Nerd Culture

13 Arts and Culture Festivals in Metro Phoenix This Fall

Dress for success at the Phoenix Fan Fest.
Dress for success at the Phoenix Fan Fest. Benjamin Leatherman

This fall, you can honor Mexican traditions, take in a curated fest of indie movies, and celebrate the LGBTQ community. Because metro Phoenix has festivals for all of the above — and a whole lot more.

Here's your guide to 13 upcoming fall festivals from around the Valley to help you make the most of the festive season.

Ghostfest Improv Marathon
When: Friday and Saturday, October 13 and 14
Where: The Torch Theatre
The Torch Theatre’s annual event brings more than 32 hours of longform improv comedy from a wide variety of performers. The event also serves as a fundraiser for the Phoenix Improv Festival, another annual event devoted to the improv medium. Eighty different shows happen throughout each day – from morning performances to late nighters. Expect to see troupes like Mail Order Bride, The Neighborhood, Zombie Gourmet, Fart Doctors, and Pizza Party. There’s also Ghostfest Jr. (a block of kid-friendly shows) on Saturday morning.

Harvest Fest
When: Saturdays and Sundays, October 14 to 29, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Pioneer Living History Museum
This family-friendly event has different ways to enjoy the season. You can take a hayride, pan for gold, get into the pumpkin patch, or try your hand at pumpkin bowling. The fest also has food, drink, and live music.
Goodyear Fall Festival
When: Saturday, October 21, from 5 to 9 p.m.
Where: Goodyear Ballpark
The Goodyear Fall Festival promises a fun night at the ballpark for attendees of all ages. This seasonal get-together will include a costume contest with prizes for the winners, so get creative with your Halloween duds. There will also be train rides, corn hole games, a book sale, and demonstrations by local martial arts and dance groups.

Rainbows Festival & Street Fair
When: Saturday, October 21, and Sunday, October 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Heritage Square Park
Celebrate the pride and diversity of the LGBTQ community during this annual festival that sees more than 25,000 attendees. Two stages will offer live entertainment throughout each day of this two-day celebration. There will be more than 150 exhibitors selling a range of goods and presenting information. Numerous food vendors will be on-site to meet the needs of hungry visitors.

click to enlarge Folks enjoying Day of the Dead festivities. - ALEXANDRA GASPAR
Folks enjoying Day of the Dead festivities.
Alexandra Gaspar
Dia De Los Muertos Festival
When: Saturday, October 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, October 29, from noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Mesa Arts Center
Pay tribute to the dead at this annual festival and traditional Mexican celebration. See an array of altars created by locals. The community altar will have space for you to share your own memories. Expect more than a dozen cultural performances, live music, food trucks, and plenty of joyous activities to honor those who have passed on before us.

Dia De Los Muertos PHX Festival
When: Sunday, October 29, from noon to 6 p.m.
Where: Steele Indian School Park
Celebrate the dearly departed at this annual Dia De Los Muertos event. Music, dance, and theater performances will occur throughout the afternoon to honor ancestors and celebrate heritage and traditions.
Strange Garden
When: Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Desert Botanical Garden
This popular garden will offer a new special event for fall. Visit the Strange Garden, a new, family-friendly experience that lets you encounter weird sights, fun tricks, and enchanting creatures. Mad botanists will delight you with unusual tales about the plant life. The bash will be a chance to dance with festive monsters. Other activities will include live musical entertainment, face-painting, and pumpkin carving. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. The event is included in garden admission.

Cave Creek Wild West Days
When: Friday, November 3, to Sunday, November 5; hours vary
Where: Town of Cave Creek
It’s a whole lot of Western-style fun at this Cave Creek get-down. Attendees can expect bull riding, pig races, a parade, and a hunt for gold nuggets. Catch a staged gun fight or take a picture in the cowboy photo booth. You can even learn how to build a stick horse — and if you’re feeling competitive, ride it in the stick horse races.

Scottsdale International Film Festival
When: Thursday, November 2, through Monday, November 6; hours vary
Where: Harkins Theatres Shea 14
This event is a dream come true for movie buffs. See a curated selection of more than 40 movies, including comedies, dramas, thrillers, and documentaries from new and seasoned filmmakers. This film festival also features discussions and meet-and-greet opportunities with filmmakers and directors.

click to enlarge The Arizona Fall Festival celebrates local goods and services. - ALEXANDRA GASPAR
The Arizona Fall Festival celebrates local goods and services.
Alexandra Gaspar
Arizona Fall Festival
When: Saturday, November 4
Where: Hance Park
Local First AZ's annual festival has a new name, but it's still the same celebration of regional treasures. Formerly known as the Certified Local Fall Festival, this family- and dog-friendly event will feature more than 200 booths by area businesses, organizations, and creatives. Live entertainment is always a part of this seasonal event. See music performances from acts like Adam Smith, Cheap Hotels, and House of Stairs. More performers include Mariachi de Luna and Caledonian Dancers.

click to enlarge Dress for success at the Phoenix Fan Fest. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Dress for success at the Phoenix Fan Fest.
Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix Fan Fest
When: Saturday, November 11 to Sunday, November 12; hours vary
Where: Phoenix Convention Center
From comics to cosplay and pirates to sci-fi, this is the perfect event to geek out while meeting actors, directors, and creators involved in producing geek-approved books, movies, and TV shows. The list of special guests is lengthy, and includes Ernie Hudson from the original Ghostbusters movie, Peter Ostrum from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Jed Rees from Galaxy Quest and Deadpool.

Comics artists include Tom Hodges, April Reyna, Raven Gregory, and Jay Fotos. There are opportunities to meet and greet the guests and to catch different panel discussions. If getting dressed up is the exciting part for you, there’s a costume contest, as well as some fashion-related signature events, like the Ghostbusters Monster Parade and a pirate fashion show.

click to enlarge The Grand Avenue Festival shows off the street's flair - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
The Grand Avenue Festival shows off the street's flair
Benjamin Leatherman
Grand Avenue Festival
When: Saturday, November 11, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Historic Grand Avenue
Gather on Grand Avenue to see its historic buildings, unique businesses like art galleries, restaurants, artist studios, bars, and live music spaces. Fun activities this year include the Trashy Hat Making Workshop, where you use provided materials to make your own festive hat. There's also live entertainment, a fashion show, and historic building tours. A major component of the event is the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts a.k.a. PAPA. This fun procession includes walkers, and cyclists, and encourages all to participate. The parade theme this year is Undersea Madness.

ArtFest of Scottsdale
When: Saturday, November 18 to Sunday, November 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza
More than 150 artists from across the country will show work at this annual event. The event also will feature live music, a sculpture garden where you can try different food options, and activities for the little ones. This year’s event will give you the opportunity to meet local authors and find out about their literary creations.

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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