17 Food and Drink Festivals in Metro Phoenix in Spring 2018

The Scottsdale Culinary Festival is one of the Valley's largest.
The Scottsdale Culinary Festival is one of the Valley's largest. Courtesy of Scottsdale Culinary Festival
Spring brings brilliant weather and lots of visitors to the Valley, which creates the perfect formula for food festivals throughout metro Phoenix. Typically, these outdoor parties feature drink and food samples, photo ops, live music, activities, prizes, and more and more food. So get excited.

From Arizona brewing competitions to salsa and burger battles, a Cajun festival, and a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, here are more than a dozen food festivals happening throughout the Valley in spring 2018.

click to enlarge Taste Japanese cuisine and spirits at the 2018 Arizona Masturi Festival of Japan. - JOHN SACHEN
Taste Japanese cuisine and spirits at the 2018 Arizona Masturi Festival of Japan.
John Sachen
Arizona Matsuri Festival of Japan
Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25
Heritage and Science Park
Free admission

Dive into Japanese culture at the 2018 Matsuri Festival of Japan. Sample everything from traditional Japanese cuisine to more modern and fusion options. Vendors include Snoh Ice Shavery, Yatai Ramen, and many more. For those 21 and older, pay a visit to the Asian Beer garden where you can taste sake, beer, and cocktails. In between bites check out Japanese markets, live performances, and a traditional tea ceremony. Festivities kick off both days at 10 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m.

Devour Culinary Classic
Sunday, February 25, through Sunday, March 4
Desert Botanical Gardens
Prices vary. Some events sold out.

An annual, weeklong series showcasing Arizona’s well-known chefs and bartenders, the 2018 Devour Culinary Classic features cuisine that highlights Arizona's unique background. Locations vary depending on the event, but this year the main event, the Classic, will be in a new location at the Desert Botanical Gardens. The Classic – with tastings and chef demonstrations – has become "the most anticipated culinary event in the region," and is happening from Saturday, March 3, to Sunday, March 4. Other Devour Week events include the Devour Phoenix Bartending Competition, the Seven Chefs Dinner, and Devour the World.

click to enlarge AZ PERSONAL CHEF - CHEF RON
AZ Personal Chef - Chef Ron

Arizona Caribbean Jerk Festival
Saturday, March 3
Murphy Park, Glendale
$15 general admission

This all-ages festival celebrates Caribbean culture with a daylong event of live entertainment, arts and crafts, and samplings of Caribbean cuisines and chef demonstrations. Known as the largest Caribbean food festival, the annual Arizona Caribbean Jerk Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Downtown Mesa Brew Fest

Saturday, March 10
Downtown Mesa
Free entry

Macdonald Street plays host to the fourth annual dog-friendly Downtown Mesa Brew Fest, an annual gathering of local breweries, food trucks, live music, games, and contests. Purchase $5 beer tickets (cash only) for 12-ounce tastings from breweries like SanTan Brewing Company, The Beer Research Institute, Blasted Barley Beer Company, and The Perch Brewery. VIP tickets are also available for $45 and include four 12-ounce beer tastings, early admission, and a $10 food truck credit. Parking is free, or you can take the light rail to the Main and Center stop. The festivities run from 2 to 6 p.m.

Arizona Aloha Festival
Saturday, March 10, and Sunday, March 11
Tempe Beach Park

Get ready to say mahalo (thank you) for all the South Pacific island cuisine you’re about to try at the Arizona Aloha Festival. This all-ages event features live performances, storytelling, an island marketplace, and lots of food. There will be poke, shrimp plates, Katsu chicken, and shaved ice topped with ice cream. The family-friendly Arizona Aloha Festival is held around Tempe Town Lake from 10 5 p.m. each day.

Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival

Saturday, March 10 and Sunday, March 11
Kief-Joshua Vineyards
$30 general admission at the door

For a look at 20 Arizona wineries in one location, check out the Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Festival. The event will feature 18 Arizona wineries and four blues bands. Participating wineries include Cellar 433, Sonoita, Lightning Ridge, and many more. In between sips grab some food from vendors like Russell Compton Texas BBQ and Las Vigas Steak Ranch Mexican Cuisine. Festivities run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. 

Scottsdale League for the Arts
Burger Battle
Friday, March 23
Scottsdale Waterfront
$65 general admission

Part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, the Burger Battle pits some of the Valley’s best burgermeisters for the Judge’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award. Attendees can sample burgers from Phoenix restaurants including The Porch, The District, and Aioli Gourmet Burgers. Live music and lawn games will help complete the event. Festivities start at 7 p.m. and go until 9:30 p.m. VIP tickets are available for $85 and include early entrance (6 p.m.) and access to an exclusive VIP lounge.

click to enlarge Downtown Chandler hosts barbecue, beer, and live music on March 24. - COURTESY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN BARBEQUE & BEER FESTIVAL
Downtown Chandler hosts barbecue, beer, and live music on March 24.
Courtesy of the Great American Barbeque & Beer Festival
Great American Barbeque & Beer Festival
Saturday, March 24
Downtown Chandler
$20 general admission

The coming together of 60 barbecue pitmasters with 20,000 pounds of barbecue and 200 kegs of craft beer can only mean one thing - the ninth annual Great American Barbeque and Beer Festival. Dr. A.J. Chandler Park hosts a day of live country music with grilling demonstrations, eating competitions, more than 100 exhibitors, and all the barbecued chicken, pork, beef, and ribs you can eat. The BBQ madness will continue rain or shine. The event starts at noon and runs until 10 p.m.

Italian Festival
Saturday, March 24, and Sunday, March 25
Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
$15 at the door

Get ready to mangia at the fifth annual Italian Festival of Arizona – a two-day celebration of Italian culture, music, and food. There will be pizza, paninis, gelato, pasta, and wine. Past vendors include Gelato Dolce Vita, Guido's, Pasta Rea, and more. Enjoy food while listening to live performances from Italian musicians or comedian Mark Corbes. Festivities kick off at 11 a.m. and conclude at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday events run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Flavors of the West
Saturday, March 24
Downtown Litchfield Park
$45 general admission

West Valley residents can anticipate lots of food sampling, live music, a beer and wine garden, and entertainment galore at Flavors of the West. The festival will allow West Valley restaurants to show what's cooking on their side of town. Participating restaurants and restaurateurs include Flourish, Nothing Bundt cakes, and Blu Sushi and Grill. Benefits from the 2018 event go toward the Honey Foundation. Flavors of the West runs from noon to 4 p.m, with VIP entrance starting at 11 a.m.


My Nana's Best Tasting Salsa Challenge

Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15
Sloan Park - Chicago Cubs Spring Training Facility 
$15 general admission, $12 pre-sale until April 13.

To some, the complimentary chips and salsa are the best part of a meal out, so why not make a whole festival about it? At My Nana's Best Tasting Salsa Challenge, Phoenix chefs will compete for the Best Salsa title, while you taste all the salsa and chips that you can get your hands on. In between bites, let your mouth cool off while enjoying live music, a margarita mix-off, and the 2018 Too Hot to Trot 5K. A salsa champion is chosen on both days, and the final showdown between the two kicks off on Sunday. New this year, both champions will have the opportunity to compete at the Cinco de Mayo D-backs Fiesta Ultimate Salsa Challenge. Saturday's festivities run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m and Sunday's from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

click to enlarge Try more than 40 restaurants during the Scottsdale Culinary Festival on Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15, at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. - COURTESY OF SCOTTSDALE CULINARY FESTIVAL
Try more than 40 restaurants during the Scottsdale Culinary Festival on Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15, at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.
Courtesy of Scottsdale Culinary Festival

Scottsdale Culinary Festival

Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15
Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
$15 general admission at the door, $45 beer garden admission

Hosted by the Scottsdale League for the Arts, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival is a two-day event that promises to take attendees around the world without leaving the lawn. The 2018 festival features food districts such as BBQ Country, European Plaza, Asian Village, Sweet Treat, and many more. A beer garden, Vodka lounge, and local lounge with Arizona-based spirits will add to the mix. Hours are Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

AZ Wine & Dine
Thursday, April 5
Scottsdale Quarter
$79 general admission until March 15

The 2018 AZ Wine & Dine brings together about twenty chefs from local restaurants and resorts, along with wine and live entertainment. Past dining participants have included the Arizona Grand Resort, Brio Tuscan Grille, and Grimaldi’s. Attendees must be 21 or older to participate. Scottsdale Quarter hosts the whole thing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Chandler Craft Spirits Festival
Saturday, April 14
Dr. AJ Chandler Park
$25 general admission

Presented by Deep Eddy Vodka, the 2018 Chandler Craft Spirits Festival is a way to sample lots of cocktails, beer, and wine. Dr. AJ Chandler Park hosts this year’s event, which also includes cocktail educational seminars, live music, games, and a cornhole tournament. A portion of the proceeds will go to Mathew's Crossing Food Bank. Festivities begin at 3 p.m. and continue until 9 p.m.

click to enlarge A group of chefs will put their own spin on fried chicken at this year's Birds & Bubbles event. - COURTESY OF SANCTUARY CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN RESORT
A group of chefs will put their own spin on fried chicken at this year's Birds & Bubbles event.
Courtesy of Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort
Nirvana Food & Wine
Thursday, April 19, through Sunday, April 22
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort
Prices vary

This inaugural, four-day culinary and beverage festival features an assortment of events held throughout the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort. Each event showcases the talents of chefs like Beau MacMiillan, Scott Conant, Matt Carter, Stephen Jones, Ana Garza, and many more. Special events include Birds & Bubbles, the Master of Taste, a Celebrity Golf Tournament, and a New Orleans flavored event called Bourbon Street. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Careers through Culinary Arts Program.

click to enlarge The Great Southwest Cajun Fest is Saturday, April 21, at Chandler Park. - COURTESY OF GREAT SOUTHWEST CAJUN FEST
The Great Southwest Cajun Fest is Saturday, April 21, at Chandler Park.
Courtesy of Great Southwest Cajun Fest
The Southwest Cajun Fest
Saturday, April 21
Dr. AJ Chandler Park
$10 general admission, $125 VIP

The Great Southwest Cajun Fest allows you to travel to Louisiana without leaving Arizona. The spirit of New Orleans takes over Chandler Park with spirits and live music like jazz, blues, and contemporary rock, while food samples range from bright red crawfish to po’ boys, hushpuppies, fried gator, and jambalaya. Vendors include Angry Crab Shack, Jamburritos, Tacos el Jefe and many more. In between bites, check out the wing, crawfish, and watermelon eating contests. Festivities kick off at noon and end at 9 p.m.

The Original Taste
Saturday, April 28
Scottsdale Waterfront
$75 early-bird admission until March 15 and $125 after

Held at the Scottsdale Waterfront and presented by Executive Council Charities, Original Taste 2018 showcases more than 40 Valley restaurants – plus beer, spirits, and more than 100 wines from around the globe. Attending restaurants include T. Cook's, Sol Mexican Cocina, Postino, Sushi Roku, and more. Festivities kick off at 7 p.m.
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Lauren Cusimano was the Phoenix New Times food editor from 2018 to 2021. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.