Arizona day trip: Downtown Glendale

Get into the holiday spirit Southerwestern style with palms strung in white lights, gingerbread festivals in the park, and fun seasonal shopping in downtown Glendale

Why go now: With 1.5 million lights brightening up 16 blocks, this neighborhood can get anyone into the holiday spirit.

The vibe: Christmas bazaar in the Sonoran Desert.

Drive time from Phoenix: 20 minutes

Number of shops: 61, mostly indie.

Save your pennies: At the visitor center (closed Sun; 5800 W. Glenn Dr.; 623/930-4500), pick up a free Shop Glendale card, which gets you deals around town.

Lay of the land: Downtown’s two main hubs are the charming Old Towne (54th to 59th Avenues, Palmaire Ave. to Lamar Rd.) and the bungalows turned boutiques in Catlin Court (57th to 59th Avenues, Myrtle to Palmaire Avenues).

Antiques road show: Take in the shops along Glendale Avenue, between 56th and 59th Avenues.

Our favorite: Antique Treasures (7025 N. 57th Dr.; 623/931-8049), which teems with nostalgic books, cookery, and the occasional vintage chair.

Mark your calendar: For Glendale’s Gingerbread Nights (6–10 Dec 3–4; free; Murphy Park), with gingerbread-themed kids’ crafts and a reading of Hansel and Gretel.

All that glitters: In a neighborhood that takes its Christmas lights seriously, Murphy Park has the best show of all, with fir trees strung with white lights and 50-foot palms wound with colored bulbs. 58th Ave. at Glendale Ave.; visitglendale.com.

Christmas pierogies: A Touch of European Cafe serves belt-loosening kielbasa, stuffed cabbage rolls, and potato-cheese pierogies in its small poinsettia red dining room or on the leafy patio. On your way out, pick up a pastry or two from the counter (we recommend the apple cake). $; closed Sun; 7146 N. 57th Dr.; 623/847-7119.

Two-stop shopping: There’s something for everyone at Cottage Garden I and II, a pair of ramshackle shops tucked into bungalows in Catlin Court. The first store (pictured) is stuffed with home and garden finds devoted to the holiday at hand (look for the old-fashioned Christmas tree toppers). The second has a showstopping collection of jewelry: Check out pieces crafted from found objects like hotel keys and china. Closed Sun; Cottage Garden I, 7142 N. 58th Ave., 623/847-3232; Cottage Garden II, 7162 N. 58th, 623/847-5262.

Haus party: At Haus Murphy’s, Spaten Lager is sold by the liter, and there are enough bratwurst and schnitzels to feed the whole Black Forest. Get a seat in the beer garden, order the warm and salty Bavarian pretzel, and keep an eye peeled for the tuba and accordion players—men who prove you’re never too old to wear lederhosen. $$; 5739 W. Glendale Ave.; 623/939-2480.

Artsy find: Besides curating the small antiques collection, owner Dawn Goodall has painted almost all the artwork in Green Park Gallery herself. Her lush landscapes—of Wyoming, Italy, and France—were done on location, and the hand-painted figures and ornaments have stocking-stuffer written all over them. 7015 N. 58th Ave.; 623/931-1730.

Take it home: The family-owned Cerreta Candy Company brings a touch of Wonka to Glendale, with shelves of French Mints (its top seller), caramel-and pecan Naked Camelback Patties, and enough chocolate Santas for a family of stockings. On free factory tours, you can watch workers at their craft and even decorate chocolate Christmas trees ($10). Closed Sun; tours 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. Mon–Fri; 5345 W. Glendale Ave.; 623/930-1000.