| NOVEMBER 27, 2019 | 6:00AM
The Valley is about to get lit. The holiday season is upon us. There will be alarming levels of holiday music being played, nonstop schmaltz on the TV, and everything turning red and/or green.
Oh, and holiday lights will be switched on pretty much everywhere from now until New Year’s Day. We’re talking lots of lights. And we’ll be enjoying every minute of it.
Illuminated yuletide displays are as inescapable during the holiday season as bad gifts and family drama, only way more enjoyable. The colorful glow of lights, be they incandescent or LED, will add a bit of cheer in locations across the metro Phoenix area.
Besides all the public or commercial displays that decorate the Valley — ranging from Glendale Glitters and ZooLights to World of Illumination in Glendale — countless residents will join in the fun. They will adorn their homes, cars, or even themselves with colored lights.
Then, there are all the amazing displays you’ll find decorating houses and neighborhoods in cities from Scottsdale to Surprise. They’re created by holiday die-hards who have spent a pretty penny or countless man-hours building impressive-looking efforts that rival pro-level attractions.
You’ll find many of them listed in the following guide to the best displays of holiday lights on Valley homes in 2019. So gather your kith and kin, grab a coat, and get ready to partake in all the bright lights of our big city.
1335 North Papillon Circle, Mesa
A grand total of 150,000 lights twinkle away within the display at Mike and Shelley Pelky’s home on the eastern edge of Mesa. There’s also a menagerie of animals and an array of different characters, including some inspired by the Island of Misfit Toys from the 1964 animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A nativity scene, candy cane forest, various snowmen, and other seasonal delights are also featured.
Dates and times: Nightly starting at dusk through December 25.
1040 North San Marcos Drive, Apache Junction
Every December, Daniel and Betty Holtz turn their two-acre property out in Apache Junction into a holiday haven populated by approximately 80,000 individual lights, many of which dance across a 35-foot-high Christmas tree, seven 18-foot-tall arches, and various starbursts and snowflake patterns set to the beats and notes of seasonal songs are broadcast via FM radio. There are also sleighs, reindeer, and other festive creations.
Dates and times: Nightly through December 31, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Hunter’s Christmas Wonderland
2467 East Aris Drive, Gilbert
Bill and Cindy Hunter are one of the most welcoming couples you’ll ever meet. They invite the public to tour their exquisitely decorated Gilbert home during the holidays, free of charge. Each room is festooned with garland, ornaments, twinkle lights, and Santas by the hundreds. The outside is just as merry and bright, with scores of inflatable snowmen and more than 50,000 lights. A playroom for the kiddos is also available, in case you’d like some adult time.
Dates and times: Open from 6 to 10 p.m. on various Fridays and Saturdays, including November 29 and 30 and December 6 and 7, 14, 16, 20 and 21, and 27 to 28. Additional hours are 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday, December 16, and Wednesday, December 18.
Pinchot Avenue’s Candy Canes
2801 East Pinchot Avenue
During the holidays, the rows of palm trees lining a two-block segment of Pinchot Avenue between 26th and 28th Streets are adorned with dozens of candy cane-shaped lights. Meanwhile, a glowing star and peace symbol both hang overhead from the tree canopy. These decorations are a neighborhood tradition dating back to the late ’80s and help add a festive flair to an otherwise sleepy central Phoenix street.
Dates and times: Nightly starting at dusk until January 1.
2329 North Recker Road, #104, Mesa
Saint Nicholas won’t have much trouble landing his sleigh at Danny Dingman’s east Mesa townhouse. More than 65,000 lights and hundreds of decorations transform the entirety of the property, from its roof to its driveway, into a glowing celebration of the holidays. There are even landing lights to help bring Santa in for a landing, as well as a cavalcade of Disney characters and numerous luminarias. In a humorous note, the townhouse next door features a makeshift sign with an arrow pointing to and stating simply, “My idea.”
Dates and times: Operating nightly through December 31.
Winter Wonderland Extravaganza
8609 West Preston Lane, Tolleson
Tolleson resident Isaac Pacheco will transform part of his home into a family-friendly holiday experience. Countless lights grace the exterior while the front yard, driveway, and side house will become a maze of themed areas featuring props and seasonal music. You might even encounter Olaf from Frozen, The Grinch, or Jack Skellington hanging out inside.
Dates and times: Open 6 to 9 p.m., Friday through Sunday, from December 1 to January 1. Admission is free, but donations of unwrapped toys or cash will be appreciated.
ReinDeer Valley Christmas
3302 West Adobe Dam Road
This Deer Valley display will delight your eyes and ears. A nightly lineup of synchronized light shows will feature more than 30,000 lights flashing in tandem with a mix of rock, pop, and Disney songs. Speaking of which, keep an eye out for various “Hidden Mickeys” contained within the display. You’ll also want to dress warmly for the artificial snowfalls taking place every weekend. Bring along a few nonperishable food items or canned goods, which will be donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., December 1 to January 1, weather permitting. Holiday hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve are from 6 to 11 p.m.
1146 North Quail Lane, Gilbert
Call us sentimental, but the innocence and heartwarming nature of the holiday season will forever be associated in our minds with the Peanuts gang, thanks to the classic 1965 animated special A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s one of the reasons why this charming Peanuts-themed display in Gilbert steals our hearts each year.
Laid out like an airport, complete with a runway and control tower, it features an inflatable version of Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace bringing his Sopwith Camel in for a landing while cutouts of Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Lucy, and other characters are waiting to greet him. It’s playful, amiable, and fun, just like the classic comic strip itself.
Dates and times: On display nightly at dusk starting November 30.
632 West Aster Court, Chandler
Disney fans will dig the merry milieu offered outside of this Chandler home situated lakeside within the Ocotillo upscale housing development. A fanciful winter scene populated by a vast array of cartoonish Disney characters is on display for all to see. There are also inflatables, shooting stars, figurines, and even regular showers of snow.
Dates and times: Check out the display nightly through January 1.
West Natal Circle
663 West Natal Circle, Mesa
Over-the-top light displays have been known to cause schisms between holiday-loving homeowners and their Scrooge-like neighbors. Not so with the residents of this Mesa cul-de-sac just northeast of Guadalupe and Extension roads. A dozen or so houses get dressed up with all manner of lights, inflatables, wooden cutouts, and animated figures, transforming the street into a walkable holiday destination. You’ll find a towering reindeer rocking horse at the far end, right next door to an elaborate nativity scene set up in the backyard of a local pastor.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., through January 1.
A Molar Christmas
8252 West Camino De Oro, Peoria
Much like a certain misfit elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, local dentist Charles Gatti has a yen for both proper tooth care and Christmas. And for six weeks out of every year, his Peoria home becomes his own personal Christmas town featuring more than 80,000 individual lights, four leaping arches, a 25-foot-tall tree, and a video screen in an upstairs window. A low-power FM transmitter broadcasts a holiday mix. On certain weekends, you can encounter a costumed elf greeting visitors, although he refrains from reminding people to brush and floss properly.
Dates and times: Operates nightly, 5 to 10 p.m., through December 31.
Garrison Family Christmas
4420 East Anderson Drive
No one could ever accuse Nikki and Chris Garrison of being Grinches. Take one look at the intricate display covering the couple’s north Phoenix home, and it’s easy to see they’ve got a passion for the holidays. What started with a few dozen strings of incandescent bulbs nine years ago has become a custom-sequenced cavalcade 25,000 of high-intensity LED lights blasting a rainbow of colors while a low-power FM transmitter broadcasts holiday music. “We’ve loved the technological and digital challenge of growing our Christmas lights each year,” the Garrisons state on their website. We look forward to seeing what they come up with next year.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., starting November 29, weather permitting.
7914 West Dahlia Drive, Peoria
Christmas is a major occasion for the Sirakis family. Siblings Joe, Chickie, and Roy spend countless hours during the buildup to each holiday season creating and hand-painting colorful and cartoonish wooden cutouts of fictional characters to adorn each of their front yards (they’re also available for purchase).
This year, Joe’s house in Peoria will feature more than 24,000 lights and characters from Toy Story, Moana, and The Lion King (the good one from 1994, not that CGI-animated abomination you saw this summer).
Dates and times: Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 9:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 6 to 11 p.m. starting December 1.
396 West Liberty Lane, Gilbert
Colorful doesn’t even begin to describe this display created by Chad Richins of Gilbert, which features more than 100,000 individual lights that sing with vibrant hues. It is so large that it encompasses two neighboring houses and features choreographed audio and visual sequences that last for 13 songs or more. It involves singing trees, video projections, and plenty of flashy animation. It even landed the Richins family an appearance on The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2017.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., through December 31.
South Park House
7734 North 41st Avenue
There’s probably no bigger South Park fan in the Valley than Emilio Palacio – and he’s got the yard display to prove it. Since 2000, he’s crafted cutout versions of an ever-growing collection of characters from the infamous Comedy Central cartoon. That includes Kyle, Cartman, Stan, and Kenny, as well as Chef, Butters, Tweek, Big Gay Al, Officer Barbrady, and dozens more. (He’s even got Jesus and Santa Claus from the original South Park short, “The Spirit of Christmas.”) They’re all arranged along the front of the Palacios’ house and are complemented with a mix of audio clips and songs from the show that plays every evening until around 11 p.m. It’s a fun tribute to one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
Dates and times: Nightly starting at dusk through early January.
Christmas on Orchid Lane
6480 West Orchid Lane, Chandler
Take a trip down this upscale street located northwest of Kyrene and Ray roads in Chandler and expect to be amazed. A total of 15 neighboring homes participate in this annual event, each offering a beautiful collection of lights and attractions. Visitors can have their photos taken with Santa, score candy canes, or just take in all the joyful sights. Nonperishable food items are also being accepted if you’d like to donate.
Dates and times: Operates 6 to 9 p.m from December 1 through 31. Santa and his sleigh will be on hand on December 7, 14, and 21.
Christmas on Milky Way
4606 West Milky Way, Chandler
True to its name, the Chandler home of Frank Kostyun is a stellar experience. A constellation of more than two dozen stars made from color-changing LEDs sit atop the roof and brighten the night sky. They twinkle in concert with the estimated 100,000 lights decorating the rest of the house. Kostyun even choreographs the light shows to songs like Darude’s “Sandstorm” or video clips from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., through January 1.
Loop of Lights
38454 North Carolina Avenue, San Tan Valley
It’s a bit of a drive to get to this neighborhood attraction located on the edge of the southeast Valley, but one worth splurging on a tank of gas.
A majority of the residents in this San Tan Valley subdivision of Pecan Creek South Waverly participate in the annual Loop of Lights, as more than 100 different homes are festooned with intricate arrangements of lights and enough other decorations to practically fill a Wal-Mart. Domiciles aren’t the only things getting decorated, as fire trucks, vehicles, and even a horse-drawn carriage also get a festive makeover of the glowing variety.
Dates and times: 6 to 9 p.m. nightly, from December 1 until December 25. The annual Loop of Lights Parade will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 14, and feature numerous illuminated vehicles.
Christmas on Upland Drive
2617 West Upland Drive, Chandler
Speaking of Christmastime cooperation, dozens of houses located along Upland Drive in Chandler sparkle with scores of glowing bulbs, illuminated inflatables, and other electrically powered decorations and knick-knacks. Since 1996, residents have been pulling out all the stops to celebrate the holiday season, with each home rocking its own lighting scheme. The street takes on something of a carnival atmosphere on the nights when there are food trucks, horse-drawn carriages, and even movies being screened.
Dates and times: Nightly starting at 6 p.m. through early January with special events on certain dates. Visit the Facebook page for more details.
8535 South Stanley Place, Tempe
The gorgeous home of Stanley and Andrea Benson in south Tempe becomes even more eye-catching when the couple roll out their animated yuletide array of more than 100,000 lights. Strewn throughout the branches of three enormous trees and arranged practically everywhere else on their house and in its yard, the property is happy hullabaloo of color. Things are made even livelier by an enormous animated Santa measuring 30 feet tall that stands over the scene as various elves deliver gifts, decorate trees, and frolic on a teeter-totter.
Dates and times: On display nightly, 5 to 11 p.m., through January 1.
3611 East Kachina Drive
Young and old alike will enjoy the merry milieu at Kim Taylor’s enormous Ahwatukee home. Children will delight at a 20-foot-tall castle featuring the stars of Frozen, all the humorous emojis perched on the roof, a snowball-toss game, or the chance to drop off their letters to Santa. Adults can get a dose of nostalgia from the 300-plus wooden cutouts of classic cartoon characters or hang around an outdoor fire pit to chat with the Taylors. Naturally, there are lights galore, as well as a nonstop soundtrack of cheerful holiday music, and bubble and snow machines.
Dates and times: Nightly from 5 to 10 p.m., through January 1.
4600-4800 East Voltaire Avenue
If nothing else, the holidays are all about coming together with others in a spirit of unity. A fitting tribute to that particular notion is this group of homes located along several blocks in this particular north Phoenix neighborhood that are linked together by a fantastic-looking synchronized light display.
Close to two dozen residences situated along Voltaire Avenue between 46th and 48th streets, as well as on the adjacent Sharon Drive and 46th Place, are individually adorned with strings of lights, inflatables, luminarias, and other cheery decorations. Everything flickers and flashes in unison thanks to a preprogrammed sequence. Meanwhile, a low-power radio transmitter broadcasts a mix of Christmas music on 98.1 FM for folks to listen to as they’re driving by all the displays.
Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 10:30 p.m. until January 1.
1610 East Hermosa Vista Drive, Mesa
The home of Dr. David Kipp becomes an enormous canvas on which bright lights and vibrant colors dance about magnificently. Elaborate multimedia shows set to music light up an interconnected series of LED-laden arches, trees, and stars arranged across the front of his house while a gigantic screen plays pixel-style videos. Kipp, a local pediatrician, programs everything himself using high-tech audio and video gear to create a heartwarming experience (check out his website for a full breakdown).
Dates and times: Nightly from 6 to 10 p.m., through January 1.
541 East Mountain Sky Avenue
Frank and Dianne Polimene’s whimsical display has been chugging along at their Ahwatukee Foothills home for close to 30 years. Its namesake is a 1/6-scale locomotive driven by Kris Kringle traversing an 80-foot-long track circling their front yard, dispensing both candy canes and smiles along the way. (Eat your heart out, Polar Express.) It isn’t the only adorable attraction to see. A color-changing volcano erupts when the train passes while stuffed animals ride a miniature Ferris wheel and carousel. The Santa Train’s cuteness overload yields a big turnout every year, and it’s about to get bigger. The Polimenes’ display will star in an episode of the HGTV show Outrageous Holiday Houses airing on November 28.
Dates and times: Nightly, dusk to 1 a.m., from Thanksgiving until January 5, weather permitting (check the Santa Train website for its operating status).
Phoenix Winter Wonderland
4237 West State Avenue
Christmastime starts in the summertime for David Chuchla. Every July, the 59-year-old Valley resident starts the five-month process of intricately decorating the interior and exterior of his four-bedroom home in west Phoenix. The result is one of the Valley’s most unique displays, which teems with a mind-blowing assortment of ornaments, baubles, and holiday items.
The outside is covered in more than 70,000 lights and populated by a heavenly host of angels, glowing gingerbread people, toy soldiers, and a legion of other festive characters. Meanwhile, almost every room of Chuchla’s house is adorned with a different theme, from one filled with miniature villages and Coca-Cola ephemera to another devoted to A Christmas Story. Stroll through, and you’ll also see 50 different Christmas trees, hundreds of animated figures, and a full-sized sleigh in the driveway. It’s truly a sight to behold and earned Chuchla an appearance on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2018.
Dates and times: Nightly 6 to 10 p.m., through January 1. Admission is free.
4415 East Calle Tuberia
Lee and Patricia Sepanek’s annual yuletide display at their Arcadia home has achieved legendary status in the local holiday scene. It’s been around for more than three decades and attracts tens of thousands of people each year. Also, it has influenced other would-be Clark Griswolds of the Valley.
The display offers a joyous mix of illuminated decorations, numerous miniatures, and more than 250,000 lights, not to mention plenty of charm. Visitors can check out five different kitschy and homespun window displays, pose for photos with animatronic figures, or just enjoy the spirit of the season. They’ve also got cups of hot cocoa available for a small donation.
“We just want people to come over and have some Christmas cheer,” Lee Sepanek told Phoenix New Times in 2018. We’re sure Santa would approve.
Dates and times: Nightly from Thanksgiving until January 1. Hours are from dusk until 11 p.m., weather permitting. Visitors are requested to not park in front of neighboring driveways.
8211 South 63rd Avenue, Laveen Village
A word to the wise: You’ll want to slow your roll while driving through the massive display on the sprawling Laveen property of Mel and Patti Tasker. After all, there’s a lot to take in.
Their circular driveway is surrounded by an army of almost 500 characters from comic books, cartoons, video games, and movies, each rendered as handpainted wooden cutouts. A multitude of pop-culture franchises from the last few decades is represented, ranging from Astro Boy to Zootopia.
The couple have been adding new characters to their collection for more than 25 years. There’s also a flock of zoo animals made from lights and an animated undersea display featuring schools of illuminated fish. And don’t worry about finding the Taskers’ place. You can see it from miles off due to its location in the middle of farmland and the fact that it boasts more than 300,000 lights.
Dates and times: Nightly 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., through early January.
11330 North Sundown Drive, Scottsdale
Brothers Sammy and Kyle Pratt have always wanted their annual displays to stand out from the competition. They amp up the spectacle and utilize over-the-top elements you won’t encounter elsewhere, like, for example, pyrotechnics. There’s an extra bit of everything this year.
“We’ve expanded everything since it’s our fifth anniversary,” Sammy says. “We pretty much doubled or even tripled our display in some areas. We added two more fire machines with six overall, two CO2 cannons, five bubble machines, and a machine that shoots cold sparks 60 feet in the air.”
In addition to all the added spectacle, the 2019 edition of Christmas Forever will include a 75-foot-wide gingerbread castle they built from scratch, new video projections, and a total of 250,000 lights, all of which will be incorporated into half-hour shows happening several times nightly. “This is everything we’ve wanted,” Sammy says. “We’ve put our heart and souls for this year.”
Meanwhile, they’ll continue to work towards their ultimate goal: working for the Walt Disney Company. Both are avowed Disney nerds, as evidenced by fantastical elements used in Christmas Forever, like a mock-up of the whimsical clock face from It’s a Small World.
“We’d love to do this for a living working for Disney,” Sammy says. “So, this is kind of like our stepping stone to get there one day.”
Dates and times: Weekdays 7 to 9 p.m., and weekends 7 to 10 p.m. Admission is free. Patrons are asked to avoid parking in front of neighboring driveways.
Halloween Christmas House
1001 East El Freda Road, Tempe
Francis and Jessica Brown of Tempe love Christmas and Halloween with equal measure. So when they were deciding how to decorate their home for both holidays, they were inspired by another of their favorite things: The Nightmare Before Christmas.
“Our main reason for the theme is that my husband and I love both Halloween and Christmas and that the two holidays can collide,” Jessica told Phoenix New Times in 2018.
Collaborating with the artists of local company Therascapes Design, the Browns’ 5,885-square-foot residence became a merry and macabre tribute to the film. Sally, Jack Skellington, and the trio of Lock, Shock, and Barrel are lurking about the place. Monstrous wreaths hang from the front gate, and a spooky-looking Toys for Tots donation box swallows up new, unwrapped playthings. There are also interactive wooden houses representing various holidays that are identical to those seen in the film, as well as a life-sized re-creation of a headless horseman wearing a Santa cap.
The display is both frightening and festive, just like the film that inspired it.
Dates and times: Operating only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from sunset until 10 p.m. through January 1. Visitors are asked to pick up their trash and refrain from blocking driveways of neighboring houses. Visit their Facebook page for more info.
Birkett Family’s Winter Wonderland
8414 East Valley Vista Drive, Scottsdale
For Chris Birkett of Scottsdale, holiday displays have always been a family affair. As a kid, he was dazzled by fanciful and fun decorations at his grandmother’s house, which inspired him to create his own. “You’re this kid sitting under the tree and stargazing at the little villages with snowbanks and fake skiers riding down and it’s just magical,” Birkett says. “And you start brainstorming and go, ‘Hey, maybe I could build something magical, too.’ It all started under that tree.”
It led to him to start making his animated decorations and motorized props. As the years went on, Birkett’s creations kept getting more elaborate. At age 12, he began decorating his grandmother’s Scottsdale home. Thus, Winter Wonderland was born. Over the years, the display grew exponentially from a mere 2,000 lights to more than 65,000, not to mention a variety of festive props.
Today, Winter Wonderland is one of the Valley’s premier holiday displays and encompasses most of the exterior of Birkett’s Scottsdale home. It’s earned him notoriety and respect both locally (he’s renowned among the holiday display crowd) and nationally (the display won $50,000 on an episode of The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2017).
And Winter Wonderland is still a family affair. Birkett’s wife, Sarah, and their daughters, Avari and Evie, assist him with constructing the display and designing new elements each year. For 2019, for instance, they’ll all work together to rebuild a facade of a gigantic Disney-esque holiday castle adorning their roof.
“Everybody helps out,” Chris says. “When things get down to crunch time, Sarah keeps me focused and driven to get everything done.”
Other new elements that the Birkett’s will tag-team for this year include adding 15,000 more lights to the 250,000 already in place and stringing them throughout the sea of snow-covered hills in the front yard. They’ll also add characters from Frozen II to a small Western town and mine in their side yard and set up a life-sized diorama of the Island of Misfit Toys around the backyard pool.
For the Birkett family, it’s all a labor of love.
Dates and times: Nightly, 6 to 10 p.m., from December 10 through 27. Admission is free but donations are accepted. Parking is available along Granite Reef Road.