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These Tucson-area events will illuminate your holidays

Visitors get photos of the Christmas tree just as darkness falls over the Marana Holiday Festival in 2021.

With the holiday season in full swing (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way,) there is no better time for planning your December outings. That’s especially true if you enjoy a good light show.

The Tucson area will be running up its electric bill in 2022, with multiple events taking place through the end of the year.

Here are some options to get you into the holiday spirit.

LightsUp! A Festival of Illumination

While Tucson Botanical Gardens has had its traditional luminarias display for several decades, the park is trying something a little bit different this year with its new LightsUp! festival, taking place from Friday, Nov. 25 through Jan. 15.

The evening event will divide the garden into six themed zones, with more than one million lights, complementing larger-than-life, custom-built installations and pieces created by local artists, according to press materials.

The experience was designed by public garden landscape artist Tres Fromme, and includes a 50-foot light tunnel and choreographed Cyprus trees.

The events runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every day except for Mondays. Tickets are $30 general admission and $28 for children ages 4-17. Children 3 and younger are free. Tucson Botanical Gardens is at 2150 N. Alvernon Way.


Marana tree lighting

Marana has a full day of activities planned for its tree lighting, taking place from just before 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The free holiday festival will take place at the Marana Municipal Complex, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr., and will include a welcome parade for Santa at 2:45 p.m., free photos with Santa from 3 to 9 p.m., two stages with live entertainment, a holiday market and activities for the kids.

The main event will be the 30-foot Christmas tree lighting followed by a 17-minute light show, taking place at 6 p.m. and then again at 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit

Oro Valley tree lighting

Oro Valley combines its tree lighting ceremony with the annual Oro Valley Festival of the Arts, set to take place this year at Oro Valley Marketplace, 12155 N. Oracle Road, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4.

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Much like the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, the Festival of the Arts offers row after row of artists and creators, showcasing their works for the holiday season.

The event will have children’s activities, such as cookie decorating and free photos with Santa, live music and food available on-site.

The tree lighting celebration runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit

Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Tucson’s Winterhaven neighborhood will shine brighter than the Las Vegas Strip this holiday season with its annual Festival of Lights taking place from Dec. 10 through Dec. 26.

Located north of East Fort Lowell Road, south of East Prince Road, between North Tucson Boulevard and North Country Club Road, the festival includes brightly lit holiday scenes presented by the residents.

Bring comfy shoes and maybe a wagon for the kiddos when they get tired from all the walking. Food trucks are on-site. Admission is free.

The festival takes place from

6 to 10 p.m. daily. Info: winter

Zoo Lights

Zoo Lights is the one time of year at Reid Park Zoo where the festive, colorful light displays garner more attention than the actual zoo animals do.

This year’s Zoo Lights will include a Candyland display, falling snow in the Arctic Zone, festive music and daily visits from Santa Claus.

The evening activities kick-off on Dec. 2 and 3 and then pick up again on Dec. 5 through Dec. 30. It runs from 6 to 9 p.m. each day. Reid Park Zoo is located at 3400 E. Zoo Court.

Tickets are $12 general admission and $8 for children 14 and younger. Children under 2 years old are free.

More info:

The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is welcoming the public once again to the famous Tucson neighborhood for the 72nd annual colorful holiday celebration.

Winterhaven is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night until Dec. 26, when the festival hosts a drive-through night. Video by Jesse Tellez/Arizona Daily Star.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay


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Gerald received his journalism degree from the University of Maryland. He has been with the Star for 16 years and has covered a variety of beats. Currently, he divides his time between the presentation desk and as a member of the digital team.

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