From Alice Cooper's artful acts of altruism to zesy, zingy posole, we've got your holiday revelry, gift-shopping and experience-seeking covered like the alphabet.

Arizona Holiday A to Z

Written by Marilyn Hawkes, Wynter Holden, Leah LeMoine, Lauren Loftus, Shelby Moore, Craig Outhier Category: Lifestyle Issue: December 2016
Group Free

PL > Plants
Giving the gift of green this holiday season? Find unique desert plant varieties such as this Erik the Red Sunbird Aloe at Dig It Urban Gardens and Nursery.

Dig It Urban Gardens
and Nursery
3015 N. 16th St., Phoenix
602-812-7476,  digphx.com

A > Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding
Get your rock ‘n’ roll on at Alice Cooper’s 15th Christmas Pudding variety show at 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 at Celebrity Theatre. This year, Korn and Sammy Hagar join Cooper’s Hollywood Vampires featuring Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry with a performance by Gin Blossoms. The show benefits the Alice Cooper Solid Rock Foundation and Rock Teen Center. “Although I play more than 100 shows every year, Pudding is the one I look forward to most,” Cooper says. “We love bringing people together for Christmas... and to make an everlasting difference in the lives of teens.”Tickets cost $120 and $225. Visit alicecoopersolidrock.com

Celebrity Theatre
440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix
602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com
 

B > Baked Goods

Stollen Bread at MJ Bread at Tammie Coe Cakes
610 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix
602-253-0829, tammiecoecakes.com
For a Teutonic twist on fruitcake, swipe a loaf of “stollen bread,” a German Christmas treat studded with dried fruit and spices, rubbed in granular icing sugar. It’s an MJ holiday specialty.

Panettone at Andreoli Italian Grocer
8880 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale
480-614-1980, andreoli-grocer.com
Ever since Breadsmith’s only Valley location closed, we’ve been craving authentic Italian fruitcake – or at least something better than the knockoffs stocked by most grocery stores. Andreoli doesn’t bake its panettone onsite, but with direct shipping from Italy, it’s the closest thing we have to the real deal.

Everything at Pie Snob
4220 E. Turney Ave., Phoenix
480-635-2425, piesnob.com
Pie Snob is our go-to bakery when we want to convince a “make everything from scratch” friend that we’ve spent hours slaving over a dessert. At $20-$25 for a 9-inch custom pie in flavors like pecan praline and green chile apple, these babies up your chances of getting away with the ruse.  


Andreoli owner Giovanni Scorzo suggests a delicious Plan B if he happens to be out of the panettone: house-made cookies and pastries, with names like Brutti Ma Buoni and Cantucci con le Nocciole. Sounds delizioso!

C > Coach House
Whether you grew up in the Valley or just carpet-bagged your way here, this Old Town Scottsdale watering hole (and if ever the term “watering hole” fit, this is the place ) is your best bet for booze-assisted holiday frivolity. Why do we love it? Let us count the ways.

1 The Christmas lights. A refined, sober holiday light concept, this is not. Come November, the owners drape the bar in layer upon layer of multi-colored bulbs – a Griswaldian display so exuberant and over the top, even the biggest Grinch is hypnotized into a state of jovial, yuletide bliss.
2 The crowd. Looking for an old friend or acquaintance, but no one in particular? You’re about 90 percent assured of finding that person during the holidays at Coach House, which manages to pack several hundred folks shoulder-to-shoulder onto its outdoor patio.
3 The history. Founded by Bob Brower in 1959, the Coach House bills itself as the oldest tavern in Scottsdale. Just think of all the barflies, baseball players, mobsters, housewives, city councilpersons and college coeds who’ve downed pints in its embrace. It’s basically the church of Old Town.
7011 E. Indian School Rd., Scottsdale,
480-990-3433, coachhousescottsdale.com


D > Drinks

Hot Buttered Rum

The Breadfruit & Rum Bar
108 E. Pierce St., Phoenix
602-267-1266, thebreadfruit.com
In the spirit of giving, give the Irish coffee a rest. Nothing says “vacation” like rum, and no place in the Valley handles it better than The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, where, this winter, you’ll want to warm up to their top-tier hot buttered rum. The spirit gets mixed with warm spices, salted butter and house-made coconut liqueur. It’s served “just-right” hot with ample whipped cream.

In a mug, add a pat of butter to 2 oz. hot water just off the boil. Add in 1 pinch each of salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until butter dissolves. Add 1 oz. Goslings Black Seal rum and 1 1/2 oz. Kalani Coconut Liqueur. (Rum Bar uses a house-made coconut liqueur, but for retail we recommend Kalani.) Stir again. Top with a healthy dollop of whipped cream (preferably homemade) and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Boilermaker

Clever Koi
4236 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-222-3474, thecleverkoi.com
When winter’s chill calls for something a tad more high-octane than a solitary beer, consider the boilermaker. No, not Pabst and a cheap shot of whiskey – we’re talking craft beer and quality liquor in an artful dance the way they do it at Clever Koi, with sarsaparilla-scented “adult” root beer and a winter-green amaro called Contratto Fernet. It’s a match made in a winter wonderland.

Crack open a can of Not Your Father’s Root Beer, and pour its contents into a frosted glass. In a separate shot glass, pour 1 1/2 oz. Contratto Fernet. Don’t shoot it – but you can drop it in after a few slugs of root beer, or sip them side by side.

Milk Punch

Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails
5813 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
602-296-4147, okraaz.com
While eggnog requires a little elbow grease and is optimally made in batches, this Southern variation is no more demanding than whipping up a glass of chocolate milk. It’s called a “milk punch,” made of just two base ingredients: Cognac and milk, sweetened with a bit of vanilla syrup and finished with aromatic grated nutmeg.

Combine 1 1/2  oz. Maison Rouge VSOP Cognac, 2 1/2  oz. whole milk and 1/2  oz. vanilla syrup in a mixer. Give it a light shake with ice and strain into a frosted glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Hot Xocolatl Mocha

Giant Coffee
1437 N. First St., Phoenix
602-396-7215, giantcoffeeaz.com
This Central Phoenix cafe is known for serving some of the best java in town, thanks in part to beans coming from San Francisco’s respected roaster Four Barrel. Ask them to throw a shot of espresso in a mug of their DAGOBA-brand Xocolatl hot chocolate, a powder of bitter chocolate, sugar, cinnamon and cayenne chile pepper stirred into steamed milk. It’ll warm you up from the inside out.

Combine 4 tbsp. of Dagoba
Xocolatl powder (dagobachocolate.com) and 8 oz. hot or steamed milk in a mug and stir well. Add 1 1/2 oz. espresso, or 1 1/2  oz. concentrated cold brew if not.

Cocktail No. 36

Windsor
5223 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-279-1111, windsoraz.com
Keeping things seasonal, Windsor has a serious winter warmer on its hands with the No. 36. In addition to bourbon, vermouth and sherry, the cocktail calls for spiced honey from Iconic Cocktail Co., a Phoenix-based maker of hand-crafted cocktail mixers. Watch out: A fiery drink this cool has the potential to become No. 1 in your holiday cocktail hierarchy.

In a mixing glass, combine 1 1/2  oz. bourbon, 3/4  oz. Dolin Rouge Vermouth, 3/4 oz. Iconic Cocktail Co. Spiced Honey and a bar spoon of Lustau sherry. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a lowball glass over ice. At Windsor, you’ll also get the garnish of a spiced honey lollipop.

Deadman Oaxacan

Bitter & Twisted
Cocktail Parlour
1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix
602-340-1924, bitterandtwistedaz.com
Call it a cocktail séance. Daring bartenders are looking to the grave, resurrecting the genre of cloying ’80s dessert drinks, and giving them new life. Bitter & Twisted mixologists take smoky mezcal for a spin with coffee, bittersweet amaro and crowd favorite Ancho Reyes chile liqueur. It’s a shot to the heart, softened by spiced whipped cream. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

In a mixing glass, combine 1 oz. El Silencio mezcal, 1 oz. cold brew coffee, 1/2  oz. Ancho Reyes liqueur, 1/2  oz. Cynar and 1/4 oz. brown sugar syrup. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Float very lightly whipped vanilla cream to cover surface of cocktail. Dust with chile powder and cinnamon.



E > Elf Tree Hikes
What are elf tree hikes? Succinctly, they are Valley hikes with trailside palo verdes that elusive “elves” ritualistically festoon with Christmas ornaments and other holiday dazzle.

Deem Hills – Ridgeline Trail: In 2010, the City of Phoenix gave Deem Hills a major facelift, adding excellent signage, trailhead facilities and onsite/online maps. For elf tree sightings, try the 1.5-mile Ridgeline Trail. It involves some climbing, but is so gradual, you’ll hardly break a sweat and be rewarded with views of North Phoenix mountains and CAP canals. Info: phoenix.gov

mcdowell mountain regional park – Scenic trail:  With 20 trails laced over 21,000 acres of Verde River Basin desert, selecting a hike in this Northeast Valley county park can be a dilemma. But for elf tree sightings – and spectacular, double-edge views of the town of Fountain Hills and the Verde River Valley – this one is a no-brainer. Leaving from the main trailhead lot, the 4.3-mile loop includes an unusual crested saguaro on the downhill slope. Info: maricopa.gov/parks

F > Feast of the Seven Fishes

Zappone’s Italian Bistro
1652 N. Higley Rd., Gilbert
480-218-2338, zapponesbistro.com
On December 9, Zappone’s keeps the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence from meat – at least, the red kind – before Christmas with a seven-course Italian dinner. (Apparently, the sin of gluttony is temporarily suspended.) $60 per person including tax and gratuity.

1
Stuffed calamari breaded and baked in Sicilian tomato sauce.
2
Baccalà (salted cod) is made into crab cake-style patties for easy eating.
3
Dungeness crab in a sweet tomato bisque.
4
Whole baked branzino, for purists. On a bed of polenta.
5
Ahi tuna crudo with olive oil, capers and fresh chile.
6
Saffron lobster ravioli alla vodka.
7
Mussels with fresh thyme will open your palate faster than a steamed mollusk.

G > Gifts
Find a Valley-made something for that special someone with our abridged 2016 gift guide.

Top Shops

Crafeteria
Medlock Plaza
10 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
602-279-5467, francesvintage.com/
the-crafeteria
Another prepackaged perfume set in a “collectible” holiday tin? Oh. Goody. Skip the big-box stores and their boring gifts and beeline for Frances’ annual Crafeteria for handmade, one-of-a-kind presents to perk up your pals. The vendor lineup is hush-hush until shortly before the December 4 event; last year featured Desert Dust’s chunky stone rings, $10 bags of gooey sea salt caramels from Sweetish Treats and Etsy seller Katie Sterbenz’s hip hand-lettered greeting cards.   

urbAna
5027 N. 44th St., B202, Phoenix
602-957-5066, urbanashop.com
This stylish Arcadia boutique owned by Brian and Ana Wells specializes in urbane gifts for elegant entertaining. You’ll find everything from MATCH pewter pieces and Atlantis Crystal to MAME Luxury soy candles and Iconic Cocktail Co.’s handcrafted mixers.

Ornament Marketplace
Heard Museum
2301 N. Central Ave, Phoenix
602-252-8840, heard.org
If you’re looking for miniature baskets, beads or an iconic Arizona ornament that doesn’t feature lighted cacti, head to the Heard on Black Friday weekend. For $200, early birds can score one of Native American artist Vernon Begaye’s limited edition 2016 ornaments, a traditional good luck charm in sterling silver set with spiny oyster and turquoise.

For Him

If your man’s hygiene is more Rudolph than Hermey, give him the gift of manly pampering at We Do Men, “a male concept spa” in Scottsdale. Owner Stacey Grondahl and her team of “Man Handlers” will trim, buff, peel, exfoliate, wax and massage your messy Marvin into a dapper Dan. Bring home the magic with coffee- and fir-scented Basecamp beard balm (exclusive to We Do Men, $20), citrusy Wash for Men ($28) and We Do Men’s signature aromatherapy dispenser “The Boss Lady Candle,” which smells of dark roast coffee and smoldering red cedar ($20). It’s suitable for clean-cut cuties and lumberjacks alike. 4375 N. 75th St., Scottsdale, 480-686-8538, wedomen.com

Experience-Based Gifts

What do you get the man and woman with too many socks and scarves, respectively? Rather than dropping dough on yet another plaid pashmina or Hanes six-pack, this year consider the gift of adventure.

S For the thrill-seeker with agoraphobia, there’s indoor skydiving at SkyVenture Arizona ($50 for adults) in Eloy (skyventureaz.com).
S  For the wannabe Cirque du Soleil acrobat, there’s aerial yoga classes – executed upside down in the air – at Chandler’s Tough Lotus ($70 for five classes, toughlotus.com), or Tempe’s Vertical Fix ($90 for five classes, theverticalfix.com).
S For those wishing to keep their feet on the ground, Arizona Food Tours leads safaris of Old Town Scottsdale (starting at $59 for lunch), sampling the cocktails, grub and sweets that put this town on the culinary map (arizonafoodtours.com).
S Prefer to wear the apron?  Try the Sunday brunch class at Classic Cooking Academy ($95 per person) in Scottsdale, where you can sip mimosas while learning how to poach an egg (ccacademy.edu).
S From the culinary arts to the art-arts: Phoenix Art Museum’s dual membership offer ($90-$100) lets you give the gift of learning while keeping a little for yourself – and locking in a wingman in the bargain (phxart.org).
 

H > Hobe Meats
Whether you’re braising brisket or short ribs for Hanukkah or roasting a whole goose or pork crown for Christmas, Bret Pont – head honcho at beloved Uptown butcher Hobe Meats – will “meat” your needs. Pont and his crew source and butcher every kind of animal you never knew you wanted to eat – “from alligator to zebra,” he boasts – with special cuts available come November and December like veal rib roast, turduckens, chateaubriand steak and prime tenderloin roasts. Don’t see what you want? Pont happily accepts special orders with advance notice.  
6044 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-604-2333, hobemeats.com
 

I > Ice Cream
S’Mores Brick Toast
at Snoh Ice Shavery
914 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
602-888-4063
801 N. Second St., Phoenix,
602-358-7177, snohice.com
A sweet alternative to a night by the fire, Snoh’s thick cut of soft and spongy Japanese milk bread is spread with Nutella and marshmallows, toasted and then topped with ice cream, graham crackers, chocolate and caramel.

Peppermint Gelato
at Frost Gelato
2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
602-955-3767
2150 E. Williams Field Rd., Gilbert,
480-899-2160, frostgelato.com
At Frost, a perpetual frozen aisle staple goes gelato-glam. Still, it’s tickled pink by candy cane, like it should be, with bits crushed and sprinkled throughout.

Japanese Forbidden Rice Gelato
at Doc’s Artisan Ice Creams
1221 W. Warner Rd., Tempe,
602-618-8719, artisanicecreams.com
Horchata migrates East in this holiday gelato, which ice cream maestro Doc Brown imbues with a familiar, festive spice: cinnamon. More accurately, he uses the Mexican canela variety of cinnamon, blended with Japanese forbidden black rice and toasted almonds.


 

J > Johnjay & Rich’s Christmas Wish

If It’s a Wonderful Life has you reaching for the tissues come holiday movie season, Valley radio team Johnjay & Rich’s annual Christmas Wish segment, which runs daily throughout the month of December, will have you wishing your eyes were the ones with wipers during your morning commute. For 15 years, DJs Johnjay Van Es and Rich Berra have been surprising families in need with Christmas care packages so they can celebrate the holiday instead of sitting it out. These aren’t your standard fruit baskets and cookie tins. The 104.7 KISS FM personalities and their team (including co-host Kyle Unfug) pay bills, fix cars, provide debt aid and deliver Christmas gifts tailored for each member of the household, as well as gift cards for groceries and new wardrobes, all with the help of their network of corporate partnerships and donations from listeners (text CARE to 90999 to make a $5 donation or visit johnjayandrich.com). We caught up with the morning radio maestros to chat about Christmas Wish and their latest philanthropic venture Love Up.

How did Christmas Wish come to be?
Rich Berra: Johnjay and I were doing our show in Tucson and there was this sort of idea of a segment they had done a few years before, where they would get somebody like a turkey for Christmas and I think that was about it. Maybe a Christmas tree. We thought it was a really good idea to do that, but kind of turn it up a little and really try to help people with kids that weren’t going to get Christmas. We started raising money, but we were kind of new to doing this whole thing. We would literally stand outside of the radio station [raising money] for 12, 15 hours straight –  
Johnjay Van Es: With a bucket.
RB: [laughs] With a bucket. We’d hear somebody would need a mattress and Johnjay and I would drive our cars to the mattress store and load it up on top of our cars.

How have partnerships and sponsors broadened the scope of Christmas Wish?
RB: Our partnerships with Fry’s and people like Pat Hickey at Peoria Ford, they have been really a difference-maker... Sometimes we can do scholarships for kids to go to schools. We can get cars not just fixed, but we can get them new cars sometimes. It’s really life-changing. We’ve paid rent, we’ve helped them get into houses they couldn’t get into, we’ve gotten their electricity turned back on.
JV: This woman was dying, and we sent her and her whole family to Hawaii. That was her last wish. We put them up in a couple of condo complexes and flew them privately to Hawaii. She passed away. The other thing is, Christmas Wish was obviously around November and December, but it was so big and there were so many people in need that we ended up coming up with our #LoveUp campaign and our Love Up Foundation, and that expanded to now where we’re doing stuff all year long. It evolved from that, from Christmas Wish to Love Up (loveupshirt.com). We help kids in foster care now, we help out group homes. Last year we gave 240 kids Christmas, and we went shopping for every single kid.

As fathers, it must pull on your heartstrings to help children in need. How do you keep it together during the segments, which are
notorious tear-jerkers?
JV: It’s very emotional. My oldest son is adopted, and we meet these [foster] kids [through Love Up] out and about and I sit there and think how that easily could have been my son. It was my son, if it wasn’t for us going through the adoption process.
RB: We just kind of let it all hang out because that’s real [laughs]. There’s no point in holding it back if you’re feeling it. Maybe that’s a way we connect, too, by just letting people know how we feel.
JV: The world’s kind of a scary place right now, and everybody wants something positive. You turn on the news and it’s negative, negative, negative. Everybody wants something positive in the world now. So if you can donate to Love Up [or Christmas Wish] and that’s your karma for the day, it works.     


K > Kilometers

As in: How many can you run? December is prime time for Arizona pavement hounds, with 5K, 10K and long-distance races almost every day of the month. Here are our picks in several categories:

Fun Run
AZ Santa Run 2016 on December 10
Dress up like Santa and run/walk the 5K course or 1-mile fun run through Victory Lane Sports Park in Glendale. The $65 registration fee ($35 for children 12 and younger) includes a swag bag with a complete Santa suit. Proceeds benefit Arizona Knowledge, Empowerment and Advocacy Group, a nonprofit founded to help the parents of special-needs kids navigate state support programs. azsantarun.org

5K
Angels on Patrol on December 3
Proceeds from this 5K run/walk in Tempe benefit the namesake organization, which provides food, shelter, clothing and other assistance to needy families referred to them by Valley police officers. $30 registration. runyourraceaz.com

10K
Hope Conquers All on December 3
Kick off the December race season with this 5K/10K race at Arizona Falls in the Arcadia area of east Phoenix. Proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. $45 for the 10K; $25 for the 5K.  startlineracing.com

Long Distance
McDowell Mountain Frenzy Trail
Runs on December 3
The Valley race season is replete with marathon and half-marathon road races. For something unique, sign up for a trail race at McDowell Mountain, staged at distances ranging from 5 to 50 miles. Includes a charity beer garden programmed by the Valley’s Huss Brewing Co. aravaiparunning.com

Wild Card
Midnight Madness Run
on December 31
Want to brag that you did the Valley’s first 5K of 2017? Getting blasted on rum and Cokes at your neighbor’s block party holds little appeal? Ring in 2017 on your Nikes with the 27th running of this midnight race series, with one race before New Year’s and one after, and a sparkling cider toast in between. Starts at Rose Mofford Park in west Phoenix. startlineracing.com

L > Lights

Dazzle your loved ones with these legendary Valley light displays.

Glendale Glitters
glendaleaz.com/events
From November 25-January 7, a 16-block section of historic downtown Glendale sparkles under the glow of about 1.5 million twinkling holiday lights. Look for live entertainment, festival fare, local artisans, a petting zoo, children’s winter wonderland and a visit from Jolly Old St. Nick. Free.

Las Noches de las Luminarias  S Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-941-1225, dbg.org
More than 8,000 luminarias light the garden’s meandering pathways during this 21-night celebration (November 25-December 31). Admission includes nightly entertainment by local musicians, including Salt River Brass Quintet. Dining options available. Cost: $30 adults; $12.50 children ages 3-12; free, children younger than 3.  

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park Holiday Lights
7301 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale, 480-312-2312, therailroadpark.com
Ride the train through sparkling lights and holiday displays at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Santa is trading his sled for the choo choo until December 23, so get your Christmas list ready. The park lights up from December 9-January 1, except December 24-25 and December 31. Lights are free, but it’s $2 to ride the train.

Mesa Arizona Temple, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
525 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-964-7164, mesachristmaslights.com
See hundreds of thousands of colorful lights illuminate the meticulously groomed grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple from 5-10 p.m., November 25-December 31. Performances by local musicians take place nightly at 7 p.m. The Phoenix Metro Light Rail stops two blocks from the temple. Free.

ZooLights  S  Phoenix Zoo
455 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 602-286-3800, phoenixzoo.org
Visit the zoo after dark November 23-January 8 and see one of the Southwest’s biggest holiday light shows featuring millions of glimmering lights. Walk through hundreds of illuminated animal displays and experience lakeside music-in-motion shows. Cost: $19.95; $12.95 on restricted nights.

M > Mazelpalooza

How do Jewish millennials spend the Christmas holiday? It starts with one crazy night of dancing and socializing at a yet-to-be-announced venue in Old Town Scottsdale. This year, Christmas Eve aligns with the first night of Hanukkah, and organizers expect close to 1,000 young chosen people to attend the blockbuster event, now in its 18th year. mazelpalooza.org

N > Nutcracker (and Friends)

If you’re looking for holiday entertainment to match your state of mind, here are three mood-altering options.


Bittersweet

A Christmas Carol
Before you say “bah humbug” to holiday entertainment, snag some tickets to A Christmas Carol, staged by Arizona Broadway Theatre at Herberger Theater Center  December 10-24.
222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, 602-252-8497, herbergertheater.org

Wickedly Satirical

Twist Your Dickens
Former Comedy Central Colbert Report writers have assembled an adult holiday comedy loaded with laser-sharp satire and improv audience participation that upends the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Showing at Phoenix Little Theatre November 30-December 24.
100 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix,
602-254-2151, phoenixtheatre.com

Inspiring

Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker combines the familiar and inspired melodies of Tchaikovsky, the grace and agility of Ballet Arizona dancers and the innocence and wonder of childhood for a timeless holiday classic December 9-24 at Symphony Hall.
75 N. Second St., Phoenix  
602-381-1096, balletaz.org


O > Open Air Market

Held on December 8 and 15 at Phoenix Public Market, Phoestivus will feature 130 local vendors hawking everything from foods to hand-crafted curios. Our promise: It will be the one place where you’ll find Proper Beast charcuterie and Together Farms goat milk soap under the same tent. 721 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-625-6736, phxpublicmarket.com

P > Polar Express

Avoid restless kids syndrome on the hour-long train ride from Williams to Santa’s magical workshop by packing a bag with travel games, water, snacks, camera, blankets/pillows for cuddling and a copy of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express book.

S Package deals are available for a one-night stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel plus onsite dining credit, at $391 for a family of four. 233 N. Grand Canyon Blvd., Williams, 888-848-3511, thetrain.com
S The quaint and charming Lodge on Route 66 offers two-room suites so you can escape for adults-only quiet time. 200 E. Route 66, Williams, 877-563-4366
S See real reindeer, porcupines, goats and more at the family-owned Grand Canyon Deer Farm (6769 Deer Farm Rd., Williams, 928-635-4073, deerfarm.com), or spring $95 for the kids to become Junior Zookeepers for four hours while you partake of a pint at Grand Canyon Brewing Company (301 N. Seventh St., Williams, 928-635-1911, grandcanyonbrewery.com).

Q > Queen Creek Day Trip

Don’t feel like trekking to the North Pole to get your fix of winter wonderment? Don’t worry, some of that magic exists in the slightly closer Queen Creek on the Valley’s extreme southeast perimeter. Santa may not live here, but his doppelgänger Old MacDonald does. (Seriously, the two look a heckuva lot alike – just swap the red velvet suit for some overalls.) If you’re a fan of the farm-to-table concept, there’s plenty of holiday merriment in the QC.

S Stock up on locally made stocking stuffers like olive oil soap, blood orange olive oil and oregano- and feta-stuffed olives at the Queen Creek Olive Mill. queencreekolivemill.com

S Still need gifts for the “Zonie-made” connoisseur? Head across town to Sossaman Farms, where they grow ancient varieties of wheat for Hayden Flour Mills’ speciality flour to make the freshest pancakes, bread and pasta. haydenflourmills.com

S For the fruit and veggie lovers in your crew, there’s the gift of healthy living with a Community Supported Agriculture membership at Steadfast Farm offering weekly or biweekly shares of seasonal, locally grown produce. steadfast-farm.com

S Once your list is complete, make a day of it at Winter Wonderland at Schnepf Farms, December 1–January 15. Take a spin around the ice skating rink, venture out on a hayride to feed Santa’s deer and pick out the perfect Christmas tree. schnepffarms.com

S With all that winter activity sure to spike your appetite, make a pitstop before heading home at the Queen Creek Food Truck Feastival for gourmet food trucks, handmade boutique vendors and live music, every Friday from 5:30-9 p.m. in the Queen Creek Town Center. azfeastivals.com/qcfeastival

R > Roosevelt Row

Where better to celebrate the holidays hipster-style than our world-class arts district? Divide and conquer with our handy guide.

Arts: For First and Third Friday art walks or simply during a pleasant winter afternoon stroll, duck into one of Roosevelt’s myriad art galleries. Our pick for December is in the center of it all: the Monorchid, which will be showing the photography of Marilyn Szabo in its Shade Gallery and large-scale photography and sculptures by Constance McBride in Bokeh Gallery. monorchid.com   

Shopping: Buy local books, gifts and zines at Lawn Gnome Publishing (lawngnomepublishing.com) and locally made jewelry, ceramics, T-shirts, housewares and greeting cards at MADE art boutique (madephx.com).

Events: There’s always something cooking on RoRo, but these three December events look the most delicious. Visit rooseveltrow.org for dates and times.
S Pie Social: Roosevelt Row CDC and Phoenix New Times host their seventh annual Pie Social, a pie-centric bake sale benefitting Phoenix Union Bioscience High School arts programs.
S Shop & Share: Make your holiday shopping count by spending at select Downtown Phoenix businesses that pledge to donate 10 percent of their sales on the appointed day to charity.
S New Year’s Eve Flannel Ball: Put on your hipster best for this festival and art show featuring live music, food trucks, lawn games, a photo booth, a beer garden, a nopales piñata countdown to the new year and, of course, boutique vendors selling scads of plaid.
 

S > Skiing

Arizona Snowbowl
Purchase a 2016 Arizona Snowbowl season pass starting at $549 for adults and enjoy free rides on the scenic chairlift all winter long (plus 20 percent off for guests) or nab two free chairlift tickets with a stay at the Ski Lift Lodge & Cabins.
9300 N. Snowbowl Rd., Flagstaff,
928-779-1951, arizonasnowbowl.com

sunrise ski park
College students with ID can score a season pass to Sunrise Ski Park for just $99 (restricted dates), or $199 for an anytime pass. Adults who aren’t ready to fork over the $449-$479 for a season pass can invest in a Sunrise card good for one-day lift access plus season discounts ($79).
Hwy 273, Greer, 855-735-7669, sunriseskiparkaz.com

Sw > Sweets

Roman Holiday Caramel Corn
at Super Chunk Sweets & Treats
7120 E. Sixth Ave., Scottsdale
602-736-2383, superchunk.me
Though you’ll be tempted otherwise, be merry and share your Roman Holiday Caramel Corn, loaded with hazelnuts, milk chocolate and snappy, salty pretzel sticks.

60% Mint and Cashew Chocolate Bar
at Stone Grindz
480-593-0841, stonegrindz.com
Mint and chocolate are quite the team – and Stone Grindz introduces the duo, in this case pure mint oil and single-origin Ecuadorian cacao, to their new friend: crunchy cashews. Three’s a “wow” in this instance.

Goat’s Milk Caramels at The Simple Farm
9080 E. Cactus Rd., Scottsdale, thesimplefarm.net
Planning to set out a holiday bowl filled with something sweet? Try these Good Food Awards-winning sea salt and bourbon goat’s milk caramels. Simple Farms’ pumpkin spice caramels are also nice. As is the peppermint flavor. “We’ll take all three” is probably the best approach. Available online or at the farm’s weekly market.

T > Tamales

Molly’s Tamales
8806 N. 43rd Ave., Glendale
623-937-1060, mollystamales.com
The eponymous Molly Sedlmeier of Molly’s Tamales learned the art of tamale-making from her grandmother but, unlike Grandma, Sedlmeier’s gluten-free versions are lightened up by skipping the lard and shortening. Fillings range from the traditional (beef or pork in red chile) to the PETA-friendly (vegan potato, carrot and zucchini) to the slightly bizarre (wild Alaskan salmon or cactus). They’ll ship ’em by the dozen, starting at $30, to anywhere in the U.S.

The Tamale Store
13046 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix
602-435-2604, thetamalestore.com
We don’t know how “happily divorced” Martha Castillo and Joe Pimienta keep their masa so moist and tasty without loads of lard and gluten, but this magical feat has us believing in Christmas miracles. Castillo, Pimienta and their three daughters churn out 16 varieties of tamales, including vegetarian, vegan and dessert options (half-dozen for $19; one dozen for $33), and three lip-smacking salsas.

Carolina’s Mexican Food
Three Valley locations,
carolinasmexicanfood.com
Ham is humdrum and turkey gets tired, so in the Southwest we turn to tamales for holiday comfort. Carolina’s packages corn, cheese and diced green chiles in a fluffy masa wrapper that’s a treat to open. For around $28 a dozen cooked ($17 frozen), you can avoid the holiday ham blues. Tip: Sub spiked horchata for eggnog with your Mexican feast!
 

U > Ugly Sweaters

“If the sweater makes your family and friends laugh immediately, then that’s the perfect ugly Christmas sweater,” says Brian Miller, founder of Chicago-based UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com. Since launching in 2005 – in the very early stages of America’s obsession with donning the oversize monstrosities once reserved for 1990s PTO presidents or your old piano teacher – Miller’s site has grown tremendously, and he now sells about 10,000 sweaters per year, many of which make their way to our sun-soaked metropolis in time for holiday office parties, pub crawls and family gatherings. “They used to be really easy to find in thrift stores,” Miller says of ugly sweaters, “now you have to have a middle school math teacher in the family or an Aunt Dolores who has a box [full of ’em] in the back of her closet.” That’s why websites like Miller’s come in handy, which offer a wide selection of jarring jumpers – from vintage plaid wool cardigans (starting at $9.99) to new NFL-themed pull-overs ($59.99). But if authenticity is your middle name and you enjoy searching for the proverbial ugly sweater in a haystack, it’s best to start scouting your local Goodwill, Savers or thrift shop ASAP, or try searching Craigslist for neighbors looking to unload their uglies.

Where to sport your wearable Christmas hell-scape
ALT AZ 93.3 is throwing its third annual Ugly Sweater Holiday Show on Dec. 12 at Mesa Amphitheater, featuring Kings of Leon, The Head and The Heart, and Band of Horses. Tickets cost $65, and the best ugly sweaters win a chance to meet the bands (altaz933.com). If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, consider planning your own ugly sweater pub crawl with the Real London Bus Company’s fleet of authentic double-decker red buses blasting Christmas tunes and decorated for the holidays. You can book a private pub crawl (up to 55 people per bus; call for rates) or hop aboard for their extremely popular Holiday Lights Tour ($50, reallondonbus.com).
DIY Ugly Sweater Crawl

If you’re practical and want to actually use your sweater to keep warm, PHOENIX recommends crawling among these classic Old Town Scottsdale establishments with plenty of outdoor areas where you can stay cool in your Christmas ugliest.

Coach House: Start your crawl at Old Town’s original cowboy meetup. They’re quite accustomed to ugly sweaters and affiliated nonsense there. No judgments.
7011 E. Indian School Rd., 480-990-3433, coachhousescottsdale.com
Citizen Public House: From the Coach House, ride/walk up Marshall Way to the gallery district and grab a barrel-aged Negroni at Chef Bernie Kantak’s upscale gastropub. You’ll definitely be the worst-dressed group in the joint. Enjoy the stares!
7111 E. Fifth Ave., 480-398-4208, citizenpublichouse.com
Giligin’s: From the classiest joint in town to the tackiest. Not many bars would think to hire a cocktail waitress with dwarfism and put her in a sexy teddy. Giligin’s did. You can’t spin a wheel and get stuck with a disgusting pickle vodka shot at most nightlife haunts. At Giligin’s you can. It’s an ugly sweater kind of place all year long.
4251 N. Winfield Scott Plz., 480-874-2264, giliginsbar.com
The Grapevine: For your final stop, why not a little karaoke? You’ll be surprised how easy it is to hammer out “Stairway to Heaven” when you’re already dressed like an absolute fool.
4013 N. Brown Ave., 480-994-1792, grapevineaz.com

V > Vacation

Though we can’t personally fathom it, you are allowed to leave the Valley of the Sun and its impeccable winter weather during the month of December. So if getting out of Dodge during the holidays is in the cards, here are three unusual nonstop flight destinations for your extra-Valley vacation.

Warm Los Cabos
Hanging off the tip of the Baja peninsula like an indecisive bead of water, Los Cabos offers a tantalizing winter profile, with average December temperatures exceeding 80 degrees F and a host of outdoorsy activities including marlin fishing and whale watching. Our No. 1 accommodation pick: the Marquis Los Cabos, located in the ritzy Los Cabos Corridor between touristy Cabo San Lucas and its residential sister city, San José del Cabo. Epic ocean vistas, above-and-beyond hospitality. marquisloscabos.com
Nonstop flights: American Airlines,
Alaska Airlines
Round-trip price range: $450-$500

Snowy Telluride
“To hell, you ride” is the old stagecoach refrain that allegedly inspired the name of this shoebox Colorado mountain town, but you’ll be more like “T’heavenride” after your first day. Sequestered on the western extremity of the Rocky Mountains, Telluride is far removed from the orbit of Aspen, Breckenridge and other Denver-area ski towns, but conversely the nearest of all Colorado resort destinations for Arizonans – the flight into nearby Montrose is only 45 minutes from Sky Harbor. One short drive later, you’re ingesting big, greedy eyefuls of powdery ski slopes and postcard-perfect gondola views.
Nonstop flights: American Airlines
Round-trip price range: $425-$450

Arts/Dining Sonoma
Unbelievably, you can fly from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport to the heart of California wine country for less than a 2012 Silver Oak. Sure, the vineyards will be dormant, but the tasting rooms won’t be. Must-visit winery: Chalk Hill in the Sonoma’s Chardonnay- and Cabernet-rich Anderson Valley, located on a massive estate described as “unlike any other vineyard in Sonoma” by Fox Restaurants Concepts beverage chief Regan Jasper.
Nonstop flights: Allegiant Air
Round-trip price range: $80-$100

W > Weird Holiday Prog Rock
Nothing says Christmas like pyrotechnics, experimental guitar riffs and a whole lot of lasers – at  least, according to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The yuletide equivalent of Yes, Rush and other ’80s progressive rock acts, TSO – named after the eponymous Russian railway as a symbol of hope in a harsh world – is chugging into town the day after Christmas.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past rock opera tells the story of a family reunited, set to a frenzied electronic tempo. It’s a Dickensian tale of holiday togetherness with a nougat-like layer of hard-core attitude (and what’s surely the biggest dry ice budget, anywhere). People love to make fun of it, but TSO must be doing something right – they’re consistently ranked as one of the most successful touring shows in the nation since forming 20 years ago. December 26, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $36.50-$71.25.
Gila River Arena, 9400 W. Maryland Ave., Glendale, trans-siberian.com/tour

All Steamed Up?

If “Carol of the Bells” doesn’t quite get you reaching for your hair gel and air guitar, perhaps the classical-cum-New Age Mannheim Steamroller is more your jam. Still popped-up versions of your Christmas favorites. Still plenty of lights and lasers. Just a little less stressful on your retinas. December 27, 8 p.m. $35.50-$120.50. ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe, 480-965-3434, asugammage.com

X > X-mas pageants
From reverent to ridiculous, there’s a Christmas story just for you.

Quasi-Traditional

Celebration of Christmas at Dream City Church
13613 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix
602-867-7117, dreamcitychurch.us
In a church that seats thousands, witness the special effects of aerial-artist angels on high, moody mist-filled mangers, professional dance sequences and good, old-fashioned horse-drawn sleighs. Flushed with technicolor lasers, the story of Christ never looked so… groovy (Dec. 8-11, 14-20).

Traditional

A Christmas Story at Arizona Broadway Theatre
7701 W. Paradise Ln., Peoria
623-776-8400, azbroadway.org
From leg lamps to Flick’s tongue gedding sduck to a fwozen pole, ABT’s musical version of the classic 1984 film is crammed with holiday shtick. Tickets to the show, which runs November 25-December 28, are a better gift than an official Red Ryder Range Model Carbine Action BB Gun – with zero chance of shooting your eye out.  

NON-TRADITIONAL

a bloody mary christmas at space 55
636 E. Pierce St., Phoenix
space55.org
Booze, dancing and co-dependence reign in this bawdy musical about three retirees who fight to keep their Sun City condo in defiance of a heartless homeowners’ association (Nov. 25-Dec. 30).

Y > Yuma
Head west for holiday fun in the Guinness World Record-holding sunniest city on Earth. Our top picks for merrymaking on the Arizona-California border:

El Toro Bowl
Fantasy football fails got you down? Get a fresh (and low-stakes) perspective on pigskin at this junior college football post-season game at Arizona Western College (December 3, eltorobowl.com). Grab a post-game Jailbait Blonde Ale and “The Shank” burger at Prison Hill Brewing Co.
278 S. Main St., 928-276-4001, prisonhillbrewing.com
Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade
Mosey into the holidays with “A Wild West Christmas,” this year’s theme for the annual parade on December 10. Families flock to the dazzling spectacle, which winds through the streets of Yuma’s historic North End with marching bands and illuminated floats.
928-783-0071, visityuma.com
Somerton Tamale Festival
Though technically not in Yuma proper, the teeny town of Somerton is just down the road and attracts enough Yumans to its masa-palooza that the Big Y can claim it. More than 85,000 tamales are served each December (this year on December 17) at the annual fest, with proceeds funding scholarships for local kids.
928-388-4837, somertontamalefestival.com

Z > Zesty Soups
Nothing beats a spicy Mexican sopa to melt the bite of a cold Phoenix winter. Brrrr!

Menudo at La Barquita Restaurant
2334 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix
602-275-5994
For reds and greens, think chiles and limes. The menudo, like everything at Barquita, tastes of scratch cooking. And if all that spiked nog leads to a pained noggin, the tender tripe soup is rumored to cure hangovers.

Birria de Chivo at Birrieria Obregon
3134 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix, 602-442-5142
2500 N. 35th Ave., Phoenix, 602-455-9070
birrieriaobregon.com
Birria de chivo, a soup hailing from Jalisco and swimming with shredded goat meat, is a religious affair – a weekend-only thing at most spots that do it justice. But it’s the specialty at Birrieria Obregon, so they serve it daily.

Posole at The Vig
Multiple Valley locations, thevig.us
There’s no good reason that some of the best posole in town shouldn’t be served at a bar. It’s pork and hominy, stewed in spicy red broth, where and when you need it most.

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