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An Insider’s Guide to Christmas at the Princess

A magical wonderland comes to the Desert Southwest every winter from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve with the arrival of the Christmas at the Princess festival in Scottsdale, Arizona. The annual celebration of the holiday season at the AAA Five Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a spectacular show that brings such unexpected pleasures to the desert as ice skating, trains, a musical tree and loveable characters for the entire family.

Millions of Sparkling Lights

During the Christmas at the Princess festival, the resort is alive with sparkle and fun, with more than 4.5 million LEDs. You’ll find the welcoming lobby perfect for photo ops, and a jolly Santa photo above the fireplace welcomes you. Step into Enchanted Plaza for one of the centerpieces of the festival. The custom-designed, four-story musical tree twinkles with 80,000 LED lights that play music and offer a festive light show each evening from 6 to 10 p.m. In true Arizona style, lights on the surrounding palm trees are synchronized with the Christmas tree. Behind the tree, a fun video reflects a story for the little ones on the hotel’s exterior on the hour nightly from 6 to 9 p.m.

But that’s just the beginning of the lights you can expect. Lagoon Lights is a visitor favorite where you can enjoy a twinkling fantasy land set up on the resort’s lakes. You can walk through a 17-foot long infinity tunnel of changing colors and search for Nessie the monster, a pirate ship and a rocking horse. If you prefer to ride, hop on one of the Princess Express Trains to “ooh and ahh” at the millions of colored lights.

For a great way to get in the holiday spirit and capture a feel for the Southwest, head to Copper Canyon, the resort’s Western town, for a synchronized light shown each weekend in December. Be sure to download The Christmas Chronicle so you can plan how you want to be dazzled with all the lights during the festival.

Take to the Ice in the Desert

Anyone who goes ice-skating in the desert is sure to earn extra bragging rights, and you can do just that during Christmas at the Princess. The Desert Ice Skating Rink is made with real ice, and you can even experience magical snowfalls under breathtaking Arizona starry nights. The 6,000 square-foot rink is open nightly during the festival. Skating is $25 per person with a $5 discount if you bring your own skates.

Create a VIP experience and snuggle up rink-side at a fire pit table with s’mores and blankets. Even if you don’t skate, this is the perfect spot for hanging out, ordering a drink or romancing under the stars. Holiday music fills the night, and the smell of hot cocoa brings back memories of childhood.

Family Fun at Christmas at the Princess

The entire family can enjoy the Christmas at the Princess festival, where an assortment of costumed characters stroll the property, ready for photo moments. Watch out for Graham the adorable s’more, Shivers the Yeti, Princess Noel, Princess Angelica, Selfie Elfie and Peppermint Penguin. Kids of all ages line up to have their pictures snapped and get a few hugs from these festive favorites.

Make a visit to S’mores Land, with its Polar Glide Ice Slide, Frosty's Ferris wheel, Christmas Carousel, gondolas seating up to six and the new Build-A-Bear Pop-Up Shop. Admission to S’mores Land is included with a holiday package at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Locals can also visit, and admission includes parking

Of course, Christmas at the Princess has to include a visit with the Big Man himself. Be sure to head to Santa’s Secret Headquarters where the kids can check out Santa’s flight plans, write wish lists and letters to Santa and learn the elf pledge. You have a chance to visit with Santa each night throughout the season. Photo packages are also available to take those memories home with you.

In true Fairmont fashion, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess also partners with a local organization each year to give back to the community. In 2017 they’ve partnered with the #LoveUp Foundation, a group providing support to local kids in foster care. Throughout the holiday season, you can purchase #LoveUp merchandise at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess to support the local efforts of the #LoveUp Foundation.

Holiday Events

There are events and celebrations throughout the Christmas at the Princess festival. One of the most whimsical moments at the resort each year is Breakfast with Santa & Friends, held on December 23 from 9 a.m. to noon by Mrs. Claus and the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess costumed characters. Children and their parents turn out in everything from PJs to Christmas finery to enjoy a buffet breakfast, play games and anticipate the upcoming arrival of Christmas morning.

The breakfast event offers reindeer games, a LEGOLAND Discovery Center play area, photos with Santa in his Secret Headquarters, a daytime skating session just for the boys and girls at breakfast and daytime access to S’mores Land. The fun morning is $75 for adults and $50 for kids ages 3 to 12 years. Reservations are required by calling 480.585.2694.

Another favorite holiday event is Christmas Day Brunch at the Princess. Held on Christmas Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., this event features five chefs and all four restaurants of this award-winning resort. The dazzling array of food will have more than sugarplums dancing in your head. It’s a sumptuous feast prepared by some of the best chefs in Scottsdale. The cost for adults is $95, and the cost for children ages 6 and up is $40. Call 480.585.2694 for reservations.

Christmas at the Princess is a winter wonderland filled with light and magic. The Arizona desert transforms to a place where love and hope come alive and something special awaits around every corner.

Susan Lanier-Graham is a freelance food, wine and travel writer based in Arizona and Texas. She wanders the world looking for wow moments. In three decades of writing, she has filled a few passports, loves connecting with people, and enjoys discovering the soul of every destination.

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