The McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F) is an event built upon a foundation of community, culture, and charity. In the spring, music lovers gather in the heart of central Phoenix to experience music, art, entertainment, food, and fun—all in the name of charity. The M3F is more than just a celebration; it’s an event that raises money for the M3F non-profit organization, a Phoenix-based charity that helps other Phoenix non-profit organizations reach their donation goals. M3F is a long-standing event in Phoenix’s history, and each year, people gather to experience the music festival with a philanthropic twist.
In March, when much of the country is ready for winter to end, Phoenix is in its transitional season, where most days are warm enough for short sleeve shirts, shorts, and maybe even flip flops. There isn’t a much more exciting way to escape the cold weather than to head to the desert southwest in a camper van, RV, or travel trailer. Pairing a road trip with music, art, food, entertainment, and activity is the perfect way to escape your winter blues.
The M3F is the not-to-be-missed live music event of the season. Each year, the concert lineup becomes more impressive. Local musicians, as well as chart-topping bands, gather to support Phoenix’s greater metropolitan community. The ever-evolving event features food trucks, kids’ activities, local brews, a merchandise mart, and much more.
McDowell Mountain Music Festival offers tickets from one-day tickets to three-day tickets. Both the one and three-day tickets have general admission as well as VIP options available. VIP tickets include access to the festival and additional perks like VIP parking, VIP restrooms, food and drink coupons, and other fun experiences. In previous years, ticket prices ranged from $50 to $580.
Phoenix is one of the most accessible cities in the United States to navigate because of the grid layout that stretches from east to west and north to south. Generally speaking, if you hit a spot of traffic or miss your turn, you have to go to the next light and travel north or south to reroute yourself. The exception to the grid layout is the freeway system and some of the one-way streets in central Phoenix. Set your course for Margaret T. Hance Park in the downtown area of the city.
The freeways in Phoenix help to clear congestion from the city streets. I-17 runs north and south through Phoenix and connects to I-40 in Flagstaff and I-10 in South Phoenix. I-17 has fewer lanes inside the city limits and becomes congested with rush hour traffic and truck traffic, so RVers might find other routes more comfortable. I-10 connects the city to Tucson and Las Angeles. It is a heavily-traveled route, especially during rush hour. Inside the city limits, I-10 is wide and has a large tunnel that drivers must pass through to get to central Phoenix. The tunnel (underpass) spans ten lanes east and westbound, is fully lit, and it is tall enough where large semi-truck and rigs don’t have to worry about height restrictions.
Parking in downtown Phoenix is much like parking in any downtown area. If you have a smaller class B RV, it may be possible to park near the venue; if you have a larger vehicle or you are pulling a trailer, it’s best to take public transportation to the event site. Event-goers may park in the metered parking along the street or public parking garages. Time and size limitations apply to certain spaces. Guests can look to park near the Margaret T. Hance Park venue but entrances may vary based on ticket type.
Getting around Phoenix by way of public transportation is easy. The light rail station near Roosevelt and Central is the nearest station to the venue. The park and ride parking lots at the light rail stations are free for people coming and going from the rails. If you prefer to take a bus, the Valley Metro Transit has routes that help get you to your destination. If a light rail or bus won’t get you to where you need to go, try one of the city’s rideshare services, taxis, or private limousine companies.
M3F does not offer on-site RV camping, so festival guests will want to look for options nearby.
Although the valley is a favorite destination for RVing between November through April, camping inside of the Phoenix metro area is challenging to find year-round. Most of the places that permit RV camping are located on the outskirts of the city. Keep in mind that the RV parks in the metro area may have age restrictions. When making your reservations, be aware that 55+ age restrictions may impact your ability to stay at some RV parks.
The Phoenix area also has several state and county parks, most of which are located on the outskirts of the valley. Spaces fill quickly at these parks, so it is best to book your site as soon as the booking window opens. March is still peak-season for winter residents, and local accommodations can be at a premium during this time, so planning ahead will secure you the best spot for the most reasonable price.
Most of the Phoenix metro area prohibits golf carts and other OTVs on the streets within city limits. Some residential golf RV communities and RV parks permit golf carts inside of the covenant areas, but the rules and regulations for each community vary. It is best to ask about golf carts and other toys before riding anywhere that may be uncertain territory. People staying in downtown Phoenix may use the rentable bikes and city-sanctioned motorized scooters if they are available.
March is beautiful in the Valley of the Sun. Since the festival is an outdoor event, it is best to pack lightweight clothing that you can layer. Although you may be tempted to wear flip flops to the festival, it’s a good idea to bring comfortable shoes for walking. During the day it’s not uncommon to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts, but once the sun sets, the warmth of the day dissipates and the nights may feel chilly. Consider packing a light-weight hoodie that’s easy to tie around your waist.
M3F is all about fun. Pack your crazy costumes, an empty refillable water bottle, picnic blanket, selfie stick, small umbrella, low-backed portable chair, and bring a backpack without wheels to carry everything you need with you. If you want to have more fun, bring an LED-lit hula hoop with you and add a little light to your experience.
Part of attending music festivals is spending time outside in the elements. Prepare yourself by bringing sunscreen, aloe vera gel, and SPF lip balm with you. If walking or standing for long periods is hard on your feet and legs, pack bandaids, pain killers, and Epsom salt. At the end of the day, a warm tub of water with a dash of Epsom salt works wonders on the feet.
If you are staying in an RV, it's easy to pack a few necessary food items just in case you get hungry. Fill your propane refrigerator with drinks and food like cut-up vegetables and already prepared meals that don't require reheating. Keeping drinks in the fridge helps to regulate the temperature while away from home, and they also help to hydrate you after a long day outside. If you decide that cooking is something you want to enjoy, keep your meals simple. Bring a lighter just in case you want to use the propane stove. Sometimes propane stoves need a little assistance to get going.
Downtown Phoenix is known for its specialty restaurants and one of a kind cuisines. Visitors have options ranging from breakfast and brunch restaurants to upscale dining overlooking the city. If you venture outside of the city center, you will have even more restaurants to choose from such as chain bar and grills, fast food restaurants. If you enjoy Mexican food and taco shops, you are in luck. There is generally a Mexican food restaurant within a few miles of wherever you stay for the night. Ask the locals where the best mom-and-pop restaurants and taco trucks are in town because they are often delighted to share their favorites.
If you like to have a variety of choices for food and drink, the McDowell Mountain Music Festival is for you. Bring a refillable water bottle and access the different water filling stations to stay hydrated in between visits to the beverage tent. Every year, various food trucks come to the event offering food choices from vegetarian and gluten-free options to traditional foods like tacos and burgers. Most vendors accept cash and charge, and there will be ATMs on site for people who need to withdraw money. As the event nears, a complete list of vendors will be available on the event webpage.
During the M3F event, safety and security are of utmost importance to the event planners. Only people with tickets are permitted inside the venue. The festival has temporary barricades and roped off areas, so concert and festivals attendees know which sections of the park are designated for M3F. Security officers will be onsite to check bags and provide safety for everyone at the venue.
Average temperatures range from 52° to 77°, but it is not uncommon to have hotter temperatures in March. Phoenix is known as the Valley of the Sun, so more often than not, you will have a bright and sunny sky. People who are sensitive to air quality should pay attention to the weather reports for air quality alerts. Occasionally, weather patterns cause dust and pollution to settle over the valley, making it uncomfortable for people with lung sensitivities, and you can monitor this with your favorite weather app if needed.
If you need medical assistance while you are at M3F, contact a member of the event staff. Staff will direct you to the nearest onsite EMS station. Outside of the venue, the city offers full-service hospitals, urgent care centers, smaller medical clinics, and different pharmacy and drugstore options. The closest hospital to the event site is less than two miles away.