The third annual Arizona Taco Festival -- expanded to two days and ten acres at Salt River Fields -- is shaping up to be the best yet. Attendees can enjoy sixteen hours of taco-tainment from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 to 21. Returning features include lucha libre wrestling, hot chili pepper eating contest, live surf music, and cooking demonstrations. New events this year are aplenty: a mariachi contest, Chihuahua beauty pageant (it's not too late to enter your pup), truly offal taco throwdown, Posh Improvisational Cuisine's grossest taco eating contest, and even a wedding. Yep, a couple is actually getting hitched at the festival on Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps the most exciting part is the taco contest, pitting 50+ competitors against one another in four taco categories (chicken, beef, pork, seafood) and four sidecart categories (salsa, guacamole, anything goes taco, best booth design). Festivalgoers can purchase samples from the competitors for $2. And this year's competition promises to be stiff. Taco teams include Crudo, defending champs Distrito, El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria, Emerson Fry Bread, Luncha Libre, Q Up! BBQ, Roka Akor, The Mission, and Tonto Bar & Grill.
If tacos don't taste quite as good to you without a shot of tequila, don't miss the Tequila Expo, Saturday only from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Over 30 brands and 100 boutique varieties of tequila are available, and the $20 admission fee (in addition to the general admission fee, or included with a VIP pass) gets you ten samples of your choice. Is beer more your thing? Go on Sunday for the Beers of the World tasting, also $20.
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Unlike some food festivals, the AZ Taco Festival does not revolve around standing in long lines to get beer. In fact, there are lots of family-friendly activities: face painting, balloon art, bouncy castles, a photo booth, Saturday's Chihuahua beauty pageant, and (of course) eating as many tacos as you can stomach.
Thanks to the larger location at Talking Stick Resort, parking is totally free. Plus, the complimentary Lucky Express shuttle is running all weekend from 4 to 7 p.m. to take people from the W Scottsdale and Fashion Square Mall to the festival and back. General admission tickets are $12 for one day, $20 for the weekend. Carrabba's VIP admission is $100 for one day, $175 for the weekend, and grants you access to an open bar, free food, the tequila and beer tastings, the Octane Raceway go-karts, and more. Act fast: You can pick up a single-day VIP pass for $50 from now until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 11. Kids under 12 get free entry, and sombrero-sporting adults can score 50% off GA tickets.