With the turkey-day leftovers divvied up and fall decorations giving way to tinsel and twinkly lights, it’s time to turn our attention to the holidays. Here are our picks for 10 of the East Valley’s don’t-miss holiday events.
Ice Skating in Tempe
Practice your triple Axel jump, or just try not to fall down, on this 1,000-square-foot rink in front of a giant Christmas tree. About 15 skaters at a time are let on for 20-minute rounds, and skates are provided free of charge. Be sure to bring socks. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The District Plaza at Tempe Marketplace, 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway. Free. (480) 966-9338 or http://tempemarketplace.com.
Make an instant Christmas memory for children at this classic show where a little girl meets life-size mice and dancing sweets. A feast for the eyes and ears, thanks to colorful costumes and sets and Tchaikovsky’s original score, it’s been a tradition for Valley children’s performance troupe Ballet Etudes for 24 years. A nice bonus: Backstage tours are offered following most performances. Opens at 7 p.m. Friday, and plays various times Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 3-5 at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave., (480) 782-2680. Also plays Dec. 10-12 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St., (480) 644-6500. $15-$20. http://balletetudes.net.
Holiday light display at the Mesa Temple
More than 750,000 lights blanket the manicured grounds at this temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Local performers give 30-minute concerts each evening, and there’s a display of dozens of nativities gathered from around the world. Opens at 7 p.m. Friday and runs nightly through Dec. 31. Mesa Arizona Temple, 525 E. Main St. Free admission and parking. (480) 964-7164 or http://mesachristmaslights.com
“A Christmas Carol”
Kiss your bah-humbugs buh-bye at Hale Centre Theatre’s stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless holiday tale. Rich costumes, intimate seating in the round and snowfall make you feel closer than ever to the classic story and its uplifting message. Performances daily, Various times and days Dec. 1-23. Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert. $17-$30. (480) 497-1181 or http://haletheatrearizona.com.
Tempe Festival of the Arts
Ranked among the Top 20 art festivals in the nation by Sunshine Artist, this 42nd annual festival features more than 400 artist booths, live music acts, street performers and food vendors. It’s the perfect place to find out-of-the-ordinary gifts or simply while away a few hours unplugging from holiday stress. Did we mention there’s an Arizona wine festival on the grounds? 10 a.m. to dusk Dec. 3-5. Downtown Tempe. Free. (602) 997-2581 or http://tempefestivalofthearts.com.
This second annual German Christmas market, organized by The Arizona Center for Germanic Cultures, features gift vendors, artisans, carolers, German folk dancers, food booths and a traditional filling of shoes with gifts. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 4. Downtown Mesa. Free. (480) 502-8510 or http://christkindlmarktaz.com.
Tumbleweed Tree Lighting
Most cities host a community tree lighting, but Chandler’s takes the cake for uniquely Southwestern city centerpieces. Made of more than 1,500 natural desert tumbleweeds piled into a 25-foot cone, it’s painted white, doused in 20 gallons of flame retardant, dusted with glitter and festooned with lights. The lighting ceremony is surrounded by an extravaganza that includes a light parade, a Santa house and two entertainment stages. 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 4. Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, 3 S. Arizona Ave. Free. (480) 782-2735 or http://chandleraz.gov. Tribune video
The 12Ks of Christmas
Pointy shoes, reindeer antlers and Santa hats are welcome at these festive, family friendly 12K, 6K and 1.2K runs/walks. Pre- and post-race festivities include a Pet Village, where more than 40 animal rescue groups will offer pet adoptions, a gift bazaar and caroling performances. 10 a.m. Dec. 11. Freestone Park, 1045 E. Juniper Ave., Gilbert. Race fees vary; admission is free. (480) 609-3978 or http://12krun.com.
Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade
If you’re only going to make it to one holiday parade this season, catch the only one that’s on the water. Up to 50 festively lighted boats of all shapes and sizes float by on Tempe Town Lake, as the 1,645-foot METRO Tempe Town Lake Bridge glows with a programmed LED display. Santa Claus visits with kids in the park, too. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 11. Tempe Beach Park, 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway. Free. (4800 355-6060 or http://www.millavenue.com.
Swim With Santa
We don’t pretend to understand the rhyme or reason behind this East Valley tradition, but swimming with a bearded old man in a bathing suit and a Hawaiian shirt is a post-holiday must in these parts. Santa makes a splash in the Kiwanis Recreation Center’s heated indoor wave pool, while Mrs. Claus entertains with stories and magic. Holiday music and games, cookies and milk, and free prizes are also part of the fun. 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 26 and 27. Kiwanis Recreation Center, 6111 S. All-America Way, Tempe. $6 for kids 13 and older, $3 for kids ages 2-12. Discount tickets are available beginning Nov. 29 at the KRC. (480) 350-5740 or http://tempe.gov/kiwanis.