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Things to do in Phoenix: 22 ways to entertain out-of-town guests over the holidays

Posted at 11:50 AM, Dec 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-23 15:30:23-05

When family comes into town for the holidays, sometimes it can be hard to think of ideas to keep them entertained and out of the kitchen.

To help, we've compiled a list of activities and events happening around the Valley. Scroll down to check them out. 

 

PHOENIX ZOOLIGHTS (NOV. 23 - JAN. 8, 2017)

Spend your holiday time off walking around the Phoenix Zoo and look at more than a million lights that crews spent months putting up. The annual tradition features dozens of lighted animal displays and the "Music In Motion" show, which has lights dance to Trans-Siberian Orchestra and holiday songs. For the kids, Jengo the talking giraffe and Tortuga the talking tortoise are always good for a laugh. More information.

IF YOU GO: 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix AZ 85008

 

Anyone hiking to the summit of Camelback Mountain will see the beloved Camelback Christmas tree. You might remember that a Grinch cut up the tree that was installed by a group of hikers the day after thanksgiving. A few days back, a second 9 feet tall tree was carried by a group of dedicated hikers wishing to maintain the holiday tradition. For hikers wishing to decorate the tree, the city says that you can only use environmentally friendly ornaments and decorations. Do not use glass ornaments or any other decoration that may be dangerous to wildlife or hikers. A "Camelback Santa" will be dressing up and hanging out on the summit every weekend in December through Christmas Day to hand out candy canes and take photos with hikers. You will have a chance to see this tree until January 1st. . . . . #christmas #holidays #tree #camelbackmountain #sunrise #arizona #optoutside #instagramaz_holiday #fall #autumn #wanderlust #desert #hiking #navidad #arizona_landscapes #instagramaz #igersphx #igersaz #imagesaz #visit_arizona #explorearizona_ #arizonacollective #divine_deserts #westcoast_exposures #natgeo #hikeaz #see_arizona #igsouthwest #myphx

A photo posted by Jose Ochoa (@jochoa15) on

TAKE A HIKE!

With temperatures in the 50s, 60s and 70s, this is one of the best times to hit the trails and take in Arizona's natural beauty. There are trails all around the Valley, ranging in difficulty from a casual stroll to a workout. Camelback is a popular hike and is one of the most difficult ones in the Valley, especially Echo Canyon. Other hiking areas include South Mountain, Piestewa Peak (Phoenix Preserve), and Papago Park's "Hole-in-the-Rock."

RELATED: 20+ dog-friendly hiking trails around Phoenix

 

WILDLIFE WORLD ZOO, AQUARIUM & SAFARI PARK

The Wildlife World Zoo is open all year long, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They have a lot of animals, including three lion cubs, a white tiger cub, and a leopard cub.

IF YOU GO: 16501 W. Northern Avenue, Litchfield Park AZ 85340

HIT THE SLOPES!

Yes, it does snow in Arizona! You will have to drive north of Phoenix into the mountains to see it, however. Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff and Sunrise Park Resort will both be open over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. More information on Arizona Snowbowl. More information on Sunrise Park Resort.

LIGHTS OF THE WORLD, LANTERN FESTIVAL (NOV. 18 – JAN. 29)

Organizers say this is the largest lantern festival in North America with more than four million lights and 75 larger-than-life displays of iconic landmarks across the world, including the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge and Statue of Liberty. More information.

Related: Take a 360-degree tour of the Lights of the World Festival

IF YOU GO: Rawhide Western Town, 5700 W. North Loop Road, Chandler AZ 85226

 

BE A MOVIE CRITIC FOR A DAY AND CATCH A FLICK

The Golden Globe nominations are out and we're waiting on Oscar nominations in January. Right now, you can still catch some of the GG-nominated films in theatres. You can also catch dinner and a show with some dine-in theatres.

Related: 12 theatres in Phoenix to see a movie

 

ICE SKATING

Amongst all the desert land, cacti and non-stop sunshine, you can find ice rinks in Arizona. During the holidays, rinks are built at downtown Phoenix's CityScape, Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, in downtown Mesa, and Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek. More information.

Related: 7 places to go ice skating around the Valley

 

MESA TEMPLE GARDEN LIGHTS (THROUGH DEC. 31)

Take an evening stroll through Mesa's Temple Garden which has been decorated with lights, nativity scenes, biblical teachings and festive music. It is open to everyone and free. More information.

IF YOU GO: 525 E. Main Street, Mesa AZ 85203

TOUR THE JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP GARDEN

Phoenix's Japanese Friendship Garden, also known as Ro Ho En, is a 3.5 acre garden with a 12-foot waterfall, more than 50 kinds of plants, 300 Koi fish and a tea house. It opened to the public in 2002. More information.

IF YOU GO: 1125 N. Third Avenue, Phoenix AZ 85003 Admission is $5

 

TRY OUT A NEW RESTAURANT

Food seems to be the glue that keeps us all together, and alive for that matter. Over the past 12 months, dozens of restaurants have opened their doors across the Valley. Why not go out and experience a new eatery, or try a different type of food you haven't had before?

 

VISIT A MUSEUM!

The Phoenix area has more than a dozen museums to check out around town. The Arizona Science Center has three floors of exhibits and interactive displays; the Heard Museum features Native American works; and the Phoenix Art Museum has hundreds of sculptures, paintings and photographs. We also have a Phoenix Police Museum which has an old squad car, a helicopter and three-wheeled bike. The police museum is free!

 

GO FOR A BIKE RIDE

Grid Bikes is a company that lets you rent bikes by the hour. They have various pick-up and drop-off locations in Phoenix and Mesa. Rates start at $7 an hour. More information.

 

GO FOR A ZIP AROUND TEMPE TOWN LAKE

Tempe Town Lake is a scenic spot in the heart of Tempe's downtown. It has more than 900 million gallons of water and is 19 feet deep at its deepest point. You can walk, run or bike around the lake, or rent a boat, pedal boat, or paddle board and zip up and down the lake. Even in winter, the sun still shines in Arizona. Rates vary between $18 - $80 an hour, depending on your mode of transportation. More information.

IF YOU GO: 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe AZ 85281

HIT THE ARCADE, THE DRIVING RANGE OR THE RACETRACK

If you're looking for a fun way to keep the kids (and adults) entertained, there are some go-kart tracks, driving ranges and arcades to visit.

Main Event - Main Event has arcade games,  bowling, a ropes course and laser tag. They have a bar and restaurant if you get hungry or thirsty. It will be open on Christmas Day and have limited hours on Christmas Eve.

Tilt Studio AZ - Tilt Studio opened in 2016 at Arizona Mills Mall. It has two floors full of games, including an area lined with more than 20 vintage pinball machines. It also has Pac-Man. They also have racing, claw and carnival-style games.

Octane Raceway - Jump into the driver's seat and race around Octane Raceway's 1/3-mile track. They're open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

CrackerJax -  This Scottsdale entertainment center has a go-karting course, laser tag, bumper boats, a driving range and miniature golf. They're open on Christmas Eve and closed on Christmas Day.

Phoenix Rock Gym - Feeling adventurous? Grab a friend and go rock climbing at the Phoenix Rock Gym. They're open each day leading up to Christmas Eve. They are closed on Christmas.

TopGolf - Hit the driving range, but not like your used to. Play against the family to see who can rack up the most points.

 

CHEER ON THE PHOENIX SUNS! (DEC. 29)

Looking to get out of the house and do something not-Christmas-y? Head to downtown Phoenix and catch a professional basketball game. The Suns are facing off against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 29. More information.

IF YOU GO: Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix AZ 85004

 

THE NUTCRACKER, PRESENTED BY PHOENIX BALLET (THROUGH DEC. 24)

The Phoenix Ballet is putting on the holiday classic, The Nutcracker. They have several performances leading up to Christmas Day. Tickets start at $25. More information.

IF YOU GO: 100 N. Third Street, Phoenix AZ 85004

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MUSICAL, PRESENTED BY ARIZONA BROADWAY THEATRE (DEC. 10-24)

A Christmas Carol returns to Arizona Broadway Theatre. The story, first written by Charles Dickens, has been re-adapted for the stage and turned into a musical. Follow the story of Ebenezer Scrooge as he revisits his past. More information.

IF YOU GO: 222 E. Monroe, Phoenix AZ 85004

TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA (DEC. 26)

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is back on the road again. The tour stops at Gila River Arena for two shows on Dec. 26. The first show starts at 3 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m. More information.

IF YOU GO: 9400 W. Maryland Avenue, Glendale AZ 85305

 

MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS (DEC. 27)

ASU Gammage will host Mannheim Steamroller Christmas for a one-night-only show on Dec. 27. The show features their music and multimedia effects. The show start at 8 p.m. Tickets start at  $35.  More information.

IF YOU GO: 1200 S. Forest Avenue, Tempe AZ 85281

 

ZOPPE: AN ITALIAN FAMILY CIRCUS (DEC. 27 - JAN 8, 2017)

Zoppe's 500-seat circus tent returns to the Valley for the 2016 holiday season. It will stop at the Chandler Center for the Arts from Dec. 27 - Jan. 8, 2017. Tickets are $15 - $40. Show times vary by date so make sure to check their official calendar.

IF YOU GO: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler AZ 85225

 

CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER (DEC. 29-30)

Actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer is coming to Phoenix's Stand Up Live at the end of December. More information.

IF YOU GO: 50 W. Jefferson Street, Phoenix AZ 85003

 

JAY PHAROAH (DEC. 29-31)

Jay Pharoah hosts this year's American Music Awards. The stand-up comic was also an actor on SNL. He comes to Tempe Improv for five shows in three days. More information.