Specially extended into November for Groupon customers, Schnepf Farms' popularPumpkin and Chili Party elicits smiles from children and adults with fall-themed activities including a hayride, 4- and 10-acre corn mazes, and bonfires for roasting marshmallows. Energetic animals greet guests in the petting zoo, and prized swine vie for the praises of spectators during pig races, and a roller coaster and flying-farmer ride sling adventure-seekers and hapless scarecrows into the air. After exploring an expanse of gourds in the pumpkin patch and U-pick garden, twosomes and foursomes can dive into chicken and chili dinners (not included with today's Groupon) or rearrange faces into jack-o-lantern–shaped poses.
At the 12k's of Christmas, a peloton of Santas and seasonally-dressed runners race through the Gilbert's Freestone District Park. All participants receive a Santa hat to wear, and are encouraged to dress up further with colorful socks, an elf costume, or felt reindeer horns. Both 6K and 12K races feature a flat, mainly packed-gravel trail with carolers set up at every kilometer. Chronotrack chips track progress, and race organizers issue awards for the top finishers in each age bracket as well as best costumes. The race also offers a 1.2 K Santa "Sled" run, where racers are encouraged to walk a stroller or enter a souped-up wagon pulled by their pets. By partnering with adoption groups and shelters, the event operates Santa's Pet Village, which helps connects stray pets with new families.
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.
In the award-winning one-woman show Golda's Balcony, four-time Tony-nominee Tovah Feldshuh portrays former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and the endless struggle for peace in the Middle east. For Dancing on Ice, winter sport enthusiasts can get an intimate view of skating celebs as tango, swing, waltz, and solve algebra equations on the center ice. A recent $6.7 million renovation equipped the Chandler Center with refurbished seating, increased accessibility, a stage makeover, and an unmistakable new theater smell. See the Chandler Center's online calendar for more information about each show.
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.