Hot air balloons
Glendale Glitters by David H Smith

Arizona Lights Up the Holidays

Arizona's holiday season gets a shiny boost with an array of lighting festivals and twinkling displays to delight individuals and families of all ages. Check the websites for individual dates and times.

Greater Phoenix Area

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade, Tempe
Since 1999, the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake features as many as 50 festively lighted boats of all sizes. After dark, more than a thousand luminarias brighten the sidewalks and paths of Tempe Beach Park. Following the parade, the annual tree lighting ceremony starts at Centerpoint Plaza with special guest Santa, who is later available for photos. Free. (December)

Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend, Glendale
The nighttime sky over Murphy Park lights up with 1.6 million twinkling lights as part of this annual tradition. Opening night activities frequently include holiday entertainment, food, crafts, children's wonderland and snow, and horse-drawn carriage rides. The display remains lit nightly through January. Free. (late November)

Festival of Lights, Globe-Miami
Held at Besh-Ba-Gowah Archeological Park, this annual festival features 2,800 glowing luminaries atop ancient ruin walls to light the way for visitors to celebrate the magic of the season. Entertainment provided by the famed Yellow Bird Dance Group and other musical performances. Free. (December)

Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix
Each night of Luminaria, the Desert Botanical Gardens come to life with the soft glow from more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags, thousands of white twinkle lights, and unexpected views of familiar spaces. Walk along the garden paths and be entertained by the sights and sounds of nine entertainment ensembles. Admission fee. (late November through December)

Lights of the World, Phoenix
The largest light and lantern festival in North America combines age-old Chinese tradition of lanterns with cutting-edge technology and lights. More than 60 lantern displays extend from 18 feet to 60 feet, showcasing features of different cultures and civilizations around the globe. There are also free carnival rides, games and daily acrobat performances. $14-18. Parking is $10. (November - January)

North Central Arizona

Electric Light Parade, Payson
This annual event travels down Historic Main Street, as a variety of businesses and families decorate floats, trucks, UTVs, motorcycles and more to wish everyone happy holidays. Free. (early December)

Courthouse Lighting & Ceremony, Prescott
Arizona's official Christmas City kicks off the season with a parade, followed by multiple seasonal activities and a lighting ceremony to cap off the evening. Activities include the Frontier Christmas Open House at Sharlot Hall Museum, the Christmas Indian Art Market at Smoki Museum, and a Jingle Bell 5K run. Ceremonies are free. Activities may have a fee to participate. (late November)

Candlelight Tours, Fort Verde State Historic Park
Enjoy the celebration of a Victorian Christmas with traditional candlelight tours. Re-enactors dressed in period clothing provide guided tours with hot chocolate and light refreshments. $4-7. (early December)

Southern Arizona

Lights of the World, Tucson
Like its counterpart in Phoenix, this light and lantern festival showcases more than 40 lantern displays highlighting different cultures and civilizations around the globe. Carnival rides, games, and daily acrobat performances or sea lions shows are included in admission. $15-18. Parking is $6. (late October - early January)

Winterhaven Festival of Lights, Tucson
The central Tucson neighborhood of Winterhaven adorns itself each holiday season with lavish lights and holiday décor. Tour the lights on a hayride wagon, bus trolley, a pedal-powered group bike, or on foot. The festival is free to attend, but donations are requested for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. (December)

Western Arizona

Boat Parade of Lights, Lake Havasu City
Decorated boats dolled up in their holiday best cruise through the Bridgewater Channel from Thompson Bay north, under the historic London Bridge, and back again. Spectators can gather along the channel to enjoy a night of bonfires and fun, the only time you'll see the Channel packed full of boats and boats in winter gear at night. Free. (early December)

Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade: Celebrating Yuma Agriculture
Yuma's favorite holiday tradition returns! This all-ages event features marching bands, floats and vehicles decorated with beautiful Christmas lights. Free. (December)

About the Author

Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.