Nerd Culture

21 Spring Festivals in Metro Phoenix

Yes, spring means Ren Fest.
Yes, spring means Ren Fest. Melissa Fossum
Ah, spring — the season when Phoenicians find themselves outdoors and having loads of airy fun. This time of year, there are festivals aplenty to keep your calendar filled to the brim until summer. We rounded up a list to help you start your planning.

Arizona Renaissance Festival
Through April 2
Gold Canyon
$13 to $23 for general admission; season passes available

This is quite possibly the only fair that has a massive turkey leg as its unofficial symbol. Feast on one of those bad boys, or dig your teeth into the equally decadent steak-on-a-stake at this festival, where hearty portions abound. When you’re not eating and drinking, you might be testing your sporting abilities at games like target shooting with a crossbow, or lobbing a tomato at an annoying peasant in the Vegetable Justice area. Maybe you want to ride the Piccolo Pony – the world’s largest rocking horse – or toss a battle ax. Old-timey games and rides are at every turn. The marketplace features artisanal goods from leather items to lotions and potions. Find details at the Arizona Renaissance Festival website.

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Hotrods and classics from days gone by
Courtesy of Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Goodguys 8th Spring Nationals
March 10 to 12
WestWorld of Scottsdale
$6 to $20; free for ages 6 and younger

Car lovers, don’t even think about missing this. See more than 2,500 1972 and older hotrods, customs, trucks, and muscle cars spread throughout WestWorld. You can buy a car, too. There’s a Swap Meet and Cars 4 Sale Corral that connects you to vintage parts and vehicles. Plenty of vendors are onsite for shopping. Other car-centric fun includes auto demonstrations, and a Nitro Thunderfest Dragster Exhibition. The kids' zone offers arts and crafts activities, games, and prizes. See details at the Goodguys website.

Ostrich Festival
March 10 to 12
Tumbleweed Park
$7 to $10 for general admission; VIP passes available

This annual event that shines a spotlight on the gawky bird is back. You’ll see plenty of the ostriches, along with pigs, camels, and ponies. Some you get to ride, others you can get cuddly with at the petting zoo. From big spinning wheels to a spinning coaster, there are plenty of ways to shriek and scream, including a zombie fun house. The ostriches will race, and you can enjoy games, food, and entertainment at this bird-oriented fun fair. Visit the Ostrich Festival website for details.

Scottsdale Arts Festival
March 10 to 12
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Civic Center Park
$10 to $15

This scenic park is filled with tents featuring the work of 175 jury-selected artists from around the world, working in media including painting, photography, glass, sculpture, jewelry, and ceramics. Stroll the grounds to take in all the artwork, as well as live musical performances. This year, New Orleans-based soul singer Nikki Hill performs the headlining concert on Saturday. Other musical acts include the Blood Feud Family Singers, Jovert, and Moonlight Magic. There’s plenty to eat, too. And yes – the Maine Lobster Lady is among the many food trucks. There’s also Press Italian, Satay Hut, and Paletas Betty. Beer, wine, and beverages will be available to help you wash it all down. Making your own mimosas or Bloody Marys is also an option. The Community Art Studio offers hands-on activities for guests of all ages. Another highlight includes a performance by speed painter Randall Hedden. Visit the Scottsdale Arts Festival website for more.

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Convert your druids at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Faire.
St. Patrick's Day Parade & Faire
Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Irish Faire
March 11
Margaret T. Hance Park
$8 to $10 for general admission

Watch the parade that celebrates Irish culture with floats, marching bands, and bagpipes galore. It starts at 10 a.m., and when that lively march is done, Hance Park is the hub for more celebratory activities. Three stages for entertainment present dancers and musicians, and there’s also loads of food and drinks, an area for kids to play, and a marketplace with Irish goods and crafts. Genealogy groups and Irish clubs will also be on hand. See the St. Patrick's Day Phoenix website for more.

Arizona Aloha Festival
March 11 to 12
Tempe Beach Park
Admission is free

Hawaii is always a dream away. But that dream gets a little more real with this annual family-friendly event that happens at Tempe Beach Park. Get swept away as you’re surrounded by Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures with traditional music, dance, and food. For details, visit the Arizona Aloha Festival website.

Tucson Festival of Books
March 11 to 12
University of Arizona
Admission is free

Book lovers should rush to this event. In addition to featuring numerous book vendors, it also features two days of multi-genre author presentations. The author lineup is more than 100 deep, and includes writers of both adult and kids’ books. It’s also a charitable affair, raising money annually for literature-focused organizations. The Science City tent is an opportunity for attendees of all ages to see diverse science experiments, tour University of Arizona laboratories, and meet science writers and researchers. There’s also food, music, and dance performances to enjoy at this literary extravaganza. For details and a complete schedule, see the Tucson Festival of Books website.

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Art Detour patrons enjoying the visuals.
Alexandra Gaspar
Art Detour
March 16 to 19
Downtown Phoenix
Admission is free

If you haven’t been to or heard about Phoenix’s First Fridays art walk, you might need to crawl out from under that rock. Art Detour, now in its 29th year, is the event that started that monthly occurrence. This art-filled weekend is a self-guided tour of galleries, studios, one-time-exhibits, and installations throughout the downtown neighborhoods. Much of the work exhibited is created by talented locals. A shuttle service is provided to let you get to different areas. For a guide to all the happenings, see Art Detour's website.

Read on for more arts, comedy, and cultural festivals in metro Phoenix this spring.
Spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity
March 17 to 18
Mesa Arts Center
Admission is free

This annual event’s name is also what it hopes to inspire – sparks of creativity in its attendees. Wander through this immersive atmosphere to celebrate the work of different creators — all from right here in Arizona. It shows the importance of creative thinking and shows how others have manifested their unique ideas. Learn about the processes that brought these diverse works to life. There’s also live entertainment and optional ticketed programs. Get your creative candle lit at this intriguing annual happening. For details, visit the Mesa Arts Center website.

Dusk settles on Phoenix's Japanese Friendship Garden.
Courtesy of Japanese Friendship Garden
Haru in the Garden
March 25
Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix
$25 to $30 for general admission, $5 for ages 3 to 12

The beauty of the spring season is the focus of this one-night festival. The beautiful garden comes to life with soft lights that emphasize the colors and sounds of spring. Follow the lit pathways and explore this calming oasis that is in the heart of downtown. Traditional music will be performed in different areas, and guests can also enjoy tea in the Garden’s traditional tea house. Beer, wine, and sake are available for purchase, and food trucks with Asian fare are on-site all evening. Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden website for more.

Italian Festival of Arizona

March 25 and 26
Scottsdale Civic Center Mall

It’s a celebration of Italy with arts, music, food, and handcrafted vendor items. Some of the area’s top Italian restaurants will be on-site offering their special takes on the food of Italy, like Marcellino Ristorante, Pasta Rea, and Tutti Santi. Vendors include the Queen Creek Olive Mill, Portabello Foods, and jewelry retailer Tres Elegantes Designs. Vince Chiarelli and his band are among the performers, along with singer Anna Calemme from Naples, and flag-waving group Gruppo Storico Sbandieratori di Fivizzano. Visit the Italian Festival of Arizona's website.

Origination: A Festival of Native Cultures

March 26
Scottsdale Civic Center Park
Admission is free

Each year, this event offers an afternoon of cultural celebration. This time, it’s France and Arizona that guests can learn about and enjoy via arts and crafts, live performances, interactive workshops, a French food market, and wine pairings. For more, visit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website.

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Tempe's annual Festival of the Arts
Nick Bastian
Tempe Spring Festival of the Arts
March 31-April 2
Mill Avenue District
Admission is free

Every spring, this juried arts festival takes over downtown Tempe’s Mill Avenue and surrounding streets, lining it with booths featuring work by artists from all over the world. It’s an opportunity to see and acquire unique art in different media, as well as enjoy vendors, food, and activities for kids. See more at the Tempe Festival of the Arts website.

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These ladies met at Pride three years ago. Both were leaving the festival, and the girl on the right tapped the other lady on the shoulder to say she was hot. The rest was history.
Melissa Fossum
Phoenix Pride Festival
April 1 to 2
Steele Indian School Park
$15 to $30 for general admission; VIP tickets available

This annual event brings together Phoenix’s LGBTQ community and its allies to help raise awareness and raises funds for community programs — while shedding light on the civil rights issues the community faces. And they do it with one of the best two-day parties around. Multiple stages give you music and dance performances, and other happenings include an art exhibition, food vendors, and a dance pavilion where you can shake it all day and night. The Erotic World is for those 18 and older to see adult retail items, performances, and demonstrations. Kidspace is a play area for the young ones where they can get into some craft-making activities. Find details at Phoenix Pride's website.

Repticon Reptile and Exotic Animal Convention
April 11 to 12
Arizona State Fairgrounds
$5 to $12 for general admission; free for kids 4 and younger; VIP tickets available

If slimy and slithery things get you excited, head to the Arizona State Fairgrounds for this convention where reptiles are on display for your perusal. See live animal encounters, as well as exotic pets. Learn about these creatures from top breeders and educators. Pick up supplies from the many pet food and goods vendors on-site. See more at the Repticon website.

Phoenix Film Festival
April 6 to 13
Harkins Scottsdale 101 14
$13 for single tickets; various passes available

Though this year’s schedule is still being updated, the short films list has been announced. It includes Beresford Bennett’s Pinch, a movie about a forbidden office romance, and Xavier Neil Burgin’s Olde E, a story about a rising basketball star in south Los Angeles, and his father. This annual event hosts more than 20,000 visitors who come to see more than 150 independent films, attend parties, and mix and mingle with some of the celebrity guests. The weeklong happening is filled with film-related events and seminars. Find details at the Phoenix Film Festival website.

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Monologist Valerie Tosi performs at Bird City Comedy Festival
Matt Santos
Bird City Comedy Festival
April 8 to 10
Multiple venues
$20 to $75

Last year’s inaugural event went so well, the folks behind the Bird City Comedy Festival decided to do it again. They’re not messing around, either. The lineup of local and national alt-comedy acts is diverse and stellar. From stand-up to improv to sketch, multiple comedy genres will happen on the various stages at this three-day shindig. Some of the performers include Greg Behrendt, a stand-up comedian and best-selling author who has done an ample amount of TV writing, and Mister Chris, who has a dark comedy Facebook show for grownups. See Bird City's website for more.

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Phoenix Improv Festival performers
Cristobal Candelario
Phoenix Improv Festival
April 20 to 22
Herberger Theater Center
$10 to $20

You should have mad respect for improvisational performers. Getting up in front of a crowd when you know what you’re gonna do is one thing. Winging it is another. This festival gathers together great improvisational performers and groups troupes like Portland, Oregon’s B&B, a married couple who deliver the laughs, as well as San Francisco’s Euro Trash, and Honey from NYC. Plenty of local troupes are stepping into the spotlight, too, including Galapagos, GIF of the Magi, and the Displacers. Visit the Phoenix Improv Festival website for more.

Arab-American Festival

April 29 to 30
Steele Indian School Park
$5, free for kids 9 and younger

This yearly celebration is held to celebrate Arab-American culture, as well as educate the public on the community’s contributions and pride. See an array of music and dance performances, try different foods, and learn about services from area vendors. This year, the kids' zone is an expanded version, offering more games and attractions geared to those 12 and younger. See details at the Arab American Festival website.

Cinco de Mayo Festival
May 7
Downtown Phoenix
Ticket information TBD

This giant event turns Washington Street in downtown Phoenix into a mammoth party to celebrate Mexico’s victory over the French army in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Prepare to get all senses working in overdrive, as the music is loud and the spirits are high. There are rides for kids, an abundance of traditional food options, Mexican wrestling, dancers, and vendors. Watch the Cinco de Mayo Festival website for a complete list of performers.

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Female Star Wars cosplayers, including the best Kylo Ren we saw at Phoenix Comicon.
Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix Comicon
May 25 to 28
Phoenix Convention Center
$10 to $299

This is the ultimate destination for comic geeks and pop culture freaks. Don’t be afraid to slip on that Stormtrooper outfit, or that anime costume you’ve been stocking away; this is your scene. Mingle with other comic and sci-fi fanatics, look at the wares from hundreds of vendors, and meet some of your favorite stars. This year, some of the guests include Holly Marie Combs from Charmed and Pretty Little Liars, as well as Jason David Frank from Power Rangers. There are panels and plenty of peripheral events to keep you busy all weekend long. Visit the Phoenix Comicon website.

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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young