Tucson’s heartbeat can be felt in its annual events lineup, ranging from rich cultural celebrations such as the All Souls Procession and historical depictions like the Dillinger Days, to explorations of nature like the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival and adrenaline-seeking pursuits such as El Tour de Tucson. Read on to learn more about the southern Arizona enclave’s signature events and how, collectively, they tell the story of Tucson, past and present.
Tucson Jazz Festival
The only major jazz festival in January in the United States, the annual Tucson Jazz Festival, is a multi-day celebration of jazz. Enjoy live music featuring legends and emerging talents of all jazz genres from straight-ahead to contemporary, at outdoor and indoor downtown venues like the Fox Tucson Theatre and Rialto Theatre as well as at the free Downtown Jazz Fiesta presented on Martin Luther King Jr Day.
This annual festival celebrates the capture of Public Enemy No. 1, John Dillinger, by Tucson law enforcement. The notorious Dillinger was staying at the historic Hotel Congress, the host of the festival, when he was caught in 1934. Reenactments and special performances allow visitors to go back in time to experience the capture, though Dillinger later escaped.
Tucson Desert Song Festival
The Tucson Desert Song Festival fills concert halls with singing in orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo formats. Performers include internationally celebrated soloists and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (Arizona's oldest continuing professional performing arts organization, formed in 1929), Tucson Chamber Artists, Arizona Arts Live, Arizona Opera, and others, in conjunction with master classes and lectures at the University of Arizona School of Music.
Wings Over Willcox
Held 1.5 hours south of Tucson in Willcox, this festival provides an up-close look at Southern Arizona’s migrant and native bird population through photography, geology, archeology, history, botany, agriculture, and ranching.
Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase
The largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world attracts serious collectors and everyday treasure hunters seeking gems, minerals, beads, fossils, jewelry, apparel, and much more. Spanning the entire city, the renowned showcase includes 40-50 individually ticketed shows, ranging in size from a dozen to hundreds of individual vendors, and even has a permanent museum, The Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum, dedicated to it.
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo
Tucson's own Epic Rides presents 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, one of the largest 24-hour endurance events of its kind in the world. This single-track mountain bike ride in Sonoran Desert terrain with outrageous costume-clad pedalers and DJ-spun tunes is so popular that registration sells out early every year.
Tucson Rodeo & Parade
The Tucson Rodeo & Parade salutes Tucson’s Old West spirit every February. As the first major outdoor event on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association schedule, the rodeo kicks off with the largest non-motorized parade in the United States and continues with four days of rodeo competitions. This event dates back to 1925 when local ranch hands saddled their horses and hitched up their buggies for the annual “Celebration of the Cowboys.”
Cologuard Classic – PGA Tour Champions Tour
The Cologuard Classic, a PGA TOUR Champions Tour event, is played at the La Paloma Country Club at the Westin La Paloma Resort. The 78-player field features legends of pro golf who compete for a $1.7 million purse. The event’s no-cut format includes three days of competition with players participating in pro-am events.
Tucson Festival of Books
In mid-March, the Tucson Festival of Books features panel presentations by best-selling and emerging authors; writer workshops; chef demonstrations; storytelling and a literary circus; programming for teens; a poetry venue; exhibitor booths; live entertainment; food vendors. The extensive festival takes place on the University of Arizona Mall during the university’s Spring Break, so visitors have the beautiful campus and its parking spaces, virtually to themselves.
Tucson Folk Festival
The nearly 40-year-old Tucson Folk Festival celebrates American bluegrass, blues, country, jazz, Celtic, zydeco, and various styles of Latin and Mexican music. Enjoy more than 125 live performances at five stages throughout Tucson’s most historic neighborhoods during this free, family friendly festival.
Fourth Avenue Street Fair
Produced by the North Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, Inc., this 55-year-old, family-friendly tradition brings over 600,000 people to the heart of Tucson every year. The Fair hosts artists from around the world, decadent food, local entertainment and fun for all.
Agave Heritage Festival
This multi-day festival celebrates the art, science, and cultural traditions behind producing agave-based spirits and products. The fiesta extols the indigenous agave plant with a tradeshow, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, and tastings of tequilas, mezcals, sotols, and bacanoras at Hotel Congress and several other Tucson indoor and outdoor venues. Programs and guest speakers hail from both sides of the United States-Mexico border.
Pueblos del Maiz
In conjunction with three other designated food heritage cities in Mexico and the United States, Tucson, a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, hosts the first weekend of a month-long celebration of maiz: a food whose cultural and culinary impact spans physical and cultural boundaries. The festivities include offerings by regional food vendors, chef demonstrations, live music and entertainment, educational panels, and movie screenings. Pueblos del Maiz continues in the weeks following the Tucson celebration in San Antonio, as well as Merida and Puebla, Mexico.
Tucson International Mariachi Conference
The Tucson International Mariachi Conference brings together masters of Mexican folk music and dance, as well as talented students from around the country for workshops and performances. The event features three public concerts: Espectacular Concert, featuring the world’s best and brightest mariachi musicians and folklorico dancers, a traditional Catholic Mariachi Mass, and the family-friendly Fiesta de Garibaldi.
El Dia de San Juan Festival
Put on by Mission Garden and the Menlo Park Neighborhood Association, this annual celebration welcomes the monsoon season while also celebrating the birthday of St. John the Baptist. Guests can enjoy music, and performances by folkloric dancers and mariachis family friendly event that’s free to the public.
This annual celebration kicks off Southern Arizona’s wine harvest season. Guests participate in grape stomping competitions, horse-drawn vineyard tours, along with pairings and tastings.
Southeast Arizona Birding Festival
Put on by the Tucson Audobon Society, this annual festival celebrates birding in Southern Arizona, considered one of the foremost birdwatching areas in the world. A wide variety of field trips, coupled with workshops, photo events and a nature expo are among the events that participants are invited to attend.
Tucson Presidio Birthday Celebration
This annual festival celebrates the birth of Tucson nearly 250 years ago. Taking place at the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum, a replica of the city’s original 1775 Spanish military fort, this festival features mariachi and waila music, as well as reenactments of daily military drills that occurred. The name Tucson is derived from the Tohono O’odham work S-cuk Son, pronounced “Skuk-shone,” which means “spring at the base of the black mountain.”
!Viva Tucson¡ Hispanic Heritage Month
This cultural celebration starts on the 15th of September each month and continues through October 15th. Celebrate all month long with food, music, art, events, and stories from Tucson’s most inspiring Hispanic residents.
Tucson Meet Yourself
Founded in 1974, Tucson Meet Yourself is an annual celebration of the living traditional arts of Southern Arizona’s and Northern Mexico’s diverse ethnic and folk communities. The free, three-day event, fondly called Tucson Eat Yourself by locals, features hundreds of artisans, home cooks, dancers, musicians and special exhibits that celebrate and honor beauty in all its diverse, informal, and everyday forms.
All Souls Procession
The All Souls Procession is a people-powered Tucson tradition blending rituals of All Souls Day and Dia de los Muertos. Myriad altars, performers, installation art, and creatives of all kinds collaborate for almost half the year to prepare their costumes and offerings for this amazing event that draws roughly 150,000 participants in early November.
El Tour de Tucson
Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tucson hosts an epic installment of El Tour de Tucson. The largest perimeter bicycling event in the United States is a fun adventure ride attracting an average of 9,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities from throughout the United States and worldwide, consisting of novice, intermediate, advanced, and professional riders.
Tamal & Heritage Fest
Celebrate the rich tastes, smells, and variations of tamales from the Southwest and Mexico, and discover the culinary tradition of making tamales for Christmas at the annual Tamal & Heritage Fest at AVA Amphitheater at Casino Del Sol Resort. Concerts by mariachi bands, performances by Mexican folk-dancers, and a tamal contest amp up this borderland celebration.
Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl
Tucson's official football festival, the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl plays at Arizona Stadium on the University of Arizona campus in December. This annual post-season college football game matches teams from the Mountain West and the Mid-American conferences (teams are announced in the fall) and is livestreamed on the title sponsor’s website.