Right around the time the weather should be cooling down -- but isn't -- a day trip out of the Valley starts sounding good. And if your trip just so happens to find you sampling salsa, sipping artisan beer and wine, or feasting on local dishes, all the better.
Here's a round-up of day trips worth the drive. Know of others? Leave them in the comments section. And get your calendars out, because these are some noteworthy --and droolworthy -- destinations.
Tickets: Free, $4 for salsa tasting tent
Taking place in the Eastern Arizona town of Safford, this two-day event includes a "Salsa Trail" of restaurants offering special deals, a salsa making competition, salsa and jalapeno eating contests, and even Chihuahua races. We're not sure what that last one is about, but nevertheless, it sounds like the right ingredients for a zesty weekend.
More day trippin' after the jump.
Raw Spirit Festival
Tickets: $40 (single day pass) - $120 (3-day pass)
Watson Lake Park in Prescott provides the scenic backdrop to this year's Raw Spirit Festival, known as the world's biggest raw and vegan food celebration. But it certainly doesn't stop at the live food demos and tastings: The massive event promotes the idea of eco-peace and will provide musical performances, physical activities like hiking and yoga, plenty of activities for the kids, and almost 100 different vendors.
The Taste of Cave Creek
Just a short hour away from Phoenix, Cave Creek and its old west charm will host the annual event that has it all: live jazz and country music, food demos, beer and wine tastings, and more than 25 of the area's best restaurants -- including the beloved Binkley's. With the festival taking place during the week, clear your calendar and plan on leaving work early -- especially with top-notch food samples priced at just $1-$4
The Great Tucson Beer Festival
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Much like the festival's sister-celebrations in Flagstaff and Tempe, The Great Tucson Beer festival is not only filled with lots of beer sampling, but also live music, games, and snacks from local restaurants (and bonus -- food samples are included in the ticket prices!). Bring that belt with the extra notch and your most dependable DD for a fun night at Hi Corbett Field and feel good about yourself in the morning: All proceeds from the event go to Sun Sounds of Arizona.
Tucson Culinary Festival
Three words for all the tequila lovers out there: World Margarita Championship. Head south to Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, the site of this year's four-day festival that features boutique wine tastings, food samples from over 40 local chefs, and a barbecue "throw down." With all event proceeds benefiting Tucson Originals, New Beginnings and Diamond Children's Medical Center, you'll appeal to your philanthropic side while sipping and sampling some world-class fare.
Schnepf Farms Pumpkin and Chili Party
Thursdays-Sundays during the entire month of October
Tickets: $15 at the gate, but check the website to find special event discounts or purchase your tickets at any Fry's for a discounted rate of $12
Looking for the perfect way to wear out the kids on a weekend? The popular Queen Creek farm has just what you're looking for with a wide-array of food and pumpkin photo ops to keep parents happy and plenty of attractions to keep kids busy. Think hay rides, miniature golf, rock climbing, a corn maze, and carnival rides, all included with the price of admission. Stick around late on Fridays and Saturdays to see the fireworks display and you're almost guaranteed a quiet ride home.