It might come as a surprise to visitors accustomed to Scottsdale, Arizona’s warm, sunny winter weather, but there is a spot in the desert community that is known as a Christmas wonderland, complete with ice skating rinks, fire pits for roasted marshmallow s’mores, and “snow”-frosted trees.
The luxurious Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is annually the site of Christmas at the Princess, a holiday extravaganza that transforms the resort’s lush grounds. By day, the resort is its usual winter refuge with sparkling pools, alfresco dining, and nearby golf courses, and by night, it becomes a true Christmas-in-paradise landscape.
For the past 5 years or so, my family and I have had a tradition of staying at the Princess while celebrating Thanksgiving in Phoenix. Each year the lights seem to gleam brighter, and the activities grow more and more lavish. We, like the tens of thousands of others who pass through the Arizona-classic resort at Christmastime, can’t wait each year to see what’s in store.
Here are five of the best reasons to visit the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess at Christmastime.
1. A Perfect Blend Of Christmas And Desert
When it comes to the unlikely pairing of Christmas and the Sonoran Desert, few places do it better than the Princess. From the moment you arrive at the entrance and spot the stately row of palm trees lit up from bottom to top, you know you’re in for a desert treat.
The desert touches are spread throughout the grounds, from the “Desert Ice” skating rink decorated with a brightly lit saguaro cactus to the prickly pear cactus and agave plants that are nestled amid the lights.
Interspersed with the resort’s orchard of citrus trees and cacti is a cluster of pine trees frosted to resemble a snow-covered forest.
2. The Fun “Winter” Activities
There’s something about the mix of flip-flops and ice skates that makes for an especially magical desert-Christmas moment. Christmas at the Princess features a number of winter sports, including an ice skating rink, an alpine skate trail, an ice slide, and an ice maze.
The activities regularly attract large family groups with kids, parents, and grandparents all checking out the fun winter sports.
The beauty of ice skating in Scottsdale is that the nighttime temperatures tend to remain fairly mild and often allow for warm-weather clothing. When I visited for Thanksgiving 2021, the nights were in the 50-to-60-degree Fahrenheit range, allowing for light jackets and sandals.
Of course, the night temperatures in November and December sometimes do drop into the high to low 40s in Scottsdale, requiring visitors to bundle up a bit.
3. The S’mores Focus
In a large clearing alongside the alpine skate trail and the ice maze is the Princess’s charming S’moresland at the Village, an area that features numerous fire pits with benches where visitors gather to roast marshmallows and sip hot chocolate.
This year’s event included a fun surprise in its Stuffed Puffs marshmallows that are filled with chocolate. My group agreed that having the chocolate filling inside the marshmallows greatly increased the odds that the chocolate would be melted when the marshmallow was smashed into its graham cracker sandwich.
The Princess’s S’moresland also features a Ferris wheel that provides a colorful and fun backdrop for the glowing fire pits.
4. The Festive Lobby And Grounds
From the poinsettia-lined lobby to the graceful mission-style arches glowing with lights to the lit-up ships and jumping fish casting reflections onto the resort’s ponds, the decorations at the Princess radiate holiday charm.
With its 6 million sparkling LED lights, the Princess’s displays are sure to have something for everyone. The highlight is arguably the Enchanted Plaza, which offers regular light shows that are synchronized with Christmas music.
The grounds are also dotted with concession stands selling treats that range from cookies to roasted nuts to hot chocolate. And for the adults, a range of cheery holiday cocktails are available.
5. Warm, Sunny Daytime Weather
Along with Scottsdale’s warm winter nights, come beautifully sunny days that allow for a range of activities like swimming and golfing. Among the resort’s six pools is the Sunset Beach that features a white-sand beach, a family pool with water slides, and a rooftop spa sanctuary. The pools come with poolside food and beverage service.
The Princess also is located in the midst of more than 200 nearby golf courses, and the hotel has a golf concierge to help with course descriptions, preferred tee times, private lessons, club rentals, and transportation.
Scottsdale’s temperatures average in the mid-70s in November and in the high 60s in December, and the community records 300+ days of sunshine a year. With November averaging just one day of rain per month, and December averaging two, the two months are good bets for sunny weather.
Pro Tip: Christmas at the Princess typically kicks off the week before Thanksgiving and lasts through early January. Ticket, admission, and parking information is available here.
Try these other activities while you’re in Scottsdale: