Tucson in December may not be snowy but it's full of holiday events, shopping and lights. We've rounded up the 10 must-do Christmas traditions — the ones you hear about every season. Pick a new one this year and go check it out.

1. Winterhaven

Winterhaven Festival of Lights is the big Christmas light display in Tucson. The midtown neighborhood has been lit up for 66 years. It's free to visit, although donations for the food bank are collected.


A family pauses for a photo at the Candy Cane Lane sign on Farr Street toward — where else? — Treat Circle. (Treat and candy canes seem to go together.)

When: Dec. 10-26, 2016; 6-10 p.m. every night. Monday, Dec. 26 is the drive-through night.


• If you plan to walk, look for parking on Tucson Boulevard and Prince Road and wear comfortable shoes.

• If you're driving, try entering the neighborhood at Prince Road and Treat Avenue or Tucson Boulevard and Kleindale Street or Country Club and Kleindale Street. The main entrance at Country Club and Fort Lowell roads tends to get congested.

2. Eat some tamales


Make them, buy them locally or visit the 12th Annual Tucson Tamal & Heritage Festival on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The AVA at Casino del Sol Resort and Casino, 5655 W. Valencia Road. Admission is free.

3. Las Posadas

Carrillo Elementary students dressed as angels carry the nacimiento through the neighborhood streets, part of the procession dramatizing the search for shelter by Joseph and Mary.

Since 1937 students at Carrillo K- 5 Magnet School, have been enacting Las Posadas with a procession through the historic Barrio Viejo neighborhood.


Students dressed as angels carry the nacimiento, or Nativity scene, for the Carrillo K-5 Magnet School’s 75th Annual Jubilee of the Las Posadas in 2011.

When: Dec. 16, 2016, event starts at 5 p.m. with food and entertainment. The procession begins at 7 p.m.

4. Tucson Downtown Parade of Lights

The downtown parade of lights begins at Armory Park at 4 p.m. with a holiday festival. Stay to see the mayor light the tree. The parade begins at 6:30 p.m. Watch for Santa being pedaled on a giant bike-powered float.


A firetruck, glowing with Christmas lights, rolls along Pennington St. near Stone Ave., as thousands lined the streets during the annual Holiday Parade in downtown Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, December 1. 2001.

When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

5. Arizona Inn Christmas decorations


Visit this piece of Tucson history to take in the festive décor, take a portrait by the fire or unwrap gifts in the library.

Relaxing in the library of the Arizona Inn at the foot of the 14-foot Christmas tree with a champagne cocktail or a steamy cup of holiday cheer — as a cozy mesquite fire crackles nearby — is bliss. Visit this piece of Tucson history to take in the festive décor, take a portrait by the fire or unwrap gifts in the library.

6. Christmas at San Xavier

Experience Christmas in Southern Arizona's 18th century landmark, a treasure of Spanish mission architecture and Baroque art. The Sons of Orpheus and Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus will perform. Fun fact: Linda Ronstadt headlined the first Christmas concert in the mission.


Luminarias light the way to a tent before the "Christmas at San Xavier" concert. 

When: Dec. 13, 14, 15, 2016 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Tickets go fast)

7. Rooftop Santa show

Santa Claus climbs a midtown roof and showers the audience with candy during the annual Poet's Square Christmas Pageant. The show was moved in 2014 to the Peter Howell Neighborhood in midtown at 4054 E. 4th St. (Near Alvernon and 5th Street). Free, but bring a canned food donation.


Santa Claus throws candy out to the audience from the rooftop during the annual Poet's Square Christmas Pageant. 

When: Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at 6:30 and 8 p.m.

8. Enchanted snowfall at La Encantada

White Christmases are a rarity in Tucson but you can experience the fake stuff at La Encantada mall at Skyline and Campbell during the holiday season. 


Desert snow fell into the La Encantada courtyard from snow machines placed on the upper level of the mall during the 2011 Enchanted Snowfall event.

When: Now through Dec. 17, 2016, Friday and Saturday evenings, 6 and 6:45 p.m. 

9. Reid Park's Zoo Lights

Reid Park's Zoo Lights displays include animal-themed light sculptures throughout the park, live entertainment and a visit from Santa. Tickets are $9.50 for adults, $5.50 for kids, kids under 2 are free, members get $2 off.


Fireball the rhino ventures out into his enclosure at the start of the night's activities at Zoo Lights 2015 at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson on Dec. 5, 2015. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

When: Wednesday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, 6-8 p.m.

10. Winter-break Arizona Wildcats basketball

UA basketball games during the winter break break have a festive feel and it's easier to get tickets. The holiday ticket pack contains one ticket to the Grand Canyon (Dec. 14), New Mexico (Dec. 20), Utah (Jan. 5) and Colorado (Jan. 7) games and starts at $112.