24 Food Festivals That Should Be On Your Bucket List
If you love food enough to travel for the best, we've tracked down the best food festivals around the world that should definitely be on your bucket list to attend. Whether it's ingredient-specific celebrations for everything from garlic to chocolate, to massive tastings and intimate chef dinners in iconic culinary destinations, there are plenty of options both in the U.S. and abroad throughout the year to suit all tastes. Get ready to plan your next culinary excursion and treat yourself to the best food and drink festivals around.
Whether you like going out for pizza, making it at home, or, heck, even heating up frozen pizza, you should make a point to head to Naples -- regarded as the modern birthplace of pizza -- for the annual Napoli Pizza Village festival. For 10 days, the city's waterfront features pizzaiolos from around the world competing for the title of world's best pizza maker, plus pizza classes, seminars, live music and entertainment (pizza tossing, anyone?), and plenty of delicious pizza to devour. Admission is free, but food and drinks are sold separately.
Garlic lovers -- and those that love us despite our breath -- should make a point to visit the Northern California town for the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, celebrated over the last full weekend of July. The festival features garlic-centric cooking contests and demos, live music, arts and crafts, a Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen pageant, and, of course, plenty of garlicky eats from fries and pasta to calamari, shrimp, and even ice cream. The festival, which is operated by more than 4,000 volunteers, began in 1979 and has since raised over $11 million for local charities and schools.
A legendarily messy and massive food fight, La Tomatina festival takes place on the last Wednesday of August, when more than 20,000 people descend on the small town of Buñol near Valencia and throw over 150 tons of ripe tomatoes at each other. A tradition since 1945, the saucy celebration officially kicks off when someone manages to climb a greased pole to grab a ham from the top, at which point tomatoes are first tossed from dump trucks. The annual event attracts tourists from around the world, and while there are plenty of pre- and post-parties, you might want to look elsewhere for gazpacho rather than the messy streets.
Los Angeles, CA
Giving back never tasted so good. The annual L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade features signature bites and drinks from an all-star roster of L.A. chefs with proceeds going to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research. The fun, family-friendly event (kids under 12 with an adult attend for free) is hosted by notable local chef Suzanne Goin and business partner Caroline Styne along with Chef David Lentz, and features an impressive lineup of chefs (both local and national), mixologists, and wineries. To date, the event has raised over $5.8 million for childhood cancer research.
If you're looking to elevate your ramen game beyond those packs of instant noodles, the Tokyo Ramen Festival is the place to find some of the best ramen in the world. The epic 11-day extravaganza kicks off in late October, and is divided into two parts: a six-day stretch with 18 vendors, followed by five days of 18 different noodle slingers from every corner of Japan. You'll have the opportunity to sample a wide range of ramen styles, as each region and city offers their own distinctive variety with different broths and ingredients. Admission is free and bowls of ramen go for around $8.
The five-day Salon du Chocolat, which takes place late October to early November, is regarded as the world's largest event dedicated to all things chocolate and cocoa. It's also a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. The sprawling event features over 500 participants from over 60 countries, including top chocolatiers and pastry chefs, as well as tastings, demos, competitions, impressive chocolate sculptures, pastry workshops, a children's area, and even a chocolate fashion show. Admission is around $17 for adults, $8 for children. They also host other events in cities around the world throughout the year.
Willamette Valley, OR
If you're as truffle-obsessed as many food fanatics are, then you owe it to yourself to experience the annual Oregon Truffle Festival, which takes place over several weekends in late January and mid-February. The same conditions that make Oregon's Willamette Valley and surrounding areas excellent for wine production also help to produce native white, black, and brown truffles that are regarded as on par with those of France and Italy -- and are far superior than fake truffle oil. The festival features one-off events and pricier full-weekend immersions, which include truffle foraging hunts with dogs, decadent dinners and lunches featuring top chefs and wineries, hands-on cooking classes and demos, and more to celebrate the culinary delicacy.
Food soars to great heights at this annual, seriously upscale food festival in the Colorado mountains. The three-day, star-studded Food & Wine Classic in mid-June features bites from some of the best chefs in the world along with top wines and cocktails to wash it all down. Over 5,000 attendees gather for tastings, culinary demos, seminars, parties, and appearances from some of the biggest names in the food world, including Jacques Pépin, Andrew Zimmern, and Hugh Acheson. Aimed primarily at an upscale audience and industry insiders, tickets aren't cheap -- consumer passes for the three-day event go for $1,700 each. But you'll eat and drink very well, right?
Fans of the popular clawed crustaceans, should head to Rockland's Harbor Park during the first weekend of August for the Maine Lobster Festival. The five day celebration, which dates back to 1947 features a parade, a sea goddess coronation, cooking contests, a beer and wine tasting event, art and entertainment, a race across floating lobster crates, a road race, and, oh yes, 20,000 pounds of lobster prepared in a giant cooker, plus plenty more New England fare. Or if you happen to be in Southern California in September, consider the Redondo Beach Lobster Festival or Long Beach's Original Lobster Festival.
For those who like their food festivals a bit funky and cultured, the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival in September is the place to find all things fermented -- from pickles and sourdough bread to kombucha, kefir, and more. In addition to sampling healthy and delicious fermented foods and drinks from artisanal producers, there are also hands-on demos, DIY kits and books for sale, panel discussions, live music, and fermented beverages for kids and adults.
This June, plan a trip to Oceana County, "The Asparagus Capital of the Nation" to celebrate the healthy spring veggie in style. Since 1974, the National Asparagus Festival has offered fans the chance to celebrate with a wide variety of asparagus preparations, tour a farm, a parade and 5K, an Asparagus Queen pageant, and more. There's even a documentary about the asparagus-obsessed region, but there's nothing like experiencing it in person.
The food and drink scene in Portland is legendary, so if you've been wanting to try the region's incredible offerings, there's no better way to do so than by attending Feast Portland. Held in mid-September, the annual event features celebrated artisanal producers from the Pacific Northwest, as well as notable national and international chefs. Events include large-scale nighttime tasting parties, intimate chef dinners, hands-on classes, and panels from special guests. Tickets range from around $35 to $185, depending on the event, and part of the proceeds go toward non-profits to help fight hunger.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
Known as much for its celebrity chef appearances as it is for the spectacular food, wine and scenery, the Cayman Cookout is a highly coveted food festival. Hosted by decorated chef Eric Ripert -- along with his superstar culinary friends such as Daniel Boulud, Rick Bayless, José Andres, Anthony Bourdain, and others -- the extravagant five-day event features interactive events with the chefs like barefoot beach barbecues, snorkeling with sea creatures, cooking demos, and more. It's definitely a pricey event with single event tickets starting around $100 and going up from there -- not to mention luxe accommodations and travel -- but hey, maybe you'll become best friends with the chefs and it will be worth the splurge.
While spicy Nashville hot chicken may be searing the lips of fans across the country these days, there's plenty more that Music City has to offer for food lovers. The annual Music City Food & Wine Festival in mid-September is an excellent time to explore all that the city has to offer. Events include tastings from local and world-renowned chefs, cooking demos, a barbecue feast with talented pitmasters, a gospel brunch, and, of course, lots of incredible music to enjoy while you eat and drink. Ticket options include day passes as well as all-weekend packages.
Not only is Montreal an excellent destination for off-season travel, but it's also home to an incredible food celebration every November. The charming city's best restaurants and chefs participate in MTL à Table a massive restaurant week where you can sample the culinary highlights for a fraction of the typical cost. Participating restaurants offer specially priced prix-fixe menus, while activities take place all over, including walking culinary tours, cooking demos, guided tastings of wine, beer, and spirits, musical performances, and more.
Every March, more than 250,000 food fanatics head down under to experience Australia's top food and wine event. The 10-day, sustainability-minded Melbourne Food and Wine Festival features over 200 events across the city and beyond into the surrounding Victoria countryside, including unique events and settings such as lunch at a 1,500-foot long table, a barbecue feast on the banks of the Yarra River, plus farm and vineyard meals where everything is sourced on-site. There are also talks, demos, and family-friendly events.
New Orleans, LA
While there are plenty of excellent reasons to visit New Orleans year-round, if you're looking to soak up as much food and wine as possible in the Big Easy, consider going at the end of May. That's when the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience takes over the city, offering the chance to sample bites from over 75 of the area's finest chefs, along with over 1,000 wines from around the world. There's also culinary seminars, a Royal Street Stroll with live jazz and art, plus the "world's biggest Sunday brunch."
Daegu, South Korea
Fans of chicken wings and beer should consider making a pilgrimage in late July to Daegu, southeast of Seoul, for the annual Chimac Festival. More than 1 million people descend upon South Korea's chicken capital where they even have a single word for the delicious pairing of "fried chicken and beer": chimac. The five-day event features chicken and beer from dozens of vendors, plus EDM concerts perfect for dancing off everything you consume.
Since 1982, the hugely popular Bite of Seattle has attracted foodies from all over to sample the best bites from local chefs, while also enjoying live music, beer gardens, movie nights, and more. The weekend-long event takes place in late July in Seattle Center, beneath the shadow of the Space Needle, and also features cooking demos and mystery ingredient cook-offs. It's free to attend, and you can purchase platters of food from vendors for around $12 or less, or sample smaller bites for under $4.
If you're planning a trip to Hawaii, consider visiting in October during the annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. Stretched over three weekends and multiple islands, the popular festival features over 100 renowned chefs, food personalities, plus wine and spirits makers. The event offers stunning locations to enjoy special dinners showcasing local ingredients, wine tastings, cooking demos, and fun excursions.
Year-round, Singapore is an incredible food destination thanks to the delicious diversity of culinary influences from surrounding Asian countries and beyond. But should you plan a trip in March or April, you won't want to miss the prestigious World Gourmet Summit, which features notable chefs, both local and international, serving up their best at tasting events, intimate dinners, wine and whiskey dinner pairings, and unique twists like a gourmet golf excursion and master classes.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is yet another city that offers delectable options for gourmands no matter the season, but the city shines particularly brightly during Charleston Wine + Food in March. The multi-day extravaganza features local chefs serving up the best low-country fare at tasting events, barbecue cook-offs, signature dinners, hands-on cooking demos and oyster shucking, plus plenty of the top wine, beer, and cocktail pros to help you wash it all down. Music is also a big part of the festival, so expect plenty of excellent live tunes.
Incredible food and drinks right on the beach in Miami? Count us in. The annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF for short) is a five-day celebration in late-February that draw over 65,000 people for over 85 events around South Beach featuring top chefs from the city and beyond. Events include sprawling walk-around tastings and demos, intimate dinners, brunches and lunches, late-night parties (this is Miami, after all), wine seminars, master classes, family-friendly activities, and more.
Considered the largest food festival in the world, the Taste of Chicago takes over Chicago's Grant Park for five days in mid-July to showcase the city's wide diversity of delicious food. In addition to sampling the best from dozens of local eateries, the lakefront festival also features live music from local and big-name acts, cooking demos, art, and more. Entry is free, but purchased tickets are required for food and drink.
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