Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sneak Peak at I Heart AZ's 2014 Big Holiday Guide: Events

We have been working hard to finish our 2014 Holiday Guide and wanted to give you a little Thanksgiving Day present: a sneak peak at our Calendar of Events section.  We hope you enjoy and subscribe below so that you can receive the full guide on Monday in your e-mail inbox!  The guide will be complete with snow day ideas, a buy local guide, listing of holiday concerts and theater, a guide to Christmas light displays in the valley, Christmas farms and more.  Remember to subscribe here.

Click here to subscribe to the full guide!

Calendar of Events

Arizona Big Train Operators Open House Tours (Valleywide)
SATURDAYS – SUNDAYS, DECEMBER 13 – 14 and 20 – 21
This is an event Marily's family enjoys visiting every year. Model train enthusiasts open their backyard train displays to the public for viewing. Take your little (or big) train enthusiasts on a tour from one house to the next.  This adds some fun stops if you are out looking at Christmas lights for the night.  Bring a few dollars to donate.

Skateland (Mesa, Chandler) and Great Skate (Glendale) Winter Activities
Check out the schedules at Skateland in Mesa or Chandler and Great Skate for some fun holiday activities and things to do during winter break. Look for special events and winter discounts, skating with Santa, and more.  We appreciate that the folks at Skateland that make it a fun outing.  Click here for deals on admission.

Central Valley

ZOOLights at the Phoenix Zoo
Open 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM every night through JANUARY 11
This event is not only one of our favorites but a tradition for many of our readers as well. Wander the zoo at night to see 3.8 million lights and fun exhibits like talking animals and amazing Music in Motion shows. For an extra fee you can have a Polar Express experience in the zoo’s new 4-D theater, take a carousel, camel, or wagon ride, pet the sting rays, and more. TIP: If you do want to pet the stingrays - save it for last so you don’t end up wet and cold wandering around the zoo. Tickets are $10 - $18/person, save $2 each by purchasing online.

Los Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix)
Now thru DECEMBER 30, 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM, check website for exact dates.
Enjoy an elegant walk through Desert Botanical Gardens lit by 8,000 luminaries accompanied by several bands playing live music throughout the gardens.  The event typically sells out every night, so get your tickets now.  Tickets are $30 for adults and $12.50 for children ages 3 to 12.  Purchase a meal ticket in advance to enjoy a nice dinner at the garden. This would make a great adults’ night out or date night during the holidays.

Ice Skating at Cityscape Phoenix (1 E. Washington Street in Phoenix)
Open now through FEBRUARY 2
Tickets include skate rentals and skating. Tickets are $12 each, discounts for kids 4 and under, military, students, and seniors. Day session is 11:00 AM - 1:30 PM daily and the night session is from 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM, Sun – Fri and 4:00 PM – Midnight on Saturday.

APS Electric Light Parade (Phoenix)
APS claims this is the largest free family event to begin the holiday season. Either way, this parade is a lot of fun, with over 60 floats covered in lights. The parade begins on Central Ave just south of Bethany Home Road in Phoenix. Come bundled up and enjoy the lights and characters.

Tempe Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade (Tempe Beach Park, Tempe Town Lake)
Once a year, motorized boats are allowed on the lake and are all lit up in their glowing holiday best for a parade. In addition to the parade there will be live entertainment and free photos with Santa. Free admission.

Winter Extraordinaire at Tempe Public Library ( 3500 S. Arizona Mills Circle)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20 from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Bring the whole family for seasonal crafts, music, movement, and stories.

A Big Band Christmas Revue at the Farm at South Mountain
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20 from 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Enjoy the Upper East Side Big Band, swing dancing, and some relaxing in the pecan grove. Free admission—this is a perfect event for a nice date, family outing, or for entertaining out of town guests. Grab some food at the Farm Kitchen and make it a picnic. Now, doesn’t that sound fun?

Swimming with Santa (Tempe - Kiwanis Rec Center)
DECEMBER 27 – DECEMBER 28 from 1:00 – 5:00 PM
Spend the afternoon at Kiwanis’ heated indoor wave pool. Ride the waves with Santa, have story time with Mrs. Claus, enjoy complimentary milk and cookies, and participate in reindeer games. Advance tickets available until Dec. 15 for $5/children ages 2-12 and $7 for ages 13+. Regular price is $7 for children and $9 for ages 13+. Buy your tickets online at The wave pool will host its annual Winter Waves, Dec. 26-30 from 1-5 p.m.

Ice Skating and Nightly Snow Fall at Tempe Marketplace
NOVEMBER 26 – DECEMBER 24 at 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Watch snow fall every night near the District Stage.  Free holiday skating NOVEMBER 28- 30, from 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM.  Skating is for children 5 and older, skates are provided for free, just bring your own socks.  In addition to this, there are also weekend concerts every Friday and Saturday night.

Christmas Festival at MacDonald Ranch (Scottsdale)
DECEMBER 4 – 21, open Thursdays – Sundays from 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Santa visits, hayride, petting zoo, train ride, gold panning, games, bonfires, and Christmas lights all included in the admission price of $12/person. For an additional charge: pony rides, feed for the petting zoo animals, Hot chocolate or cider, food for purchase, vendors, gift shop, and more. Click here for a great discount on admission.

Holiday lights at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (Scottsdale)
DECEMBER 12 – JANUARY 3 (excluding December 24, 25, and 31) 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Ride the train through the holiday light display at the park. There is also a carousel to enjoy and a gift shop with hot chocolate and other treats that are reasonably priced.  Train rides (on actual steam-powered locomotives!) are $3 each, children under 3 are free with a paying adult and carousel rides are $2 each.  Santa will be there through Dec 23rd.  The Model Railroad Building is also amazingThis is a fun family outing we have enjoyed, but be warned--it is super crowded.  We called the park and they said it's less busy on school nights. If you go on a weekend, you are better off getting there early to wait in line or going after 8:00 or 8:30 for shorter lines.

East Valley

Santa Claus is Coming to Petite Party Studio (Gilbert)
Bring your kids to Petite Party Studio to meet Santa and enjoy some fun Christmas activities.  This sounds like a great chance to visit Santa without a big crowd.  there will be elves there to help your child write their wish list to Santa and make reindeer food.  Photos with Santa, holiday treats, hot chocolate and coffee bar and coffee.  Admission is $10 for the first child and $5 for each additional child.  Two times are available, 11:00-1:00 PM or 2:00 - 4:00 PM.  Tickets required and can be purchased here.

Elsa and Anna's Winter FROZENland (Chandler)
Friday, NOVEMBER 28 and every Saturday and Sunday through DECEMBER 21.  10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Check out this incredible event from Charming Ponies Parties! Kids can play with Elsa, Anna, and Olaf in real snow. Included in ticket price are character meet-and -greets, horse and carriage rides, 30 tons of real snow to play in, pony rides, and a petting zoo.  $25 per child and $10 per adult.  For an additional charge you can book pictures with Santa, shop at the vendor boutique, and purchase food and hot chocolate from food trucks. FROZENland is open on December 22nd and 23rd from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM.  To purchase a Groupon for savings to this event, click here.

Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro (Mesa)
Free 4 x 6 photo with Santa, crafts and activities throughout the store.  Carousel rides, "snowball" fights, toy trains, coloring, free samples, and more. Lots of fun and completely free.

Moo-ey Christmas at Superstition Farm (Mesa)
DECEMBER 4 – DECEMBER 19, every Friday and Saturday 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM.
Enjoy night time lit-up hayrides,  S‘mores around a bonfire, and a petting zoo. Free admission. Hayrides are $1 per person and treats including smores and hot chocolate will be for sale. In addition, you can buy your Christmas tree at the farm with free delivery (up to 10 miles). Tree sales start December 1.

Golfland Winter Wonderland (Mesa)
Play miniature golf under festive holiday light displays. Also, you can enjoy real snow, Santa visits, and a New Year’s Eve party. Check website for details.

Freestone Railroad Holiday Train and Fantasy Carousel (Gilbert)
Twinkling lights all around the train station and a cup of hot chocolate free with every train ride.  Check the website for prices as well as discounts available (like BOGO wristbands when you subscribe to their email list)

The Compassion Experience (Mesa) LifeWay Christian Store parking-lot:1859 S. Stapley Dr
This traveling exhibit is a free, interactive tour of life in the developing world. Visitors will take an interactive journey through the lives of those in developing countries — visiting homes, markets and schools — without getting on a plane. The event is an excellent opportunity to experience another culture and better understand the realities of global poverty. Make reservations here:

Santa Claus is Coming to Petite Party Studio (Gilbert)
Bring your kids to Petite Party Studio to meet Santa and enjoy some fun Christmas activities.  This sounds like a great chance to visit Santa without a big crowd. There will be elves there to help your child write their wish list to Santa and make reindeer food. Photos with Santa, holiday treats, hot chocolate and coffee bar and coffee. Admission is $10 for the first child and $5 for each additional child. Two times are available, 11:00 - 1:00 PM or 2:00 - 4:00 PM. Tickets required and can be purchased here. 

Mother Nature’s Farm Annual Snow Day (Gilbert:  1663 E. Baseline Rd)
Bring your mittens and a snow tube to do some sledding! Kids are $7 whick includes a snow hill, hayride, maze, air bounce and animals. Adults are $3 to come along. Snack food available for purchase.

Winter Wonderland at Schnepf Farms (Queen Creek: 2410 S. Rittenhouse Rd)
Monday – Wednesday NOON – 8:00 PM; Friday – Sunday 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM
An awesome winter experience right here in the Valley. Ice skating for $8/person (including skates); Train rides for $3 - $5. Roast a hot dog for $5, enjoy the bonfire, go sledding on real snow, and buy your Christmas tree. There is also a fun option to enjoy breakfast or lunch with Santa.

2nd Friday Night Out on Main (Mesa:  between Center/Country Club on Main)
DECEMBER 12, from 6:00 – 10:00 PM
Stroll the dog- and kid-friendly streets and enjoy artwork, live bands, entertainment, food, and fun shops. This month, you can donate gently used shoes and blankets for charity.

Mesa Arts Festival (Mesa Arts Center)
Find unique gifts for the holidays at this annual festival. Original art for sale as well as live entertainment, live artist demonstrations, family activity area, and food. Admission and parking are free.

West Valley

Holiday Events at Westgate (Glendale)
Every night at 7:00 and 8:00 PM
Visit Santa, take a free carriage ride, and watch snow fall.

Peoria's Old Town Holiday Festival & Gingerbread House Competition
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5 from 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Walk through Old Town Peoria and enjoy live entertainment, a visit from Santa, 20 tons of snow, crafters market, kid zone, a choral contest and live Nativity. The festival will take place south of Peoria and Grand avenues. Parking and admission are free, some activities have a small fee, food will be available for purchase.

Benevilla Festival of Cheer (Peoria)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13 – 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Held at Centennial Plaza Park in Peoria, this event celebrates holidays, diversity, and cultures from around the world. Countries and cultures will have different stations set up throughout Centennial Park. Includes a kids “Play Land,” crafts, free pictures with Santa, and 20+ tons of

Avondale Holiday Celebration and Artwalk (495 E Western Ave, Avendale)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13 from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
This free event and includes snow, Santa, ferris wheel rides, shopping, holiday light show, entertainment, food, and the monthly artwalk event. Synchronized tree lights will be up throughout the holiday season; weekends through December 7 and daily December 13 – January 4

Pictures with Santa at Tolmachoff Farms (Glendale: 5726 N. 75th Ave)
Get your pictures taken with Santa, enjoy hot chocolate, apple cider, and other treats for sale by the

Carefree Christmas Festival (101 Easy Street, Downtown Carefree)
There will be 25 tons of real snow, fireworks, holiday music, Santa, Kids’ Zone, late-night shopping, and more. Enjoy an electric light parade on Saturday at 6:00 PM.

New Year's Eve Events

Noon Year’s Eve at the Phoenix Zoo
Join the Phoenix Zoo and ring in the New Year in style! Tons of snow including a special snow area for toddlers and a snowball target practice area and ring in the new year with sparkling cider at noon. All activities are included with general admission into the Zoo.  Limited Time Offer! Click here to get a great deal on Phoenix Zoo admission.

Circle K New Year’s Eve Block Party (Tempe)
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31 from 6:00 PM – 1:00 AM
Party on Mill Avenue for New Years! Enjoy interactive games and activities, live music, gourmet food trucks, beer & champagne gardens, Video Dance stages, and a Family Fun Zone running until 10:30 PM. Countdown to midnight then watch the fireworks and confetti blast. Tickets are available at Circle K, online, or at the gate. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Scottsdale’s Ultimate Block Party
Located at Craftsman Court between 3rd Ave & 5th Ave in Old Town Scottsdale’s Entertainment District.  This is a large street festival including several restaurants and bars in the area. Local merchants, hotels, and charitable organizations participate. This is a 21 and over event.
Greater Arizona

Sleigh Rides from Hitchin’ Post Stables (Flagstaff)
Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered Coconino Forest, stopping halfway through for hot cocoa by a campfire. This would be a great addition to a winter getaway or snow trip to Flagstaff. $45/adults, $40 for kids 3 – 12, with 2 & under free. If you hurry, you can snag a half off deal here.

Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express (Williams)
Dress the kids in their pajamas and take an entertaining train ride for an hour or so til you get to the North Pole. Kids will get to enjoy a cookie and hot chocolate as well as visit with Elves and of course, Santa. Kathryn and her family enjoyed their family trip to the North Pole via the Polar Express a couple of years ago. Click here to read her tips  for getting the most fun out of your trip. If you don’t have tickets yet, hurry, they are nearly sold out!

The North Pole Experience (Flagstaff)
Start at Little America hotel in Flagstaff and take a trolley through the portal to the North Pole. Kids get to build toys with elves, attend Elf University, visit Mrs. Claus, and have treats and snowman soup in the bakery. Seats fill up fast for this Christmas adventure of a lifetime. Click here to read our write-up about the event.

12 Days of Christmas and Annual Christmas Lighting (Snowflake)
The Snowflake holiday lights and Christmas tree lighting celebration. Visit Santa and Mrs. Santa and enjoy cookies and cocoa. Santa will have goodie bags for the kids. Also enjoy nativities from around the world and a live nativity demonstration.

Sedona's Tree Lighting & Santa Visit
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
This free family event includes live entertainment, activities, refreshments, and of course Santa Claus.Held on Main Street in Sedona.

32nd Annual Boat Parade of Lights (Lake Havasu along the Bridgewater Channel)
DECEMBER 5 – 6 at 6:30 PM
Enjoy a weekend in Lake Havasu City and take in this beautiful parade of lights along the water.  This event is repeatedly selected as one of the top events in the U.S. by the American Bus Association.

December Chocolate Walk in Old Town Cottonwood
DECEMBER 6 from 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Stroll Old Town Main Street in Cottonwood as vendors compete for the best chocolate award and best decorated shop.  Chocolate collecting bags and maps are provided.  Lots of varieties of chocolate to enjoy at more than 40 vendors. You will also enjoy the new interactive light show.

Shamrock Farms Joy to the Herd Holiday Celebration (Stanfield)
Take a tour through Shamrock Farms holiday-style. The farm will be decorated as a winter wonderland and kids will enjoy snow to play in, holiday crafts, face painting, a visit from Santa and Roxie, and more. While we have never been for this holiday event, Marily has gone with one of her boys to a farm tour and was very impressed. It is quite a fun experience and Shamrock Farms does a good job making it exciting and educational too. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children and include all activities. Children under 2 are free. Lunch will be available for an additional cost.

Winterhaven Annual Festival of Lights (Tucson)
DECEMBER 13 – 27 from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Take a walk through this neighborhood with incredible light displays. This event has grown over the last 65 years and draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over Southern Arizona. Now featuring hay rides, trolley rides and group bike rides. There is no entrance fee but visitors are encouraged to bring canned food or cash donations to benefit the Community Food Bank in Tucson.

Show Low Christmas Light Parade and Holiday Lights
DECEMBER 6 at 6:30 PM
Show Low’s annual Christmas Light Parade runs along the Deuce of Clubs. Enjoy a parade of lights then take a walk downtown to see the lights decorating the town of Show Low. Holiday lights continue through January 2.

Also, Graham County and Wickenburg also have light parades that might be fun to check out.

Festival of Lights at Tlaquepaque (Sedona)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13 from 3:00 PM - 8:00 PM
This event involves the lighting of 6,000 luminarias in Tlaquepaque’s courtyards and walkways at 5:00 PM. Trolley service available from 3:00 PM – 8:30 PM.

Star of Bethlehem Discussion at Lowell Observatory (Flagstaff)
Discuss with the docents the astronomical interpretation of the Star of Bethlehem, view stars through the telescope and watch other multimedia programs. $5-12/person.  Groupon to Lowell Observatory can be purchased by clicking here.

Whiskey Row Boot Drop (Prescott)
If you are looking to get out of the Valley for a couple of days, this family-friendly event in Prescott might be just the thing for New Year’s Eve. Located along historic Whiskey Row, the event will include live music, a carnival, and food vendors. A lighted 6-foot tall cowboy boot will drop early at 10:00 PM and again at midnight with fireworks. Free admission.

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