The year kicks off with the Fiesta Bowl (1 Cardinals Way, 480/350-0900, www.fiestabowl.org ) at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The big game, which is part of the Bowl Championship Series, is preceded by the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Central Phoenix, with dozens of floats, bands, cheerleaders, balloons, and equestrian groups.
A few weeks later in mid-January, the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’N’ Roll Arizona Marathon (800/311-1255, www.rnraz.com ) runs through Phoenix , Scottsdale , and Tempe . Now one of the most popular races in the country, the event also features more than 60 bands performing along the route.
In mid-February, book lovers converge on the VNSA Book Sale (1826 W. McDowell Rd., 602/265-6805, www.vnsabooksale.org ) at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, featuring more than half a million used, rare, and out-of-print books.
Also in February, the Arizona Renaissance Festival (12601 E. Hwy. 60, 520/463-2600) descends upon Apache Junction in the far East Valley, for two months of ye olde fun. Enjoy raucous jousting tournaments, rides, live shows, and giant turkey legs fit for Henry VIII.
The Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market (2301 N. Central Ave., 602/252-8848, www.heard.org/fair ) in March is the state’s largest festival of Native American arts and crafts. An estimated 20,000 serious collectors and curious browsers attend the annual event at The Heard Museum , where they are able to purchase original artwork and enjoy authentic food and entertainment.
The Tempe Festival of the Arts (Mill Ave. and University Dr., 480/921-2300, www.downtowntempe.com ) transforms Mill Avenue into a pedestrian-only zone, lined with artists’ booths, food stalls, and concert stages.
And for some quirky fun, head out to Chandler in the middle of the month for the Ostrich Festival & Parade (2250 S. McQueen Rd., 480/963-4571, www.ostrichfestival.com ), which features live races, a carnival, and lots of food and entertainment.
Hollywood comes to town in April for the Phoenix Film Festival (7000 E. Mayo Blvd., 602/955-6444, www.phoenixfilmfestival.org ). You can check out soon-to-be released features as well as documentaries, shorts, and independent and foreign films. Past attendees include Ed Burns, Peter Fonda, director John Waters, and, of course, the ever-connected Kevin Bacon.
If music is more your thing, the two-day Tempe Music Festival (80 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., 480/970-3378, www.tempemusicfestival.com ) brings big acts like John Mayer, Kid Rock, Jeff Beck, and Fergie to Tempe Beach Park.
Events tend to grind to a screeching halt when the temperatures climb into the triple digits during summer, but they start up again with a bang in October at the Arizona State Fair (1826 W. McDowell Rd., 602/252-6771, www.azstatefair.com ). The two-week carnival combines rides, deep-fried food, big-name concerts, and farm animal exhibitions for a bit of classic Americana.
At the end of the month, the Valley’s Latino community celebrates Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. There are regular exhibitions and events at the Mesa Arts Center (1 E. Main St., 480/644-6500, www.mesaartscenter.com ) and the Burton Barr Central Library .
By mid-November, most of the Valley is gearing up for elaborate holiday events, like Las Noches de las Luminarias (1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., 480/941-1225, www.dbg.org ) at the Desert Botanical Garden . Luminarias are a Southwestern tradition, and thousands of the small votives in paper bags are lit throughout the grounds of the desert garden, creating a spectacular sight.
In the West Valley, Glendale Glitter and Glow (58th Ave. and Glendale Ave., 623/930-2299, www.glendaleaz.com ) dazzles visitors in the city’s historic district with twinkling lights and illuminated hot-air balloons.
At the end of the month, Tempe  lures college football fans with the Insight Bowl (500 E. Veterans Way, 480/350-0900, www.fiestabowl.org ) at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium and the wild Tempe Insight Fiesta Bowl Block Party (Mill Ave. and University Dr., 480/350-0900, www.fiestabowl.org ), one of the nation’s largest New Year’s Eve celebrations.