Flagstaff in December is a time for festivities. Right on the heels of Thanksgiving and with the holidays in full swing, Flagstaff is abuzz with the spirit of winter and the turn of the New Year. While November is a slower, more reflective month, December is a bit more active with a number of annual events and activities around the holidays.
Let’s dive right in to a number of the annual events that Flagstaff has to offer in December. Then we will explore many of the other great winter activities in Flagstaff and even the weather this time of year.
Flagstaff December Events
Just about every weekend in December, there is an opportunity to partake in some kind of annual event or festivity. Whether it is a stroll through hundreds of luminarias or the joy of The Nutcracker on stage, we highly recommend rounding out your December visit with us by attending one of these annual Flagstaff December events.
1. Downtown Flagstaff Events
Flagstaff Winter Wonderland & Tree Lighting
In early December (generally the first weekend), locals gather in Heritage Square in downtown Flagstaff for an afternoon and early evening of cold weather merriment. There’s usually caroling, hot cocoa, s’mores, and, of course, an annual tree lighting ceremony in the early evening.
Downtown Luminaria Stroll
By mid-December, it is time to head downtown once again to enjoy a second lighting festival. This time, walk through the majestic, frozen (and hopefully snowy?) streets of downtown to the lights of hundreds of luminarias. The streets will also be alight with decorations on our historic buildings, as well as, the caroling by the Mater Chorale of Flagstaff.
Learn More About Downtown Events in December Here: https://www.facebook.com/DowntownFlagstaffAZ/
Holiday Parade of Lights
Next, join the Flagstaff community as we line the streets and enjoy a holiday parade with floats and music from local organizations. Our biggest tip for this event: WEAR WARM SOCKS!
Learn More About This Year’s Parade Here: http://business.flagstaffchamber.com/events
New Year’s Eve – The Great Pinecone Drop
It’s always hard to know if we should place this event in the Things To Do in December or Things To Do in January category, but in either case, if you are in Flagstaff for New Year’s Even the Pine Cone Drop is an absolute must do. The best part, is that the pine cone will drop from the roof of the Historic Hotel Weatherford a couple times throughout the day, so locals and visitors of all ages can enjoy the spectacle. If you decide to brave the midnight drop, be aware that it will be busy and cold. For the ultimate experience, you can access a VIP event in the Zane Grey Ballroom at The Weatherford.
Learn More Each Year as Details Arise: https://www.flagstaff365.com/
2. December Flagstaff Events – Around Town
North Pole Experience
Throughout November and December, Christmas lovers of all ages can be transported to the North Pole for a special visit Santa, Mrs. Claus, and, of course, their merry elves and their work shop. This annual event is put on at the Little America Hotel and is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. The workshop runs every weekend, but also has a special event every Christmas Eve. Check it out! The hotel also has holiday lights up every year along their property, and we highly recommend that you take a visit whether you are enjoying the North Pole Experience or not.
Learn More Here: https://northpoleexperience.com/
Flagstaff Community Luminarias
First and foremost, our #1 tip is WALK, DON’T DRIVE!!!! Park your vehicle, bundle up, and walk into the neighborhood to enjoy the luminarias, holiday lights, music by many local organizations, manger scenes, and so much more. If you decide to drive, be aware that you cannot exit at any time, there will be thousands of pedestrians, and you will be moving very slowly. You will need to be very diligent and patient. The best thing you can do is put down the keys and take a nice evening stroll. This event takes place along several blocks of the Coconino Estates/Rockridge neighborhoods in west Flagstaff.
Learn More About Each Year’s Event: https://www.facebook.com/flagstaffluminaries/
The Polar Express (Williams, AZ)
Okay, okay, we know, Williams is not technically in Flagstaff, but no list of things to do in Flagstaff in December would be complete without mentioning the Polar Express. Every winter, from November into the first week of January, the famous Grand Canyon Railway in Williams transforms into a winter wonderland. Kids ultimate holiday dreams can come true as they embark on a fanciful train ride, in their pajamas, and arrive at the mythical North Pole. Of course, there will be cookies, cocoa, Santa, presents, and more. Tickets for this event are in high demand, so we highly recommend booking yours early.
Learn More Here: https://www.thetrain.com/events/polar-express/
3. Flagstaff Holiday Productions
The Nutcracker Ballet with Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra (& Other Productions)
The enthralling sights and sounds of the Nutcracker Ballet backed by the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra is one of Flagstaff’s long standing holiday traditions, and a favorite within the community. This special event is generally only offered one evening a year, in December, so be sure to reserve your seats early.
More Information: http://www.flagstaffsymphony.org/concerts-events/
Stage Productions at Theatrikos
Another great way to stay warm on those chilly December evenings in Flagstaff, is to attend a local play at the Theatrikos Theatre Company. While there isn’t an annual tradition for a certain play the theatre generally has productions running through the month of December, and they are guaranteed to be worth your while.
See The Event Schedule Here: https://theatrikos.com/
A Christmas Carol
Across the United States, A Christmas Carol is performed by thousands upon thousand of playhouses, dance troupes, symphonies, and movies theaters, and Flagstaff is no exception. Each December, you can undoubtedly view this classic holiday tale at performed by one of our talented companies. Possibilities are the Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival, Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, and Theatrikos.
Visit FlagShakes for Your Best Bet: https://flagshakes.org/
4. Enjoy The Holidays In Sedona
Sedona Holiday Tree Lighting & Santa Visit
Flagstaff’s sister city of Sedona, AZ, is an incredible destination any time of year, but there is a uniqueness to it during the holidays that is unlike any where else. The contrast of snow and sun on the red rocks, is truly a sight to behold during the winter months. December is a great time to take a trip from Flagstaff to Sedona if you want to warm up just a little bit and perhaps even enjoy a holiday event or two. In early December, take a day trip down to Sedona for their annual tree lighting ceremony’s and enjoy a visit with Santa. You can even pick up a few unique gifts for your friends and family!
Learn More: https://visitsedona.com/directory/sedonas-tree-lighting-santa-visit-festivals-events/
Festival of Lights at Tlaquepaque – Mid
The annual Festival of Lights event held at the beautiful Tlaquepaque shopping center in Sedona is a fun and interesting holiday for people of all ages. Walk around the outdoor courtyard areas and enjoy lights, music, and hot cider. Also stop inside the many art galleries, shops, and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants while you are at it.
Learn More: https://www.tlaq.com/annual-events/festival-of-lights
Flagstaff Winter Activities
While it is always fun to attend the wide variety of events available throughout the month of December in Flagstaff, there will undoubtedly be time for fun winter activities as well! Plus, no one wants to sit around all day. Here are a couple fun ways to get outside and enjoy the beauty of mother nature.
Skiing at Arizona Snowbowl
Why ,yes, there is snow in Arizona! And, yes, there is skiing in Arizona as well! And some years, darn good skiing as well. The Arizona Snowbowl is located about 7 miles north of Flagstaff and though it is relatively small, the fun to be had is great. The ski area consists of 55 runs serviced by 8 trails and offers a number of off-trail tree skiing areas for the more adventurous souls. The snow in December typically has not accumulated into much of a base, though it certainly can, however the resort does make show and so skiing is usually available to some degree at this time. Skiing at Snowbowl might just be a great way to spend your white Christmas! Two big tips for Snowbowl are to purchase your tickets online ahead of time where there are generally better deals and to consider taking the free shuttle up to the mountain from town.
Learn More: https://www.snowbowl.ski/
Skate at The Station or J. Lively Ice Arena
Over the last couple of years, the City of Flagstaff has made a tradition of building a small outdoor ice skating rink in the parking lot of the Flagstaff Visitor Center and AmTrak Station. This usually runs from mid-December into early-January. Year round, you can enjoy ice skating at the local J. Lively rink near Buffalo Park. Bundle up and head on down with your sweetheart! In the meantime, check out our article on the history of ice skating, skiing, and other snow sports in Flagstaff here.
Learn More: https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/63/Jay-Lively-Activity-Center-Ice-Arena
Cross Country Skiing or Snowshoeing at the Nordic Center
If we have a snowy December, you may want to avoid the crows at the Snowbowl and the sledding park and instead enjoy the peace and quiet of nature at the Arizona Nordic Center. This cool and unique park features trails ideal for cross country skiing and snowshoeing and they also have really cool options for your lodging needs. They also have rentals and instruction available.
Learn More: https://www.arizonanordicvillage.com/
Flagstaff Weather In December
If you’ve read any of our other Things to Do in Flagstaff articles, you’ll know that we always like to throw in a section about weather. The weather in Flagstaff is really great year round, but it can also be somewhat extreme. It can be 60 during the day but in the teens at night, or it can be sunny one minute and start hailing the next. Luckily, for the most part you can expect to see the sun for at least a little while every single day of the year. So, let’s dive right into what December weather in Flagstaff might look like.
What is the temperature like in December? The average daily highs in December are in the 40’s with lows dipping commonly into the teens at night. Of course, these are just averages and you will see some days near freezing or in the 50’s and some colder or warmer nights. By the end of December in particular, definitely expect to have some night that drop to zero or below. The gist, dress warm and in layers. You will want to be prepared to wear a heavier coat in the mornings and then be able to shed a layer by midday when the bright Arizona sun is bringing a little warmth to the day.
Does it snow in Flagstaff in December? Yes, no, or maybe. The average precipitation in Flagstaff in December is around 1.87 inches. So, you will likely at least see a storm or two throughout the month, and hopefully a white Christmas?! Weather.gov seems to be one of the most accurate forecasts for Flagstaff, and it’s probably best if you begin keeping an eye on the forecast the week leading up to your stay.
What Should I Pack for Flagstaff in December? Layers. Warm socks, gloves, hats, and tops of varying thicknesses and warmth’s are absolute musts. Oh, and shoes with good soles.
Okay! Hopefully you feel more prepared now to visit Flagstaff in December than ever before. Have fun in our beautiful mountain town this winter.