Even though the high in Arizona was 87 degrees this past week, it’s crazy to think that Christmas is just around the corner. And what a better way to celebrate the holidays than with fun family traditions?! Whether its hanging Christmas lights on the house, decorating Christmas cookies, or going to see Santa, there are so many fun things to do to celebrate the holidays. Below are some of our favorite family traditions that we like to enjoy during the best time of the year, along with some new things we can’t wait to do as well.
Decorating the Christmas Tree
Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is our favorite way to kick off the Christmas spirit!
Now that we have children, it’s so much more fun because Arabella gets so excited to see the lights and pick out her favorite Disney ornaments. Some of our favorite ornaments we have collected throughout the years from little stores up north. Others we have gotten at Disneyland or from Swarovski as gifts from Josh’s brother. My favorite ornaments are the ones that mean the most, like the one from our first Christmas as a couple and Arabella’s first Christmas with Santa.
My all-time favorite ornament is the one I made that has Arabella’s hospital band, beanie, and paci in it.
Here’s a couple pictures from our first time decorating the tree with Arabella from last year.
Elf on the Shelf, Advent Calendar & Letters to Santa
Everybody knows what Elf on the Shelf is and let’s be real– it’s just as fun for parents as it is for the kids. We love participating in this fun Christmas tradition and can’t wait to see how Arabella reacts to it this year. This year we are starting our Letters to Santa tradition, where we are helping Arabella write her first letter to Santa with her Christmas list too. We are going to get all crafty and write her a letter back from “Santa”. Every year we are going to have her put her letter in her mailbox and wait for Santa’s reply. (Mailbox is from Home Goods).
Our Christmas advent calendar from Pottery Barn is one of our favorite ways to countdown the days to Christmas! Josh and I have a lot of fun picking out the cute surprises to put in the slots for Arabella.
Zoo Lights at the Phoenix Zoo is definitely one of my favorite family traditions during Christmas time. I have been going to the Zoo Lights with my family for as long as I can remember. Every year, we pack up the whole family and make a night of it. There are millions of lights, carousel rides, hot cocoa, and Santa of course. The Zoo Lights go until January 14th and you can find all of the info here. Here’s a photo from our first year together.
Last year we took Arabella and she had so much fun. The kids are so amazed by all the lights! I’m just not too sure about how she was feeling about Santa. Ha!
Electric Light Parades
In Arizona, there are some great options if you are looking to check out a Christmas light parade. This year is the 31st annual APS Electric Light Parade being held in Phoenix. My family took me and my brothers to this parade every year and its definitely something you would want to take your kids to see. There is also an APS Electric Light parade happening in Payson too if you’re looking to check one out up north. Both of these parades take place on December 2nd. Also happening on December 2nd is the Parade of Lights which will take place in downtown Chandler if you’re closer to that side of town. Lastly, Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade is a water parade on Tempe Town Lake being held on December 9th, and we can’t wait to check that out too!
(Photo from Travel2Arizona)
Glendale Glitters is a string of weekend festivals in historic downtown Glendale, which includes 16 blocks of the neighborhood that are draped in 1.5 million lights. There’s live entertainment, a ton of vendors with holiday gifts, horse-drawn carriage rides, a snow field, petting zoo, Santa and more! We have made the trip to the Glendale Glitters since the year Josh and I met. These pictures are from five years ago.
Every year there’s new shows to watch and new things to see. We always have so much fun.
We have been waiting to check out this ice skating rink in Phoenix, CitySkate! The first year it opened, I was pregnant with Arabella and last year we really wanted to go but I was pregnant with LJ. Obviously ice skating and pregnancy don’t really work well together. Haha. So we are excited to take Arabella this year. They are even hosting movie nights and other events at CitySkate. This is the perfect place for a date night this winter or somewhere for the entire family to enjoy.
(Photo from Raising Arizona Kids)
Little America is our home-away-from-home during the winter season. It’s such a gorgeous place to stay in Flagstaff and has so much to offer for the kids. During Christmas time, the entire property is covered in colorful Christmas lights and the property itself has gorgeous snowy woods where the kids can play. This is one of our favorite places ever. Here are some pictures from our first snow trip together, before the babies came along.
In this picture, I was three months pregnant with Arabella!
We have had so much fun taking baby girl here the last two years and cannot wait to take baby LJ this year!
Visits To Santa Claus
One of the best parts about Christmas time, is taking the kids to visit Santa OF COURSE. Seeing how they react every year is the best!
Here’s a picture of how much Arabella loved Santa last year and I am DYING looking back on this pic!
Here’s Arabella’s picture from her first visit with Santa.She was so bald! Haha.
The Polar Express: We think a long train ride might still be a little difficult for the kids this year so we aren’t going to start this family tradition until next year, but I hear so many awesome things about it. My best friend just took her kids and said it was perfect for her oldest, who is four years old.
Every year, the Grand Canyon Railway comes to life as the story of the Polar Express. The train ride travels from Williams, Arizona, to the “North Pole”. On the train ride back, Santa Claus surprises the children and passes out bells just like in the book! Riders also get to enjoy hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and performances while listening to this timeless story on the train. You can book your trip here.
Here’s a cute picture of my godson, Brantley, on the train from this year’s Polar Express experience.
North Pole Experience™: We are probably going to start this tradition next year too when Arabella is a little older, but again this is something so cool that Ariozna has to offer for Christmas time. The North Pole Experience was voted “Best Holiday Experience for Children” by Arizona Foothills Magazine last year. Located in Flagstaff, the North Pole Experience takes families on a trolley ride through the “magic portal” to Santa’s workshop in the middle of the forest. Once you arrive, Santa’s Workshop is a hands-on experience for the whole family where they work side-by-side with the elves, building toys and learning all of Santa’s Workshop secrets, attending Elf University, and visiting with Mrs. Claus. Guests also get to see Santa’s mail room, his personal office, and his top-secret “Area 47” Sleigh Hangar. After the hour and a half workshop, families end the experience with a private visit with Santa.
(Photo from Arizona Foothills Magazine)
Lights of the World: Lights of the World is such an awesome light display set up in downtown Phoenix featuring 10 million lights, 75 displays, games, rides, dancing, music and acrobats. This attraction features up to 60-ft lantern displays, and 11 exhibits showcasing global cultures and cuisine. We cannot wait to take the kids here.
(Photo from https://lightsoftheworldus.com/displays/)
I hope you’ve found some fun ideas to enjoy this season. Wishing everyone happy holidays!