Families and Kids

Things to do in Tempe during the holidays

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 festive Christmas events and things to do this time of year. Below are just a few suggestions for holiday and Christmas 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.

World of Illumination

November 17, 2021-January 2, 2022
Tempe Diablo Stadium, 2200 W. Alameda Dr., Tempe, AZ 85282

World of Illumination has returned to Tempe Diablo Stadium with this year’s “Reindeer Road,” just in time for the holidays. World of Illumination is the world’s largest drive-through animated light show, synchronized to holiday music. Tempe’s event will feature a 500-foot long tunnel of lights. They also have a second location at Westgate in Glendale, AZ this year. Operating hours are Monday – Friday, 6-10 p.m., holidays and weekends, 6-11 p.m. NOTE: Online reservations are required.

World of Illumination
World of Illumination

Downtown Tempe

Located between College Ave. and Farmer Ave., University Dr. and Tempe Town Lake, Tempe, AZ 85281
(480) 355-6060

Around the holidays, Mill Avenue’s trees are strung with holiday lights through the New Year making it even more festive and fun. 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.

Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade
Friday, November 26, 2021
‘Tis the season to explore downtown and savor the festive sights, sounds, and smells at the Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade on November 26th. This event kicks off the magic of the season with a street parade, tree lighting ceremony, holiday market, live entertainment, Santa photos, and so much more!

Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts
December 3-5, 2021
The Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts returns to Downtown Tempe, December 3-5, 2021. This well-loved community event showcases unique and hand-made artwork from more than 350 artists. Festival-goers will also enjoy live entertainment, street performers, vendors, sponsor exhibits and entertainment booths over the course of three days.

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake
Saturday, December 11, 2021
Light up the night and be dazzled at the Valley’s most unique holiday event, the Tempe Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake on December 11th. Tempe Beach Park opens at 4 p.m. for holiday shopping, eats and drinks, and the boat parade starts at 6 p.m. The event concludes at 8 p.m. with fireworks.

Tempe Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade
Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade | Photo Credit Tim Hacker

Tempe Marketplace

2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 966-9338
Whether you’re looking for a place to be social, find the latest fashion trends, grab a bite to eat, listen to live music or just unwind, Tempe Marketplace is the place to meet up and have fun with friends and family.

Holiday Tree Lighting and First Snowfall – Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Get in the spirit of the holiday season with a professional ice-skating performance, followed by the official lighting of our 60-foot holiday tree and the first magical snowfall of the season. The event is from 6-8 p.m.

Nightly Snowfall – November 24-December 31, 2021
Watch as snow magically falls from the sky, transforming Tempe Marketplace into a winter wonderland – Every night at 7 & 8 p.m. near the District Stage. Plus, enjoy snowfalls every hour from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Holiday Skating – November 26-28, 2021
Enjoy free holiday skating near Dave & Buster’s for children 5 and older. Skates are provided, just bring socks!

Snowfall at Tempe Marketplace

Candy Cane Lane – November 24-December 31, 2021
Step into a delicious holiday dreamland that’s filled with larger-than-life lollipops, giant gingerbread men, candy canes, gumdrops, chocolate kisses and more. Take your sweet tooth to a whole new level and experience this edible-inspired art installation with nearly 100 treats, towering four-feet to eight-feet tall. Event held at The District Stage near Dave & Buster’s and H&M.

Starry + Bright Star Tunnel – November 24-December 31, 2021
Cozy up this season and stroll through a 40-foot long illuminated star tunnel and take that perfect photo for Instagram! Located in The District near the holiday tree and Dave & Buster’s.

Candy Cane Lane at Tempe Marketplace

Arizona Mills

5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 491-9700
Arizona Mills is the state’s largest family entertainment and outlet shopping destination with more than 185 stores at savings up to 70% off every day plus great dining and entertainment options.

Photos with Santa | November 18-December 24, 2021
Simon® is pleased to announce a safe and socially distanced Santa visit for families as part of the Simon Santa Photo Experience at Arizona Mills. Santa arrives on Thursday, November 18 and will be available until Christmas Eve. Reservations are highly recommended – Make a Santa photo reservations today!
NOTE: Santa and his helpers will be wearing masks throughout the duration of each visit.

‘Tis the Season for Pet Photos with Santa! | Sunday, December 5, 2021
Bring your pets to pose with Santa! Pet Photo night is hosted after mall hours and the set gets an extensive cleaning following the event to remove any potential risk to allergy sufferers.

Salvation Army Christmas Angels | November 18-December 22, 2021
To help make the holidays brighter for the less fortunate, Arizona Mills has partnered with the Salvation Army and Arizona’s Family to provide Christmas gifts to families in need. Help make Christmas brighter for a child by stopping by the Christmas Angel trees near H&M from November 18 – December 22 and take a tag off a tree, then find a gift from one of the 185 retailers in the mall and return the gift to the volunteers – they’ll take care of the rest!

Salvation Army Gift Wrapping | November 18-December 22, 2021
Relieve a little holiday stress by having all your gifts wrapped in one location while supporting a great cause! The Salvation Army’s gift wrapping station will be located near H&M.

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
December 3-31, 2021 | 5:30-10:30 p.m.
Be a part of this Southwestern holiday tradition. Each evening will feature more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags, thousands of white twinkle lights and new light displays. Bars selling holiday cocktails will be set up along the trails. Advance reservations are required.

DBG Las Noches de Las Luminarias by Adam Rodriguez

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.

Walk-Thru ZooLights
November 24, 2021-January 15, 2022 (on select nights) | 5:30-10:30 p.m. nightly
One of the Valley’s most cherished holiday traditions is back with millions of twinkling lights, dazzling animal sculptures and a Wildlife Lantern Safari. With expanded trails and new sights and sounds, ZooLights is bigger, brighter and better than ever!

Cruise ZooLights
Dates: November 29 & 30, 2021 and December 6 & 7, 2021
Early Bird: 5:30-7:30 P.M.
Night Owl: 7:30-9:30 P.M.
$75 per general vehicle
$60 per member vehicle

Phoenix Zoo ZooLights

Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick | November 23-December 31, 2020
7555 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85258 | (480) 656-9940

Celebrate the season with this unique and dazzling 1.2 mile drive thru light show experience! With more than 5 million lights, this treasured family holiday tradition is ready to dazzle with music instead of just traditional still displays. They invite you to load up your family and friends to watch the action of lights dancing to music all from the warmth of your car or one of our electric carriages! Purchase tickets in advance.

Written Amy Griglak

Originally from California, Amy loves to travel, go for runs, read all kinds of books, enjoy all things Disney, drink caramel macchiatos and explore new places and old favorites with her husband and two kiddos.