At Home for the Holidays

It might be the desert, but northern Arizona is still a winter wonderland. Here are 12 highlight events on the local holiday calendar -- many of them free!



Yes, Virginia, there is more to the holiday season than frantic trips from mall to mall trying to get your hands on this year’s “It” item (Halo 3, perhaps?), scrubbing floors before the in-laws arrive, standing in long lines at the Post Office, and midnight baking marathons. Take a deep breath, grab your coat and gloves, and enjoy yourself! Here are 12 events – most with free admission – guaranteed to take some stress out of the season and put a smile on your face, from singing Christmas carols with your neighbors at Barbara’s Park at sunset to watching the aluminum pinecone drop down the side of an historic hotel to ring in the new year. December in northern Arizona may get a little chilly, but we think you’ll agree there’s no shortage of holiday events to warm a heart.

Nov. 15, 2007

Red Rock Fantasy

For a small town, Sedona KNOWS how to light up the holidays. The 17th annual Red Rock Fantasy light display at Los Abrigados Resort and Spa features more than 1 million lights. Each year, families from as far away as California, local businesses, and non-profit groups create whimsical displays, using a maximum of 12,000 lights each, but with no limit on imagination. Entrants are competing for a lifetime vacation ownership at ILX (Los Abrigados’ parent company) properties and other vacation prize packages. After viewing the Red Rock Fantasy displays, each attendee is asked to vote for five favorite displays. Last year’s big winner, A Cowboy Christmas, featured a cactus made out of lights, and silhouetted cowboys and horses surrounding a campfire. The Contestants Choice winner, Happy Holidays from Around the World, included replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. Plan to spend at least an hour walking among the displays or, for an extra fee, ride on a carriage or wagon. New this year: kids’ activities and live music.

Red Rock Fantasy
Open through Jan. 1, 2008; 5-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 5-10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (all weather permitting). Admission: $6/adults, $5/seniors, $4/kids, ages 4-12. Los Abrigados Resort and Spa, 160 Portal Ln. (928-282-1777;

Nov. 17, 2007

World’s Largest Gingerbread Village – Prescott Resort

The Prescott Resort isn’t biting off more than it can chew when it claims to be home to the world’s largest gingerbread village – 100 individual gingerbread houses and a LGB Co. train made up the 2006 village, and this year the resort sweetened the pot by offering gingerbread-house-making classes in October. Each house is at least 51 percent edible and built with goodies including licorice, pretzels, marzipan, fondant, shredded wheat, almonds, and gumdrops. Families, schools, non-profit organizations, and businesses buy “land” for a house ($25 to $50); proceeds go to Yavapai Big Brothers and Sisters. Judges award ribbons to the most creative houses in nine categories. You’ll eat it up – and we dare you not to think about stopping to buy your own gingerbread kit on the way home.

World’s Largest Gingerbread Village
Open through Dec. 27. Free admission. Prescott Resort and Conference Center, 1500 Hwy 69, Prescott (928-776-1666;

Dec. 1, 2007

Grand Canyon Railway’s The Polar Express

The classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, comes to life in December and January at the Grand Canyon Railway, headquartered in Williams. Children, most decked out in pajamas and slippers, and their parents board “The Polar Express” after dark, enjoying hot chocolate and cookies and listening as the book is read aloud. The train arrives at the “North Pole” where Santa Claus boards while his reindeer wait outside, and gives each child a gift (if you’ve read the book or seen the movie starring Tom Hanks, you can guess what that tinkling surprise might be). Family packages, which include a one-night stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and dinner and breakfast at the railway’s restaurant, are available and sold first – individual tickets are sold after packages sell out for the requested night.

Grand Canyon Railway’s The Polar Express
Select nights at 6:30 and 8 p.m. through Jan. 12. Packages start
at $289; individual tickets are $26/adults, $14/children. Departs from the Williams Depot at 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd. in Williams 1-800-THE-TRAIN;

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