By Jill “MamaBug” Frier
It is the season for the wonders and magic of the holidays! Arizona brings its own special flavor to the holidays, with western scenes, Cowboy Christmas celebrations, stunning luminaria displays and unforgettable desert magic. Nothing warms the heart on a cold evening in the desert, whether in the tall pines or the Valley of the Sun, like the soft glow of lights and luminarias, soft music and holiday cheer. Here are a few places to make your holiday in Arizona one to remember.
We love visiting Sedona whenever we get the chance, but this year we hope to make it to their annual Festival of Lights celebration. The tradition of the Tlaquepaque Festival of Lights began 46 years ago and is a highly anticipated holiday event in Sedona. Admission is free for this event, where musical entertainment, a visit from Santa, and free cider lead up to the lighting of 6,000 luminarias in the Tlaquepaque courtyards and walkways. You may also purchase specially designated luminarias to honor cancer survivors in the Patio del Norte store in Tlaquepaque. For more information, visit their website: www.tlaq.com/annual-events/festival-of-lights
Date: Dec. 8
Times: 3:00 – 8:00 p.m.
In a remote spot somewhere near Flagstaff, there is a magical, 400-year-old workshop where Santa builds toys and Mrs. Claus bakes goodies for Christmas. The North Pole Experience opened its doors in 2009 to provide a special Christmas experience for children and families throughout the state. Visitors start at the Little America hotel and depart from the station there to begin their magical journey to the North Pole. There, visitors experience the inside of Santa’s Workshop, building toys with elves, touring the toy factory and much more. See the North Pole Experience website for information about dates, times and tickets: northpoleexperience.com
One of our favorite places to visit in Arizona is Prescott, dubbed “Arizona’s Christmas City” during the holiday season. The Annual Frontier Christmas at the Sharlot Hall museum is a featured holiday highlight of Prescott, with luminarias, hand-made decorations, fresh-baked cookies and hot cider to welcome locals and out-of-town visitors. You can celebrate the holiday spirit and good cheer of the Old West on the Museum grounds, immediately following the Prescott downtown Courthouse lighting ceremony at 6:00 pm. Admission to Frontier Christmas is $5 (children 17 and under are free). See their website for more information: www.sharlot.org/event/frontier-christmas
Date: Dec. 1
Times: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
One of our favorite holiday traditions every year is visiting the Desert Botanical Garden to see Las Noches de las Luminarias. This year, there will be more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags lining many of the trails throughout the Garden each evening. The lovely, twinkling pathways wind through the new Electric Desert display and lead to nine different musical entertainment areas, and dinner and warm refreshments are available each night. Las Noches de las Luminarias is a perfect event to celebrate the beauty and magic of the holiday season in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.
Dates: Dec. 1-6, 10-23, 26-31.
Times: 5:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Just outside the city of Globe lies Besh Ba Gowah, the ruins of the ancient Salado people who lived in the Globe-Miami area almost 800 years ago. Every year, this archeological park celebrates the holidays in unique Arizona fashion, showcasing glowing luminarias placed along the ruin walls to light the way for visitors and celebrate the magic of the season. The festival offers refreshments, crafts, a bonfire and cultural entertainment by talented Native American artists and musicians, like the Yellow Bird Dance Group and Apache Flutist, Robert Wilson. Admission is free, but non-perishable food donations will be accepted to help support the Gila Community Food Bank this holiday season. For more information about the event, visit the website: www.globeaz.gov/visitors/besh-ba-gowah
Date: December 1
Times: 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
22 years ago, Linda Ronstadt headlined the first Christmas concert at the Mission San Xavier, beginning a beloved tradition that now marks the beginning of Tucson’s holiday season. This signature series of concerts raises funds for Patronato, a nonprofit organization devoted to restoring and preserving the historic Mission San Xavier for future generations. This year, the event features the Sons of Orpheus with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and the Tucson Girls Chorus and is performed at the Mission San Xavier del Bac, on the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation. Advance ticket purchase is required, so be sure to visit the website for more information: www.patronatosanxavier.org/christmas-concerts
Dates: December 10-13
Times: 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.
These holiday celebrations are just a few of the festive events that take place around our state, but all will make special holiday memories for you and your family while you celebrate the season. Be sure to read Ladybug’s Blog for more information about celebrating the holidays in the unique, festive, truly Western spirit of Arizona.
Happy Holidays and Peace be With You!