When the lights go on at Illumination just east of I-17 in North Phoenix, it’ll fulfill a decade-long dream for Simon Kreisberger and—he hopes—it will herald the beginning of a new holiday tradition for the entire Valley. Illumination’s main event will be a mile-long, roughly 20-minute drive through a display of lights synched with music tuned in on car stereos.
“It will be an experience that people have never been immersed in before,” Kreisberger told In&Out, promising the lights and music will appeal to both kids and adults.
Construction of the project—ambitious in scope and schedule—began just last month on 14 acres of desert north of Jomax Road. It is slated to open Nov. 15 and run daily through Jan. 14. Kreisberger’s crews are scrambling to create an entire destination from scratch that celebrates Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and other religious holidays.
Adjacent to the light show, along Holiday Boulevard, visitors will find food vendors and themed areas, including:
- Troop’s Tribute section with toy soldiers
- Post Office for sending letters to troops
- Santa’s Village (with photo ops, of course)
- Areas celebrating diversity and coexistence
- Celebrate Arizona section with horses, horseshoes and cacti
- Selfie section with a walk-through ornament and a giant snowman
Plus, no surprise, Winter Jumpland, which will be full of inflatables for the kids. Kreisberger has a long history with bouncies. In 2004, he opened Jump N Play in Anthem, which led to his launching of a similar kids’ fun place, Play Factory, open since 2009 in Desert Ridge Marketplace.
With Illumination, Kreisberger is building something he envisioned years ago when he first saw ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo, which spurred an idea for some sort of drive-through Polar Express. “This has been on my bucket list for about 10 years,” he said.
The lights are not expected to be directly visible from I-17, though “there will probably be a glow from the attraction,” said marketing director Sallyann Martinez.
Kreisberger is partnering with Phoenix Children’s Hospital to market the project, and a percent of proceeds will go back to the hospital. He’s also working on a way to bus patients up from the hospital, kids who might otherwise not be able to experience the show.
He plans to make the show bigger next year, he said, and possibly open a second location elsewhere in the Valley. “It’s not a one-off,” he said. “Our slogan is ‘a new holiday tradition is born.’”
Illumination: Symphony of Light
27701 N. Black Canyon Highway
$32 (check website for possible deals)