Families and Kids

Spend the Holiday Season in Tempe, Arizona

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.

World of Illumination

November 20, 2019-January 5, 2020
Tempe Diablo Stadium, 2200 W. Alameda Dr., Tempe, AZ 85282
For the third year, World of Illumination will return to Tempe Diablo Stadium 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 will 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.

Downtown Tempe

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

Fantasy of Lights Opening Night Parade
November 29, 2019 | Parade begins at 6 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. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. with live entertainment at Centerpoint Plaza, as well as local artists and vendors selling hundreds of hand-crafted items at the Holiday Market. The parade will depart from Mill Ave. and Third St. at 6 p.m.

Tempe Festival of the Arts – December 6-8, 2019 | 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 350 artists. Admission is free.

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade – December 14, 2019 | parade begins at 7 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. Live entertainment and the Holiday Market begin at 4 p.m. Don’t miss your chance for a selfie with Santa!

6th Street Market – Sundays November 3, 2019 through April 5, 2020 | 10 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, food purveyors, live music, and community right in the heart of Downtown Tempe at the popular 6th Street Park surrounding City Hall. Free parking is available at the City Hall Garage or at the meters in downtown. Visit the event schedule page for a complete list of market dates and scheduled entertainment.

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.

Santa Photo Experience at Arizona Mills – November 9 – December 24, 2019
Eager children and their families can experience the joy and magic of the holiday season with a visit to the Simon® Santa Photo Experience at Arizona Mills. Children can whisper wishes and capture photo memories with Santa from November 9 through December 24, 2019.

Private Screening of Arctic Dogs – Saturday, November 16 | 9 a.m.
Head to Arizona Mills on Saturday, November 16 at 9 a.m. in the Food Court for a free screening of Arctic Dogs for children 12 or younger who bring a donation of an unwrapped toy for The Salvation Army Christmas Angels program (the cost of admission for the accompanying adult is $6.00).  Admission is limited to the first 400 registrants. Plus enjoy photos with Santa and The Grinch (discounted photo packages will be available for purchase), meet & greet with life-sized LEGO® characters, goodies, crafts and more. Register for this event early – space is limited!

Rainforest Cafe presents Breakfast with Santa – Sunday, December 22, 2019 | 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Meet Santa and Cha! Cha! at the Rainforest Cafe and come enjoy their new waffle and omelette bar along with the traditional favorites: breakfast buffet, games and fun activities and much more!

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 27, 2019 | 6:30-8:00 p.m.: Get in the spirit of the holiday season with a professional ice skating performance, followed by the official lighting of a 60-foot holiday tree and the first magical snowfall of the season. Event held at The District Stage near Dave & Buster’s and H&M.

Nightly Snow Fall – November 27-December 31: Watch as snow magically falls from the sky, transforming Tempe Marketplace into a winter wonderland. Every night at 7 & 8 p.m. Plus, on Christmas Eve watch it snow every hour on the hour! (Excludes for Thanksgiving and Christmas). Event held at The District Stage near Dave & Buster’s and H&M.

Holiday Skating from November 29-December 1, 2019: Enjoy free holiday skating near Dave & Buster’s for children 5 and older. Skates are provided, just bring socks! 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday & Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Event held at The District Stage near Dave & Buster’s and H&M.

Candy Cane Lane from December 2-31, 2019: Step into a delicious holiday dreamland by H&M and CPK that’s filled with larger-than-life lollipops, giant gingerbread men, candy canes, gumdrops, chocolate kisses and more. Event held at The District Stage near Dave & Buster’s and 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
Select evenings November 29-December 31, 2019 | 5:30-9:30 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 the enchanting glow of the Wild Rising exhibition. At almost every turn, enjoy entertainment groups. Also enjoy hot chocolate, warm-spiced apple cider and dining at the Patio Café, Dorrance Hall or Gertrude’s.

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.

ZooLights: Glow Wild
November 27, 2019-January 19, 2020 | Phoenix Zoo | 5:30-10:30 p.m. nightly
Join the Phoenix Zoo at the Valley’s brightest holiday tradition: ZooLights at The Phoenix Zoo. ZooLights: Glow Wild shines with millions of twinkling and dancing lights, a three-story-high holiday tree, live reindeer, a 200-foot long polar slide, photos with Santa, hundreds of glimmering light displays and lakeside music-in-motion shows. New this year, see animals in a whole new light with an amazing Wildlife Lantern Safari, featuring more than 60 creatures – all aglow!

Tempe Center for the Arts

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

Free Family Movies | December 7, 14 and 21, 2019 | 4:00 p.m.
Holiday traditions usually involve watching a few favorite movies and new this year, you can enjoy some beloved classics at the TCA for free. Watch A Christmas Story (December 7), The Muppet Christmas Carol (December 14) and a double feature of Rudolph and ELF (December 21). Along with the movies, on December 14 and 21, you can make a mythology-themed ornament in the Gallery from 3-4:30 p.m. On December 14 and 21 from 3-9 p.m., complete your shopping list at the Tempe Center for the Arts Holiday Art Boutique. You’ll find handmade holiday ornaments, jewelry, scarves, mosaics and much more from local artists.

Rhythmic Circus: Holiday Shuffle | December 14, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
Fresh off of the America’s Got Talent stage, four incredible tap dancers plus a seven-piece band will put a whole new spin on celebrating the holidays.

Lakeshore Music presents Beth Lederman and Jazz con Alma: A Winter Solstice Concert | December 21, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
Beth Lederman, a keyboardist and bandleader, combined her love of Latin and Brazilian music with her classical background to form her new group, Jazz Con Alma.

VoicePlay: Warm-Up | December 21, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
Don’t miss this entertaining five-member a cappella group. Their take on holiday classic songs combined with very funny theatrics and incredible voices will be entertaining for the whole family.

ASU Gammage

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

Holiday Choral Gala | December 6, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
ASU’s Arizona Statesmen, Barrett Choir, Concert Choir, Gospel Choir and Women’s Chorus perform holiday classics

The Forgotten Carols | December 13, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
See the charming story about the meaning of Christmas.

A Magical Cirque Christmas | December 26, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
See dazzling performers and cirque artists along with your favorite holiday music performed live at this family-friendly event.

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

Written Michael Martin


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