December Regional Travel — Celebrate the Season in the Southwest

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November 28, 2022

Mission illuminated by luminarias

The Southwest welcomes the holiday season with candlelight celebrations and novel ways to welcome St. Nick.

Southern Arizona

During the holidays, southern Arizona lights up with luminarias and centuries-old festivals.

See Light in the Valley of the Sun

See our Regional Travel Calendar for more year-round destinations.

Taking up 140 acres in the heart of Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden serves as a home to more than 50,000 plants, including many indigenous cacti and agave. During the holidays, the landscape basks in the soft glow of hundreds of luminarias — along with electric holiday lights. Known as Las Noches de las Luminarias, the event guides guests through a desert wonderland that will make you see nature in a whole new way.

Luminarias perched upon residential walls.

Luminarias glow in the night. Getty Images

Enjoy LightsUp! A Festival of Illumination at Tucson Botanical Gardens

During this event, the city’s Botanical Gardens put on an eclectic lighting display with more than 3,000 luminaries. Designed by Tres Fromme, a nationally known public garden landscape architect, over a million lights are placed throughout the property’s diverse gardens in six connected thematic zones with unique color palettes. Each zone features custom-built, oversized installations and pieces by local artisans. Food, drink and entertainment keep the holiday spirit alive during the event.

Watch Yuma Light Up for Christmas

On the banks of the Colorado River, Yuma has long been a favorite spot for winter snowbirds. During the holidays, revelers gather in the heart of the city for the lighting of the Main Street Christmas Tree in front of the Yuma Art Center. The Old Town Christmas Festival features treats, free photos with Santas, and live performances.

Choose from the following Arizona RV Parks:

Arizonian, Apache Junction Towerpoint Resort, Mesa
Superstition Sunrise RV Resort, Apache Junction Val Vista Village RV Resort, Mesa
Weaver’s Needle RV Resort, Apache Junction Valle Del Oro RV Resort, Mesa
CT RV Resort, Benson Western Acres, Mesa
Casa Grande RV Resort & Cottages, Casa Grande Crazy Horse RV Campgrounds, Tucson
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon Far Horizons RV Resort, Tucson
Apache Wells RV Resort, Mesa Rincon Country East RV Resort, Tucson
Good Life RV Resort, Mesa Del Pueblo RV Resort, Yuma
Mesa Regal RV Resort, Mesa Fortuna de Oro RV Resort, Yuma
Mesa Sunset RV Resort, Mesa Sundance RV Resort, Yuma
Sun Life RV Resort, Mesa Villa Alameda RV Resort, Yuma
An aerial shot of an observatory overlooking the grid of a metropolis at night.

Griffith Park Observatory Los Angeles. Getty Images

Southern California

See how Californians welcome the holidays with unique celebrations.

Visit an Iconic Light Show in Riverside

In Riverside, locals throw the brightest party around. Started in 1992, the Mission Inn Festival of Lights features thousands of sparkling lights adorning a mission-style structure. It’s no wonder that USA Today called this America’s “Best Public Lights Display.”

Take the Griffith Park Holiday Train Ride

Enjoy a longstanding Holiday tradition that is uniquely LA. Ride a beloved choo-choo through a holiday wonderland in LA’s big backyard, Griffith Park. The route takes visitors over one mile of track, across a bridge, through a forest and an Old Western town — all festooned with holiday decorations.

Beautiful shiny star mood lamp in merry advent decoration.

Getty Images

Bask in the Holiday Glow of Christmas Town in Bakersfield

In Bakersfield, Christmas Town is open every night from late November to January. Attractions include a Jingle Bell Sledding Hill, an Under the Mistletoe Skating Rink and a Holly Jolly Train Ride. St. Nick’s Lighting Spectacular dazzles visitors with an array of illumination under the canopy of a 40-foot lit Christmas tree.

Choose from the following California RV Parks:

Los Angeles RV Resort (formerly KOA), Acton Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina, Newport Beach
A Country RV Park, Bakersfield Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala
Bakersfield River Run RV Park, Bakersfield Fairplex RV Park, Pomona
Bakersfield RV Resort, Bakersfield Campland On the Bay, San Diego
The Lakes RV & Golf Resort, Chowchilla Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego
Coachella Lakes RV Resort, Coachella Bonelli Bluffs RV Resort & Campground, San Dimas
Sam’s Family Spa, Desert Hot Springs Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, Santee
Casa Del Sol RV Resort, Hemet Pechanga RV Resort, Temecula
Waterfront RV Park, Huntington Beach Ventura Beach RV Resort, Ventura
Indian Waters RV Resort & Cottages, Indio Olive Avenue RV Resort, Vista
Boulder Creek RV Resort, Lone Pine
Cacti adorned with green, white and red holiday lights.

Getty Images


Nevada might win the prize for some of the quirkiest holiday celebrations around. Go on a pub crawl with St. Nick or marvel at lights draped over a cactus.

Lift a Few With Santa in Reno

Every year, partygoers don Santa hats and gather in Reno’s downtown for an epic night of drinking. The Santa Pub Crawl raises money for local schools but also boosts business in area watering holes. It’s the ultimate win-win!

Man in Santa outfit hefts a tall glass of ale.

Getty Images

Ride the Rails in Boulder City

Take a train ride through beautiful desert landscapes aboard the Santa Express, which departs boulder city for 30-minute rides throughout December. The train cars are heated and one car is open-air.

Holiday cacti basking in red glow.

Getty Images

Look (But Don’t Touch) a Holiday Cactus Garden in Henderson

The largest botanical cactus garden in Nevada becomes aglow with beautiful lights during the holidays. Henderson’s Annual Holiday Cactus Garden gets decorated with colorful illumination throughout December.

Choose from the following Nevada RV Parks:

Canyon Trail RV Park, Boulder City Lakeside Casino & RV Park, Pahrump
Lake Mead RV Village at Boulder Beach, Boulder City Wine Ridge RV Resort & Cottages, Pahrump
Duck Creek RV Park, Las Vegas Grand Sierra Resort and Casino RV Park, Reno
Hitchin’ Post RV Park, Las Vegas Silver Sage RV Park, Reno