Arizona

The Best Festivals & Fairs in Phoenix & Arizona

by Paul Joseph  |  Published March 20, 2017

Known as “The Valley of the Sun” thanks to its year-round sunshine, the city of Phoenix and the surrounding region have long since been a magnet for visitors. Awash with world class golf courses, high-end spa resorts, outdoor activities and vibrant nightspots, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.

The bright lights of the city of Phoenix set against the striking backdrop of the Phoenix Mountains (Photo: Josh Critser via Flickr)

A highlight of any visit is immersing yourself in the area’s rich arts and cultural scene, which has given rise to a large number of popular festivals and fairs that are held here throughout the year. We’ve selected the best due to take place between now and the end of 2017.

March 2017

Roots N’ Boots Queen Creek

Saddle up for the full Roots N’ Boots Pro Rodeo experience, five days of ranching action for the whole family to enjoy. The event celebrates the best of the local agricultural community, complete with funfair, carnival and food stalls, not forgetting the stars of the show, the livestock. Sign up to compete in events, such as bull riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing, to bring out your inner cowboy. Younger visitors can meet a range of animals, enjoy gentle pony rides around the site and cheer on the bareback riders. Adult tickets start at $17.60, children at $7.70. WHEN 15 – 19 March WHERE Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre, Queens Creek

Roots N' Boots Queen Creek

A courageous child clings on to a lamb during a previous edition of Roots N’ Boots Queen Creek (Photo: Roots N’ Boots Queen Creek)

Pot of Gold Music Festival

Start your St Patrick’s Day weekend with a bang at this two-day musical extravaganza, packed with top performances, headlined by hip-hop act G-Eazy and upbeat Celtic punkers Flogging Molly. Other highlights include veteran punk outfit NOFX, indie rockers Death Cab for Cutie and Brooklyn rapper Desiigner. Food vendors will be on hand selling all the fuel you’ll need between sets (think fried alligator, corn dogs, chicken and waffles). A word of caution: it’s Arizona and it’s hot. Keep your water bottle handy and fill it up for free at the water station. WHEN 17 – 18 March WHERE Rawhide Western Town and Event Center, Chandler

Pot of Gold Music Festival

A spotlight shines on revelers at the Pot of Gold Music Festival (Photo: Pot of Gold Music Festival)

Fountain Hills Fine Art & Wine Affaire

The Fountain Hills Fine Art & Wine Affaire rolls around again this March, offering three heady days of art appreciation and wine tasting. Browse featured artist Randy Polk’s ‘wearable art’ jewellery creations, as well as paintings, photography, sculpture and other crafts. You can access this arty event for just three bucks, or pay a further ten to claim your very own engraved wine glass and six tasting tickets for the various wines and rums on display. Topped off with a range of food and live music, this event is an essential stop-off for those who like the finer things in life. WHEN 24 – 26 March WHERE Avenue of the Fountains, Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Fine Art & Wine Affaire

Visitors walk among stalls at the Fountain Hills Fine Art & Wine Affaire (Photo: Fountain Hills Fine Art & Wine Affaire)

Italian Festival of Arizona

Do you harbour a love of all things Italian? Look no further than the Italian Festival of Arizona, a two-day celebration bringing a taste of Italian culture to Scottsdale. Expect traditional live music, a range of arts and crafts, wine tasting and all the tempting Italian dishes and flavours you could wish for. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 on the door and kids under 12 get in free. Part of the event’s proceeds will be donated to St Vincent de Paul, supporting those in need in the surrounding area. A great family event celebrating the diversity of the local community. WHEN 25 – 26 March WHERE Civic Center Mall, Scottsdale

Italian Festival of Arizona

A public performance at the Italian Festival of Arizona (Photo: Italian Festival of Arizona)

The Great American BBQ & Beer Festival

The Great American Barbeque & Beer Festival is back and bigger than ever. If you’re a barbeque nut with a passion for country music, you’re in the right place. This year’s big act is country sensation Easton Corbin, with supporting performances by Laura Walsh, Georgia Chrome, Good Rust and The Deep Down. An array of BBQ pitmasters will be cooking up the tastiest brisket, pulled pork, chicken and ribs, ready to be washed down with SanTan craft beer. Have a go at mechanical bull riding, browse the farmers’ market and play jumbo lawn games. You can pick up tickets online for $15 (or $20 on the day) and under-12s go free. WHEN 25 March WHERE Dr. AJ Chandler Park, Downtown Chandler

The Great American BBQ & Beer Festiva

Mouth-watering food on offer at The Great American BBQ & Beer Festival (Photo: The Great American BBQ & Beer Festival)

Sprout Film Festival

Film fans, here’s a date for your diaries. A one-day festival of short films with an exclusive focus on the challenges and triumphs experienced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The festival is support by Sprout, a non-profit organisation based in New York. The event aims to promote inclusion and social change through innovative film-making, putting actors with disabilities firmly on the centre stage where ever-wider audiences can reach them. You can look forward to three film screenings throughout the day at Pollack Tempe Cinemas. Ticket prices start at just $5 for one screening, rising to $12 for the full programme. WHEN 31 March WHERE Pollack Tempe Cinemas, Tempe

Sprout Film Festival

An audience shot from a previous edition of Sprout Film Festival (Photo: Sprout Film Festival)

April 2017

Cyclomesa Bicycle Festival

A joyful day out for anyone who’s crazy about their bike. The CycloMesa Bicycle Festival will be hosting displays and activities for all ages to enjoy. There’s a Kids’ Zone for younger patrons to explore, complete with circus performers and carnival games, plus an educational bicycle rodeo teaching children how to stay safe on two wheels. Witness the heart-in-mouth BMX show, watch a brutal Roller Derby match or cheer on the riders on their 72-mile cycle route through Mesa. If you’ve transformed your ride into something truly special, enter it in the custom bike competition and you might just win a prize. WHEN 1 April WHERE venues across Mesa

Cyclomesa Bicycle Festival

Cyclists jostle for position at the start of a race at Cyclomesa Bicycle Festival (Photo: Cyclomesa Bicycle Festival)

Phoenix Pride Festival

Take your place with over 35,000 attendees to celebrate the LGBTQ community at the Phoenix Pride Festival. It takes place from midday to 9pm over two days and raises vital funds for Phoenix Pride Community Programs. Swing by the Arts Expo to see all sorts of arts and crafts, including jewellery, photography and sculpture, before checking out the adults-only Erotic World. Don’t miss the colourful Pride Parade on day two of the festival. Prices start at $15 for one day. Under-12s go free and can take advantage of the play area and creative children’s activities. A fantastic event to raise both awareness and money – not to mention a great excuse for a party. WHEN 1 – 2 April WHERE Steele Indian School Park, Phoenix

Phoenix Pride Festival

A street parade in full flow at Phoenix Pride (Photo: Mesa Arts & Crafts Festival)

Scottsdale Culinary Festival

Scottsdale becomes the epicentre of Arizona’s foodie scene for two days in April when it plays host to its annual Culinary Festival. Some 40 local restaurants along with 30 craft breweries serve up a bevy of food and drink, while a teen cooking challenge, chef demos and wine and beer gardens also keep revellers entertained. Music plays a prominent role at the festival too, with 20 bands strutting their stuff across three stages, and among the notable names performing this year will be internationally acclaimed singer LeAnn Rimes. Meanwhile a dedicated Family Zone featuring face painting, bouncy houses, carnival games, a magician and crafts will give adults a chance to slip off and enjoy some of the event’s more adult-friendly attractions. WHEN 8 – 9 April WHERE Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, Scottsdale

Arizona Wine & Dine

Prepare for a mouth-watering feast of fine food and drink. The sixth annual Arizona Wine & Dine event is due to hit the swanky Scottsdale Quarter shopping hub in April. More than 20 top chefs will be on hand to whip up tasty dishes, showcasing the very best of the exciting local dining scene. You’ll be able to wash it all down with a carefully selected array of fine wines and craft beers. There will be a chance to win one of several fantastic auction items, plus accompanying live music courtesy of local favourites Nate Nathan and the Mac Daddy-O’s. WHEN 13 April WHERE Scottsdale Quarter Shopping Mall, Scottsdale

BRUFEST presents Sabroso: Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival

Palm trees loom over bustling marquees at Arizona Wine & Dine(Photo: Arizona Wine & Dine)

BRUFEST presents Sabroso: Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival

Rock music. Gourmet tacos. Craft beer. If you think that sounds like a recipe for success, grab your ticket now for this extra-special Phoenix festival. Topping a bill including Pennywise, Atreyu and All That Remains, are Californian punk heroes The Offspring. Frontman Dexter Holland is providing more than just tunes, however. He’s also bringing free samples of his hot sauce, Gringo Bandito, for all to taste. Browse craft beers from over 40 breweries and taste your way through the gourmet taco stands before enjoying some lucha libre-style wrestling. Tickets start at $49 and include beer tastings until 4pm and access to the live gigs. WHEN 15 April WHERE Fear Farm Festival Grounds, Phoenix

BRUFEST presents Sabroso: Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival

Revellers pose for a photo with drinks in hand at BRUFEST (Photo: BRUFEST)

Phoenix Improv Festival

Unpredictability is what makes improv so exciting to watch. If spontaneous, creative performances with a side order of raucous laughter are your thing, then the Phoenix Improv Festival is your hot ticket for the spring. Over three days of improvised comedy and drama, you’ll be treated to an impressive roster of talent from all over the United States, including Phoenix’s own Apollo 12, Portland’s B&B and New York’s Honey. The troupes are primed and ready to bring tears of mirth to your eyes. And with tickets starting at $10, they’re well worth every cent. WHEN 20 – 22 April WHERE Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix

Phoenix Improv Festival

Ad-lib in action at the Phoenix Improv Festival (Photo: Cristobal Candelario)

Southwest Cajun Fest

Over 1,000 miles separates Arizona and Louisiana, but for one day only the two states come together for a celebration of all things Cajun. The event features a packed programme of cultural festivities and entertainment, but the number one draw is unquestionably the mouth-watering cuisine. Fusing authentic Louisiana dishes with a dash of Arizona flavour, guests are invited to sample a rich assortment of regional dishes served up by a variety of food vendors. Meanwhile handcrafted beer, eating competitions and live jazz, blues and swing music add to the atmosphere. And while it’s not mandatory, many festival-goers choose to dress up for the occasion too, with parade-style attire a popular choice. General admission is $8 if you book online or $10 at the gate, while kids aged 12 and under go free. WHEN 22 April WHERE Dr. AJ Chandler Park, Chandler

Phoenix Improv Festival

Festival-goers get stuck into some Cajun fare at the Southwest Cajun Fest (Photo: Southwest Cajun Fest)

May 2017

Schnepf Farms Peach Festival

This fruity festival will take place over two sunny May weekends. Six juicy varieties of peach thrive on the farm here, bringing folks from all over Arizona to pick fruit straight from the orchard. Show the kids where peaches are cultivated then let them enjoy the hay rides, live music, train rides and carousels. Sample the famous Peachy Pancake breakfast or load up on fresh peach pie and cobbler. You can even pre-order your pies in advance. Pay a visit to the Peachy Sampling Pavilion, where $1 will get you six tasting tickets for delicious products like peach salsas and preserves. WHEN 13 – 14 May WHERE Schnepf Farm, Queen Creek

Schnepf Farms Peach Festival

A young girl takes a sniff of a growing peach at Schnepf Farm (Photo: Schnepf Farms)

Phoenix Comicon

There’s no need to wait for a fancy dress party invite to adorn yourself in the attire of your favourite comic book superhero – just grab yourself a ticket for Phoenix Comicon and you’ll have the perfect excuse. Taking place over four days, the annual event has grown in size and stature since the inaugural edition, and now showcases not just comic books but also science fiction, fantasy and film/television, along with related popular arts such as horror, anime, manga, animation, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels. Meanwhile the thousands of visitors who descend on the show each year get to enjoy an action-packed programme including autograph sessions, photos with guests, film trailer previews, Q&A discussions, debuts of new works, cosplay contests, concerts and dance party raves, and much more. Just be sure to take off the outfit before you get home, or you might scare the dog! WHEN 25 – 28 May WHERE Phoenix Convention Center, Hayatt Regency

Phoenix Comicon

Visitors to the Phoenix Comicon immersed in fantasy role-play (Photo: KB Photography)

June 2017

Bite Nite

Eating can be an indulgent pursuit and nowhere more so than in the Southwest, where portions come big and authentic savory dishes reign supreme. Bite Nite, however, manages to combine the pleasures of food with altogether more altruistic endeavors . Held to raise money and awareness for sufferers of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehirg’s disease, the event showcases signature dishes concocted by renowned chefs from across the region, with guests invited to sample as many as they please. There’s also cocktails and an array of live entertainment, ensuring that those who contribute to this hugely worthwhile cause also get to have a whole lot of fun along the way. For 2017, Bite Nite will also be featuring exclusive mystery boxes, a silent auction and a live auction to proceedings. WHEN 3 June WHERE Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale

Bite Nite

Bidders at Bite Nite’s annual live auction (Photo: Bite Nite)

Carnival of Illusion

Seasoned veterans of Arizona’s nightlife and entertainment spots are likely to have spent at least one evening enchanted by this unique, interactive theatre production that combines a traditional magic show with Vaudeville-style visual drama and humour. Held regularly throughout the year, the event is staged in front of an audience of under 100 guests, helping create an intimate experience for those in attendance. Mysterious visual effects accentuate stories of adventure from around the world, as told by the show’s talented cast of performers, providing an intriguing snapshot of the history of the ancient art of magic. With only guests aged 8 and above permitted, it is ideal for those seeking a memorable night out without younger children – and in that regard it certainly hits the spot. WHEN Every weekend September – May; One weekend a month June – August WHERE Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Tucson

Carnival of Illusion

Performers from the vaudeville inspired Carnival of Illusion show (Photo: AZFOTO)

July 2017

The Errl Cup: 710 Degree Cup

For those of us who reside in countries with relatively conservative attitudes to marijuana are inclined to raise an eyebrow when we hear of events such as the 710 Degree Cup. In the United States, however, cannabis can now be legally purchased and consumed in numerous states for its medicinal properties. In Arizona, this progressive approach has given rise to The Errl Cup, an umbrella organisation that hosts cannabis awards, events and festivals throughout the year. One of the most popular of these events is the free-to-enter 710 Degree Cup, which owes its name to the fact that if you turn the number upside down, it spells ‘OIL’ a term often used when referring to marijuana concentrates. As for the event itself, it is designed to honour and recognise the best cannabis producers in Arizona and features blind testing to help uncover clean, high quality and consistent medicine and to acknowledge patient appreciation and dispensary accountability. As you’d expect, it is a fun-filled occasion, but also one with a serious purpose. WHEN 8 July WHERE American Royal Palace, Phoenix

The Errl Cup: 710 Degree Cup

An Errl Cup contestant smoking it up (Photo: The Errl Cup)

August 2017

Hell City Tattoo Festival

Hell City Tattoo Festival lands in Phoenix this August, bringing with it over 200 of the world’s most celebrated inky artists. Events include tattoo competitions (including a Worst Tattoo category), an art gallery and tattoo theatre, painting and burlesque performances, educational seminars for healthy practice, live music and tattoo awards. There’s also a handy play zone to keep the little ones entertained. Day passes start at $22, but fanatics can book a hotel room and make a tattoo holiday of it. A must for body-art fans and a great chance to meet artists you admire and get inspiration for your next stamp. WHEN 25 – 27 August WHERE Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix

Hell City Tattoo Festival

A festival-goer is daubed with an intricate design during Hell City Tattoo Festival (Photo: Alex Hall via Flickr)

September 2017

Brazilian Day Arizona

The annual event known widely as “Brazilian Day” is a 1-day festival celebrating Brazil’s Independence Day. Each year the event curates an open window to discover Brazilian culture from the past, present and future. The festival digs deep into the roots of the national culture through a variety of themes and genres including music, dance, performance, martial arts, film, art, costumes, food, drinks and plenty more. Part of the organisers’ aim is to promote Brazilian culture as both entertainment and education while exploring traditional Brazilian customs and their many influences. Brazilian Day also features a variety of live performances and educational elements that are great for the whole family. With more than 50 performers, including live Brazilian bands, DJs, dancers and instructors from Brazil, attendees of the event have the opportunity to not only watch and listen to live music, but also participate in Brazilian dance performances, play instruments, and learn Brazilian martial arts.WHEN 23 September WHERE Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale

Brazilian Day Arizona

Extravagantly dressed performers at Brazilian Day Arizona (Photo: Juan Loza)

October 2017

Phoenix Greek Festival

Known as “the original” and best Greek Festival in the state, this 3-day festival features a veritable smorgasbord of authentic Greek food, nationally award-winning Greek folk dance performances and live music. In fact, it’s often been said that people come for the food but stay for the dancing – and anyone who’s attended will know why. Some of the traditional Greek delicacies served up here will be time-honoured favorites like gyros, calamari, spanakopita and roasted lamb, while for the sweet-toothed among you desserts will include mouth-watering Greek pastries like Baklava and Baklava Sundaes. Meanwhile imported Greek beer and wine and liquors such as Ouzo and Metaxa will also be on offer. If you’re visiting with youngsters, there’ll be plenty on the menu for them too, including delicious hot dogs, while a dedicated kid-zone will keep them entertained. Dozens of vendors including a Greek Market, jewellery, art and apparel will be present, offering great gift-buying opportunities. WHEN 13 – 15 October WHERE Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Phoenix

Phoenix Greek Festival

A smiling festival-goer poses with a traditional Greek dish (Photo: Phoenix Greek Festival)

November 2017

Arizona Harvest Fest

November sees the searing desert heat that saturates Arizona for much of the year finally cool off – to the relief of everyone. It is also the time of year that marks the harvest season, when the fruits of the earth are reaped aplenty. Held in celebration of this bountiful occasion, the Arizona Harvest Fest offers a rich programme of activities, events and entertainment for all ages. On the programme this year there’s a distinctly pumpkin-ey theme, including a pumpkin toss, a pumpkin pageant, and even pumpkin ales in the beer garden. There’s also a pie-eating contest, a cake walk, hay maze and dedicates kid’s zone, while food and craft vendors will offer seasonal eats and various knickknacks that make for ideal souvenirs and gifts. VIP tickets are available for the event and afford you the right to six alcoholic drinks. WHEN 4 November WHERE Dr. AJ Chandler Park, Downtown Chandler

Arizona Harvest Fest

A gleeful woman appears unnerved as a pumpkin hangs precariously in mid-air at the Arizona Harvest Fest (Photo: Arizona Harvest Fest)

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