Spring is boom time in the Valley. Cool things to do crowd the calendar like kernels on a corncob. With so many choices, we’re offering up some of our top picks for April. So mark your datebook, quick, before our boom town turns to a ghost town come summer.
1. Country Thunder: If Country Thunder hasn’t seemed worth the drive to Florence the past couple of years, pack up the tent, camping chairs and coolers full of beer. Dons of Nashville mega-stardom Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw headline the country music blowout in the desert. Montgomery Gentry, Blake Shelton, Rodney Atkins, Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Diamond Rio, Hal Ketchum, The Bellamy Brothers and several others also play. April 1-4 at 20585 E. Price Station Road, Florence; www.countrythunder.com
2. Phoenix Film Festival: You don’t have to be famous to attend the Valley’s annual independent film party (more than 20,000 movie lovers showed up last year), but a few celebrities always make an appearance. This year, Virginia Madsen, Bill Engvall, Morgan Spurlock, Yeardley Smith and Jonathon Schaech will attend. More than 150 films will be screened almost nonstop, and 10 will compete for festival honors, including Best Picture. April 2-9 at Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theatre, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix; www.phoenixfilmfestival.com
3. Tempe Music Festival: Kid Rock, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, All-American Rejects, 3 Doors Down, Cowboy Mouth, Shiny Toy Guns … the list of musical acts goes on and on for this lakeside festival that will also feature plenty to watch on the water. The Red Bull Wake Lab, an experimental floating skate park for extreme wakeboarders, is making its second appearance after a debut last fall in Orlando, and 24 athletes, including four from Arizona, will compete on the course’s rails, sliders, pools, quarterpipes and jumps. April 3-4 at Tempe Beach Park, 54 W. Rio Salado Parkway; www.tempemusicfestival.com
4. Scottsdale Culinary Festival: Billed as six food-and-wine-filled days to satisfy even the most sophisticated palate, this annual food fest offers plenty of well-heeled, hip soirees for extreme foodies (think the six-course, $200-per-person Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner), but there’s room for average chow hounds, too: The Great Arizona Picnic lets you sample food from more than 50 restaurants and dance to live music performed on two main stages for just $10 a head. At Cooks & Corks, you can watch chefs from Food Network and Bravo’s “Top Chef” work while you devour food and wine pairings from select Valley eateries. April 14-19 at locations across Scottsdale; www.scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org
5. Phoenix Improv Festival: Twenty-one improv troupes from across the country have one mission at this series of after-dark shows: to make you laugh. Performers include comedy teams from Chicago, Hollywood and Austin, Texas, as well as a dozen groups from right here in the Valley, including Mesa’s National Comedy Theatre and Scottsdale’s Jester’z. April 16-18 at Herberger Theatre Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix; phoeniximprovfestival.com