Illustrations & hand lettering by Scott Biersack

Best Spring Ever!

Written by Mare Czinar, Marilyn Hawkes, Leah LeMoine, Craig Outhier & Christianna Silva Category: Lifestyle Issue: March 2019
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51 festivals, day trips, gardening tips and assorted spring flings that could make this high season one for the ages.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt,” author Margaret Atwood opined. We couldn’t agree more. But in the Valley of the Sun, we’d be remiss if we didn’t add “hiking boots,” “Ferrari exhaust” and “the residue of the Kilt Lifter I spilled on myself at the Cubs game” to the list of surprisingly reassuring scents that mark a spring day well spent. Unlike most of civilization, spring marks the end, not the beginning, of our fun season, so pardon us if we go overboard a bit – with this list of 51 festivals, day trips, gardening tips and assorted spring flings that could make this high season one for the ages.

An Arizona Restaurant Week sample menu from Prado: seared diver scallops with lemon-saffron risotto, langostino, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and roasted piquillo pepper coulis; Photo by David B. Moore1. Eat at as many restaurants as possible during Arizona Restaurant Week.
Grab your foodie friends and book a week’s worth of lunches and dinners during the spring showing of this culinary spectacular, where the newest and hottest restaurants (and some beloved classics) offer prix fixe menus at discounted rates. This spring’s runs from May 17-26. arizonarestaurantweek.com

2. Give a few 5-star Yelp restaurants a whirl... see if they’re worth the hype.
Here are some to get you started: Cocina Madrigal and Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa in Phoenix; Worth Takeaway and Pollos La Chuya in Mesa; Chula Seafood in Scottsdale; UK Pho in Glendale.

3. Eat the seasonal catch at Ocean 44.
Chef Marc Lupino loves featuring seasonal catches. This spring, he’s looking forward to striped sea bass from the Chesapeake Bay, sole, American snapper and “of course, some of the world’s best river salmon are in short season.” 4748 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale, 480-867-0044, ocean44.com

4. Get the whole roasted boar’s head at Bar Pesce.
While rebranding the former Crudo and redesigning the menu, Chef Cullen Campbell made sure to keep one hold-over: the $100 boar’s head conversation-stopper. Start with the cheeks – they’re the best part. 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-358-8666, barpesce.com

5. Try the Tuesdays-only fried chicken take-home deal at the larder + the delta.
You’ll never want Popeye’s again...
200 W. Portland St., Phoenix, thelarderandthedelta.com

6. Brunch on Culinary Dropout’s new patio at The Yard.
Sam Fox’s midtown hangout got a reboot this winter, with a fully paved patio and a revamped menu. Dig into a plate of biscuits with fried chicken and spicy Old Bay gravy, sip a passion fruit mimosa and admire new murals by local artists Tim Brennan, Kurt Schlaeker and Andy Brown. 5632 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-680-4040, culinarydropout.com

photo courtesy Adobe Stock7. Sip as many margaritas on as many patios as you can.
We recommend starting with the prickly pear margarita at LON’s Last Drop at The Hermosa Inn, which includes a beautifully made classic margarita and a plastic syringe of prickly pear syrup ($1 upgrade) to gussy it up. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com

Spaghetti with pesto and pine nuts and the Erba cocktail at Fellow Osteria; Photo by Eric Cox8. Mangia cibo italiano at Fellow Osteria.
“A man taking basil from a woman will love her always,” wrote Sir Thomas More, the venerable Renaissance philosopher. And diners taking basil from restaurants will love them always – at least that’s what Fellow Osteria is gambling on this spring, with its extravagant use of the leafy herb, redolent with fresh sweetness grounded with notes of anise. Eat your basilico in Fellow’s spaghetti with pesto and pine nuts or drink it in the Erba cocktail, which pairs purple basil with Monopolowa gin, lime, simple syrup and Bored-O syrup, a sweetener derived from grapes. 1455 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-207-1864, fellowosteria.com

 

 

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield"[Spring is] my favorite time of the year. It’s a time of renewal, everything smells great and the flowers are blooming… The wildflowers are amazing, and they look great in my little squish vases. I always use fresh leaves and flowers, and I press them into the clay."
— Sandy Siegel
Ceramic artist, Botanicals in Clay

 

Dig It Gardens owner Ryan Jerrell; Photo by Nicole Neri9. Plant your own herb garden.
Even with our year-long bath of sunlight here in the Valley, spring signals renewal and growth. Local urban gardeners are known to harvest beets, leeks, zucchini and other sturdy veggies in the late spring, but nursery newbies without a yard can also share in the fun by planting some lovely, food-enhancing spring herbs. Ryan Jerrell, co-owner of Dig It Gardens in Phoenix, walks us through the selection and tending of three herbs ideal for any garden hopeful: cilantro, rosemary and basil.

1.Get started by late February.
Find a plant you love at a local nursery or grab a few seeds to start growing from scratch.

2. Choose your container.
If you’re looking for a low-labor herb experience, Jerrell recommends leaving your plant in the container you bought it in. If you’re looking for aesthetic appeal or are growing the plant from a seedling, go for a terracotta or a cement pot that will allow the plant to drain.

3. Transplant or seed.
If you’re replanting, use the same kind of soil it was originally potted in, Jerrell says. Dig each hole about twice the width of its root ball and place your plant in the pot. Cover the roots with soil, and voilà! If you’re planting seeds, the recommendations vary between plants. For basil, space the seeds out in your pot of soil and cover them with 1/4 inch of moist soil. For cilantro, soak the seeds in water for 2-3 days. Then dry them out and plant each seed about 4 inches apart and 1/4 inch deep in soil. For rosemary, place the seeds 1/2 an inch apart on top of a layer of wet soil and press them into the dirt without burying them. Cover the pot with clear plastic film, leaving one end loose for air circulation, and place it in a warm place. Keep the soil moist and remove the plastic once the seedlings start to grow.

4. Find your sun.
Any spot that gets about six hours of sun every day is ideal. Try that space in front of your kitchen window, or on the patch of your balcony that is sunny part of the day and shady the rest.

5. Cultivate and harvest.
Harvest all of your plants often to encourage growth and have some fun in the kitchen, and water them once or twice a week. If you keep with it, these herbs can live for years!

Across the Pond’s Gavin Pena; Photo by Rob Ballard10. Turn your herbs into delish craft cocktails.
As far as Gavin Pena, head bartender at Phoenix’s Across the Pond, is concerned, fresh herbs are the only way to go for cocktails. “At the end of the day we want to have a drink that tastes really, really, really good. We want it to look really good, too,” Pena says. “Fresh herbs, just look and smell better.” Pena takes this tip seriously and, to prove it, he created three drinks for PHOENIX using herbs from his own at-home garden.

Use your cilantro for a La Verde No. 2 by mingling 2 oz. tequila blanco, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, 1 oz. simple syrup, 1 oz. agua pepino* and a pinch of cilantro in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour through a fine tea strainer into a highball over cucumber ice cubes**. Garnish with a bouquet of fresh cilantro and a lemon peel. *To make the agua pepino, peel and juice cucumbers and then strain through a fine tea strainer. **For the cucumber cubes, juice cucumbers with the peel on and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze.

Photo by Rob BallardUse your basil for a Thai Basil Gimlet by combining 2 oz. gin or vodka, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, and 1 oz. of simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour through a fine tea strainer into a coupe. Garnish with a small crown of basil by placing the herb in one hand and slapping it with the other to release the natural oils and express its aroma of the herb. Gin will bring out notes of star anise from the basil, while vodka will bring out some black pepper notes.

Use your rosemary for an Uptown Fizz by marrying 2 oz. St. George Terroir, 1 1/4 oz. aquafaba or 1 egg white, 1/4 oz. of lavender honey and 1/4 oz. of Zirbenz Stone Pine Liquor in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour through a fine tea strainer back into an empty shaker and shake again, this time without ice. (Shaking with ice chills and dilutes the cocktail. Shaking the second time introduces more air into the cocktail, making it frothy.) Pour through a fine tea strainer into a coupe. Use a small brûlée torch (or lighter) to light the tip of a sprig of fresh rosemary. Garnish with the smoky sprig and Angostura bitters.

 

Hit up a local farmers’ market… or seven.
Shop spring’s bounty with this Valleywide map of outdoor farmers’ markets.

Hit up a local farmers’ market… or seven.; Photos by Tayler Brown (4); Nicole Neri (1); courtesy Phoenix PUblic Market;  Adobe Stock Images; Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield

 

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield"Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It’s also the Persian New Year, so it reminds me of dill and fava beans that are used in Persian cooking. I love to make a fresh fava bean salad with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, spring onions and feta cubes tossed in with a light mint-dill citronette dressing. I would pair this with Ita’s Rosé by Los Milics Winery."
— Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon
Chef/owner, Mingle + Graze Cheese Bar and Kitchen

 

GenuWine owners Emily Rieve and Lindsey Schoenemann pouring self-serve wine; Photo by Mirelle Inglefield18. Go on the ultimate spring day date.
Love is in the air, along with the scent of orange blossoms from Arizona’s plentiful citrus trees. Surprise your main squeeze with a day of nonstop spring fun.

First - Brunch on the charming patio at Ocotillo. Taste the flavors of spring with smoked beets with ricotta, baby arugula, truffle honey and pistachios. 3243 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-687-9080, ocotillophx.com

Next - Walk around Downtown Phoenix and pop into art galleries and shops like The Velo, where you can buy a cool bike to tool around town. 828 N. Second St., Phoenix, 602-759-8169, thevelo.com

Then - Get a buzz going at GenuWine Arizona, where there are 24 different self-serve wines (the selection leans local) and DIY cheese boards. 888 N. First Ave., Phoenix, 602-682-7494, genuwinearizona.com

Finally - Embrace spring in all its verdant glory at the Japanese Friendship Garden. If you time your visit for March 23, you can hit Haru in the Garden: A Festival Welcoming Spring, which includes a Sapporo beer garden and Asian food vendors ($25 per person; $20 for members). 1125 N. Third Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-8700, japanesefriendshipgarden.org/haru

 

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield"The outdoors have always been an inspiration to me. I grew up in fiddlehead [fern] country. Nothing says spring to me like charring ramps, fiddleheads and morels on the grill. I enjoy simply using butter and garlic or roasting them on flatbread in my wood-fire outdoor kiln. I top them with cheese, fig jam and a squeeze of lemon. Delicious!"
— Rick Dupere
Executive chef, Kitchen West at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch

 

 

Blight Buster Volunteer Program; photo by Mirelle Inglefield19. Help keep Phoenix beautiful.
“If it’s worth having, it’s worth taking care of,” as the old adage goes, and it includes our fair city. Here are three opportunities to give back, with escalating levels of commitment.

One day
HandsOn Greater Phoenix’s Annual Serve-A-Thon
Thousands of individuals and companies come together for a one-day altruism avalanche that targets high-impact revitalization. Date TBD in April,
handsonphoenix.org

Monthly
Blight Buster Volunteer Program
The city of Phoenix’s Neighborhood Services Department trains volunteers ages 18 and older in clearing graffiti and organizing community cleanup projects. phoenix.gov/nsd/programs/blight

Two Years
Adopt a Highway
The Maricopa County Department of Transportation provides two ways for citizens to beautify our highways: 1) Pick up litter on a 1-mile (minimum) roadway segment at least twice a year for two years, or 2) Pay professionals to do the cleaning for you. Whether you put your own elbow grease into it or throw money at it, it helps. maricopa.gov/629/adopt-a-highway

 

photo courtesy Empire of the Sun20. Rock out altruistically at M3F.
Since its humble beginning as a one-day lineup of folk-rock bands at WestWorld, the McDowell Mountain Music Festival – now known as M3F – has evolved into the Valley’s premier homegrown live-music event. Founded by local contractor and rock-ribbed jam-band devotee John Largay, the nonprofit festival has also turned into a monster fundraiser, having raised more than $1 million for Valley charities in its 16 years of existence. So join the drum circle, and have another beer – it’s for charity! March 1-3 at Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park. m3ffest.com

 

4 Band Backstories
How M3F scored its 2019 headliners.

• Odesza: Operations manager Heather Rogers and co. wanted a big Friday night headliner, and they found one in the Seattle electronica duo. “I think their [stage] production alone makes them a must-see.”

photo courtesy Kurt Vile• Lukas Nelson: Rogers puts the music-biz scion – who wrote songs for current Oscar contender A Star Is Born – in the same alt-country league as Sturgill Simpson and Band of Horses. “We’re Willie Nelson fans, but it never worked with Willie, but that brought Lukas to our attention, and he’s amazing.”

• Empire of the Sun: Like some glorious lovechild of GWAR and Fleetwood Mac, this Australian space-pop duo takes stage theatrics to a spectacular level. “We had them on our radar the last couple years, but the [tour] routing didn’t work,” Rogers says of the Saturday headliner. “They  have a good Phoenix following but don’t come through very often, so we’re lucky.”

• Kurt Vile: The Philadelphia folk rocker, often likened to a Gen X Bruce Springsteen, felt like a perfect M3F fit from the beginning, and will play Saturday. “It’s kind of that solid rock vibe he gives out… he [appeals] to kids, and to fans 65 and older. We love that.”

 

photo by Mirelle InglefieldFest Creation 101: Heather Rogers
As M3F’s longtime operations manager – a gig she picked up by accident, as an extension of her duties as an executive assistant at Largay’s contracting firm, Wespac – Rogers has guided the festival every step of the way, from its awkward “tween” phase in a North Scottsdale mall parking lot to its current incarnation as a big-ticket draw Downtown. She let us peek backstage, figuratively, to see how it’s done.

Picking the bands is a group effort.
Rogers says the responsibility for scouting and recruiting bands fall on three people: Largay (“He loves the [Grateful] Dead and jam bands... but sometimes he’ll surprise me”); his son, RJ; and Rogers.

Rogers says she and her fellow organizers start scouting acts for the festival almost a year in advance, as soon as they tear down the stages for the previous festival.
“We go to Telluride Blues & Brews every year, and try to hit local festivals and shows for ideas. And watch a lot of YouTube, Spotify, always researching.”

Rogers has been confronted with some weird contract riders in her 13 years of booking bands.
“The oddest rider that I absolutely would not do, was one [artist] asked me to buy their underwear and socks. There was even a description of the color and whatnot. I don’t know if they were trying to play a gag on us, or test how closely we were looking [at the contract] or what. And then there’s the typical weird stuff like rolling papers.”

She has three core bits of advice for festival execution.
Planning
“You can never over-plan the little details,” Rogers says, from a backup router so the talent doesn’t lose their Wi-Fi in the lounge area, to extra taps for the beverage tents.
Communication
A properly designed phone tree and walkie-talkie system is a must. “We probably have 200 [workers] on-site between volunteers and stage people.”
Stay calm, rock on
“The saying we have is: No one really knows. Even if I think things are going crazy, if [the audience] can’t see it, it doesn’t matter.”

 

photo by David Apeji21. Catch a show at Paolo Soleri’s old place.
Most people look upon late avant-garde architect Soleri’s Arcosanti compound and see a baffling hippie alt-living experiment. L.A.-based art rocker Zach Tetreault saw a potential festival venue. And so began this genre-defying yoga/music/vibe fest about an hour north of the Valley in Mayer, now in its sixth year. 2019 acts include British indie rock titans Florence + the Machine. May 10-12. experienceform.com

 

 

photo courtesy Glow Nation Fest22. Put on your rave training wheels at Glow Nation Fest.
Essentially a glow-in-the-dark traveling carnival of DJs and light engineers, this dance-friendly party is coming to Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix on May 11. If you own a romper, wear it. glownationtour.com

 

photo courtesy Country Thunder
23. Twang along, get it on at Country Thunder.
Trace Adkins, Chris Stapleton, Tim McGraw and Clay Walker headline this year’s star-studded lineup in Florence – a famously fan-friendly festival that includes an on-site campground, so fans can boot-scoot back to their tents after a day of beer and major-chord singalongs, instead of passing out in the back of the F-150. April 11-14. countrythunder.com.

24. Swing for the fences at the Innings Festival.
Staging a multistage music festival during Spring Training – and aggressively marketing the festival to baseball fans – was a true stroke of genius, music-promotion-wise. And fans of Gen X indie/alt rock will surely be pleased. Headliners include Eddie Vedder, Band of Horses. Incubus, Liz Phair and Cake. March 2-3. inningsfestival.com

photo courtesy Chvrches25. Catch some Coachella runoff.
When the two-weekend Coachella Music & Arts festival comes to the California desert every spring, it brings dozens of music acts into its orbit –and a fair number of those acts comet into the Valley during the lull between sets. To wit:

Chvrches: The Scottish synth-poppers – think Siouxsie and the Banshees meets Ariana Grande – have risen to near-headliner-eminence since making their Coachella debut in 2016. See them at The Van Buren on April 22. statesidepresents.com

The 1975: Simultaneously the “most hated and loved band in the world,” according to Vice, the Manchester pop-rock foursome will play at Comerica Theatre on April 15. statesidepresents.com  

Superorganism: If you crossbred Arcade Fire with fun., you might get this globally toned pop collective, who scored a small-font spot at Coachella behind their 2018 ear-bug “Everybody Wants to Be Famous.” April 24 at Crescent Ballroom. statesidepresents.com

Book an in-state spring break adventure.
Don’t have the budget to take the kids to Cabo? No worries – there’s plenty of local fun to be had.

Photo by Brenna Zumbro26. Little Ones
Now that national parks are back in business, kids ages 5-13 can complete park-centric outdoors activities and get their Junior Ranger badges. Homebound? The WebRanger program lets kids become Junior Rangers from home through virtual activities. nps.gov/kids/jrrangers.cfm

27. Middle-Graders
Challenge your young makers (ages 10-14) to design their own cities at the Arizona Science Center’s CREATE makerspace. They’ll use 3D printers, laser cutters and power tools to solve real-world problems like energy conservation and mechanical engineering. March 11-15, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix, 602-716-2000, azscience.org

photo by Mirelle Inglefield28. Junior High-Schoolers
When you were a kid, 7-Eleven Slurpees were the height of sippable sophistication. These days, kids love boba tea. Indulge them with a “boba crawl” starting at Sumo Snow in Surprise (sumosnow.com) and then hitting Boba Tea Company at Arrowhead Towne Center (facebook.com/bobateacompany) and finishing at Bomboba in West Phoenix (facebook.com/bomboba) and you’ll be the coolest parent on the block.

Hey You! Pop into Sumo Snow for a PHOENIX Sumo Storm (pictured left), a tropical slushie created for readers of PHOENIX magazine! It’s available through March.

photo courtesy Octane Raceway29. High-Schoolers
Your 15-year-old feels the need – the need for speed. Let her drive like a maniac at Octane Raceway and get it out of her system before her permit test. 9119 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, 602-302-7223, octaneraceway.com

30. College Kids
The traditional destination for Arizona spring-breakers is Lake Havasu. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? But if budgetary concerns preclude even a lake trip, we recommend a pool day at a local resort like the W Scottsdale, which feels like Cancún on weekends. 7277 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-970-2100, marriott.com

Footfull Fêtes
Replete with come-hither beer gardens and savory treats, spring festivals lurk like landmines poised to blow up healthy routines. But gluttony need not disrupt fitness if you tack on one of the many hiking trails located near some of the Valley’s best seasonal fêtes. Here are our pairings of hikes and hoopla for guilt-free frivolity.

Maricopa Trail; Photo by Mare Czinar31. Art, Wine and Hike in Cave Creek
March 1-3

EVENT-A The 24th annual Carefree Fine Art & Wine Festival is a world-class melding of art exhibits, wine tasting, food and live entertainment. Because the open-air ode to libations and chocolate begs for overindulgence, you’ll be glad there’s an easy-access trail for tipplers nearby. Downtown Carefree, thunderbirdartists.com

HIKE-A Along its Valley-circumnavigating route, the 315-mile Maricopa Trail passes though suburbs, watery desert preserves and breathtaking stretches of open desert to connect all 10 Maricopa County parks. Pick up a portion of this epic trail at Cave Creek Regional Park where family-friendly amenities, camping and a nature center make short work of sampling the local long-distance gem. 37900 E. Cave Creek Pkwy., Cave Creek, maricopacountyparks.net

32. South Phoenix Vision Quest
March 1-3

EVENT-A Since 1959, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market has been bringing the community together to celebrate Native arts and culture. The nationally recognized annual event in Downtown Phoenix features live music and dance performances along with master artisans representing more than 100 tribal affiliations. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, heard.org

HIKE-A Ancient Hohokam petroglyphs pecked South Mountain Park’s craggy rock panels record centuries of human occupation. Dozens of the mysterious symbols are on display in Hidden Valley where the sliver-thin stone passage known as Fat Man’s Pass and a cavernous natural tunnel make this moderate 3.7-mile circuit with 800 feet of elevation gain a Phoenix classic. Mormon Trailhead 8610 S. 24th St., Phoenix, phoenix.gov/parks

photo courtesy Adobe Stock

33. Have Ostrich, Will Hike
March 8-10

EVENT-A It’s big, it’s loud and it opens with a carnival note as extravagant as an ostrich plume. Despite the carny rides and flashy midway, the 31st annual Chandler Ostrich Festival – a tribute to the city’s ranching heritage – retains a touch of old-time country fair with its pig races and petting zoo at Tumbleweed Park, 745 E. Germann Rd., ostrichfestival.com

HIKE-A Family-friendly Veterans Oasis Park & Environmental Education Center is a multi-use park that offers events about wildlife preservation, water conservation and responsible outdoor skills.  Kids and adults alike can shake off pre-festival yah-yahs on the park’s 4-plus miles of easy trails that wind around a fishing lake and ponds constructed to recharge reclaimed water for future use. 4050 E. Chandler Heights Rd., visitchandler.com

Arizona Trail near Superior; Photo by Brandon Sullivan34. A Superior Hike/Fest Combo
March 15-17

EVENT-A Held in the ore-rich enclave of Superior, the outdoor Apache Leap Mining Festival is part carnival, part homage to Copper Corridor mining heritage. In addition to mining demonstrations (think: lumberjacks with drills), the weekend event features music, competitions and the perennial hilarity of the chihuahua races. superiorarizonachamber.org

HIKE-A The Town of Superior sits at the juncture of two of the most remote and drop-dead gorgeous passages of the 800-mile, state-traversing Arizona Trail. The Gila River Canyons and Alamo Canyon segments combine for 30 miles of difficult hiking through rugged mountains and the raw end of the Superstition Wilderness. Access either segment at the Picketpost trailhead off U.S. 60 just before the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. aztrail.org

35. The Art of the Hike
Through March 24

EVENT-A Now in its 14th year, the Arizona Fine Art Expo is a multi-genre exhibition of world-class art that encourages visitors to engage directly with more than 100 fine artists in studio settings. Browse, chat and maybe add to your collection as painters, sculptors, ceramic artists and jewelers create works on-site. Located at the southwest corner of Jomax and Scottsdale roads. arizonafineartexpo.com

HIKE-A Standing sentry above North Scottsdale golf communities, Pinnacle Peak has a groomed trail that traces the stone tower’s southern flanks. Although it’s only 523 feet from base to highpoint, the 3.5-mile out-and-back hike kills with an undulating course that logs 1,300 feet of cumulative elevation gain. 26802 N. 102nd Way, scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/pinnacle-peak-park

36. The Ren Fest Ramble
Weekends through March 31

EVENT-A Immerse yourself in the frenetic frivolity of a medieval village where nobility rules and tawdry troubadours have no filters at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. Costumed performers – many with fire fetishes – mingle and perform on the park’s 14 stages. The air drips with the tantalizing aromas of various meats-on-a-stick, sweet meads and cinnamon-sugar almonds. Located 7 miles east of Apache Junction on U.S. 60. arizona.renfestinfo.com

HIKE-A Make royal atonement for your gastronomic sins in advance on the Peralta Trail. Located across the highway from the fair in the craggy escarpments of the Superstition Wilderness, it’s a rugged, 1,400-foot climb over 2 miles to the Fremont Saddle, a scenic point overlooking the iconic Weavers Needle volcanic formation.  Expect about as many people on this trail as there are in line at the festival beer booths. fs.usda.gov

 

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield"Broccolini is in peak season, along with garlic and grapefruit, and here in Arizona, it’s prime grilling season, too! Try grilling broccolini tossed in fresh garlic, salt and a good olive oil until it’s got a nice char on it. Then finish it off with a light drizzle of sauce made from agave and fresh grapefruit juice."
—Jason Wyrick
Chef/owner, Casa Terra, the Valley’s first vegan fine-dining restaurant

 

North Mountain National Trail; Photo by Eric Cox37. Downtown Parade and Quad-Burner
April 6-7

EVENT-A Raising positive awareness of the Phoenix LGBTQ community, the two-day Phoenix Pride Festival at Steele Indian School Park promotes camaraderie and support for local civil rights programs. Both days are packed with food vendors, activities, performances, acres of exhibitor booths and visits from celebrities and government officials. Don’t miss the Phoenix Pride Parade that steps off at 10 a.m. on April 7. 300 E. Indian School Rd., phoenixpride.org

HIKE-A A staple for locals who enjoy a rigorous jog or power walk with terrific sunrise-sunset viewing, the North Mountain National Trail in Central Phoenix just got a facelift. The reboot of the 3.2-mile dirt-and-asphalt road that climbs 614 feet to a buzzing thicket of communication towers is projected to be complete sometime this spring. Some parking areas may be closed during construction, but the road is still open for hiking. Check website for alternate access and project updates. 10600 N. Seventh St., phoenix.gov

Wild Burro Trail; photo by Brandon Sullivan38. Hot Food, Scorching Trail
April 6

EVENT-A Plan on getting wet –really wet! – at Lake Pleasant Regional Park Paddle Fest. The annual lakeside party, held just a 20 -minute drive north of the Valley, invites you to try out various paddle craft – including kayaks, rafts and canoes – under the tutelage of park rangers. No experience or equipment is needed. Water crafts and life vests are available to rent on-site. Bring sun protection, water and an adventurous spirit to plunge a paddle in Fireman’s Cove. From the main entrance off Castle Hot Springs Road, follow the signs to find the fest at the north entrance. 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, maricopacountyparks.net/events

HIKE-A With all the commotion going on lakeside, it’s unlikely you will see any wild donkeys on the park’s Wild Burro Trail. The 2-mile, family-friendly out-and-back trail traces edgy coves and sandy beaches with restrooms and picnic areas at both ends. arizonahiking.blogspot.com

39. Scottsdale Food Fest with a Papago Chaser
April 13-14

EVENT-A Presented by Scottsdale League for the Arts, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival is an unapologetic epicurean orgy. Held over one weekend at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, the sprawling event titillates with dozens of sampling booths, cooking contests and celebrity chef demonstrations, plus sips of craft beers, wines and spirits. 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., 480-874-4607, scottsdalefest.org

HIKE-A Located in the center of an activity complex that includes Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo, Papago Park offers a tiny network of mostly flat trails that circle the site’s sandstone buttes. Anchoring the lot is Hole-in-the-Rock, a 0.1-mile trail with a 200-foot ascent to a stony grotto overlooking urban skylines and the zoo’s lagoons. 625 N. Galvin Pkwy., phoenix.gov/parks

40. Earth Day Excursion
April 22

EVENT-A Celebrating all things green, the annual Earth Day Phoenix street fair highlights ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. The zero-waste event educates consumers with giveaways, entertainment and workshops. Cesar Chavez Plaza at Washington Street and Second Avenue in Downtown Phoenix. keepphxbeautiful.org

HIKE-A Piggyback on the sustainability theme with a stroll through the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. The 5-mile long linear wetland just north of Downtown Phoenix replicates what the natural landscape of the Salt River corridor looked like before dams stifled its year-round flow.  Start exploring the site’s easy trails at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, which hosts programs about birds, conservation and STEM-supporting school field trips. 3131 S. Central Ave, phoenix.gov/parks

41. Cinco de Hike-O
May 5

EVENT-A An Arizona tradition for more than 25 years, Cinco de Mayo Phoenix Festival is a free, multicultural festival that cranks up the fun in Downtown Phoenix. Look for authentic Mexican cuisine, lucha libre matches, kid zone, live music and all-day dancing in the streets. 200 W. Washington St., 602-279-4669, cincophx.com

HIKE-A If you love local culture and history, you’ll enjoy a hike on the Kiwanis Trail in South Mountain Park. Constructed in the 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps workers, the moderately difficult 1-mile trail passes by several Hohokam petroglyph panels before landing at a scenic point overlooking Downtown Phoenix. phoenix.gov/parks

42. Balloons and Bouldering
May 25

EVENT-A Channel your inner Dorothy at Cave Creek Balloon Festival, a nighttime display of illuminated hot air conveyances. Just like in The Wizard of Oz, these balloons don’t launch, but stay grounded for visitors to get up-close looks at the array of colorful airships. Festivities begin in the afternoon with food, adult beverages, bands, face painting and balloon sculpting for the kids. After sunset, the balloons expand into a glowing fantasyland under the desert sky and a shower of fireworks follows. 5734 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., cavecreekfestivals.com

HIKE-A Arrive a few hours early and you’ll have plenty of time to take a stroll on the Spur Cross-Metate Loop in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. The 2.2-mile, moderate trek runs through saguaro-studded high-desert foothills and the riparian corridor of Cave Creek. 44000 N. Spur Cross Rd., maricopacountyparks.net

A luxurious drive to Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale in a McLaren from Lusso Dream Car; photo by Michael Woodall43. Take your fantasy car for a joyride.
Itching to hit the road in a luxury ride? At Lusso Dream Cars you can rent a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Dodge Viper, Tesla Model 3, McLaren or Maserati to tool around town in style. Here are a few places to show off your stylish sports car.

1. Let the engine unfurl and drive out to Queen Creek Olive Mill for olive oil tasting and shopping in the well-appointed gift shop. queencreekolivemill.com
2. Zip back to Phoenix and make a stop at Desert Botanical Garden to stretch your legs amid the cactus and flowering desert landscape before ducking into Gertrude’s for a leisurely farm-to-table lunch. dbg.org
3. Hit State Farm Stadium in Glendale for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Arizona Cardinals’ roost. statefarmstadium.com
4. Drive the scenic route to Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale and snag a patio table at Talavera – named Best Restaurant Reboot of 2018 by PHOENIX – for a breathtaking sunset dinner. talaverarestaurant.com
5. A 24-hour luxury rental will set you back $299 for the Viper and up to $1,199 for the McLaren. Weekdays are less expensive than weekends and you must obtain a rider from your insurance company. azexoticcarrental.com

photo by Chris Loomis44. Educate yourself on the finer points of rock stardom.
If you’ve always fantasized about playing an instrument in a rock band, don’t waste another minute. Enroll in the School of Rock’s 16-week adult program and learn to play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and/or sing vocals. Before long you’ll be bursting with confidence and peacocking on stage like Steven Tyler. Adult students in the full performance-based program get one 45-minute private lesson (structured around proficiency level) and one three-hour group band rehearsal each week for $320 a month. “We have people from all walks of life who join this group,” says Michelle Worley, Scottsdale’s School of Rock studio coordinator. The group, which currently includes several doctors and corporate executives, meets every Sunday and culminates in a live performance at a local venue where student rockers get their glam on and show off their new skills for family and friends. “There’s something very powerful about being up on stage and letting that part of your ego out.” Three Valley locations. schoolofrock.com

 

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield"I love spring for the abundance of flowers in nature and the abundance of flowers in the shops. [You can] find more now than any other time of the year. Nice spring rain gets that scent of creosote that you can only smell here in the Valley, and the grass at spring training can’t be beat."
—Eric Luoma
Owner and florist, Cactus Flower Florists

 

45. Do a Food Network restaurant crawl.
At last count, more than 40 Phoenix-area restaurants have been featured on Food Network shows from Chopped to The Best Thing I Ever Ate to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. While eating at 40-plus restaurants might be more of a life goal than a spring aspiration, here are six to get you started:

Haus Murphy’s pretzel; photo courtesy Adobe StockHaus Murphy’s
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
March 2009
Feast on German sauerbraten (sweet and sour marinated beef) gussied up with spaetzle and red cabbage at this Teutonophile favorite in Glendale. hausmurphys.com

Paradise Valley Burger Co.
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
February 2015
A hit since it opened in North Phoenix in 2011. Try the Booze Burger with green chile-vodka-bacon-cream sauce with pickled Fresno chiles. pvburgercompany.com

Perk Eatery
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
May 2013
This Scottsdale breakfast and lunch spot is where Guy Fieri chowed down on pork shoulder breakfast enchiladas. perkeatery.com

St. Francis
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
May 2013
Guy Fieri named then-owner Aaron Chamberlin’s Pig Dip one of the top five sandwiches he’d ever eaten. It’s still on the menu. stfrancisaz.com

The Coffee Shop at Agritopia
Cupcake Wars
June 2010
This Gilbert coffee spot has been featured on Cupcake Wars three times for its killer signature cupcakes. thecoffeeshopaz.com

The Parlor pizza; photo by Eric CoxThe Parlor Pizzeria
Food Netwok Mag 50 States, 50 Pizzas
August 2011
Won our head-to-head Best of the Valley pizza challenge in 2014. Also voted No. 1 pizza in Arizona by the Food Network for its salsiccia pie with local Schreiner’sth sausage and grilled radicchio. theparlor.us

46. Kondo your casa.
With beautiful weather and blossoming plants comes dust and pollen: It’s time for spring cleaning. Nix things that don’t spark joy (or at least things that are broken or gross) and then enlist local cleaning services like Tidy Casa to make your abode spick-and-span. Prices start at $119. tidycasa.com, 602-734-5630

47. Get spicy at My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge.
Scoop and crunch your way through dozens of salsa-topped chips at this annual salsa showdown, which benefits the Arizona Hemophilia Association. Also on deck: a margarita mix-off and live music. Admission is $15 per person; children younger than 12 are free. 2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Mesa, 602-955-3947, salsachallenge.com

photo courtesy Arizona Renaissance Festival48. Raise a chalice of mead to toast the 31st Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace.
Take a “trip back in time” at the Arizona Renaissance Festival on Saturdays and Sundays through March 31. Billed as a medieval amusement park, the festival features a 14-stage theater, 30-acre circus, arts and crafts, jousting tournaments and lavish feasts. Add to the festivities by dressing in Renaissance garb or rent a costume on-site. 12601 E. US-60, Gold Canyon, 520-463-2600, arizona.renfestinfo.com

Photo by Nicole Neri49. Take a twilight bike tour of Downtown.
Our pick for the most underrated experience in the Valley that virtually anyone can do, the weekly Crescent Community Bike Ride takes off every Thursday evening. Don’t have a bike? Rent one from a ubiquitous Grid Bike kiosk. It’s free, and you get a complimentary beer at the end. crescentballroom.com

50. Gin up a boozy time at the GinWorld Gin Festival.
Taste more than 100 gins from around the world, enjoy drinks from the Bloody Mary Bar (yes, you can make bloody marys with gin), attend “nerd” seminars, participate in hands-on workshops and meet distillers from across the country. The festival takes place April 28 at Unexpected Art Gallery in Downtown Phoenix. 734 W Polk St, Phoenix, 800-985-2510, ginworld.com

51. Own the Cactus League!
Turn the page for our 12-page spring training spectacular.

 

Illustration by Mirelle Inglefield"Spring is the time to live here in Arizona… There is that beautiful moment when it hits 69 degrees, and the people come out and what do they do? They want to play. Spring for us is when those experiences and moments are created."
—Cicely Rocha-Miller
Owner and event producer,Life Design Events