2021 Holiday Activities for Kids in Scottsdale

By local contributor
Christina La Porte

As if the sunny days and mildly chilly nights aren’t enough reason to head to Scottsdale during the holidays, our resorts and attractions pull out all the stops to transform into winter wonderlands sure to cheer even the most Grinch-y members of the family – from tykes to teenagers.




This holiday extravaganza returns to Old Town with a host of activities for the whole family! Highlights include Letters to Santa at the Old Town Farmers Market (bring your letter pre-printed from home to drop in the special mailbox and receive a reply from Santa by old-fashioned mail!), Prancer’s Puzzle Ride: “Hijacked by Elves,” and the festive holiday Sing-Along & Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Dates: Nov. 27 – Dec. 31, 2021
Times: Vary by activity – see website for details.




One of the area’s most cherished holiday traditions, ZooLights, returns this season with millions of twinkling lights, dazzling animal sculptures, a three-story Christmas tree and two Music-in-Motion Light Shows on the main lake. Stroll through the Phoenix Zoo to meet Santa and his elves at Leapin’ Lagoon, take a spin on the Endangered Species Carousel, and see a special exhibition by artist and wildlife conservationist Russell Ronant, featuring more than 13 illuminated pieces. You also can choose to experience all the magic on Cruise ZooLights, a special drive-thru experience you’ll enjoy from the comfort of your own car!

Dates: Nov. 7, 2021 – Jan. 31, 2022 (Walk-Thru*) | Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-7, 13-14, Jan. 3-4, 10-11 (Cruise)
*Some blackout dates apply; see website for details.
Times: 5:30-10:30 p.m. (Walk-Thru) | 5:30-7:30 p.m. or 7:30-9:30 p.m. (Cruise)



fairmont holidays

Celebrate the splendor of the season at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, where holiday festivities and an enchanting winter wonderland are found at the 12th Annual Christmas at the Princess. The fun starts with the four-story, musically animated Christmas tree, aglow with 70,000 LED lights that twinkle to the tune of 18 classic holiday songs. Next, try your skills at ice skating on the resort’s 6,000-square-foot Desert Ice Holiday Rink. Other holiday highlights include S’mores Land, Frosty’s Ferris Wheel, sledding on Snow Mountain, and the Princess Express Train ride, which takes families on a whimsical ride around the resort’s majestic lagoons, which are twinkling with millions of colorful LED lights and displays including a pirate ship, mermaids and Nessie, the 30-foot Loch Ness monster.

Dates: Nov. 16, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022
Times: Vary based on attraction; see website for details.



Holidays at McCormick-Stillman

This event’s centerpiece is the Paradise & Pacific Railroad, which takes visitors on a mesmerizing ride through thousands of holiday lights and fanciful displays. This 5:12-scale train is an exact replica of the Colorado narrow gauge railroad and features three steam locomotives, two diesel engines and one electric engine. Before or after the train ride, hop aboard the historic Charros Carousel or delight in some hot cocoa or an ice cream cone at Hartley’s General Store. To adhere to safety protocols, the event will feature limited-capacity, one-hour blocks (see website for details).

Dates: Daily from Nov. 26, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022 (except Dec. 24, 25 and 31)
Times: 6:00-9:30 p.m.


Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields

Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields

Back for a second year by popular demand, Holiday Lights is a dazzling, drive-through holiday extravaganza that glows with nearly 5 million lights and displays along a 1.2-mile route at Salt River Fields. At every turn, spectacular light displays are synchronized to Christmas melodies that bring popular holiday themes and characters to life. Your favorite holiday songs will be simulcast directly into vehicles on a designated FM radio signal.

Dates: Nov. 19, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022
Times: Daily from 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.



verde canyon train

Embark on a magical train ride from Verde Canyon to the North Pole! This Christmas-themed experience features a miniature village at the train depot for even the tiniest tots to explore and a train ride with open-air viewing cars that will pass through a “magical” tunnel before stopping at the North Pole. Once there, children will delight in viewing a collection of life-size buildings, including Santa’s Workshop, Mrs. Claus’ Bakery, the Ugly Sweater Factory and the Reindeer Flight School, to name a few. Santa will board the train for the return trip, gifting each child with a memento signifying their North Pole adventure! 

Dates: Thursdays – Sundays Dec. 3-24, 2021
Times: Trains depart at 5:30 and 7 p.m.




Christmas Segway

Hold onto your antlers for the 9th annual Christmas Lights Tour with Segway of Scottsdale! The lights in Old Town Scottsdale are bright and dazzling at night, and the memories made with family are sure to last a lifetime. Don helmets with reindeer antlers, sip hot chocolate at the halfway point and enjoy holiday tunes while cruising Old Town’s streets dressed in holiday cheer. (Note: Must be age 12 or older to ride).

Dates: Dec. 1-30, 2021 (no tours Dec. 24-25)
Times: 6 p.m.


The Polar Express with Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express

Every winter the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express comes to life on a journey from Williams, Arizona, to the enchanted beauty of the “North Pole” where Santa Claus and his reindeer are waiting with a keepsake present for every good boy and girl! On the ride, you’ll enjoy hot chocolate and chocolate cookies while listening to the timeless holiday story of “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg.

Dates: Nov. 12 – Dec. 30, 2021 (no trains Nov. 15-16, 23, 25, 30 and Dec. 7, 14, 25)
Times: Trains depart at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (no 7:30 p.m. departure on Nov. 12)


To plan your Scottsdale holiday getaway, click here!