The region begins to shine with Christmas cheer | Culture & Leisure

Residents throughout the East Valley looking for places to get into the festive spirit have plenty of events to choose from.

Starting this weekend, cities will light up their downtowns and even some neighborhoods will join in the fun with boat parades. Here’s a look at some of the area’s highlights.


Continuing a longstanding tradition, Downtown Mesa will start to look like something out of a Hallmark holiday movie.

Bright lights will be wrapped around lampposts and festive decorations will brighten up the downtown and valley light rail will be transformed into a Christmas train.

And a massive four-story Christmas tree on Macdonald’s and an accompanying skating rink are among the big attractions throughout the season as part of the eighth annual ‘Merry Main Street’ celebration.

“There is a long tradition of celebrating the holidays in downtown Mesa,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “When I was a kid growing up here it was a big deal when the city was rolling out decorations that would hang from lampposts and the main street downtown, so we tried to revive that.”

An annual performance to kick off the holiday season that got Giles the most excited.

Giles is a star in the comeback rendition of the play ‘The Man Who Killed Santa Claus’ – which is based on the true story of how Mesa merchants during the Great Depression came up with the idea to push a dummy dressed as Santa out of an airplane and deploy a parachute.

The parachute failed to open, traumatizing hundreds of children.

In an attempt to rectify the traumatic blunder, former Mesa Tribune editor John McPhee donned the red coat and hat, but the damage was done.

He was remembered from then on as “The Man Who Killed Santa Claus” and has since been immortalized with a play recreating the botched stunt.

“It’s a very funny and very true story about this tradition of downtown Mesa being the place to come and celebrate the holidays and we’ll have great talented professional actors re-enacting the story,” Giles said.


Just south of Mesa, Dr. AJ Chandler Park in downtown Chandler will sparkle with a magical candy land known as Sugarland.

Downtown Chandler Community Partnership spokesperson Jessica Walrath says what began as a way to get locked-down residents out and about in safe ways during the height of the pandemic has become a tradition for residents. Chandler residents.

“Sugarland started in 2020 as a way to bring Christmas downtown because it seemed like everything was closing down and there would be no Christmas because people couldn’t be with each other,” said said Walrath. “It was born out of a fair way of bringing everyone together safely outdoors and with this interactive display.”

From humble beginnings two years ago, Sugarland aims to be bigger than ever this year.

“We’re kicking off Sugarland with a big reveal, and then there’s a ton of events planned for Saturday, November 26 — which is Small Business Saturday,” Walrath said. “We will be having street performers perform live music on the street for patrons as they stroll and shop in downtown Chandler or grab a bite to eat.”

This year’s exhibit will feature trees wrapped in light, a fruit slide, large gumballs for kids to climb on, and several other interactive candy-themed installations.

Chandler will light his Tumbleweed Christmas tree at 8 p.m. Dec. 3 in downtown AJ Chandler Park. It will be preceded by family entertainment from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a parade at 6.45 p.m.

At 35 feet tall and 20 feet wide, the tree has nearly 1,000 tumbleweeds covered in 65 pounds of glitter glitter, 25 gallons of white paint, and 20 gallons of fire retardant. The tree is wrapped in over 1,200 LED lights.

Known nationwide, the iconic tree has been featured on several Travel Channel shows and Saturday Night Live.

The Tumbleweed tree debuted in 1957, making 2022 its 66th year.


Scottsdale plans to kick off its month-long Scottsdazzle festivities with a tree lighting ceremony and holiday songs on Saturday, November 26.

“We’re kicking off the holiday with a huge, wonderful event called ‘Sing-Along and Tree Lighting Ceremony’ taking place on the Scottsdale waterfront,” said Karen Churchard, the city’s Director of Tourism and Events.

“It’s just very dazzling,” she said. “We have a full orchestra – MusicaNova – performing and we have different local celebrities singing and leading the participants in song.”

After nearly a dozen classic holiday tunes, the marching band will culminate with the lighting of the 40-foot tall Scottsdazzle tree and three smaller trees atop the Marshall Way Bridge.

Scottsdazzle’s calendar is packed with more than 30 events counting down the days to Christmas Day, starting with deals during Small Business Saturday, a chance to meet Santa at the Old Town Farmers’ Market and the making wine corks at Holly Jolly Wine Cork.

“We want to showcase Old Town Scottsdale as the perfect place to do your holiday shopping, host your holiday celebrations, and hang out and get in the mood,” Churchard said.

Tempe and Gilbert

No celebration of Christmas in the desert is complete without a parade of boats and the East Valley hosts two.

At 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, Gilbert’s Islands, located off Warner Road between Cooper and McQueen roads, will see dozens of brightly colored boats cruising the community’s lakes.

A week later, from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on December 9 along the Rio Salado near Lake Tempe Town, the annual Fantasy of Lights boat parade is the centerpiece of a festival that includes food and other entertainment.


Ahwatukee gets in the mood thanks to the Millie’s Hallmark store. Entertainment precedes Santa’s arrival beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, November 25 at Ahwatukee Plaza, 5027 E. Elliot Road, Ahwatukee. The event is free and includes activities for kids like face panning.

Here’s a guide to the area’s holiday events:


• Hidden in the hills:

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday,

Nov 25-Sunday Nov 27

Where: See website for map

No cost


• Scottsdale neighborhood

When: Friday, November 25: Dicken Singers at 11 a.m., Mrs. Claus and Grinch at 11 a.m. and LED Violinist at 5 p.m.

Where: The Quad at Scottsdale Quarter, 15279 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

No cost


• McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park Christmas Lights

When: 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. every evening

From Friday 25 November to Friday 30 December.

Where: 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale

Cost: $15


• Immersive Nutcracker:

When: Saturday November 26 and Sunday November 27. From December 1 to 31

Where: Lighthouse Artspace,

4301 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale,

Cost: $30


• Frosted Margarita and Tacos Tour

When: 11:00 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, Saturday, November 26 through December 22.

Where: 7142 E. 1st St., Scottsdale

Cost: $145


• Prancer Puzzle Rides

When: Saturday, November 26 through

Saturday, December 31;

Various times

Where: Various locations

Cost: $79


• Entertainment during the holiday weekend

in the Scottsdale neighborhood

When: Saturday, November 26: The Santa Social 2 p.m. and Holiday Movie in The Quad 6 p.m.

Where: The Quad at Scottsdale Quarter, 15279 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

No cost


• Scottsdazzle Christmas Lights Tour

When: 6:15 p.m. every evening from Saturday, November 26 to Tuesday, December 27

Where: 7142 E. 1st Street,


Cost: $125 per vehicle


• Jake Shimabukuro:

When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 26

Where: Scottsdale Center for the

Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale.

Cost: Tickets start at $48


• Manufacture of Holly Jolly wine corks

When: 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 26

Where: 7134 E. Stetson Dr, B110, Scottsdale

Cost: $40


• Scottsdazzle Sing-Along & Tree Lighting Ceremony

When: 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 26

Where: Scottsdale Waterfront,

7135 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale

No cost


• Meet Santa at the Old Town Scottsdale Market/Farmers Market

When: 9 a.m. Saturday, November 26

Where: Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market

No cost



• Arizona lights at night

When: Wednesday, November 23 to Thursday, January 5

Where: Thompson Events Center,

1901 N. Alma School Road Mesa

Cost: $39.95 per vehicle


• Mesa Turkey Trot:

When: 8 a.m. Thursday, November 24

Where: Red Mountain Park,

7745 E. Brown Road Mesa

Cost: $15 to $35


• Merry Main Street:

When: 5 p.m. on Friday, November 25

Where: 20 E. Main Street, Mesa

No cost


• The man who killed Santa Claus

When: 7 p.m. on Friday, November 25

Where: One E. Main Street, Mesa

Cost: $10



• Tumbleweed tree lighting

When: 4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on December 3

Where: Dr. AJ Chandler Park West,

3 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler

No cost

• Sugar country

When: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday,

November 26 – Sunday January 2

Where: Dr. AJ Chandler Park West,

3 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler

No cost


• Nutcracker Ballet Studies:

When: 7 p.m. on Friday, November 25, Saturday 7 p.m. on November 26 and 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 26

Where: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave, Chandler

Cost: $29 to $31



• Water tower lighting

When: 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday, November 28.

Where: Water Tower Plaza, 45 W. Page Ave, Gilbert

No cost



• Queen Creek Extreme Bulls:

When: 5 p.m. on Friday, November 25 and noon on Saturday, November 26

Where: Queen Creek Horseshoe Park & ​​Equestrian Center 20464 E. Riggs Road, Queen Creek.

Cost: $20



• Sale of the Superstition Mountain Museum

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. December 10 and 11

Where: 4087 N. Apace Trail, AJ

Cost: Free for the store.



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