How to jingle all the way through the holidays
Marana Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, the fabulous spectacle of a Christmas tree lighting is something that everyone deserves to experience. And Marana's event is particularly impressive, with nine performances by everyone from the Estes Elementary Ukulele Club to the high school orchestras to dance companies. Oh, and did we mention their snow globe with 20 TONS OF SNOW?! Talk about letting it snow. Food trucks, vendors, hot chocolate and, of course, the big man in red himself will all be present. 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Marana Municipal Complex Roundabout, 11555 W. Civic Center Drive. Marana. Free entry. More info: maranaaz.gov
Luminaria Nights. If you're religious, then you might be touched by Roman Catholic hope that lines of luminarias will guide the spirit of the Christ child to a person's home. If you're not religious, the sight of 2,000 candlelit luminarias won't be any less beautiful. And Tucson Botanical Gardens will throw in a holiday light show, their Origami in the Garden exhibit and performances by local dancers, musicians and school groups to make this event pretty much completely unmissable. Plus, if you purchase tickets online before Nov. 24, you get a dollar off admission. $13 for adults becomes $12, $7.50 for kids becomes $6.50, $10 for TBG members becomes $9 and $4 for member kids becomes $3. Friday, Saturday and Sunday Dec. 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10. Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way. More info: tucsonbotanical.org
Tohono Chul Holiday Nights. Tucson might not exactly be a snowy winter wonderland, but, at this event, it transforms into a stunning Christmas wonderland! Over a million twinkling lights will grace the grounds of Tohono Chul while guests like you grace its paths. Look at the stars (and see if you can catch Santa doing a practice run in his sleigh) through a telescope, sing along to Christmas Carols, and sip on some Christmas-in-a-cup, also known as hot chocolate. You can also pick up last minute holiday gifts at the museum gift shop and enjoy live music from local bands while the kids visit Santa. Tohono Chul Park, 7366 Paseo del Norte. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday Dec. 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16. $16 GA, $12 members, $3 children 12 and under. More info: tohonochulpark.org
68th Annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights. Celebrate several holidays with many lights at one of Tucson's most magical events, which, incidentally, has been going on for more years than most festivals of this kind in the country. Experience the neighborhood's gift to the community on a hayride wagon, a trolley limo, a decked-out party bike or on foot. If driving is more your style, attend Drive Through Night on Dec. 26 and, if you celebrate Christmas, beat the day-after-the-holiday blues. The festival is free, but attendees are encouraged to bring a donation to the Community Food Bank. Most needed items: cereal and canned varieties of the following: meat, tomato products, veggies and fruit. 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 through Tuesday, Dec. 26. Winterhaven Neighborhood, with entrances on Fort Lowell, Country Club and Prince roads or Tucson Boulevard. Free. More info: winterhavenfestival.org
Enchanted Snowfall at La Encantada. If you're dreaming of a white Christmas and don't have time to make it up to Minnesota for the weekend, head over to La Encantada for possibly one of the most magical and enchanting things that could happen in Tucson: snow! Every Friday and Saturday evening starting the day after Thanksgiving, it will snow TWICE at the shopping center, and Blanco Tacos + Tequila will provide hot chocolate to keep you from getting too chilly in the storm. Every Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. from Friday, Nov. 24 through Saturday, Dec. 23. La Encantada Shopping Center, 2905 E. Skyline Drive. Free. More info: laencantadashoppingcenter.com.
Hilton El Conquistador Gingerbread House. Get ready for what's sure to be the biggest gingerbread house to hit Tucson since the over-12-feet-tall house that the resort built last year. It sounds almost too good to be true, but if you remember 2015's gingerbread joint and 2016's sweet, southwestern candy casa, you know that Hilton El Conquistador is serious about making your most delicious dreams come true. The date for the unveiling isn't announced yet, so you might want to save the taste, rather than the date for now. Hilton Tucson El Conquistador, 10000 N. Oracle Road. Stay updated here: More info: hiltonelconquistador.com.
23rd Annual Parade of Lights Downtown. It's hard not to be in the holiday spirit when you spend the day buying gifts for loved ones and visiting local restaurants and museums, only to cap it off with a tree lighting (a la Mayor Rothschild), a festival and a magical parade of lights. And so that's exactly the way we recommend you spend this mid-December Saturday. The parade has a new route this year that starts and ends in the downtown library's Jacome Plaza, so floats will be around and on display even after the parade is over, and you can keep the party going. 6:30 p.m. parade start time. Saturday, Dec. 16. Free. More information on festival location and times will be posted at downtowntucson.org.
The Magic of Christmas. There’s a sort of magic to the powerful nature of music, isn’t there? And there’s definitely something magical about Christmas. The Tucson Symphony Orchestra has pretty much squared magic with this spectacular holiday event. You’ll hear an array of classic holiday songs, see University of Arizona dancers perform pieces of The Nutcracker and do some Christmas caroling yourself, taking Buddy the Elf’s advice that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” And a little partridge mentioned to us that the forecast in the music hall calls for snow. 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17. Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. $15 to $76, or available at a discount as part of the SuperPops!, Family or Create-Your-Own subscription packages, or as an add-on to any other series subscription. More info: tucsonsymphony.org.
Oro Valley Festival of the Arts and Tree Lighting Celebration. They say the more the merrier, and Oro Valley and the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance have worked together to pack so many features into this two-day event that it might just be the merriest. Artisans from everywhere from the North Pole to Bedford Falls will be around to sell all kinds and all mediums of arts, cookie decorating, brownies and hot cocoa will abound and a chalk art festival will make its debut. Santa and his elves will be around to take last minute orders from eager kids, while parents can enjoy the annual tuba Christmas performance. And, of course, everyone can enjoy the lighting of the 35-foot holiday tree on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. Oro Valley Market Place, 12155 N. Oracle Road. Free. More info: orovalleyaz.gov.
Messiah Symphony. Stand (well, sit, actually) in awe of the power of music with Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Chorus' performance of Handel's Messiah. This moving composition is one of the most recognizable and important pieces of work in choral literature (you'll recognize the Hallelujah chorus, we promise). Bruce Chamberlain conduct, with Teresa Wakim as soprano, Misty Bermudez as alto, Matthew Chellis as tenor and Marcus DeLoach as baritone. 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10. Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Drive. $22 to $55. More info: tucsonsymphony.org.
John Waters Christmas. The words "enchanting" and "magical" are sprinkled throughout this holiday calendar, but in this listing they'll be substituted with "parental advisory" and "explicit." John Waters is spreading some holiday cheer with his annual tour, where he'll be reflecting on the sexuality of Santa's reindeers, the ethical considerations in stealing from mourning families and the most unsafe toys to give your kids this year. It's the most controversial and, if you're into that sort of thing, side-splitting time of the year! 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show. Saturday, Dec. 2. The Rialto Theatre. 318 E. Congress St. $32-$110. More info: rialtotheatre.com.
Casa Maria Event at Hotel Congress. Head over to Club Congress to rock out for a good cause—all proceeds from this concert will benefit the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen, a Catholic worker community that works to feed the hungry, nurse the sick, visit prisoners in jail, make and give clothes to the needy and plenty more. Cesar Aguirre plays at 7:30, Rich Hopkins & Luminaries are at 8:30 and The George Howard Band hits the stage at 10. Please bring cans of food to donate as well, because if we work together, we really CAN make a difference. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14. Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. $5. 21+. More info: Hotelcongress.com.
The Nutcracker. It's almost difficult to not see the Nutcracker in this town.
• A Southwest Nutcracker, featuring the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, reenvisions the ballet as taking place in Tucson in the 1880s, for a Western experience that is definitely en pointe. 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10. Tucson Convention Center Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. $36 premium seats, $30 discounted seats, $25 group discount. More info: tucsonregionalballet.org.
• Ballet Tucson is Tucson's foremost professional dance company, and they're professionally delivering the goods with their production of the Nutcracker, showing at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 22, 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23 and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 24. Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. GA $30 to $58, Seniors/Students/Military $26 to $40, Groups $19 to $31. More info: ballettucson.org.
• The Russian Grand Ballet will bring its performance of the Nutcracker to The Fox Theatre. See some of Russia’s finest dancers without traveling further than Congress Street. 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12 and Wednesday, Dec. 13 Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. $41 to $77. More info: foxtucsontheatre.com.
Holiday Conversations in an Age of Rage. In between the sounds of tinkling sleigh bells and of Christmas carolers bringing good tidings for you and your kin, there is the roaring sound of reality: threatening the kids that they better get it together because Santa still has time to skip your house, the smoke alarm going off when you forget to take the gingerbread out of the oven and, perhaps most classically of all, the sound of a tableful of arguing family members. Indivisible Southern Arizona is hosting this session on how to engage with family members, friends and colleagues when politics come up and find the balance between “making it a whole thing” and regretting not speaking up. They’ll provide recipes for defusing challenging conversations, encourage choosing your words as carefully as you choose which Amazon seller to get your mom’s gift through and remind us all that, like Buddy the Elf and his naughty dad Walter Hobbes, conservatives and progressives sometimes share more common ground than they realize. 10 a.m. to noon. Saturday, Nov. 11. Rincon Congregational Church United Church, 122 N. Craycroft Road. Free.