A Warm Winter’s Glow: Arizona’s Holiday Light Displays

By: Elena Acoba

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June 30, 2011

Experience comfort and joy at several spectacular light presentations around Arizona.

About the author

Elena Acoba

Elena Acoba

Since moving to Tucson in 1988, freelance writer Elena Acoba has enjoyed traveling to the four corners of Arizona. Her favorites spots in her adopted state: the natural wonders and the rich historical sights.

Twinkling stars in an indigo sky make an Arizona evening magical year-round. But travelers will feel a special glow during the winter holidays from the state’s many brilliant light displays and the events that surround them.

Luminarias: A Southwest holiday icon

Spanish colonists brought luminarias to Arizona. While stores stock strings of plastic ones, only the real thing – a lighted candle nestled in sand inside a paper bag – will do for proper holiday celebrations.

  • Phoenix 

Las Noches de las Luminarias at the sprawling Desert Botanical Garden casts serene light on the garden’s renowned desert plant collection, entertainment areas and a temporary skating rink.

  • Sedona

You can help the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village light the 6,000 luminarias that glow during its Festival of Lights. Dozens of local music groups perform.

  • Tubac

Resident artists of Tubac add their own artful light creations to the hundreds of luminarias set out for Luminaria Nights-Fiesta de Navidad.

  • Tucson

Tucson Botanical Gardens is aglow during Luminaria Nights with candles along paths and lights strung around plants. The former mid-20th-century homestead is transformed into a shimmering backdrop for holiday music and refreshments.

Communities: Hometown holidays

Neighborhoods get into the spirit with glowing expressions.

  • Glendale

Twelve blocks of historic downtown light up for the big Glendale Glitters festival. Additional highlights include visits with Santa, live entertainment and – for the finale in January – a spectacular tethered hot air balloon glow.

  • Lake Havasu City

London Bridge and the nearby London Bridge Resort and English Village shine brightly with lights that dance on the waters of the channel. The magical sight sets the stage for an annual boat parade and other community gatherings.

  • Mesa

The Arizona Temple offers a bright gift on its beautiful grounds. Impressive Christmas light displays highlight life-sized religious scenes. Church choir performances and an exhibit of mangers from around the world add to the nightly festivities.

  • Phoenix

White lights enhance the silhouettes of saguaros, ocotillos and other native plants during the Festival of Lights events by the community of Ahwatukee. Drive along Chandler Boulevard between 24th Street and Desert Foothills Parkway to enjoy the glow.

  • Prescott

“Arizona's Official Christmas City” celebrates the holiday season with many events and activities. Among these, is the lighting of the historic Courthouse Plaza with a million lights. This annual celebration also includes a festive and elaborate parade through downtown Prescott along with carols and other festivities.

  • Tucson

When a neighborhood’s main street is Christmas Avenue, you’d expect a major winter holiday celebration. Winterhaven doesn’t disappoint in its Festival of Lights, when dozens of well-above-average home displays are bathed in lights twinkling from the canopies of towering trees.

Zoos: Wild winter walks

Natural and exotic landscapes provide some of the best places in which to string lights that celebrate the holidays.

  • Phoenix

When animals leave the public eye each evening at the Phoenix Zoo during ZooLights, 2.5 million lights turn on, including bulbs that shape and animate 500 glowing animal and nature sculptures. The nights also offer wagon, carousel and camel rides, plus a dancing-tree show timed to music.

  • Prescott

Real animals and sculpted ones combine for magical WildLights at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. Paths lead to displays, animated light sculptures and special attractions.

  • Tucson

After Reid Park Zoo puts the live animals away each night, it illuminates miles of lights, including some that create and shine on animal-themed scenes. Zoo Lights fun includes falling faux snow, jingling bells and refreshments.

Shelter: Winter wonderland retreat

Twinkling trees, lighted buildings and special events create a warm holiday stay.

  • Flagstaff

Snow and a million lights on Little America Hotel’s pine trees and other spaces create a festive setting. A community lighting ceremony kicks off its season.

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