10 Things to Do in Phoenix in December

December combines the beginning of winter in Phoenix with the celebration of Christmas and the ideal weather for some outdoor excursions. Here's what you can do in Arizona's capital city during the last month of the year.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

11 min read

10 Things to Do in Phoenix in December

Vista de Phoenix desde la ventana |©Logan Selinski

If you plan to visit Phoenix in December or close out the year in the city, you'll find pleasant weather for outdoor excursions, Christmas celebrations and some of the best cultural events as well. In addition, you'll also find options in nearby cities.

Some of the best things to do in Phoenix in December include taking an Arizona desert adventure tour, visiting the interactive exhibits at the city zoo, taking a tour of Downtown to discover the eve decorations, seeing the Chapel of the Holy Cross and taking a guided tour of Saguaro National Park.

1. Take an adventure tour of the Arizona desert.

Monument Valley|©MANUEL ZALDÍVAR
Monument Valley|©MANUEL ZALDÍVAR

December is the perfect time to embark on an Arizona desert adventure tour. This time of year offers a unique experience, allowing you to discover the beauty and breathtaking scenery of the desert while experiencing the climatic changes unique to the region.

During an adventure tour, you can explore the vast terrain of the Arizona desert and marvel at its rugged landscape and rock formations. You can hike winding trails, climb hills and admire the breathtaking panoramic views. In addition, the weather in December is generally mild and pleasant, making it comfortable for outdoor activities and some of the best desert tours in Phoenix.

Another exciting aspect of taking a desert adventure tour in December is the opportunity to experience the site's climatic changes. As the sun sets, you can feel the cool breeze and enjoy the tranquility and serenity that takes over the desert at night. You can also discover the picturesque sunsets and the glow of the stars in a clear sky as you ride along the trails in a vehicle or on an ATV.

In December, the Arizona desert comes alive in a special way. Plants and wildlife adapt to the cooler weather, providing a unique opportunity to appreciate desert flora and fauna in their natural environment. You may spot migratory birds, flowering cacti and perhaps even a native animal, such as the coyote.

Book an ATV Adventure Tour in Phoenix

2. Visit the Phoenix Zoo's Christmas Exhibits

Phoenix Zoo|©africankelli africankelli
Phoenix Zoo|©africankelli africankelli

Visiting the Phoenix Zoo in December is an exciting experience, especially since it is possible to participate in the interactive Christmas exhibits. These activities are not only educational, but also fun and captivating, making it one of the ideal options to enjoy with children in the city.

During your visit, you will have the opportunity to feed animals such as giraffes, parrots and lemurs. It is a unique experience to see these majestic creatures up close as you offer them their food. In addition, you can also see the Christmas decorations and visit the complex at night to discover the lights on the trees, where you can have your picture taken.

In addition to feeding the animals, the zoo has a variety of interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn more about wildlife. You can participate in activities such as touching reptiles, watching birds in flight and exploring natural habitat exhibits.

December is a pleasant time to visit the Phoenix Zoo, as temperatures are usually mild and pleasant. This allows visitors to comfortably enjoy the outdoor exhibits and interactive activities without suffering the extreme heat of summer. Plus, the festive seasonal atmosphere will add a special tinge to your visit, as the zoo will remain decorated and offer themed events throughout the month.

Buy tickets to visit the Phoenix Zoo

3. Walk around Downtown Phoenix to discover the city lights.

Downtown Phoenix|©Amy Dawson
Downtown Phoenix|©Amy Dawson

Walking through Downtown Phoenix in December is a magical experience that will allow you to discover the lights and decorations that adorn the city during the holiday season. As you enter the illuminated streets, you will be immersed in a festive atmosphere full of joy and holiday spirit.

The heart of the city is transformed into a light show in December, with decorated buildings, illuminated trees and streets adorned with garlands and Christmas decorations. Walking through its streets will soak you in the eve atmosphere, which is filled with Christmas music and bustling crowds.

During the walk, which you can do on your own or by joining one of Phoenix's best tours and excursions, you'll discover a variety of scenes and light shows, from glittering Christmas trees to light projections on buildings. Downtown restaurants and stores also join in the festivities, decorating their windows and offering special events.

Whether you're walking alone, as a couple or as a family, strolling around Downtown Phoenix in December is a memorable experience. You can stop at the many cafes and restaurants to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or sample delicious holiday desserts. Plus, you'll find special events, such as outdoor concerts and holiday markets.

4. Watch the Lighted Boat Parade on Tempe Town Lake

Fantasy of Lights Boat|©Downtown Tempe
Fantasy of Lights Boat|©Downtown Tempe

Watching the Lighted Boat Parade on Tempe Town Lake in December is a magical experience that captures the holiday spirit and creates unforgettable memories. This annual event attracts thousands of visitors and offers a unique view of boats decorated with holiday lights sailing the waters of the lake.

The Lighted Boat Parade is a breathtaking spectacle that combines the beauty of the lights with the serenity of the lake. The boats are meticulously decorated with brightly colored lights, creating a dazzling sight that illuminates the water and reflects its glow on the surface.

Tempe Town Lake becomes the perfect setting for this parade, as its natural and tranquil surroundings provide an idyllic setting to enjoy the event. You can find a strategic spot on the shores of the lake to watch the parade and marvel at the creativity and effort that has gone into decorating each boat.

In addition to enjoying the parade itself, the event also often features additional activities, such as live music, food booths and arts and crafts sales. It's a perfect opportunity to enjoy an afternoon or evening with the family, indulging in culinary delights, listening to festive music and soaking in the joyous and festive atmosphere at one of the best places to visit from Phoenix.

5. Visit the Heard Museum's Holiday Marketplace

Heard Museum|©Steve Conger
Heard Museum|©Steve Conger

Visiting the Heard Museum Christmas Market in December is an enchanting experience that will immerse you in the magic of the holiday season and allow you to explore the rich Native American culture. This annual event is one of the most popular in Phoenix during the holidays, offering a wide range of traditional crafts, art and food.

The market features numerous booths where Native American artists and artisans display their work. You can find jewelry, textiles, ceramics and sculptures, all handmade and uniquely designed to reflect the rich cultural heritage of Native American tribes.

In addition to shopping, the Heard Museum Holiday Market offers an immersive experience with live music, traditional dances and craft demonstrations. You can delight in cultural performances that will transport you to the ancestral traditions of Native American tribes, immersing you in their music, rituals and artistic expressions during a visit to one of Phoenix's finest museums.

Food is also an essential part of this holiday market. You will be able to taste the delicious traditional cuisine of the Native American tribes, such as fry bread, green chili and typical sweets.

6. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Chapel of the Holy Cross|©RViana
Chapel of the Holy Cross|©RViana

Visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross in December from Phoenix is an experience that combines natural beauty and spirituality. Located atop a hill about 170 miles from the state capital, this iconic chapel offers panoramic views of the desert landscape and is a place of worship. You can reach it by car along I-17N or by private transfer, but either way it's worth the visit.

In December, the Chapel of the Holy Cross dresses up to celebrate Christmas. You can attend the Christmas celebrations that take place in this sacred place, where faith and the beauty of the surroundings are intertwined. You can also participate in masses, carol concerts and other festive activities.

In addition to the religious celebrations, the Chapel of the Holy Cross offers the opportunity to enjoy the peace and serenity of the surroundings. You can tour the surrounding gardens, which are adorned with Christmas decorations, and admire the chapel's unique architecture, which combines modern and traditional elements.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is also a popular place to take photographs, especially at sunset, when the sun sets behind the mountains and creates a magical atmosphere. It is the perfect backdrop for capturing special moments and creating lasting memories during a visit to Sedona from Phoenix, where you can also enjoy some of the best balloon flights.

Book a balloon flight in Phoenix

7. Experience New Year's Eve at Westgate Bars

bar in Phoenix|©Westgate Destinations
bar in Phoenix|©Westgate Destinations

New Year's Eve at Westgate Bars in Phoenix is an exciting and fun-filled experience to welcome the New Year. Westgate Entertainment District is known for being one of the city's premier entertainment destinations, and during New Year's Eve, it comes alive with a festive and vibrant atmosphere.

Westgate bars offer a variety of options for celebrating New Year's Eve. From sports bars to elegant lounges and nightclubs, you'll find options for every taste and style.

The festive atmosphere extends throughout the district, with holiday decorations, twinkling lights and live music. Stroll the streets, enjoy street performances and join the lively crowds as they gather to celebrate the start of a new year. If you visit Phoenix in January, you can also take part in the themed parties the district offers on winter nights.

In addition to the fun at the bars, Westgate also has a wide selection of restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious dinner to say goodbye to the year. From local cuisine to international options, there is something to satisfy every palate and celebrate the occasion in a special way.

8. Catch a Phoenix Symphony performance

Phoenix Symphony Hall.|©Ashley Ballard
Phoenix Symphony Hall.|©Ashley Ballard

Attending a Phoenix Symphony performance in December is an enriching cultural experience that will immerse you in the magic of classical music during the holiday season. The city's symphony is renowned for its exceptional talent and for delivering breathtaking performances that thrill audiences.

During the month of December, the Phoenix Symphony presents a series of special holiday-themed concerts. These concerts highlight classic seasonal favorites such as Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and Bach's Christmas Oratorio, among others. The orchestra, led by renowned conductors from around the world, creates a magical atmosphere that transports you into the holiday spirit.

Attending a Phoenix Symphony concert in December also gives you the opportunity to appreciate the talents of outstanding guest soloists and choirs, who join the orchestra to perform iconic pieces of classical music.

In addition to the music, the atmosphere in the theater is warm and festive, with holiday décor that immerses you in the atmosphere of the season.

9. Take a guided tour of Saguaro National Park.

Welcome to Saguaro National Park|©Farid Char
Welcome to Saguaro National Park|©Farid Char

Taking a guided tour of Saguaro National Park in December in Phoenix is an exceptional experience that allows you to explore and marvel at the natural beauty of the desert during one of the most enjoyable times of the year. Saguaro National Park is known for its iconic saguaro cacti, which dominate the landscape and provide a breathtaking spectacle.

During the month of December, temperatures in Saguaro National Park are pleasant, with warm days and cool nights. This provides perfect weather for exploring the trails and enjoying the panoramic views the park has to offer. In addition, the influx of visitors is lower compared to the summer months in Phoenix, allowing you to enjoy a quieter, more personalized activity.

A guided tour of Saguaro National Park will give you the opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the desert, as well as the cultural and historical significance of the region. Local guides are familiar with the park and will take you through the most outstanding trails, sharing their knowledge and answering your questions.

During your visit, you can marvel at the majesty of the saguaro cacti, observe native birds and other animals, and even learn about the ancient indigenous cultures that inhabited the region on the best desert tours from Phoenix.

10. Keep with tradition and visit Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona, USA.|©DM PHOTOGRAPHY
Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona, USA.|©DM PHOTOGRAPHY

Fulfilling tradition and visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument in Phoenix is a unique way to bid farewell to the year and attract good luck according to legend. Montezuma Castle is a fascinating historic structure built by the ancient Sinagua civilization, and its mystery and beauty make it a must-see destination.

Legend has it that those who visit Montezuma Castle on New Year's Eve and take a last look at the year that is ending have the opportunity to leave behind any bad luck and start the new year with good omens. This belief has attracted numerous visitors seeking to connect with the history and spirituality of the place.

During your visit to Montezuma Castle, you can admire the ancient architecture and impressive ruins nestled atop a hill. In addition, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape and connect with the energy and history of this sacred place.

Montezuma Castle National Monument also offers opportunities to learn about the culture and traditions of the Native Americans who inhabited the area.

Temperatures in Phoenix in December

Phoenix December|©Tiny_Adventures
Phoenix December|©Tiny_Adventures

In December, temperatures in Phoenix are pleasant and provide a respite from the extreme heat of summer. During the day, temperatures usually range between 20° and 25°, allowing you to enjoy outdoor activities without feeling overwhelmed by the heat. However, it is important to note that evenings can be cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 10°.

December weather in Phoenix is ideal for exploring the city and its surroundings. You can enjoy walks in the parks, visit the many nearby tourist destinations, such as the Grand Canyon, and participate in outdoor events. In addition, the cool temperatures make it pleasant for activities such as hiking, biking and golfing.

Phoenix tourism in December

CARS ON THE ROAD|©Thomas Gorman
CARS ON THE ROAD|©Thomas Gorman

In December, Phoenix experiences a significant increase in tourism due to the pleasant temperatures and the large number of events and festivities that take place during this month. Many visitors choose Phoenix as a destination to enjoy a winter vacation to escape the cold of other regions, as well as to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve there.

Phoenix's main attractions in December include festivals of lights, parades, Christmas markets and cultural events. The city is filled with a festive and welcoming atmosphere, which attracts tourists from all over. However, despite the increased crowds, it is possible to find accommodations and enjoy the attractions without feeling overly crowded.

Prices in Phoenix in December

phoenix market city mall|©akshay N
phoenix market city mall|©akshay N

In December, prices in Phoenix can vary depending on tourist demand and seasonal festivities. It is important to keep in mind that due to the increased influx of visitors, some services and accommodations may increase in price.

In general, you will find a wide range of lodging options in different price ranges, from luxury hotels to more economical accommodations. You will also find restaurants and bars for inexpensive dining, with options to suit all budgets, although prices may rise in Phoenix during the Christmas season.

What to pack for your December visit to Phoenix?

Family in front of the suitcase|©Ketut Subiyanto
Family in front of the suitcase|©Ketut Subiyanto

For much of the year the temperature is pleasant and stable in Phoenix and December, despite the imminent arrival of winter, is no exception, so I advise you to include the following in your suitcase:

  • Safe mountain footwear
  • Mountain coat
  • Light jacket
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Wool sweaters
  • Light T-shirt
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Lightweight pants