If fireworks are your thing, you've got plenty to choose from this weekend. But there are plenty of things to do on either side of - or instead of - the typical Fourth of July barbecue or fireworks viewing. So take advantage of the three-day weekend with some of these ideas:
Make a date in downtown Phoenix
There's no better way to get to know downtown and its quirky alternative art, culture and music scene than to get out in it, and that's a much more interesting proposition during First Fridays (the first Friday of each month), when downtown's artists and other creative types open their doors to thousands on a free-wheeling, self-guided tour of more than 70 art spaces. More good news: Not only can you ride Metro light rail right to downtown, you can bring the family. Admission is free at Children's Museum of Phoenix on First Friday nights.
Where: Air-conditioned (and free) First Friday shuttles are headquartered at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. Children's Museum of Phoenix is at 215 N. Seventh St., Phoenix.
When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday
Revel in the weird at FiestaCon 2009, an ode to all things science fiction. The convention is jam-packed with body-painting demos, costume displays, film screenings, writers' workshops, an art show and a special area for children ages 3-12. Guests include artist Todd Lockwood; writer Alan Dean Foster; and Aprilynne Pike, author of the New York Times bestselling novel for young adults, "Wings."
When: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, 60 E. Fifth St., Tempe
Cost: $30 for a Friday or Saturday pass; $20 for a Sunday pass; a prorated weekend pass is available. Passes include all programming.
Information: (480) 945-6890 or www.fiestacon.org
Swing by the Sweet Corn Festival
Sure, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix is hosting its chichi Culinary Festival in the Desert, but Queen Creek's got a more down-home way to dig into good food. Queen Creek Olive Mill's Sweet Corn Festival offers up farm-fresh ears in four flavors: Parmesan herb, extra virgin, chili lime and garlic sea salt. There's also apple pie, watermelon, flavored lemonades, root beer floats and Four Peaks beer on tap.
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday
Where: Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Road, Queen Creek
Cost: Free admission, but prices for food items vary. Show an American flag and receive half off iced coffees, flavored lemonades and watermelon.
Information: (480) 888-9290 or www.queencreekolivemill.com
Ride the river
Sure, you can float down the Salt River all summer long, but this weekend you get all sorts of free stuff for your trouble. For every bag of litter you turn in at the end of your float, you'll get a coupon good for $5 off your next tubing trip. There are also prize giveaways, free beach balls and on-site entertainment from Valley radio stations KUPD (97.9 FM), KISS (104.7 FM) and Power 98.3 FM.
When: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Last tube rental is at 3 p.m.)
Where: Salt River Tubing, 10404 N. Bush Highway, Mesa
Cost: $15 gets you a tube and shuttle service; $12 buys shuttle service only.
Information: (480) 984-3305 or www.saltrivertubing.com
Head to Flagstaff
For one thing, it's cooler, which means you can watch this all-American town's fireworks show and remain comfortably unsweaty. For another, Flagstaff has enough affordable events crammed into the weekend to ensure even the pickiest day-trippers won't have to resort to the town's standard go-to - another ride up Snowbowl's ski lift. For details on all the fun, from horse races and an art walk to outdoor concerts under shady pines, call (800) 842-7293 or visit www.flagstaffarizona.org. Meanwhile, here are some highlights:
13th annual Fourth of July Parade and Fireworks: An old-fashioned community parade makes its way through charming and historic downtown Flagstaff at 9 a.m. Saturday. Bring chairs or blankets and arrive early to both. The fireworks start up at 9 p.m. Saturday at Flagstaff Mall & The Marketplace, 4650 N. Highway 89. Both are free. (800) 842-7293 or www.flagstaffarizona.org.
76th annual Hopi Festival of Arts & Culture: Taste traditional foods, walk a nature trail with a guide of native plants and their ancient uses, and see the tribe's social dances at "the oldest Hopi art show in the world." Live music and more than 75 Native American artists add to the sounds and sights at this festival that celebrates Hopi values of humility, cooperation, respect, and earth stewardship. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Fort Valley Road. $4-$7. (928) 774-5213 or www.musnaz.org.
34th annual Independence Day Rendezvous: Prepare to get muddy at this Pioneer Museum festival, where you can help do the "mud chinking" on a historic log cabin and play in the mud. There are also historical re-enactors dressed as Civil War soldiers, mountain men, cowboys and pioneers, and demonstrations of blacksmithing, woodworking, camp cooking and artillery. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Pioneer Museum, 2340 N. Fort Valley Road. $1 fee includes entrance to the museum. (928) 774-6272 or www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org.
Grand Canyon Renaissance Faire & Mountain Music Festival: Games of skill and chance, storytelling, a medieval marketplace, performances by minstrels and The Arizona Shakespeare Festival Troupe are some of the attractions at this high-country renaissance fair at the foot of Mount Elden. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at El Nathan Christian Campground, 3910 E. El Paso Drive. (928) 635-2394 or www.gcrenfaire.com.