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Scottsdale Christmas Activities and Winter Holiday Events

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The holiday season is brimming with merry activities in the Valley of the Sun, especially with this array of festive Scottsdale Christmas events. Celebrate the season with lights displays, kid-friendly amusements, special dining experiences, and other revelry. Enjoy a jolly season with these 20 things to do during the winter holidays in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This story is brought to you in partnership with Experience Scottsdale.

Sunset and Christmas lights in Scottsdale, AZ

Sunset and holiday lights at Christmas at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2020 Scottsdale Christmas Activities

The party rocks on in 2020, with some safety modifications. No matter which of these Scottsdale Christmas activities and winter holidays events you choose to attend, be sure to wear a mask, keep at least six feet of social distance, and regularly wash hands or use antibacterial gel. And, of course, if you’re feeling under the weather or have been exposed to illness, please do stay home. The best kind of holiday is a safe holiday!

Frosty's Ferris Wheel, Christmas Carousel and one of many fire pits in S'moresland at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Frosty’s Ferris Wheel, Christmas Carousel and one of many fire pits in S’moresland at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess transforms into a fantastical winter wonderland each November and December. Start with a spin on an outdoor ice skating rink surrounded by palm trees. Then, enjoy amusements in S’moresland including Frosty’s Ferris Wheel and a Christmas Carousel. My tween and teen especially loved the zippy Polar Ice Slide tubing hill. All ages appreciate Princess Express “train” tours, which carry riders through impressive lights displays. 

Outdoor ice skating rink at Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Outdoor ice skating rink at Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Holiday drinks, dishes and desserts are available throughout the expansive resort grounds. Order meals like the Crispy Chicken Schnitzel or Winter Apple Salad at The Lodge. Wash it down with a Good Tidings cocktail, similar to a Cosmopolitan with a spiced Christmas flare. At Mrs. Claus Cookies, choose from a tempting assortment of cookies and campfire pies or warm up with hot cuppa with alcohol or without. Purchase a s’mores kit from any of the resort’s snack stops. Then, pull up a seat at one of the numerous fire pits for roasting marshmallows.

Good Tidings cocktail, made with vodka, Cointreau, citrus, cranberry, and All Spice Dram at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Good Tidings cocktail, made with vodka, Cointreau, citrus, cranberry, and All Spice Dram (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Christmas at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess runs November 20 through December 31 in 2020. My advice: go early in the evening for less crowds and shorter lines!

A decorated full-sized train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, AZ

A decorated full-sized train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park Holiday Lights

The annual McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park Holiday Lights is a magical experience with lots of light displays, twinkling tunnels, and even “snow”! Climb aboard miniature Paradise Pacific Railroad for a sparkling tour of the North Pole. Trains are loaded at 50 percent capacity for safety’s sake in 2020. It’s always a good idea to buy tickets for this event in advance, but it’s mandatory this year.

The Charro Carousel at Scottsdale's McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

The Charro Carousel at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kids will also love a large playground with plenty of slides and climbing structures as well a smaller Old West-themed play area at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. If visiting the park with young children, then a spin on the Charros Carousel is a must no matter the season. This event runs November 27, 2020 through January 3, 2021.

Scottsdazzle Tree Lighting Ceremony festivities

Scottsdazzle Tree Lighting Ceremony festivities (Photo credit: Christine Johnson for City of Scottsdale)

3. Scottsdazzle in Old Town Scottsdale

There’s so much merriment to be had at Scottsdazzle, I really could write a whole guide just to this holiday extravaganza in Old Town Scottsdale! It runs November 27, 2020 through January 1, 2021. Discover the wonders of Scottsdazzle below and learn more at Scottsdazzle.com.

Holiday Art Activities

Artistic activities abound at Scottsdazzle. Canal Convergence, an annual two-week event, kicks things off in November with lights and impressive art installations throughout Old Town. Both Scottsdazzle Stroll and Gold Palate Artwalk provide perfect opportunities to enjoy the area’s numerous art galleries. Plus, for hands-on creativity, sign up to make your own art at the Merry Make & Take craft-making classes at the Scottsdale Civic Center or the Holly Jolly Painting Party on the Marshall Way Bridge.

A 2019 Canal Convergence public art installation at Scottsdazzle in Old Town Scottsdale

A 2019 Canal Convergence public art installation (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Holiday Movie Nights

Groups of up to four can select a safely spaced, designated spot to enjoy holiday film classics on a giant inflatable screen on three nights in December. This year, movie goers will watch The Santa Claus, Elf, or Home Alone on the East Lawn of the Scottsdale Civic Center. Advanced registration required.

Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market and Letters to Santa

On Sundays, shop for handmade gifts and fresh produce at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market while listening to live holiday music. In 2020, Santa Claus is following social-distancing guidelines at the Letters to Santa station at the market. This is where children can fill out their holiday wish lists. Participants will receive a letter back from Santa in the old-fashioned mail. What a treat! Click here to send your letter without leaving home.

Sparkle & Spin Scavenger Hunt

For a fun (and competitive!) way to explore Old Town Scottsdale, register for the seasonal Sparkle & Spin Scavenger Hunt.

Pose with a gingerbread man in Old Town Scottsdale during Scottsdazzle

Pose with a gingerbread man in Old Town Scottsdale during Scottsdazzle (Photo credit: Christine Johnson Photography for City of Scottsdale)

Holiday Yoga

Stay fit this holiday season with two Scottsdazzle yoga events. Yuletide Yoga and Sun Salutations Yoga both offer social-distanced sessions outdoors. 

Scottsdazzle Food and Wine Events

Taste the spirit of the season at Scottsdazzle. Foodies make their own charcuterie boards at the Seasonal Charcuterie Teach & Taste. Or, enjoy a Festive Food Demonstration presented by the Saguaro Scottsdale Hotel‘s La Señora chef. Meanwhile, spirited revelers are encouraged to dress as their favorite holiday characters before sipping their way through participating tasting rooms in Santa Wine Around. 

The Nutcracker by Ballet Arizona

The Nutcracker by Ballet Arizona (Photo courtesy of Experience Arizona)

4. Nutcracker Ballet by Ballet Arizona

According to Alistair Macaulay of the New York Times, “Ballet Arizona’s ‘Nutcracker’ is one of the three finest productions of the nearly 20 I’ve seen across America.” Experience the magic of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet from the comfort of your home or hotel in 2020.

The Nutcracker Suite digital performance is available to stream on December 12 and December 19. Along with the Ballet Arizona abridged version of the classic holiday dance performance, paying streamers can upgrade tickets to receive a Nutcracker Christmas ornament, a four-pack of cookies from Noms Bake Shop, a pair of autographed Ballet Arizona pointe shoes or dancer photo, a Nutcracker coloring book, and more.

Glowing giraffes at the Phoenix Zoolights

Glowing giraffes at Phoenix ZooLights (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Phoenix ZooLights

For a dazzling holiday lights display, reserve tickets for the beloved Phoenix ZooLights. Zoo goers will be treated to millions of twinkling lights and a multitude of glowing animal sculptures. Hot cocoa and other treats like kettle corn are available for purchase. Walk through lighted zoo paths, or book one of the special drive-through-only Cruise Nights in 2020. In addition to member preview nights, ZooLights runs November 7, 2020 through January 31, 2021.

Santa underwater at Odysea Aquarium

Santa underwater at OdySea Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Winter Waterland at OdySea Aquarium

The OdySea Aquarium at Arizona Boardwalk gets a holiday makeover between November 27, 2020 and January 3, 2021. The aquarium’s Winter Waterland features holiday decorations and a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt for kids. Additionally, Voyager, the world’s only rotating aquarium exhibit, is narrated by Santa as it spins through four separate watery habitats that feature animals like sea lions and sharks. The best part, though, is seeing Santa himself underwater in the Deep Ocean Theater at designated times.

A Blue Morpho butterfly on a snowflake decoration at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale

A Blue Morpho butterfly on a snowflake decoration at Butterfly Wonderland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Christmas in the Rainforest at Butterfly Wonderland

Also located at the Arizona Boardwalk entertainment center, Butterfly Wonderland hosts Christmas in the Rainforest November 29 through December 28, 2020. Look for seasonal decorations like snowflakes, Christmas trees, and Santa’s reindeer. Also, listen for beautiful live violin performances on select dates during the holiday season.

Treats at the Phoenician Holiday Tea in Scottsdale, Arizona

Treats at The Phoenician Holiday Tea (Photo credit: The Phoenician)

8. Holiday Tea at The Phoenician

For an upscale traditional English afternoon tea with a holiday twist, reserve a table for Holiday Tea at the sumptuous Phoenician. Celebrate the season surrounded by the magic of their beautifully decorated lobby while listening to live holiday piano music.

Included are finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and preserves, pastries, a selection of teas, and a holiday gift for all attendees. Make your teatime even more festive by adding a glass of bubbly. The Phoenician will happily provide gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian menus with 24-hour advance notice. Holiday Tea service starts on November 27, 2020.

My family with Santa, Buddy the Elf, and Jovie at the 2019 Arizona Broadway Company's Elf the Musical

My family with Santa, Buddy the Elf, and Jovie at the 2019 Arizona Broadway Company’s Elf the Musical (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

9. Holiday-Themed Live Theater Performances

Most years, holiday theater performances abound in Scottsdale and Phoenix. Of course, 2020 is no regular year and live plays are limited. It’s an annual tradition for my family to watch It’s a Wonderful Life at Scottsdale’s Don Bluth Front Row Theater, where every seat is a good seat because of this venue’s petite size. Last year, we also loved Arizona Broadway Theatre‘s performance of Elf The Musical in Peoria.

The show goes on, though, even in 2020. Theater enthusiasts will be happy to know that tickets are on sale for A Christmas Carol on an outdoor stage at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix. Also, Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre is offering social-distanced seating for their performances of the beloved classic, A Christmas Story.

Las Noches de la Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden

Las Noches de la Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden (Photo credit: Desert Botanical Garden)

10. Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden 

Wander through the beautiful Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix with 8,000 glowing luminaries lighting the pathways. Typically, visitors can expect live holiday music as they explore. This year, however, all music will be prerecorded for safety reasons. Las Noches de la Luminarias takes place on select days, November 27 through December 31, 2020.

Drive-through Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, AZ

Drive-through Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields (Photo credit: Salt River Fields)

11. Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields

Debuting in 2020, Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort and Casino provides a safe way to experience the wonder of a sparkling lights display. Five million lights will greet Yuletide revelers along 1.2 miles that encircles the award-winning Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields opens on November 23 and continues through December 31, 2020. 

Snowland at Scottsdale Great Wolf Lodge

Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge (Photo credit: Great Wolf Lodge)

12. Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge Arizona

Children will adore Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge Arizona. Hotel guests enjoy photos with Santa, holiday story times, kid-friendly yoga sessions, and prepackaged winter-themed craft kits. The whole family is invited to rock out to holiday music around the Christmas tree in the lobby during Snowland Snowball Dance Parties. Miss snow in Scottsdale at Christmas? Great Wolf Lodge Arizona provides a magical indoor snowfall. Snowland takes place November 29, 2020 through January 2, 2021.

Scottsdale Segway Tours Christmas Tour

Scottsdale Segway Tours Christmas Tour (Photo courtesy of Experience Scottsdale)

13. Holiday Lights Segway Tours

For a unique way to take in the glow of the holidays, sign up for a Segway lights tour of Old Town Scottsdale. Segway of Scottsdale‘s Christmas Lights Tour includes holiday lights wrapped around each Segway and a hot chocolate stop mid-way through the ride. Segways are decorated with Christmas lights, too, on the Scottsdale Segway Tours Old Town Holiday Lights Tour.

Menorah lighting

Expect a much bigger menorah at Chabad of Scottsdale’s lightings (Photo credit: slidezero, Depositphotos.com)

14. Chabad of Scottsdale Menorah Lightings

Celebrate the Festival of Lights at two free menorah lighting events hosted by Chabad of Scottsdale. Both Chanukah celebrations feature a giant menorah lighting, live music, and chocolate gelt. Light Up the Night takes place at Market Street at DC Ranch on December 22, 2020. Then, Chanukah Light takes place on December 23, 2020 at Scottsdale Quarter outdoor shopping center.

Winter Wonderland Arizona Residential Holiday Lights in Scottsdale, AZ

Winter Wonderland Arizona Residential Holiday Lights (Photo credit: WinterWonderlandAZ.com)

15. Winter Wonderland Arizona Residential Holiday Lights Display

Find 250,000 digitally computerized lights, faux snowfall and bubbles on display at this Scottsdale home owned by serious holiday lovers. Look for an Old Western Christmas Town complete with a mine shaft, tunnel and Christmas window on the side of the house. In the backyard, there’s an Island of Misfit Toys. Winter Wonderland Arizona is free to the public but a suggested $5 donation is appreciated. This amazing light display runs every night December 7 to 31, 2020. Please park on Granite Reef.

Christmas tree and holiday lights at Scottsdale Quarter

Christmas tree and holiday lights at Scottsdale Quarter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

16. Scottsdale Holiday Shopping

Scottsdale is a shopper’s paradise, particularly during the holiday season. Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter outdoor shopping districts get dolled up with lights and trees galore. Meanwhile, the indoor Scottsdale Fashion Square’s 240 retail stores and restaurants offer darling Christmas décor and deals aplenty. Additionally, find unique artwork plus Southwest and Arizona-themed gifts and ornaments in Old Town Scottsdale.

Santa Claus at Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Santa Claus at Christmas at the Princess (Photo credit: Fairmont Scottsdale)

17. Photos with Santa in Scottsdale 

Kids and kids-at-heart can meet with Santa Claus at locations throughout Scottsdale. Look for contactless photos with Santa in 2020 at Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter, Scottsdale Fashion Square, and Biltmore Fashion Park. Make reservations in advance at WhereIsSanta.com. Also, you can find the jolly old elf at Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

Celebrate the holiday season in Scottsdale with a special meal

Celebrate the holiday season in Scottsdale with a special meal (Photo credit: shalamov, Depositphotos.com)

18. Special Christmas Menus at Scottsdale Restaurants

Celebrate Christmas with a holiday menu at restaurants throughout Scottsdale. Kick off Christmas morning with a memorable brunch or make a reservation for dinner at Hearth 61 at Mountain Shadows for specialties like lobster bisque, prime rib, and butterscotch pecan pie. For a festive at-home treat, order a Christmas Takeaway Brunch from the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, complete with maple bourbon-glazed ham, garlic and butter whipped potatoes, caramel apple crostata and more. Take a look at additional Christmas dining options in Scottsdale.

Santa Pub Crawl with masks

Follow community safety guidelines if you choose to participate in the Scottsdale Santa Crawl (Photo credit: Ladanifer, Depositphotos.com)

19. Scottsdale Santa Crawl

Each year, revelers don their ugly Christmas sweaters and other festive garb to make merry in Old Town Scottsdale during the Scottsdale Santa Crawl. Tickets include admission to participating bars, three penny ($.01) drink vouchers, a Santa hat, and drink specials. This year’s Santa Crawl is scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 12. Ticket holders will be notified via email if the event is cancelled due to community health concerns.

Ringing in 2021 safely in Scottsdale

Ringing in 2021 safely (Photo credit: macniak, Depositphotos.com)

20. Scottsdale New Year’s Eve Parties

For New Year’s Eve, several Scottsdale restaurants are offering multi-course prix fixe meals. Fat OX welcomes children with a menu of their own. For adults, they’re serving a Champagne toast plus delectable choices like scallops or prime filet and sweet endings like Meyer lemon tart or Frangelico tiramisu. Or, after a three-course meal at ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho, expect a DJ-hosted dance party complete with a Veuve Clicquot toast at midnight. Discover more ways to celebrate the New Year in Scottsdale.

Old Town Scottsdale fountain

Old Town Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More

Scottsdale offers all sorts of fun, no matter the time of year. Take a look at my tips for visiting Scottsdale in summer. Find even more reasons to love the Valley of the Sun with this list of fun things to do in Scottsdale with kids. Get additional help to plan your Scottsdale vacation from the experts at Experience Scottsdale.

Want to explore more of Arizona? Discover the charms of Arizona’s Christmas City in my guide to Prescott.

Learn Arizona history and explore the state’s natural beauty with a visit to Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments.

Festive Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona During the Holidays

Save these Scottsdale Christmas Events

For future reference, save this list things to do in Scottsdale during the holiday season. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Which of these Scottsdale holiday events appeals most to you? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: I will receive monetary compensation related to this story from Experience Scottsdale. I also accepted complimentary admission to Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, OdySea Aquarium, and Butterfly Wonderland. All opinions are mine, as always.

 
About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Kevin Brotac says

    A wonderful list, full of holiday activities. It is great to see so many activities available for the holidays, after spending a lot of time at home, being able to enjoy some nice things to do outside it great! Definitely planing a trip to Scottsdale this christmas!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      It’s so nice to have so many outdoor activities with social distancing measures in place. Really, I felt safe at all of the events I attended in-person. Enjoy your trip to Scottsdale!

  2. I have no idea Scottsdale has so many Christmas activities to offer. I would love to plan a trip there. It would be great for kids to receive mail from Santa too.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Julie- You can get your letter from Santa without visiting Scottsdale, too. Fill out the form online and your kids can experience the magic from home!

  3. Shannon Walters says

    I’ve got to get to the Botanical Gardens this year for the holidays. Have never done that!

  4. Christine Weis says

    Wow, there are so many fun things to do that are right up my alley for the holiday season. Thank you for sharing this wonderful list of activities. Sofun!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      In researching this blog post, I was really surprised by just how much there is to do during the holiday season in Scottsdale! Glad you like our list!

  5. May De Jesus-Palacpac says

    I love the idea of being able to skate outdoors. Here, the rink is inside the malls.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      So much more fun to skate outside! I hope you can come experience Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess someday!

  6. Sayed Williams says

    Wow! Scottsdale looks awesome during the holiday season! I’d really like to checkout the food there.

  7. Anngelic.com says

    I love a good light festival and this looks great! I was hoping to get to travel to some good christmas market this year, but it will have to wait until 2021, keeping my fingers crossed!

  8. Emily Fata says

    Oh man, what I would do too be able to travel to places like this right about now! I’ve been itching for a new adventure.

  9. Gervin Khan says

    Nice place and I am glad that you were able to enjoy your holiday in that place.. Keep safe!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Thanks, Gervin! I actually live in Scottsdale, which made researching these holiday activities fun AND easy!

  10. Emman Damian says

    Wow! I haven’t been to Scottsdale yet! There’s so much to do! Wow!

  11. yudith napitupulu says

    wow such a beautiful holidays trip. Specially the sky at Christmas at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. It’sire look like fire over the sky. I would love to visit Scottsdale. Too many beautiful things there need to see.

  12. Veronika Sykorova says

    So many great things to do! I love Christmas!

  13. Knycx Journeying says

    Wow, there are so many things to see and do in the holidays given that we do not have much chance to move around this year. I love the weather in December in Arizona and thanks a lot for all the suggestions! – Knycx journeying

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