New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now. Here's our list of the best festivals.
Best Film Festival: Phoenix Film Festival
The Phoenix Film Festival isn't where you go to see big blockbusters. Instead, it offers films just on the cusp of breaking out, indie comedies, weird horror, documentaries, television programs, and other oddball flicks. Spread over a week on seven screens, the works are varied and range in quality, but the curation is smart and well-put-together year after year.
Best Comedy Festival: Bird City Comedy Festival
Every big city needs its signature festival that people from all over the country (and if it's good enough, the world) flock to. Los Angeles has FYF Fest. Denver has the Great American Beer Festival. Chicago has Taste of Chicago. And while Phoenix does have the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, the Strong Beer Festival, and the Devoured Culinary Classic, we think Bird City Comedy Festival could be the one to really put Phoenix on the map.
Best Arts Festival: Open Studios @ Grant Street
Atop concrete floors and divided into rooms without ceilings by bright white walls often tacked with notes and works in progress are the studios for select graduate arts students at Arizona State University. The studios are open once a year during Phoenix's annual art walk blowout called Art Detour, during which anyone can tour the spaces, peek in on artists at work, discuss what they're up to, and see someone who very well might be the next big thing.
Best Junk Festival: Junk in the Trunk
If one man's trash is another man's treasure, then Junk in the Trunk is basically the vintage and resale equivalent of the Cave of Wonders in Disney's Aladdin. Seriously, this craft fair/antique mall hybrid takes over WestWorld of Scottsdale and turns it into a Pinterest addict's wonderland.
Best Music Festival: McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Music festivals are all about lineup and vibe, and McDowell Mountain Music Festival checks both those boxes and then some. The nonprofit event brings major headliners to downtown Phoenix (for example, Avett Brothers, Beck, and Widespread Panic), all while being an exemplary model of how music festivals should treat their guests.
Read on for more of Phoenix's best festivals
Best Nontraditional Music Festival: Viva PHX
Viva PHX is Stateside Presents' nontraditional take on a music festival. (Full disclosure: New Times is a sponsor.) Modeled around South by Southwest, the 2016 version brought more than 70 bands to 17 venues downtown. The sheer number and density of the music festival participants is impressive in itself, but what's more notable is the transformative effect the festival has on downtown. Streets that are normally quiet on a Saturday night overflow with people making their way from venue to venue. For one night, downtown Phoenix turns into a pedestrian-friendly musical mecca, and the energy is contagious and undeniable.
Best Latin Rock Festival: Rock Fiesta
Quartzsite, you say? That depressing-looking RV parking lot off the I-10 on the way to Los Angeles? What of interest could possibly be out there? Well, in 2016, seemingly out of nowhere, there came Rock Fiesta, a tour de force of rock en español. Caifanes, Molotov, El Tri — the lineup was practically a history lesson in Latin rock.
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Best Border-Inspired Family Event: El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession
Hundreds of families, nearly half of them Latino, converge on Tempe Center for the Arts when Childsplay and Cultural Coalition partner to present their El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession. It's an annual festival-style event featuring free performances, art activities, and storytelling infused with Mexican culture that helps family members of all ages appreciate the value of diversity and learning about others' cultural heritage.
Best Beer Festival: Arizona Strong Beer Festival
If you took a year and dedicated it to tasting a different craft beer every day, you would still need an additional month and then some to sample all of the beers available at the Strong Beer Festival. Four Peaks, the Phoenix Ale Brewery, SanTan Brewing Company, Mother Road Brewing Company, and many more all participate to show that Arizona knows beer, knows how to make it well, and probably most importantly, knows how to drink it.