10 fun places in Arizona to spend some time this winter

10 tiny treasures: Small Arizona towns to visit this winter

A pedestrian crosses in front of the Monte Vista Hotel in historic downtown Flagstaff on Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Josh Biggs)

By Teresa K. Traverse

December 13, 2023

Ready for a winter road trip? Consider visiting one of Arizona’s many charming towns and cities that have lots of holiday spirit.

From vibrant light displays to colorful main streets, here are 10 to visit this winter.

 

Prescott

Population: 46,833

Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles north

Arizona residents searching for the Christmas spirit will find it in Prescott. This mountain town was dubbed Arizona’s Christmas City back in 1989 by then-governor Rose Mofford, and the city has taken the distinction very seriously ever since. Downtown Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza and the surrounding buildings will all be decked out in colorful lights that glow after dark. The city also has a variety of events scheduled to celebrate the holidays, including a parade and a Christmas market. No matter when you visit, look forward to colorful holiday scenery. 

 

Sedona 

Population: 9,763

Distance from Phoenix: 116 miles north

10 Tiny Treasures: Small Arizona Towns to Visit This Winter

Many Arizona residents flock to Sedona to hike among its striking red rocks, but the town is quite the winter gem, too. For starters, if you’re fortunate enough to be here during or after a snowstorm, you’re likely to see those red rocks all dusted with fresh white powder—a stunning sight. Uptown Sedona features lights you can see just off of AZ-89A and even includes a gigantic light-wrapped bulb in which you can take pictures. 

The dining, art gallery, and shopping hub Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village will be all decked out too, including inflatables, overhead lights, and lights throughout that make the entire place glow after dark. This center hosts a variety of holiday events including a Chanukah menorah lighting, pictures with Santa, and a special lighting of 6,000 luminaries. Even if you can’t make the events, strolling through Tlaquepaque at twilight or just after dark is a magical experience. 

 

Williams 

Population: 3,267

Distance from Phoenix: 160 miles north

10 Tiny Treasures: Small Arizona Towns to Visit This Winter

Photo courtesy of Xanterra Travel Collection

Just over a one-hour drive from the Grand Canyon, Williams is one of the most popular places to stay when visiting Arizona’s most famous site. The city also literally lights up during the holidays. The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel offers a Polar Express Train Ride that allows kids to enjoy a festive train ride with cookies and hot chocolate before meeting Santa. The nearby Canyon Coaster Adventure Park is home to an alpine coaster and offers snow tubing. 

 

Flagstaff

Population: 76,989

Distance from Phoenix: 144 miles north

10 Tiny Treasures: Small Arizona Towns to Visit This Winter

Photo courtesy of Discover Flagstaff

The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff becomes the city’s unofficial holiday headquarters each year. Covered in lights, the hotel is also home to the North Pole Experience, in which guests can hop on a train and head to the North Pole where they’ll see Santa’s toy workshop and Mrs. Claus’ bakery before taking pictures with the man himself. Arizona Snowbowl receives an average of about 260 inches of snow. Ski or snowboard on the trails or go snow tubing on groomed trails at the Flagstaff Snow Park. The downtown Flagstaff visitor’s center that’s housed in a former train station is also home to an ice rink. 

 

Bisbee 

Population: 4,911

Distance from Phoenix: 211 miles southeast

Downtown Bisbee is a charming place any time of year. Fully transitioned from a mining town to an arts community, the city’s Main Street is lined with colorful shops and historic hotels. Downtown Bisbee should be lit up for the holidays, but the nearby community of Warren is sure to be. Many homes in this historic neighborhood just a few minutes from downtown will be decorated, as will many trees around Vista Park. Read more about holiday happenings here

 

Greer

Population: 58

Distance from Phoenix: 227 miles northeast

Greer is home to Sunrise Park Resort, an alpine ski resort that comprises three mountains: Sunrise Peak, Cyclone Circle, and Apache Peak. This resort offers skiing (cross-country or slope), snowboarding, ski bikes, and tubing. Greer is home to plenty of cabins so you can enjoy spending time in the mountains surrounded by trees. Located on Greer’s Main Street, The Molly Butler Lodge & Restaurant has been a destination since 1910, known for its prime rib. 

 

Pinetop-Lakeside

Population: 4,557 

Distance from Phoenix: 188 miles northeast

Located in the White Mountains, Pinetop-Lakeside features plenty of mountain scenery, a small lake, and green trees everywhere. Located at a higher elevation, you might also get some snow if you time your visit right. The city gets festive, too, with holiday events like Christmas concerts and a production of “The Nutcracker.” Find event details on the town’s website

 

Tubac

Population: 1,223

Distance from Phoenix: 158 miles southeast

Located in southern Arizona, Tubac is a vibrant arts community that’s home to an abundance of art galleries. The city hosts an annual celebration in early December called Luminaria Nights de Tubac. Visitors can enjoy treats, music, and plenty of lights. Stores will be open late so visitors can get their holiday shopping in. Children can drop off letters to Santa from Mrs. Claus at the Tubac Center of the Arts. Tubac Ranch is also hosting a production of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 23. Even if you miss this events, Tubac is a great city to shop for unique gifts.

 

Globe 

Population: 7,162

Distance from Phoenix: 89 miles east

Downtown Globe is chock-full of historic sites and buildings in addition to plenty of shops, including the Globe Antique Mall, Splash of Copper Art Gallery & Gifts, and Native American goods store Pickle Barrel Trading Post. Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum hosts an annual Festival of Lights in early December that includes luminarias and Native American cultural demonstrations. The city also hosts an annual Christmas parade through downtown with live music and food trucks. 

 

Sonoita 

Population: 727 

Distance from Phoenix: 162 miles southeast

Located in southern Arizona, Sonoita is best known as being the home of many different tasting rooms. Best of all? They’re all located close to each other. If you want to go wine tasting and bring home some bottles as gifts, Sonoita would be a perfect place to visit. Wineries with tasting rooms in the area include Sunset Ride Vineyards and Dos Cabezas WineWorks.

 

READ MORE: Your holiday light display guide for Phoenix and Tucson

Author

  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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