The Valley isn’t exactly a frosty, winter wonderland, but there are a few places that go so above and beyond in their holiday decorations that it truly does feel like being in the North Pole when visiting.
While this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, these are a few of the largest, most decorative and award-winning locations in the Valley to go walkin’ in a winter wonderland.
Christmas at the Princess
This year marks the 13th consecutive year the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has transformed its 65 acres into the spectacular winter wonderland that is Christmas at the Princess. With 6.5 million lights, a 6,000-square-foot desert ice skating rink, fire pits for s’mores and a chance to see the big man himself, Christmas at the Princess has become an annual holiday tradition for many families.
“It’s just a magical place. There’s so much magic in Christmas and it’s a great time creating magical moments with our families that are irreplaceable,” said Teresa Thompson, event organizer. “Your heart is filled with magic and your spirit is alive. One of the things I love about Christmas is seeing everyone’s spark kind of light up within, you know, that magic coming to life as they’re enjoying the event and creating excellent memories that are cherished with their family and friends.”
A new attraction this year is the Ultimate Santa Experience, where families can meet Mrs. Claus, sing with the reindeer, visit the Elf Academy, snack on cookies, make crafts and have storytime with Santa. Another new attraction, Chateau Champagne, caters to the adults. This is a tucked-away, 21-and-older luxury experience complete with a seafood tower, caviar, champagne and semi-private fire pit.
Of course, all the old favorites will be there, too, such as the Lagoon Lights, Desert Ice Skating Rink, The Village (featuring S’mores Land), Twinkle Town and fun holiday characters. Thompson said the Princess Express Train is by far the most popular attraction, as it is one of the best ways to enjoy all the lights throughout the property.
While housed at the Fairmont, the festivities are open to everyone. There are a variety of packages and pricing options available, but to just stroll through and see the lights, visitors can purchase a wristband for $20 a person. For more information, to see a full list of activities or book an event, visit ChristmasatThePrincess.com.
Enchant is the world’s largest holiday-themed light maze and this is the first year that it’s coming to Arizona. Featuring an immersive walk-through light maze created from over 4 million sparkling lights, Enchant also includes an impressive 100-foot-tall tree, an ice-skating trail, live entertainment, Santa visits and a village marketplace with crafts, gifts, festive culinary treats and holiday cocktails.
Displayed at Salt River Field at Talking Stick Resort, Enchant is an expansive, interactive experience, not just a stroll-through pretty lights. The maze actually tells a story and is titled “The Great Search” this year, according to LeeAnn Stables, chief marketing officer for Enchant.
“It’s based on helping Santa get ready for Christmas. Basically, there was a big storm that blew in and now they can’t find the reindeer,” Stables said. “So, you go around and look for them and go find nine reindeer and you have this little passport that you can stamp which reindeer you found. And while you’re in there, there’s all sorts of fun.”
The Hallmark Channel is sponsoring the event and will also have a “Hallmark Holiday House” set up with a wine bar. Enchant also has an Ice Bar, which Stables said is 14 degrees below freezing, where guests are provided with a big, puffy jacket and can enjoy a flight of three vodka cocktails to warm up.
Besides the drinks, there will be a variety of food options available, from hot entrees to s’mores.
For the kiddos, there’s the Little Elves Play Place, where they can “join in the reindeer games,” make crafts and have story time with Mrs. Claus.
Tickets start at $34 for adults and $20 for children and are available for purchase online. Enchant is happening through Jan. 1. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit EnchantChristmas.com.
Pratt Brothers Christmas & Holiday Spectacular
One of the largest holiday entertainment experiences in the country, Pratt Brothers Christmas & Holiday Spectacular beckons revelers to venture into an immersive Christmas Town including six million lights, synchronized pyrotechnics, live entertainment, a ride-on attraction through “Sweet Street,” cookie decorating featuring Mrs. Claus’ famous Christmas cookies, a Miracle Market for gift-giving and keepsakes and, of course, a meet-and-greet with the big guy himself, Santa Claus.
Happening at Bell Bank Park in Mesa, this holiday experience is spectacular for all ages. In fact, it was created by family for families.
The event was started by Scottsdale brothers Kyle and Sammy Pratt, who started out decorating their family’s home during the holidays in 2015. Their light display gained such popularity over the past seven years, receiving national recognition, that it had to be shut down due to overwhelming crowds. Now, the Pratt brothers have enough lights, entertainment, fans and holiday cheer to fill Bell Bank Park.
General admission is $15, with children ages 2 and under are free and VIP tickets are available for $75. The lights will be on until Jan. 1. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit PrattBrothersChristmas.com.
World of Illumination
For those who love the lights, but not so much the crowds or cold, World of Illumination is the largest drive-through light display in the country. Guests can stay cozy in their pajamas, pack their own favorite snacks, sing along at top volume, and even bring along the four-legged family members.
There are three locations in the Valley this year and each is a one-mile journey with a different theme, about 2 million lights and over 500 installations synched to music. Each location also has a unique theme – “Rockin’ Christmas” at Hurricane Harbor in north Phoenix, “Candy Rush” at Tempe Diablo Stadium and “Enchanted Safari” at Desert Diamond Casino in Glendale.
“Magical. Whimsical. Interactively animated. Buckle up, you are in for the ride of your life at the world’s largest drive-through light show,” World of Illumination shared on social media.
World of Illumination is open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1 and is a rain or shine event. Admission is $50 per vehicle, so pack all the friends and family in. Online reservations are required and can be made at WorldofIllumination.com.
Read about more local holiday events and activities in the CITY Sun Times’ Holiday Guide.