It's hard to beat winter in Arizona. With Phoenix temperatures regularly in the 60s, many snowbirds flock south to hibernate in the warm weather and sunshine. Head just a few hours north, snowy Flagstaff looks like a winter wonderland. With that said, there are seemingly endless possibilities of activities in Arizona during the winter. Here are 13 great things to do if you find yourself in the desert this winter.
Las Noches de las Luminarias is an annual festival at the Desert Botanical Garden. The garden is lit up by thousands of luminaria bags in celebration of the holidays. Visitors can stroll through the garden as the lights enhance the desert scenery. For music fans, various concerts are held nightly ranging from Mariachi bands to the classical crossover band Simply Three.
Yes, Arizona has sleigh rides. Every winter, Flagstaff's Windmill Ranch offers private sleigh rides to guests looking for a tour of a winter wonderland. The horse-drawn sleigh rides are an hour-long tour of northern Arizona's snow-covered Coconino National Forest. Once the sleigh bells stop ringing, guides will finish the time by building a campfire and serving up hot cocoa to the guests.
The Tucson Winterhaven Festival of Lights is one of the longest running lights festivals in the country. For several weeks each December, the residents of the Winterhaven community open up their neighborhood to thousands of visitors. Nearly every house is decked out with a spectacular Christmas lights display. Tours of the lights are available via hayride wagon, bus trolley, and even a pedal-powered bus group bike.
Arizona is the Grand Canyon state after all. The famous national park gets fewer visitors during the winter due to cold and snowy conditions. However, the less crowded conditions allow visitors to experience a calmer and more in-depth exploration of the park. Plus, the fallen snow makes views of the canyon even more picturesque.
Sedona is one of Arizona's best tourist destinations. One of the benefits to visiting in the winter is that it's the offseason—meaning it's not quite as pricy. With temperatures regularly 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix, it often gets forgotten in the winter. But between the downtown shopping district, scenic red rocks, and many resorts there are enough reasons to make a trip.
Glendale Glitters is the largest free holiday light display in Arizona. The display features over 1.5 million LED lights across 16 blocks of the historic downtown area of Glendale. Visitors can enjoy holiday entertainment, food, shopping, a snowfield, and a petting zoo. The event kicks off the day after Thanksgiving until early January each year.
Attending a bowl game is a rite of passage for any college football fan. Fortunately, Arizona hosts the Fiesta Bowl, Cactus Bowl, and Arizona Bowl each year. These spectacles bring competition, tradition, and crowds to Arizona that make for an exciting event whether your team is playing or not.