It begins with a flurry of activity. Balloon operators prepare for lift-off, checking equipment and tossing ropes as spectators wander the grounds, observing the action. And then it reaches a new level: dozens of balloons take flight at once, filling the crisp December dawn sky with brilliant blues, purples, oranges, and reds that rival the colors around them. The Arizona Balloon Classic's orbs then set off on an aerial hare-and-hound race, drawing cheers from below as onlookers snap pictures.
For one weekend each year, visitors gather on the grounds to snap pictures and watch the balloons inflate and lift-off outside the Gilbert Civic Center for the Classic––a three-day festival celebrating hot-air balloon flight and culture. But the fun doesn't end with the descent to earth. After sunset the tethered balloons begin to glow, lighting up for the DESERT GLOWS portion of the festivities. Attendees browse exhibits and feast on treats from a variety of vendors, and children play in the Family Fun Zone. Last, on Saturday evening, sparks give balloons a run for their money, springing through the sky in a stunning fireworks display.
Luminous chandeliers float like paper lanterns above the lobby of Chandler Center for the Arts, welcoming guests entering through the towering glass facade. Inside, they find three halls—one larger auditorium, and two more intimate performance spaces—hosting a variety of musical and theatrical performances. Each theater is designed for optimal acoustics, ensuring audiences can hear every tuneful note, stage-whispered line, and breaking of the fourth wall. And the center showcases non-performing arts as well—the Exhibition Hall displays regularly rotating collections of sculptures and paintings.
Come mid-march, thousands will pounce upon Tumbleweed Park for three rampaging days of long-necked frolicking and a flock of family-oriented thrills. Celebrating nature’s most irascible flightless bird, the Ostrich Festival showcases a smorgasbord of food, music, and events to entertain every abounding lil’ critter and bigfoot.
A Town Pass at Rawhide lets weekend cow-wranglers saunter up to many of the Old West–themed attractions as many times as they like for a single day. Teach tots important human-donkey mind-melding techniques at the petting zoo, or let greenhorn lone-guns take a tottering ride atop a stout burro. More advanced cowpokes can attempt to drink a milkshake atop the Widowmaker mechanical bull, clamber up the Deadman's Drop rock climbing wall, or relax and leave the high-flying stunts to the daredevils at the Six Gun Theater, or by perusing the rambling thoroughfare's stretch of shops.
Normally, if you'd want to eat cuisines from more than 50 different restaurants, you'd be in for a day of some serious traveling. Happily, the Best Food Truck of Arizona contest takes care of the leg work. The two-day culinary competition pits area food trucks against each other to see whose cuisine comes out on top. VIP guests sample all the food they desire, from grilled cheese sandwiches and fry bread to BBQ and soft-serve ice cream. They then cast their votes for their favorite based on presentation, taste, appearance, and friendliness. In between bites, they can take in live music and entertainment from local musicians and performers.
On Saturday, October 26, shoppers browse the wares of the more than 40 vendors gathered at the FALLiday BOOtique while their children trick-or-treat at each table. The vendors represent a variety of small businesses in the area, including Indulgence's by Christina, which perfumes rooms with plug-in warmers and 80 fragrances, Stunning by Design, which adorns necks with handmade scarves, A Little Bit of Princess, which makes girls feel special with fun jewelry, and Madame Butterfly Creations. The event also features a few big-name vendors, such as The Pampered Chef.
After grabbing their candy and the one lone pack of raisins that always seems to turn up, kids can get their faces painted by The Face Fairy. Their parents can also get tested to become bone-marrow donors and save lives with the help of Be the Match.