Tempe Town Lake and Tempe Beach Park provide a little diversity on our dry Arizona desert landscape, and the area hosts some of the Valley’s best outdoor events. Be it spring, winter, or fall, you can find excitement in downtown Tempe! These events range from arts to food and drink to celebrations of heritage, and there is fun for the whole family—as well as fun for just the adults. Here is our guide so you can plan ahead for the rest of 2016 and years to come:
January Tempe Town Lake Events
January Tempe Town Lake Event: Save Lives While You Save the Planet
First Sunday of January
This all-ages event benefits local organizations while also benefitting you! There is secure document shredding and Tempe-produced compost on site, and City of Tempe Solid Waste and Recycling Services is there to take your Christmas trees. As for saving lives? The event centers on a blood drive. Blood banks have saved countless lives both in the community and beyond, so this is the perfect opportunity to give back. This past year, donors earned vouchers for a free Phoenix Waste Management Open ticket and a free cheese pizza.
January Tempe Town Lake Event: P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon
January 14-15, 2017
What started as a simple run back in the late 90s is now a weekend affair full of unique events and fun for participants and spectators alike. Each city the tour stops in gets to host a health and fitness expo as well as a huge concert at the finish line with the biggest names in music, such as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and the Goo Goo Dolls, and the party is open to everyone! Tempe’s edition covers Mill Ave. and Tempe Beach Park, turning the whole downtown area of the city into one big party! Also, the series has raised over $310 million for participating charities (this year’s is St. Jude Children’s Hospital).
January Tempe Town Lake Event: The Color Run
Third Sunday of January
The Color Run, promoted as the “happiest 5k on the planet,” celebrates health, happiness, individuality, and giving back. The 5k is for all skill levels, from first time runners to regular marathoners. Participants and spectators come dressed in white and leave covered in a rainbow of bold, bright colors and surrounded by their community. By creating a fitness event that is fun for the whole family, The Color Run hopes to inspire everyone to be more active and to be excited about doing so, and the event raises money for charity along the way—over $4 million in the past four years.
February Tempe Town Lake Events
February Tempe Town Lake Event: The FroYo Run
Second Saturday of February
The FroYo Run combines nonprofit with running and the classic sweet tooth. Offering various lengths (5k and 10k), The FroYo Run is an all ages course whose Tempe stop winds runners through the downtown area and finishes at Tempe Beach Park in their famous FroZone, a long cooling tunnel with mist and surrounded by cheering fans. Sound fun yet? Finishers also get free frozen yogurt swirled their way and a whole bag of other goodies. To give back to the places that let The FroYo Run host, 100% of all donations to the event are given to local non-profit partners.
March Tempe Town Lake Events
March Tempe Town Lake Event: Arizona Aloha Festival
Second Weekend of March
Hundreds of vendors hawking Hawaiian-type products and savory foods fill Tempe Beach Park for a one-of-a-kind heritage festival that is free and open to all ages. Dancers and more perform on three different stages, and are opportunities to hear traditional stories and learn how to create Hawaiian tattoos and string flower leis. Committee members are also available to answer questions about Hawaiian life. Still not convinced? Booths around the festival offer chances to win all-expense-covered trips out to the islands!
March Tempe Center for the Arts Event: Amor de Baile 2
March 12, 2016
Tempe Center for the Arts overlooks Tempe Town Lake’s shimmering waters. This event brings together some of the best in flamenco dancers for an evening full of color and drama. The Yumi La Rosa Flamenco Dance Company is the mastermind behind this spectacle, and audiences of all ages will be captivated by the whirlwind of a production on stage.
Tempe Center for the Arts Event: Art After Work: O’Keefe’s Calla Lillies
March 16, 2016
This event is the perfect way to celebrate Women’s History Month. Georgia O’Keefe is one of America’s most celebrated artists, and you could have the opportunity to bring one of her pieces home. Moreover, because Tempe Center for the Arts looks over Town Lake’s sparkling waters, this event ensures an elegant, colorful afternoon.
April Tempe Town Lake Events
April Downtown Tempe Event: Tempe Spring Festival of the Arts
Second Sunday of April every year
Mill Ave., Tempe’s hub of restaurants, shops, and nightlife, shuts down for a weekend when tents and pedestrians fill the streets. Local and out-of-state vendors hawk their goods, and street performers provide side entertainment. Come out to this larger than life market and see the best of locally-made items to spruce up your home for the new spring season.
July Tempe Town Lake Events
July Tempe Town Lake Event: 4th of July Festival
July 4th every year
Come out lakeside for a full day of family friendly fun! For attractions, the festival will feature a rock wall, an inflatable village, and rides, and performers take the stage for attendees’ entertainment. Kids can play in their own special tent, too! Food and drink includes classic 4th of July favorites, Macayo’s Depot Cantina, and other vendors, and there is also a beer garden. When the sun goes down, settle in to watch the spectacular fireworks light up the night sky as music sets the tone for the show.
September Tempe Town Lake Events
September Tempe Beach Park Event: Healing Field
September 11 and following days every year
The field transforms every year in honor of the victims and their families who lost their lives on the September 11th attacks. Visitors can pay tribute themselves or simply walk amongst the thousands of flags that line the fields. Each flag has a card displaying the name of a victim and giving a brief background of their life.
September Tempe Town Lake and Beach Park Event: Life Time Tri
September 18, 2016
Triathlons are no joke—swimming, biking, and running go back to back with virtually no rest periods in between. The Healthy Way of Life company brings this event to Tempe that welcomes all triathletes from first-timers to seasoned veterans. Participants spend months, or even years, training for just one of these events, so spectators can watch the amazing feats come to life.
September Tempe Town Lake Event: Summer Ends Music Festival
Last Weekend of September
Summer Ends Music Festival is one of Arizona’s biggest, and it has brought huge names to Tempe, such as Foster the People, Violent Femmes, and Kanye West. The multiple-day series tends to feature a different genre of artists each day, but stay the whole weekend and you’ll get a great mix! A showcase for music and local vendors, this event ensures a fun time for performers and attendees.
October Tempe Town Lake Events
October Tempe Town Lake Event: Arizona Dragon Boat Festival
October 1-2, 2016
Far, far away from China, Tempe has found its own way to celebrate Chinese culture and maintain authentic traditions. Dragon boats are the centerpiece of this event, when teams of up to twenty pile into each hand carved boat to race along Tempe Town Lake as paddlers move their oars to the beat of a drum, which represents the heart of the dragon. Aside from the races, there is a variety of foods, martial arts performances, musicians, and dancers, so there’s sure to never be a dull moment.
October Tempe Town Lake Event: Four Peaks Oktoberfest
October 9-11, 2016
This free event is Tempe’s take on the traditional German festival, and it has become one of the city’s largest food-based festivals. German foods dominate the scene, of course, with bratwursts and pretzels, but other cuisines make an appearance as well. There are several beer tents that serve beers from around the world, and this year’s edition even offers a small selection of wines. Entertainment ranges from a foot race to a yet-to-be-announced “wiener mania” involving dachshunds. Event organizers also set up kid-friendly and adult-oriented carnival rides for nonstop fun
October Tempe Town Lake Event: Monster Mash Music Festival
Monster Mash Music Festival is hard rock and metal’s weekend to shine. Much like Summer Ends Festival (see September), this event is a multi-day series of sets from bands like Tool and Rob Zombie. Local vendors dot the park, and each band sells their merchandise on site. Costumes abound—and are even encouraged—in the spirit of Halloween. Although this is an all-ages event, organizers recommend an age minimum of twelve.
November Tempe Town Lake Events
November Tempe Town Lake and Beach Park Event: IRONMAN Arizona 70.3
November 20, 2016
The ironman is the most intense of all triathlons with 70.3 total miles covered on water and land by swimming, biking, and running. It requires mental strength even beyond the unthinkable amount of physical strength, so spectators will see the cream of the crop of triathletes. The competition shifts venues to Town Lake to the wide open desert roads to Beach Park, where the finish line looks even more enticing as Town Lake’s waters reflect the evening lights.
November Downtown Tempe Event: Fantasy of Lights Parade
Last Saturday of November
This free family event lights up the last Saturday night in November with a brilliant display of Christmas lights along Mill Avenue and a parade that winds through downtown Tempe. Street performers and entertainers supplement the parade, and the whole event culminates in the official community tree lighting ceremony in Centerpoint Plaza. If you’re bringing kids, also bring your cameras because Santa is coming! He will be visiting with the children once the tree is lit to make all their Christmas dreams come true.
December Tempe Town Lake Events
Downtown Tempe Event: Fall Festival of the Arts (Mill Ave.)
December 2-4, 2016
The one and only famous Mill Avenue shuts down for this weekend-long event showcasing the works of hundreds of local and out-of-state artisans. A free event for the whole family, this festival is the perfect place to do some holiday shopping before the winter holiday madness sets in, plus it’s the opportunity to find kitchy, handmade gifts sure to warm the hearts of those you love. Street performers and other entertainment can be found throughout the festival as well to keep the children occupied.
December Tempe Town Lake Event: Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade
Second Saturday of December
In case you missed the parade on land (see November), this is another parade—this time on water! The brilliantly lit boat floats (no pun intended) glide along Tempe Town Lake for a family-friendly holiday event that you don’t want to miss! Besides the fifty floats, there are luminaries to light up the shore and accompanying events yet to be announced. This is a rain or shine event, so there is no reason to not come out and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with the whole community.
December Tempe Town Lake Event: Ugly Sweater Run
December 19, 2016
The Ugly Sweater Run is arguably more fun for the spectators than the participants. Beside the run, the event holds a costume contest with winners in categories such as Best Facial Hair, Best Pet Attire, and Best Ugly Sweater of course! The event boasts the nation’s biggest inflatable Santa that is the perfect backdrop for family photos and silly snapshots to celebrate the holiday season.
With so many different events to pick from in Tempe it can be hard to know which ones to go to! Check out the Phoenix community reviews that we write on festivals and events here in Phoenix!
If we missed an event or you have questions on one of the events, please leave a comment below and one of our Desert Canvas staff members will make sure to add the event and/or answer your question!