Blessed with great weather all year round, ‘The Valley of the Sun’ is the perfect place for a whole host of outdoor events. Newcomers to Phoenix will find that the array of fairs and festivals that take place in and around the city keep life interesting. The great thing about many of these festivals is that they provide new arrivals with an insight into the distinctive aspects of Arizonan culture. Whether it's arts, culture, music or sport that takes one’s fancy, there is sure to be something to look forward to on Phoenix’s calendar of annual events. Here are a few of our recommended highlights.
Annual events in Phoenix
Arizona Balloon Classic (January)
Thousands of spectators head to Phoenix each January to see a colourful bouquet of hot air balloons take to the East Valley skies. This three-day festival sees a number of teams showcase their aerial talents through stunning balloon glows in the early evening, morning balloon launches and of course the fun-filled balloon race, which is the highlight of the weekend. To add to the festive atmosphere, visitors will be treated to a whole host of live music performances, food stalls, a family-fun area for the kids and fantastic fireworks display to top things off.
Taco fans unite for the annual festival of this traditional Mexican snack. Festival goers delight in sampling endless varieties of the humble delicacy from over thirty of the region’s top taquerias. With live entertainment, ground mariachi bands and folkloric dancers, it's a fantastic cultural experience for Phoenix residents. True Mexican cuisine fans should stick around to see the awards being dished out for the best tacos in various different categories.
Rock N Roll Arizona Marathon (January)
There is no better way for an expat to get acquainted with their new home than running through its streets. Whether one is capable of tackling the full marathon or would prefer to plod through the half, there is an option available for everyone. Not a runner? Well, there is a bike tour too. Not forgetting the mini-marathon for the kiddies. The various courses on offer take participants through Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe and all end at the ASU’s Sun Devil and Sun Angel Stadium. Those who prefer to watch from the sidelines won’t be disappointed either, and with bands along the course there is no shortage of entertainment.
Buckeye Air Fair (February)
Here is one for aviation fans, the Buckeye Air Fair is a family-friendly event that celebrates the history of aviation. This is a great opportunity for visitors to learn about the science behind flight. In addition to a range of fascinating aviation exhibits, the fair also features a range of activities such as hot air balloon flights, helicopter flips and demos presented by the local police and fire departments. A dedicated Kids Zone ensures that the little ones have fun while learning a little about science and technology.
World Championship Hoop Dance Competition (February)
A very well-established and prominent event on the Phoenix events calendar, the Hoop Dance festival celebrates the artistry and athleticism of the American Indian hoop dance. This event sees people from all over the USA head to Phoenix to compete for the coveted title of World Champion Hoop Dancer. Thousands of spectators attend this two-day festival when a panel of eagle-eyed judges grill performers on their dance abilities. It’s a unique experience and one that newcomers to Phoenix shouldn't miss.
Lost Dutchman Days (March)
There is nothing that conjures up the image of the Wild West more than a rodeo, and this hugely popular annual carnival is a great opportunity for new arrivals to experience that facet of American culture. Drawing in over 30,000 visitors who come to get a glimpse of what high-octane livestock-riding is about, this three-day extravaganza features many showstopping riders as well as plenty of entertainment including rodeo dances and live music performances. The bratwurst part and colourful parade are highlights of the event.
Phoenix Pride (April)
Join the crowd of over 30,000 revellers who take to the Phoenix streets to celebrate the LGBTQ community. Phoenix Pride takes place over two days and raises funds for various community programs that support underrepresented communities in Phoenix. It’s a vibrant, colourful festival that features a broad range of art exhibits, photography displays and performances featuring prominent creators from the local LGBTQ communities. Kids go free and can enjoy themselves in the dedicated play area and creative zone. It’s a fun-filled experience for the whole family.
Arizona State Fair (October)
A tradition that dates back to 1905, one of the top annual events in Phoenix is the Arizona State Fair. Attracting over a million people each year, visitors are treated to live performances by local musicians, rodeos, food stalls and various art exhibits. The kids will be in their element with all the fairground rides to keep them busy. There is also a 5km run and an arm-wrestling championship for those looking for a bit of competitive fun. The State Fair is a real social occasion and a wonderful opportunity for new arrivals to get a glimpse into the local culture.
► For a list of the city's top attractions check out our See and Do in Phoenix page
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