When was the last time your group went “caroling through the canyons” or “dashing through the desert”? You might think that with all the sunshine in Arizona, holiday spirit would be lacking. Not true.
Arizona offers many festive choices for holiday travel, as almost every community has activities taking place in December. The following five-night itinerary combines some of the state’s most inspirational and colorful events:
Arrive in the Valley of the Sun. After checking into your hotel, visit ZooLights. Every year, the wildlife at the Phoenix Zoo gives way to wild lights in one of the largest holiday light displays in Arizona. With more than 3.5 million lights and 600 glimmering animal light sculptures, the zoo is always a holiday favorite. Enjoy the 24-foot-in-diameter lighted sphere floating on the lake, visit Stingray Bay and enjoy the colorful Music in Motion dancing tree show. Animal presentations and horse-drawn wagon rides, plus carousel and camel rides, are also available.
On the way back to your hotel, drive through the US Bank Celebration of Lights at the Community of Joy Campus in Glendale. This one-mile show, set to music includes over 7,000,000 lights, 300 animated and still displays, and five tunnels. Continue to downtown Glendale to see the sites of Glendale Glitters, a stunning display of 1.5 million multi-colored lights that twinkle throughout a 16-block area that includes Old Towne and the historic Catlin Court shopping district. Both of these displays can be experienced in the comfort of your motorcoach.
Depart the Valley of the Sun and travel to “Arizona’s Christmas City,” Prescott. Three fun-filled attractions are . First, the Prescott Resort is home to the World’s Largest Gingerbread Village, featuring over 100 gingerbread houses. In 1994, the resort decided to sell “lots” for $10-$50. “Get a lot for a little dough” became the slogan and all proceeds go to the Yavapai Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Then travel to downtown Prescott for shopping and dinner. The historic courthouse square glows with a million lights on trees, the imposing courthouse columns and store windows. Before retiring for the night, drive through the Valley Lights of Prescott Valley. This one-mile drive through Fain Park features more than more million lights and 20 animated displays. Arizona Public Service sponsors the Lighted Forest, a combination of red, green and blue lights, and provides 3D glasses to add “another dimension.”
Continue your journey around Arizona by visiting Sedona. Nestled within the world-renowned red rocks of Sedona, Red Rock Fantasy is a festival providing a man-made marvel amid the scenic beauty. Nearly one million lights and 24 displays created by families from the Southwest are highlighted as dancing lights adorn the sycamore trees bordering Oak Creek, and chestnut roasts are featured along the trail. Now in its 20th year, the festival entertains children and moves adults to enjoy the holidays as they did when they were young, as many cartoon favorites come to life.
Continue to Flagstaff for the evening and see more than one million lights on the grounds of Little America Resort. Before turning in for the night, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the walkways that outline the property. Then enjoy a cup of hot chocolate in the comfort of your room.
Before departing Flagstaff, enjoy a guided tour of Riordan Mansion State Park, decorated in turn-of-the-century style with wreaths, garlands, greenery and a towering fir tree. Then depart for Lake Havasu City. Home to the world-famous London Bridge, Lake Havasu is a paradise for water lovers and desert lovers alike. Every December, thousands of spectators gather for the Boat Parade of Lights, a 50+ boat procession presenting light displays, animated scenes and festive music.
The theme for the 28th Annual Boat Parade of Lights in Lake Havasu City is “Toys on Parade.” Motorcoach groups enjoy a special holiday package, including a festive dinner, live entertainment and reserved VIP seating for the Boat Parade.
Return to the Valley of the Sun. Before checking into your hotel, drive by the Tumbleweed Christmas Tree in downtown Chandler. This 40-foot-tall tree is decorated with 25 gallons of white paint, 55 gallons of flame retardant and 50 pounds of silver glitter. This evening, enjoy the lights and pageant on the grounds of the Arizona Temple in Mesa, which features more than 600,000 lights placed on trees and shrubs surrounding a large reflecting pool. This year is the 30th anniversary of the display, which is entitled Celebrate the Life of Christ in Lights and Music. Each evening, a different inspirational program or concert is performed. Walk through the grounds and see the International Nativity Scene Exhibit, a moving display of nativity and manger sets created by artisans of faith from around the world.
All good things must come to an end. Depart for home today, full of Arizona’s holiday spirit and memories that will last a lifetime.