Things to do in Tempe during the holidays

Spend the holidays in Tempe, Arizona

Tempe, Arizona is one of the best spots to celebrate the magic of the holiday season. It’s not a snowy winter wonderland, but there are all kinds of festive events and activities that will get you in the holiday spirit. Whether you are looking for a fun date night idea or fun for the whole family, spending the holidays in Tempe offers endless possibilities.

Downtown Tempe

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

Downtown Tempe is a sight to be seen during the holidays. Trees are strung with holiday lights, and festive and fun events are held throughout the season. Downtown Tempe is the heart of this college town, where you will find tons of restaurants, bars, gift shops, specialty stores and more! For all there is to see and do this holiday season, visit the Downtown Tempe holiday website.

Second Sundays on Mill
November 13th | December 11th | Mill Avenue
Grab gifts for the entire family at Second Sundays! Second Sundays on Mill will enhance the heart of Tempe with a local market featuring a fantastic selection of Arizona-made goods. The event includes street performances, live music, outdoor fitness classes and outdoor games. 

Full Event Schedule:

  • November 13, 2022
  • December 11, 2022
  • January 8, 2023
  • February 12, 2023
  • March 12, 2023

Second Sundays on Mill
Second Sundays on Mill

World of Illumination
November 16, 2022 – January 1, 2023 | Tempe Diablo Stadium
Experience “The world’s largest animated drive-through light show” at World of Illumination. Grab your vehicle and drive through millions of lights on a trek down Candy Rush. This mile-long journey features millions of colorful lights and enchanting holiday music— a must see treat for the entire family.

World of Illumination in Tempe, Arizona
World of Illumination

Fantasy of Lights Street Parade + Tree Lighting
November 25, 2022 | Mill Avenue
‘Tis the season to explore downtown and savor the festive sights, sounds, and smells at the Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade on November 25th. 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!

Fantasy of Lights Parade & Holiday Market
Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade

Movies on the Field: Elf
December 2, 2022 | ASU Sun Devil Stadium
Bring a blanket, sit on the grass and enjoy your favorite holiday movie, ELF, on the big screen at Movies on the Field on December 2nd. Drink hot chocolate (plus extra marshmallows) as Sun Devil Stadium prepares for the holiday season with this goofy family movie.

Movies on the Field at ASU Sun Devil Stadium
Movies on the Field

Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts
December 2-4, 2022 | Mill Avenue
The Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts returns to Downtown Tempe, December 2nd through December 4th. 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 three days.

Tempe Festival of the Arts in Downtown Tempe
Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake
December 10, 2022 | Tempe Town Lake
Light up the night and be dazzled this holiday season at Tempe Town Lake on December 10th. The Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake is the Valley’s most unique holiday event and celebrated tradition. Enjoy holiday shopping, festive eats and treats, a dazzling boat parade featuring boats of all shapes and sizes and a spectacular fireworks show.

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade
Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake

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
November 23, 2022
Get in the spirit of the holiday season with a professional ice-skating performance, followed by the official lighting of their 60-foot holiday tree and the first magical snowfall of the season. Plus, Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be there for free pictures! The event is from 6-8 p.m.

Holiday Skating
November 23-27, 2022
Enjoy free holiday skating near Dave & Buster’s for children 5 and older. Skates are provided, just bring socks!

Nightly Snowfall 
November 23-December 31, 2022
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. Enjoy snowfalls every hour from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Christmas Eve (December 24th). Each show runs for about 10 minutes and is set to fun holiday music, perfect for the entire family to enjoy a touch of magical winter weather in the desert! 

Story Time with Mrs. Claus
December 3-10, 2022
Bring the kiddos for story time with Mrs. Claus outside Barnes & Nobel (near the fireplace) from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Tempe Marketplace Snowfall
Nightly Snowfall 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 of up to 70% off every day, plus great dining and entertainment options. Be sure to check out Arizona Mills on Black Friday (November 25th) at 6 a.m. for fantastic discounts throughout the mall, including stores like Nike Clearance Store, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret/PINK, Adidas Clearance Store, Bath & Body Works Outlet, Nautica Factory Store and more! Visit Arizona Mills website for extended holiday hours.

Salvation Army Christmas Angels
Beginning November 18, 2022
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 starting November 18th. 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. Last year, shoppers purchased gifts for more than 2,800 local children.

Santa’s Arrival
November 19, 2022
Santa’s arrival this year will include photos with The Grinch, plus music, games and more!  

  • The first 100 guests who arrive receive a FREE light-up Gift Box Ornament (while supplies last).
  • Guests who purchase a Santa Photo Package will get a gift valued at $10 (while supplies last).
  • Guests will also enjoy a FREE Grinch Fur Ornament craft (while supplies last).

Caring Santa
December 4, 2022
This is a reservation-based event scheduled for Sunday, December 4th, from 9-10:30 a.m. Arizona Mills will make the necessary adjustments to the environment to support the sensory, physical and other developmental needs of children of all abilities for this special event during private mall hours. Shoppers can visit the Arizona Mills website to RSVP beginning mid-October.

Arizona Mills

National Cookie Day
December 4, 2022
Arizona Mills is hosting a Cookie Giveaway at the Santa set on National Cookie Day, December 4th, starting at 12 p.m. (while supplies last).

Musical Performances
December 4, 2022
Celebrate the holiday season with musical performances by local school children the week of December 4th. An updated performance schedule will be available on the Arizona Mills website by mid-November.

Desert Botanical Garden

1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ 85008 | (480) 941-1225
This beautiful 140-acre outdoor garden features 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 1-31, 2022 (select dates)
Member’s only weekend: Dec. 1 – 4
Additional Dates: 9 -11, 15 – 18, 20 – 23, 26 -31

Experience the simplicity and beauty of Las Noches de las Luminarias this holiday season with 8,000 flickering luminarias and twinkling lights throughout the Desert Botanical Garden. Enjoy an evening filled with sparkling luminarias, musical performances, entertainment and holiday delights that line the Garden’s iconic trails for a picture-perfect night.

Las Noches de las Luminarias at DBG
Las Noches de las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden

Phoenix Zoo

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

November 23, 2022-January 15, 2023
ZooLights at The Phoenix Zoo, the Valley’s most cherished holiday tradition, is back with millions of twinkling lights, all new animal lanterns and light displays, an enhanced Santa experience and a brand new music and light show! PLUS, guest entry to ZooLights includes admission to Dinosaurs in the Desert, the not-to-be-missed dino-mite experience!

ZooLights at The Phoenix Zoo
ZooLights at The Phoenix Zoo | Photo Credit: Phoenix Zoo
Written Alicia Griffith

Alicia is an ASU Alumna and Tucson native who is unapologetically herself. When she is not sharing her passion for Tempe, she is a devoted dog mom and reality TV enthusiast who has a weakness for charcuterie boards and wine!

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