Whether you live in Arizona or are just planning a southwest visit in the near future, there are lots of fun events going on here throughout the year. Many people plan their vacations around holidays, but it’s also exciting to base your trip around an annual event that appeals to you. From food to culture, art, and unique experiences, here are our nine top picks for annual events in Arizona.
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Arizona Balloon Classic, Goodyear
There’s always something magical about looking up into the desert sky to see colorful balloons floating gracefully across the landscape. The Arizona Balloon Classic takes place in January in the Arizona town of Goodyear. It features evening glow shows on Friday and Saturday nights, launch events, food, a beer gardens, live entertainment, and activities for the kids. As with all hot air balloon events, the activities are subject to change based on weather conditions. Adult admission is $15 at the gate, but kids 12 and under are admitted for free. For more balloon fun, you can also attend the Salt River Fields Balloon Festival in Scottsdale in the fall around the Halloween season.
Quartzite Rock and Mineral Show, Quartzite
Quartzite is a small town with a population that swells to over a million people in January and February. This is because of the Quartzite Rock and Mineral Show, as well as the town’s strong RV “snowbird” culture. At the show, you can see rocks and gemstones from all over the world and add beautiful new pieces to your collection. It’s also a great place to shop for gifts in the form of jewelry and arts and crafts. There is no admission fee to attend the show, but parking can be quite difficult to find. Over 3,000 vendors come to sell their best specimens here each year. If you miss this show or are in a different part of the state, consider checking out the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February. This public event features private and museum collections, as well as retail dealers selling jewelry, an awards ceremony, live auction, and buffet.
Arizona Renaissance Festival, Near Apache Junction
On weekends in February and March, there are few more exciting places to be in the state than the Arizona Renaissance Festival. This festival celebrates the history and culture of the Renaissance era with elaborate costumes, craft shops, traditional food, and entertainment throughout each day. This 16th century Renaissance village comes to life with more than 2,000 characters in costume and 14 festival stages with ongoing shows. The event takes place rain or shine, parking is free, and pets are not allowed. There are special weekend events you can participate in, such as Pirate Weekend, Celtic Weekend, and Brewfest.
Arizona Beer Week, Statewide
Arizona Beer Week began in 2011 with 35 breweries all over the state celebrating their best local brews. It has now become a 10-day celebration that includes around 100 breweries that host over 200 events statewide. This wonderful week takes place in mid-February and includes lots of tap takeovers, collaborations between breweries, sampling sessions, kickoff parties, and beer trivia nights.
Phoenix Pride Festival, Phoenix
Phoenix Pride is a two-day celebration of the LGBTQ community and an event that draws in the support of over 300 local businesses and organizations. The festival attracts tens of thousands of attendees, features more than 150 entertainment performances on five stages, and hosts hundreds of exhibitors with food and shops. It takes place annually in April at Steele Indian School Park from noon to 9pm. Walk-up ticket prices for a one-day adult admission is $20, children under 12 are admitted for free, and plenty of volunteer opportunities exist.
Mortimer Farms Pumpkin Festival, Dewey
You don’t have to travel to the Midwest or the Northeast to experience the wonders of fall and a good old-fashioned pumpkin patch. One of the best pumpkin patch experiences in the state is the Mortimer Farms Pumpkin Festival in Dewey. The festival runs during the month of October and includes a 15-acre pumpkin patch, corn maze, pig and dog races, hayrides, and opportunities to buy farm fresh produce, pies, and cider. The farm also offers a variety circus, Friday night barn dance, pony rides, and karaoke nights on Saturdays. Stop by on Fridays from noon to 9pm, Saturdays from 9am to 9pm, or Sundays from 9am to 6pm.
Street Eats Food Truck Festival, Scottsdale
Foodies love spending time in Scottsdale because there are so many amazing restaurants here. But this obsession goes one step further with Scottsdale’s Street Eats Food Truck Festival that brings in the best food trucks in the region. The festival lasts for two days in February and includes eating contests and cooking demonstrations as well. Stop by between 11am and 6pm on either of the two days of the festival, which takes place at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Make sure to try lots of the $2 samples that the over 55 food trucks parked here offer to guests. General admission tickets are $12 if you buy online in advance, and children 12 and under are admitted for free.
Arizona State Fair, Phoenix
Every state has its own state fair, and each one is unique. One of the top annual events to check out is the Arizona State Fair, which takes place in Phoenix in mid-October. This fair is a tradition that dates back to 1905, which is before Arizona was even a state! This event attracts over a million people each year and has all of the concerts, rodeos, food, and craft booths you could ever hope for. There are also carnival rides, a 5K run/walk, arm wrestling championships, lots of tempting treats, and endless people-watching opportunities.
Sedona International Film Festival, Sedona
Located in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, this film festival occurs annually in February and March. Come here to watch documentaries, animation, short films, foreign films, and student films over the course of nine days. There are more than 160 films shown here, and you can find show times and film descriptions listed on the festival’s website. If you’re into independent films, also make sure to check out the Arizona International Film Festival in Tucson, a tradition that dates back to 1990 and brings in movie-lovers and movie-makers from all over the world.