Pasion & Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli, Run Boy Run, Traveler featuring Scott Jeffers, Simply Three, The Sugar Thieves, Salt River Brass Quintet and Yellow Bird and more.  Of course, Luminarias would not be complete without the Valley’s best handbell choirs. Stroll along the festively lit paths with hot chocolate in hand and get into the holiday spirit.

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 10 | 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 19 | 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 Boutique – December 1- 2 | 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 
Held during the Tempe Arts Festival, see all the beautiful and unique decorations and gifts!

Holiday Tea – December 9 | 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
One of the most popular shopping centers in the area, Tempe Marketplace has more than 1 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, making it the perfect destination to experience holiday cheer and check off your shopping list.

Holiday Tree Lighting  | November 22 | 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 22 – 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.

Holiday Skating |  November 24-26
Children 5 and over can “ice” skate near the tree. Skates are provided free of charge.

On Sunday, December 24, snow will fall every hour from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

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 22- January 14 | 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

Childsplay presents A Christmas Carol with Katie McFadzen | Fridays & various holiday performances December 1-24 | 7 p.m.
Using Dickens’s own immortal words, this one-woman tour-de-force will bring you the heartwarming story like you’ve never seen or heard it before! This famous Christmas message is sure to be just the sugarplum your family is looking for this holiday season.

Lakeshore Music presents Bob Ravenscroft Trio: The True Christmas | December 23 | 7:30 p.m.
Bob Ravenscroft, the widely-acclaimed  composer and jazz keyboardist, is all about a lifelong pursuit of making great jazz music and exploring new ground. He and his trio celebrate the holidays at the Tempe Center for the Arts with their popular multi-media performance of The True Christmas.

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

The Forgotton Carols | December 16 | 7:30 p.m.
Start the season off right with a beautiful story of the true meaning of Christmas staring Michael McLean.  Enjoy a night of wonderful music and the spirit of the holidays! The Forgotten Carols is the story of Constance, a rigid yet competent nurse, too practical to be bothered by Christmas. She is assigned to care for an aged gentleman with alleged psychiatric tendencies over the holiday season. With warmth and spunky kindness, John breaks through Constance’s iron-clad exterior as he walks her through the untold carols of the more “forgotten” characters in the Christmas story and guides the young nurse to the Christmas carol waiting to be sung inside her own heart.

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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