That front door has a handle. This weekend’s the time to use it. The postcard weather Arizona brags about has finally come calling. Every March, the East Valley brings its A-game while the rest of the country shivers.
You may not be ready: February’s runny-nose climate may have left you in your flannels catching up on Netflix, or cleaning out the job jar. But mild temperatures have fueled the first harvest of open-air family events. And in a few weeks’ time, you’ll be begging for the clear skies and fresh breezes that tease us now through car windows on our workweek commute. So grab that door handle, turn, and enjoy.
NATIVE TRAILS: Spring weather draws us to open-air attractions like Old Town Scottsdale, where shopping, dining and culture can be found in the span of a short walk. “Native Trails,” for example, is a 90-minute pageant of American Indian culture presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the grassy lawns of the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall echo with the sound of drums and the delicate tones of native flutes.
Traditional foods and American Indian art will be on sale as hoop dancers and lavishly adored powwow dancers celebrate the first nations of North America. Produced by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, this free, sensory spin through American Indian culture makes an excellent anchor to an afternoon out. Noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Second Street and Drinkwater Boulevard in Scottsdale. Cost: Free. (480) 994-2787.
SPRING TRAINING: The boys of summer have done their stretches and will be playing with live ammo; Cactus League parks will host 19 games between today and Monday, with three East Valley games on Sunday alone. Why muster out for games that don’t count? Because spring training is a trip back to baseball’s golden age. The players are closer, the crowds are manageable and it doesn’t cost a second mortgage to root, root, root for the home team.
Schedules and pricing vary. Hohokam Stadium (Chicago Cubs), 1235 N. Center St., Mesa, (480) 964-4467; Tempe Diablo Stadium (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), 2200 W. Alameda Drive, (480) 350-5205; Scottsdale Stadium (San Francisco Giants), 7408 E. Osborn Road, (480) 990-7972; Phoenix Municipal Stadium (Oakland Athletics), 5999 E. Van Buren St., (602) 392-0074;www.cactusleague.com.
CAREFREE FINE ART & WINE FESTIVAL: Few places feel more authentically Western than the open vistas of Carefree, just north of Scottsdale. If scenery isn’t enough to draw you up to this folksy, high-end enclave, how about a lot of art and a little vino to sweeten the pitch?
The Fine Art and Wine Festival is a twice-yearly extravaganza, when Carefreers close off their well-heeled streets to vehicles and more than 160 painters, sculptors and artisans from all over the country fill those spaces to sell more than 5,000 pieces of original art and jewelry. The festival also qualifies as Arizona’s largest wine tasting, featuring fine local wines as well as labels from Europe and Australia. $2 gets you in to gawk. From there, purchase and guzzle as your budget allows. 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at Ho Hum and Easy streets, in Carefree. Cost: $2 per person. (480) 837-5637 or www.thunderbirdartists.com.
BUTTERFLIES AND WILDLIFE: Nothing says spring like a garden full of butterflies. This weekend, the Desert Botanical Garden opens its Marshall Butterfly Pavilion, a sprawling greenhouse over a lush and airy garden. See hundreds of zebra swallowtails, great Southern whites, queens, julias and painted ladies fluttering silently between shrubs or hanging from the branches for close inspection. The butterfly pavilion, the surrounding botanical garden and the adjacent Phoenix Zoo are all ripe for walking and learning.
Plants and animals are all seizing the moment to stretch and move under the cool temperatures. Let’s take our cue from them. Desert Botanical Garden: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. Cost: $10 for adults, $4 for children 12 and younger (butterfly garden
is $2 extra per person). (480) 941-1225 or www.dbg.org.
Phoenix Zoo: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
at 455 N. Galvin Parkway.
Cost: $14 for adults, $6 for children 12 and younger. (602) 273-1341 or www.phoenixzoo.org.
RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL: Do you remember the days of lords and ladies, jugglers, jesters and jousting? Well, if you do, sit down, because you’re about 600 years old. The rest of us need help back to the days of yore, and the Arizona Renaissance Festival is a great guide: minstrels, acrobats, dancers and every manner of period entertainment.
Costumed nobles and craftsmen will offer a live-action look into a time gone by. If it all seems a little too “Masterpiece Theatre,” remember the thrice-daily jousting tournament, where metal-capped lads whack each other with poles. And the phrase “continuous feasting” should make anyone cry “Huzzah!” Go early if you can; the traffic can get medieval. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
12601 E. U.S. 60, seven miles east of Apache Junction.
Cost: $18 for adults, $6 for children 5 to 12 ($2 higher if purchased on the same day).
(520) 463-2700 orwww.royalfaires.com/arizona.