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 14, 2020-January 3, 2021
Tempe Diablo Stadium, 2200 W. Alameda Dr., Tempe, AZ 85282

For the fourth year, World of Illumination has returned 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 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

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.

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.

Nightly Snow Fall – November 27-December 31, 2020: 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.

Candy Cane Lane – through December 31, 2020: 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 – through December 31, 2020: Safely 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.

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 27-December 24, 2020
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 Friday, November 27 and will be available for socially distanced visits until Christmas Eve. The Santa Photo Experience will be open on Monday – Saturday from 1 – 7 p.m. and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Things to know before you go:

  • Reservations are required. Make Santa reservations today.
  • For everyone’s safety, visiting Santa will be a socially distanced experience.
  • Santa and his helpers will be wearing masks throughout the duration of each visit.

Salvation Army Christmas Angels – November 19-December 23, 2020
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 19 – December 23 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 19-December 23, 2020
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 from November 19 – December 23.

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
November 27 and 28, December 4-6, 11-13, 17-23 and 26-31, 2020 | 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.

ZooLights: Together We All Shine
November 7, 2020-January 21, 2021 | Phoenix Zoo | 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, featuring 66 creatures — polar bears, mammoths, peacocks and more, all aglow. And this year, there’s a new way to feel the magic. Cruise ZooLights, the drive-thru experience that is not to be missed! With expanded trails and new sights and sounds, ZooLights is bigger, brighter and better than ever!

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.

Christmas Sweater 5K Run by Four Peaks Racing

Kiwanis Park North Soccer Field | 95 W. Baseline Rd., Tempe, AZ 85283

Race Date: Saturday, December 19, 2020
Race Start Time: 8:00 a.m.

Dig deep in your closet and pull out your finest Christmas Sweater. Don’t have a Christmas Sweater? Don’t sweat it, our event shirt will have you covered.

We are hopeful to bring this event to Arizona. However, we are prepared for yet another event cancellation due to the ever-evolving COVID situation. We will offer entry-fee refunds (does not include Active processing fees) if the event is cancelled. Please note that there will be no finisher medals or awards for the Christmas Sweater 5km 2020. There will also be no water stations on the course, athletes will need be prepared and bring enough fluids for their run. Visit event website for race cost, safety protocols and other event information.

Run from 2020 5K by Four Peaks Racing

Kiwanis Park North Soccer Field | 95 W. Baseline Rd., Tempe, AZ 85283

Race Date: Saturday, January 2, 2021
Race Start Time: 8:00 a.m.

Join us for The Run From 2020, a New Year’s run that is more about celebrating the back of 2020 than welcoming a new year. It’s been a rough year for all of us, so lets get together and say good riddance to 2020.

We are hopeful to bring this event to Arizona. However, we are prepared for yet another event cancellation due to the ever-evolving COVID situation. We will offer entry-fee refunds if the event is cancelled. Please note that there will be no finisher medals or awards for the Run from 2020 5km. There will also be no water stations on the course, athletes will need be prepared and bring enough fluids for their run. Visit event website for race cost, safety protocols and other event information.

Pedal Haus Brewery’s Ugly Sweater Party

Pedal Haus Brewery | 730 S. Mill Ave. #102, Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 314-2337

Ugly sweater parties have become a fan-favorite holiday celebration as people continually try to top each other to find the most unappealing garment. To add to the fun, Pedal Haus Brewery in Tempe is celebrating its five-year anniversary with an ugly sweater party on Dec. 16 with live music, an ugly sweater contest, happy hour pricing and decor to match.

The restaurant’s large patio makes it easy to socially distance. On Wednesday, Dec. 16 guests will hear live music by Evan Berg from 6 to 9 p.m., can partake in an ugly sweater contest with a grand prize of $50 to Pedal Haus and enjoy Happy Hour from 3 p.m. to close (10 p.m.). 

VIP tickets are available for $5 and include two drinks and a slice of birthday cake. All proceeds go to the Rob Dollar Foundation promoting cycling safety and drinking responsibly. 

Amy Griglak
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.

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