Spring is around the corner (finally!), which means weekly beach trips, fruity cocktails, and outdoor adventures are soon to make their return to our everyday lives. Perhaps the most exciting springtime staple of them all is the slew of music festivals to come in 2022.
One of the first festivals on the spring lineup is M3F — a non-profit festival in downtown Phoenix, Arizona happening on March 4th and 5th. The two-day event, which donates 100 percent of proceeds to charity, will feature performances by ZHU, Leon Bridges, Kaytranada, Jungle, Parcels, Spafford, A R I Z O N A, Bryce Vine, Surf Mesa, and a whole gang of other highly recognized artists.
It’s safe to say M3F is worth making the weekend trip to Phoenix for on its own. But if you’re visiting the “Valley of the Sun” for the festival and you’re looking for the best things to eat, do, and see while you’re in town — you know, when you’re not raging to ear-blasting music in a crowd — keep reading below. Spafford, a Phoenix-based band on the M3F lineup, is giving you the rundown on their favorite local (and local-adjacent) gems.
Brian Moss — Guitar
I’ve been lucky to live across the street from Salazar Bros for many years and probably have consumed more burritos from this hole-in-the-wall than any other since I moved to Arizona in 2003. Their food has always been consistently great quality, super-fast, and muy delicioso.
Go for the California Burrito — sour cream on the side and an orange Fanta. Ask for the red salsa.
Salt River is one of my favorite places to go when I need nature fast. There are many pull-offs and recreation areas leading all the way up the river with beautiful views of the mountains that surround it. My family’s favorite spot is Coon Bluff. It is great for hiking, fishing, and swimming. There is a great chance you will run into wild horses as well!
Highly recommended if you’ve never been.
Jordan Fairless — Bass
Childs-Irving Power Plant
When you really want to get out and beat the heat or spend a few days camped out in close proximity to some hot springs, there is no place like Fossil Creek and the old Childs-Irving Power Plant. It’s a little bit of a drive from Phoenix but worth it on a hot summer day.
Amazing waterfalls, a journey to a hot spring, what’s not to love?
LoLo’s Chicken and Waffles
One of my favorite memories is going to LoLo’s Chicken and Waffles down the street from Last Exit Live before shows. Being a southern boy from Tennessee, it’s hard for me to turn down fried chicken and Kool-Aid! I suggest the Tre Tre with a large jar of Red Kool-Aid.
Nick Tkachyk — Drums
Cartel Roasting Co.
If you want a delicious, house-roasted pick-me-up and a modern, hip environment to hang out in, Cartel Roasting Co. is the spot. It’s in the heart of downtown Tempe with all the cool kids to look at and espressos to dump down your gullet.
What I love about Kiwanis Park is how huge it is. It’s like three parks in one! It’s full of active people doing active stuff. It even has a lake with ducks and fish in it!*
*You can pretty spend an entire afternoon at Kiwanis Park. With sports amenities like a baseball diamond, basketball courts, batting range, soccer fields, softball fields, swimming, tennis courts, urban fishing, and volleyball courts, you’ll never run out of things to do. Not to mention, the picnic tables and open grass areas make a great place to enjoy lunch before heading into the M3F music festival.
You gotta try the crispy chicken sandwich and banana pudding at Worth Takeaway! It’s a mom-and-pop sandwich shop in downtown Mesa equipped with its own merchandise. You can see me wearing their “kindness club” tee.
Andrew “Red” Johnson — Keys
Chino Bandido is one of the BEST restaurants in the valley! It’s a perfect blend of Asian and Mexican food. Don’t forget a snickerdoodle for dessert!*
*The restaurant’s blend of traditional flavors from Mexican and Asian cuisines — with menu items like jerk fried rice, burritos, and combination rice bowls — is beloved for being deeply satisfying. Sounds like the ultimate festival hangover cure.
Desert Vista Trailhead
My favorite hike in the valley is the Dixie Mountain Loop from the Desert Vista Trailhead. It’s about a five-mile loop and if you go mid-week you usually have the trail to yourself. If you’re lucky, you might see the owl in its nest.
One of the best places in Phoenix to catch a sunset is Dobbins Lookout on top of South Mountain. The drive up and down is a little sketchy, but the views are totally worth it!