Scottsdale's Southwest Holiday Traditions

By local contributor
Eric Harrison

While Scottsdale isn’t home to any White Christmases, it is home to plenty of other holiday traditions. Beyond our customary sunny skies and warm Southwestern style, we have some unique holiday festivities that we are proud to share with you and yours this holiday season.


Let it Glow

Shine bright as the Desert Botanical Garden glows with 8,000 hand-lit luminarias and thousands of white twinkle lights during the annual Las Noches de las Luminarias. Grab a cup of mulled cider or hot cocoa and stroll the Garden’s pathways with family, friends and locals.


Spice it Up

In Arizona, tamales are a staple of holiday dining. The traditional tamale is typically enjoyed on Christmas Eve, and is a must-have during the holiday season. There's nothing quite like unwrapping the steaming corn husk from one of these little labors of love and finding the moist masa (corn-flour dough) stuffed with a variety of meats, chilies and spices. While you can find them all across Scottsdale from tamale carts in grocery store parking lots to upscale cuisine versions at fine dining restaurants, we love Scottsdale’s Los Sombreros, which starts taking orders for their famed holiday tamales in mid-November.


Watch for Ice

Christmas at the Princess is a holiday wonderland filled with all the splendor of the season. Bring the whole family to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess where you can practice your camel spin on the Desert Ice Skating Rink, enjoy holiday tunes around the four-story Christmas tree, and make s’mores by the campfire in the Christmas Tree Forest.


Enjoy Native Traditions

If experiencing Native American culture first-hand is on your wish list, join us between Christmas and New Year’s for Holidays at the Heard Museum. In addition to the museum’s award-winning exhibits of Native American culture and art, you’ll enjoy live artist demonstrations and exciting dance performances, including the crowd-thrilling Hoop Dance. It’s the perfect introduction to both traditional and contemporary Native American culture.


Take a Walk on the Wild Side

One of our favorite holiday traditions is always a “wild” party. ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo shines with millions of holiday lights, hundreds of glimmering animal-themed displays, a 200-foot-long Polar Slide and a three-story Christmas tree. Round up the family and join us at the Phoenix Zoo after the animals go to sleep for one of the country’s largest holiday light shows.


Get Dazzled Downtown

Old Town Scottsdale is home to the family-friendly holiday extravaganza, Scottsdazzle. The event delights with a month of celebratory festivities leading up to the December holidays. Beginning Saturday, November 30 with the official Holiday Tree Lighting and Sing-Along at the Scottsdale Waterfront, Scottsdazzle and Old Town have events for everyone to love, including Canal Concerts, Sugar Plum Avenue, Sweet Treat Trail, Santa Wine Around, Gold Palette Art Walk and many more activities for the whole family to love.


All Aboard at the Train Park’s Charros Carousel

One of Scottsdale’s most fun and unique attractions, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park gets into the holiday spirit with lights, a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, carols, a working wintery model train display, autographed signing from the Family Circus co-creator, Jeff Keane, holiday music, train rides, and a visit from Santa arriving on his steam locomotive.


Savor a Holiday Meal (that you didn’t have to cook!)

While you focus on relaxing and enjoying quality time with friends and family in Scottsdale, our renowned chefs are whipping up holiday feasts that include all your traditional favorites as well as some Southwestern specialties. After all, what holiday meal wouldn’t be just a little brighter with a prickly pear margarita or spicy Mexican hot chocolate? Click here to see who's dishing up Thanksgiving feasts!


To plan your Scottsdale holiday getaway, click here!