Gilbert's 12k's of Christmas run benefits Maricopa County Animal Care and Control and other animal care organizations. The whole family can get in the spirit of the season and run or walk in their best holiday apparel.
Special to the Tribune

This holiday season, there are events for everyone in Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe, Queen Creek and Phoenix to spend time with friends, family and wrap up the year in true Arizona style.


On Dec. 9, Santa Claus will be trading in his sleigh and reindeers for a plane, and landing at the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa, 2017 N. Greenfield Road. After he arrives at 11 a.m., he will be available for one-on-one chats with kids and families. Adult admission is $15, child admission for ages 5 to 12 is $5, and kids younger than 5 years old, veterans and active military members receive free admission.

Getting lost in Clara’s world of snowflakes and the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” ballet is a holiday staple for many in the East Valley, and it will be available again at the Mesa Arts Center from Dec. 8 to Dec. 17 at varying times. Purchase tickets online for $28 to $32 at or by phone at 480-644-6500. Admission for children under 2 years old is $6.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Mesa will be hosting a menorah lighting ceremony at the Superstition Springs Center, 6555 E. Southern Ave., for the 11th year in a row at 3 p.m. on Dec. 17. Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista will be there to greet the community, and a variety of other activities will be offered, including kids’ arts and crafts, entertainment by illusionist Eric Giliam and snacks such as latkes and doughnuts.

The event is free and open to the public. This year, the menorah will be a giant “Jenga menorah,” so attendees can help stack and build the menorah with blocks before it’s lit. Over the years, Rabbi Laib Blotner said the event has grown into something the community looks forward to all year. Last year, he said, over 150 people attended the ceremony.


There is no better cure for an Ebenezer Scrooge attitude than another must-see show for the holidays. “A Christmas Carol” is showing at the Hale Centre Theatre at 50 W. Page Ave. in downtown Gilbert from Nov. 30 through Dec. 23. Tickets range from $20 to $24, but show times are selling out already. Purchase tickets online at

While other states will be blanketed in snow and frost, desert dwellers will still be able to embrace the sunshine outside, and a yoga class with goats might be the most unique way to do so. At the Welcome Home Ranch at 26601 S. Val Vista Drive, attendees will take a yoga class with the most unusual company – baby goats dressed as reindeer, elves and even Santa Claus. For $15, see if the goats can help you find Zen – or maybe just a few laughs. The class is from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 15. Admission is available online at

The ninth annual 12k’s of Christmas Run might be the perfect seasonal event for anyone looking to shake off those post-Thanksgiving feast calories or make room for more Christmas cookies. On Dec. 9 at Freestone Park, 1045 E. Juniper Ave., the whole family can get in the spirit of the season and run or walk in their best holiday apparel. The best part is that attendance at the event will help support more than 30 animal shelters and rescues that will be there for pet adoptions and donations.

In the past eight years of the event, over 1,800 pets have found forever homes and over $80,000 has been donated to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control and other animal care organizations, according to its website. For entertainment, the Campo Verde High School will provide the tunes and there will be Christmas carolers at every kilometer in the route. Pre-register online at To participate in the full walk or run, admission is $55. The half-length route is $50, and admission for the 1.2-kilometer version is $20. Attendees can also shop from over 70 booths and win prizes for the best costumes.


The only sight more magical than an overload of lights on parade floats is when those floats are on water. Be sure to head to Tempe Town Lake on Dec. 9 around 7 p.m. to see this sight in action at the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade. Santa Claus will be making an appearance on a special boat and snacks from Udder Delights, Hot Cookie Truck, Deadlift Brew and Shakes, Mustache Pretzels, Hot Bamboo, Wandering Donkey and Yellowman Fry Bread will be available around Tempe Beach Park and Marina. The parade ends with a beautiful fireworks show.

Another perk of the Arizona sun is the opportunity to swim with Santa, an event that has become an East Valley tradition. For the 12th year, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be stopping by the Kiwanis Recreation Center and wave pool at 6111 S. All America Way from 1 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 30. While Santa swims, takes the water slide for a spin and takes pictures with children, Mrs. Claus will be doing magic tricks and hosting a story time.  

Spokesperson for Kiwanis Recreation Center TaiAnna Yee said every year you hear a “collective gasp” from all the kids at the pool once Santa and Mrs. Claus walk through the door. Pre-sale tickets for kids ages 2 to 12 are $5 or $7 for kids ages 13 or older. Day-of tickets are $7 or $9. Tickets can be purchased online at

Queen Creek

The 35th annual Queen Creek Festival and Parade is on Dec. 2, and the parade starts around 3:30 p.m. The route will venture north on Old Ellsworth Road and will end at the Recreation Annex and Library, where holiday festivities will continue until 7 p.m.

Kayla Geoffroy, administrative assistant for the Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce, said this year, the parade and festival will involve around 70 different community groups, from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, dance groups, high school marching bands and many more. Free pictures with Santa will also be available, as well as a carnival, food court, craft center and shopping booths.


If the kids are dreaming of a white Christmas this year, the desert sun has not melted all the possibilities of snow away yet. At the Children’s Museum of Phoenix at 215 N. 7th St. on Dec. 9, kids can play in 40 tons of snow and meet Santa starting at 9 a.m. The “Snow Much Fun Day” is free with museum admission of $12.

From Nov. 24 to Jan. 7, the CitySkate Holiday Ice Rink will be open for all skaters, with special appearances by Saint Nick and characters from “Frozen.” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will host the tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 25. Admission is $15 at the rink or $10 with a military ID, for children 8 years old or younger and for senior citizens. Children ages 3 or younger receive free admission.

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