With 6 million Christmas lights, hot cocoa, ice skating rinks, a real-life Polar Express and a sneak peek of Santa in his workshop, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has truly turned the resort into a winter wonderland. All 65 acres of the Princess are decked out, and it feels like the property popped right out of a Hallmark movie.
This year’s theme is “believe in the magic,” and it’s impossible not to feel the warm, magical spirit of Christmas when taking a stroll through Twinkle Town, the Lagoon Lights or the Village at Christmas at the Princess.
“The real magic of Christmas is that we provide a place for the community to gather with their friends and family,” says Jack Miller, regional vice president at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and general manager at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort.
“And when friends and family gather together, we have a great time. I love this. We hug a little longer, laugh a little harder and love a little more.”
Christmas at the Princess has become a tradition for the North Valley, whether it’s an excursion for the whole family, a fun night out for friends or a romantic date night for couples. The lights turned on, the tree was lit, and Santa even stopped by on November 16, unofficially marking the start of the holiday season.
“This is our 12th annual Christmas at the Princess,” says Teresa Thompson, director of resort experiences at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. “Every year we plan to expand and keep adding new experiences for our guests. So, this year is actually a huge year for us. We have so many new experiences that we have added to the event. We are really excited, and this is a very special year for us.”
S’mores have been a tradition at Christmas at the Princess for years, and this year they are taking it a step further by opening S’mores Land. Here, everything is s’mores related — s’mores blankets; s’mores coffee mugs; fire pits for toasting marshmallows; and “Graham,” a huggable walking s’more.
Targeted for kids, Twinkle Town was a new exhibit added in 2020. Thompson says it was such a hit that they upgraded it this year. It’s home to an interactive character named Twinkles, who is Santa’s brightest bulb. It also has a carousel, an ice slide for kids, and lolly swings.
“We’re really looking forward to Twinkle Town and launching that space this year, all new and improved,” Thompson says.
In keeping with its theme, another new attraction is the Christmas Wish, where guests are provided magic paper to write down their wishes. The paper is lit on fire and magically lifts off into the sky and disappears. In this area, people can also donate to LoveUp, a nonprofit foster care organization in the Valley.
While Santa, treats and rides are fun and exciting, Christmas at the Princess remembers the reason for the season with the nativity set, and Thompson says it was upgraded this year, too.
“We have redone our entire nativity set this year,” Thompson says. “The nativity is an amazing, respected quiet area that plays the story of the nativity with an interactive light feature. This year we have adapted the nativity scene at the Princess with a life-size, natural look.”
Christmas at the Princess is bringing back time-tested favorites. That includes two 6,000-foot ice skating rinks; a 10-foot-tall-by-120-foot-long ice slide and a miniature slide for kids; a 90-foot “chairlift” that doubles as a Ferris wheel; lagoon lights featuring swans on the water, a ballerina, penguins on ice and a 30-foot Loch Ness monster; and a custom Christmas tree with 70,000 lights that sync to holiday songs. The resort even uses real ice for the skating rinks and slides.
With so much to see and do, one of the most popular attractions is a train ride that travels around the property, giving guests a chance to take everything in.
“Our No. 1 attraction is definitely the Princess Express,” Thompson says. “We have two trains that take 70 people per train. They take our guests on a tour along the lagoon lights. This year we have over 6 million Christmas lights on the property, and guests just love that ride. It’s really amazing. We have a lot of new light displays and features this year, so we’re really excited for that.”
Of course, there is more than just the lights and rides, as everyone knows that a big part of the magic of Christmas comes from the food. In addition to the s’mores and restaurant dining options, there are also plenty of grab-and-go snacks, treats, specialty cocktails as well as other alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. There are frosted sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, kettle corn, cinnamon apple pie and “Christmas in a cup.”
Christmas at the Princess had a modest start 12 years ago. When Miller started in Scottsdale, he noticed it didn’t have that typical town square area where people could gather for holiday traditions. Miller, now fondly known as “the man who brought Christmas to the Princess,” said the purpose of the event was to bring families together.
“We started with one giant Christmas tree in the plaza, which is still there, and Christmas at the Princess now has a magnificent tree, four stories tall, that has a light show to music for 17 Christmas songs,” Thompson explains.
“So, all of this started with one tree, 12 years ago, and has developed and grown over the years to where it’s so amazing. We can see all of our communities come out and enjoy the event with their families. We see the same families come back every year. It’s pretty amazing. It’s great to be a part of the community and be a part of their family traditions.”
There are different options for admittance. Guests staying at the hotel receive complimentary admission. Self-parking and admission is $72 and includes up to four wristbands. If ride sharing or walking in, wristbands are $18. Wristbands can be used for almost all attractions, but there are separate fees for an ice skating pass and photos with Santa. Santa will be available from 4 to 10 p.m. nightly, by reservation only.
Thompson says the event attracts about 300,000 people, so it’s important to make a game plan. She warns it does sell out, so it’s best to make hotel or dining reservations. In addition, she suggests planning enough time to see everything and fully experience the event.
“We’re just super excited for this year,” Thompson says. “There are lots of things going on here for Christmas at the Princess.”
Christmas at the Princess
WHEN: Through Sunday, January 2
WHERE: The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale
COST: $72 for self-parking and admission, check website for other packages