It’s easy to let Christmastime slip by without ever taking time to pause and enjoy purposeful activities with our closest friends and family. Here are several ways to make special memories this holiday season, whether you’re catering to kids, out of towners or a tight budget.
Fun with kids
‘Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus’
East Valley Children’s Theatre presents a re-imagined version of Francis P. Church’s New York Sun editorial, featuring an 8-year-old girl and a struggling young newspaper editor whose paths cross on Christmas Eve.
DETAILS >> 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, and Friday, Dec. 13, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. $15 for adults, $11 for children 17 and younger. (480) 644-6500 or mesaartscenter.com.
‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’
Santa’s elves pay a visit to a poor shoemaker and his wife in this Christmas musical at Great Arizona Puppet Theatre.
DETAILS >> Thursdays through Saturdays through Dec 22. Great Arizona Puppet Theatre, 302 E. Latham St., Phoenix. $10 for adults, $7 for kids ages 2 and older, children 11 months and younger are free with another child ticket. (602) 262-2050 or azpuppets.org.
Immerse yourself in a wilderness aglow with 3.7 million lights, including more than 700 light sculptures of lions, tigers, spiders, monkeys and a host of other critters. This light show is one of the largest in the state and is an annual holiday destination for many families. Adult beverages will be available for purchase Fridays and Saturdays.
DETAILS >> Open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays during December; open through Jan. 12. Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway. $9-$14, free for children two and younger. (602) 914-4333 or phoenixzoo.org.
Good for out of towners
Las Noches de las Luminarias
Christmas in the desert may not sound appealing to everyone, but an evening stroll through Desert Botanical Garden amid 8,000 hand-lit luminarias, thousands of twinkly white lights and vibrant works of art might change Great Aunt Gertie’s mind. Live music, Dickens Carolers and food and beverage options compliment the experience.
DETAILS >> 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 31, closed Dec. 24-25. Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. $30 for adults, $12.50 for children ages 3-12, children and younger are free. A dinner buffet is available for $17.50 for adults and $9.50 for children 12 and younger. (480) 941-1225 or dbg.org.
London Bus Lights Tour
If you’re looking for an unusual yet festive activity to do when the relatives come, why not take a lights tour aboard a double-decker London Bus, sipping hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music along the way? The tour starts at Tempe Marketplace and proceeds to three or four large neighborhood light displays around the East Valley. The bus stops for 20 minutes at each location, allowing everyone to get out, stretch their legs, see the lights and refill their hot chocolate. Guests are welcome to bring small amounts of outside food and beverages.
DETAILS >> 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, 28, 29. Tempe Marketplace, 2000 E Rio Salado Pkwy. $50. (480) 334-8372 or reallondonbus.com.
‘A Christmas Carol’
Hale Center Theatre’s annual version of Dickens’ redemption tale, performed in an intimate theatre in the round complete with mist and falling snow, has become an East Valley tradition. It usually sells out, so don’t wait ’til the day of to get tickets.
DETAILS >> Runs Thursday through Saturday through Dec. 24. Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave, Gilbert. $16-$26. (480) 497-1181 or haletheatrearizona.com.
Best on a budget
Spend a day at Bass Pro Shops in Mesa where Mom, Dad and the munchkins can work on crafts, play the laser arcade, race slot cars, write letters to and get pictures with Santa, goof off with remote control trucks, ride a wildlife carousel, and have a snow fight (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) without ever leaving the store.
DETAILS >> Open daily through Dec. 24, hours vary by day and activity. Bass Pro Shops, 1133 N. Dobson Road, Mesa. Free. (602) 606-5600 or www.basspro.com.