Spring is that time of year when everyone is happy to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Which also makes it a great time for festivals. Whether you want to celebrate animals, independent films, or take a stroll while enjoying art and wine, you'll find all that and more in metro Phoenix in the coming months.
Waterfront Art and Wine Festival
February 12 to 14
$3 for general admission; $10 for wine tasting ticket and souvenir cup
This sip-and-stroll event is hosted by the Thunderbird Artists who will line the banks of the Scottsdale Waterfront with artists displaying work in several media, including painting, sculpture, and photography. This year’s featured artist is Meg Harper, whose colorful paintings show her love of animals and nature. Wineries give attendees the opportunity to try varietals from all over the world. Guests can also take in musical entertainment throughout each day.
Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival
February 14 to 28
Multiple theater locations
$7 to $11 for individual film tickets, $36 for the Wandering Muse special event, $125 for festival pass
This event turns 20 this year and continues its mission of presenting Jewish films from around the world to the greater Phoenix community. This year’s selections include Belle & Sebastian, about a boy and the wild mountain dog he tames in WWII-occupied France. There’s also Rock in the Red Zone, which highlights people in the factory town of Sderot, Israel, who create rock music in bomb shelters. This year’s special event takes place at Phoenix Art Museum and includes a screening of the Wandering Muse, which documents encounters with Jewish musicians and their musical interpretation of Jewish identity. This event includes a buffet and a live music performance by a string quartet from Arizona School for the Arts.
Fountain Hills Great Fair
February 26 to 28
Downtown Fountain Hills
It’s the 30th year of this annual juried exhibition that features more than 500 artists and artisans from all over the world. It also gives guests the opportunity to enjoy Fountain Hills’ downtown area while checking out the art, food booths, beer garden, and live music.
Arizona Renaissance Festival
March 1 to 27
$9 to $22 for general admission; season passes available
Travel back to ye olden times at this month-long annual event that spans 30,000 acres and is bursting with entertainment. In addition to the arts and crafts vendors, 13 stages see actors acrobats, dancers, musicians, and mermaids doing specialized performances to keep you entertained. A 5,000 seat arena gives you three opportunities each day to see live jousting tournaments. There’s also a living fountain, as well as people-powered rides and games. Plenty of food and drink vendors abound, and yes, you can get items like giant turkey legs, and honey mead to wash them down. Huzzah.
Wild West Con and Steampunk Festival
March 4 to 6
$20 to $45 for general admission; multiday passes available
Old Tucson, the movie studio and theme park built in the 1930’s is transformed into a western-style, steampunk theme park for this 5th annual event that celebrates the industrial steam-powered machinery of the 19th century, along with its related culture. Watch things being made at the Makers Workshop, ask questions and learn techniques. There are also opportunities to make steampunk-oriented items to take home, live music to enjoy, seminars, rides, fashion shows and even a Kids Zone for steampunks of all ages.
Out West Balloon Fest
$7 to $20 for general admission
Watch a mass of balloons ascend and float each day of his festival, while the balloon pilots compete in a state championship. If you’re more of a doer than a watcher, a balloon ride might be more up your alley. This festival is full of more than just hot air; it features live music, the Kids Zone with activities for the youngsters, food, and vendors. Additionally, the event’s Fun Run that takes place on Saturday helps raise money for Cox Charities, which donates to several local nonprofit organizations.
Melrose on 7th Street Fair
Celebrate the central Phoenix district that’s on Seventh Avenue between Indian School Road and Campbell Avenue at this yearly happening that features more than 150 vendor booths. Local food trucks will be on hand to offer diverse dining options, while beverage choices include a beer and margarita garden. Chester’s Classic Car Show lets you ogle some vintage autos, and a main stage entertains with live music performances throughout the day.
Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market
March 5 to 6
$20 for general admission ages 17 and older
The theme for this year’s annual festival and juried exhibition is “The Celebration of Pottery.” Artwork in other media will also be presented. Each year, around 15,000 people flock to this event to see artwork by traditional and cutting-edge American Indian artists. There’s plenty to do; musical and cultural performances happen throughout each day. Twenty-five of the participating artists will also be demonstrating their work out on the plaza. Enjoy food and drink and interactive fun, like learning how to hoop dance with Tony Duncan, a five-time world champion.
March 11 to 13
$7 to $10 for general admission
The annual Ostrich Festival is dedicated to shining a spotlight on the intriguing looking bird. The popular event has been happening for 27 years now and includes ostrich races, ostrich-themed activities, and a carnival with rides and games, food, and live musical entertainment.
Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Irish Faire
Margaret T. Hance Park
$8 to $10 for general admission
The parade takes off from the park at 10 a.m. and includes marching bands, bagpipe players, police and fire vehicles, floats, and government dignitaries. It also features the 2016 Irish Colleen/Arizona Rose with her entire court. The Faire happens at the park and is equally entertaining, with three stages of Irish musicians and dancers. Take a break from the excitement to enjoy food and drink. There’s also a designated area for kids to get into some festive activities.
Arizona Aloha Festival
March 12 to 13
Tempe Beach Park
Admission is free
If you can’t take a dreamy Hawaiian vacation this year, maybe a visit to the Arizona Aloha Festival will be the fix you need to cure that wanderlust. This family-friendly event celebrates Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures with traditional music, dance, and food.
Spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity
March 18 to 19
Mesa Arts Center
Spark! is a celebration of creativity and the different ways it can manifest. In this immersive environment, attendees see a wide range of interesting creations and learn about the process involved in bringing them to fruition. There are also plenty of interactive activities so that guests can do some experimenting of their own. Different genres of live music will be performed outdoors. Inside, ticketed programs will occur in the venue’s theaters; these indoor events are not included in the general admission. One of this year's features is Christopher Janney's Sonic Forest, where you can touch one of 16 electronic "trees" to trigger a series of events.
Haru in the Garden
Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix
$25 to $30 for general admission, $5 for ages 3 to 12
This event celebrates the sights and sounds of the spring season, with an emphasis on color and artistic beauty. The garden will be lit up to highlight art displays and music and dance performances that happen throughout the serene, traditional setting. In the teahouse, see a display of beautiful kimonos and also enjoy a Japanese tea service. The bar offers beer, wine, and sake for purchase. Food trucks are on site with a variety of Asian fare, as well.
March 19 and 20
This year marks the 28th edition of this annual self-guided tour of galleries and studios throughout the downtown neighborhoods. Known for being the event that helped build the flourishing art scene that exists today, this is a chance to see a broad range of artwork, much of which is created by locally-based artists. If you don’t feel like walking, there’s a free trolley to ride each day. Also expect bike and walking tours that give you other ways to enjoy the artsy journey.
Arizona Scottish Gathering and Highland Games
March 19 to 20
Steele Indian School Park
$8 to $20 for general admission
Maybe you’re Scottish, maybe you’re not – you can visit the genealogy tent at this half-century-old event and trace your own family roots to see. Hosted by the Caledonian Society of Arizona, this shindig celebrating Scotland includes competitive highland dancing, pipe bands, heavy athletics, country dancing, historical re-enactments, vintage British car exhibitions, and representatives of over 50 Clans. One of the featured musical performers is tribal Celtic act, Wicked Tinkers, an ensemble group that has drums, bagpipes, horns, and a digeridoo. Illusionist and magician Craig Davis is also on the bill.
Tucson Festival of Books
March 23 to 24
University of Arizona
Metro Phoenix book lovers shouldn’t hesitate to make a trek to Tucson for this year’s Festival of Books. Since 2009, the event has helped raise more than $1 million for organizations that support literacy. The two-day affair features well over 100 presenting authors in more than 20 genres. A special Edgar Allen Poe event takes place from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, with authors Lynn Cullen, Polly Shulman, and Louis Bayard, who have penned Poe-centric books.
Phoenix Pride Festival
April 2 to 3
Steele Indian School Park
$15 to $30 for general admission; VIP tickets available
Phoenix Pride occurs yearly to help raise awareness of the Phoenix LGBTQ community. It’s also one hell of a party. Over 150 entertaining performances take place on five different stages. There’s also around 300 exhibitors offering you the opportunity to view artwork, dine, shop, and learn about community organizations. You can also enjoy a huge dance pavilion, and if you bring the little ones, take them to the Kidspace, for interactive fun.
Repticon Reptile and Exotic Animal Convention
April 2 to 3
Arizona State Fairgrounds
$5 to $10 for general admission; VIP tickets available
If herpetology happens to be your thing, this convention is your opportunity to add a new amphibian or reptile to your family. From geckos to pythons, there’s a lot to see. If it’s supplies you’re looking for, there will be vendors on site offering food and other products to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Scottsdale Civic Center Park
Admission is free
Hosted by Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, as part of its Discovery Series, this one-day event celebrates the cultures of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Arizona. Enjoy live music, native-inspired food and drink, stories, arts and crafts, and special areas for kids to create.
Phoenix Film Festival
April 7 to 14
Harkins Scottsdale 101
$13 for single tickets; passes available
Though this year’s schedule is still to be determined, this annual event sees over 20,000 visitors who come see more than 150 independent films, attend parties, and rub elbows with celebrity guests. The weeklong happening is filled with film-related events, like seminars, those aforementioned soirees, and even a kids’ day, where the young ones can engage in hands-on activity to learn about film production.
Phoenix Improv Festival
April 14 to 16
Herberger Theater Center
$20 for evening shows; $10 for matinees.
If you like spontaneity, this is one's for you. The Phoenix Improv Festival brings together troupes from places like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as local acts, to entertain you with improv and unscripted theater performances. Some of this year's highlights will include Orange Tuxedo with Craig Cackowski, BoxCare with Nick Armstrong, Adrift! — a show with performers from around the country stuck in a boat together, and Dummy, the award-winning, two-person improv show by Jason Shotts and Colleen Doyle.
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Bird City Comedy Festival
April 8 to 10
Ticket prices TBA
Stand-up, improv, and sketch – all types of comedy are represented at this inaugural event showcasing local and national alt-comedy performers.
Annual Polish Festival
April 9 to 10
Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish
Celebrate all things Poland at this yearly, festive get together. From potato pancakes to pierogi, plenty of folks come to gorge on the delicious food options. There’s even a pierogi-eating contest if you really want to test your love of the stuffed pockets of dough. Expect entertainment in the form of live music and dancers, a raffle, and vendors to round out this culture fest.