Nothing brings people together like food. We have been gathering around the dinner table for centuries, only now that table has been given a massive expansion. Food festivals take place all across the country celebrating every fancy and interest — from beignets to boysenberries. These events began as a way for a certain area or region to celebrate their food culture, but in recent times they have turned into so much more. Food tourism is a real thing with many culinary explorers making entire trips out of visiting these now highly branded, large-scale festivals.
It’s the promise to gather with folks who are just like you and know the value of good people, good food, and a good time … where the only limit is your stomach (or maybe your air miles). So, grab your best crew and head with us as we share the food festivals across the United States you need to add to your bucket list.
1. Maine Lobster Festival
There are many reasons to travel to the beautiful shorelines of Maine — from its rich history to the burgeoning foodie scene. The most opulent of palates will surely head each and every year to the Maine Lobster Festival, which has been serving up food and fun for over 70 years. The region’s most important export is celebrated in a big way during this annual five-day event that takes place in early August and attracts over 70,000 seafood lovers. Fresh Maine lobster is the spotlight here, as over 20,000 pounds of the good stuff are prepared for the festival each year. Everyone’s favorite crustacean is showcased in dishes like a classic lobster roll, lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, lobster bisque, lobster stuffed risotto balls, and more.
The family friendly event also features the Maine Lobster Festival Road Race 10k, cooking contests, fine arts and crafts, and a children’s lobster eating contest. Unique offerings include the crowning of the "Maine Sea Goddess" in a pageant-style competition and the laugh-inducing annual Great International William Atwood Lobster Crate Race.
2. Boysenberry Food and Wine Festival
This next one might be the most unique food festival that you’ve never heard of. The history is rich in Buena Park, California — and the soil is, too. Knott’s Berry Farm quite literally started as a boysenberry (a hybrid fruit with flavor profiles of blackberry, loganberry, and raspberry) farm in the early 20th century. This soon blossomed into a sought-after destination thanks to their standout fried chicken dinners backboned by some good old fashioned hard work. Eventually, it would lead the Knotts to building a world class theme park, but they never strayed away from the fruit that began it all for the ambitious family.
While the luscious fruit is celebrated on menus across the property year-round — including a can’t miss boysenberry soft serve that’s a perfect custard-like consistency — Knott’s annual Boysenberry Festival brings this to the next level. Each spring, over 80 inventive food and drink items are offered to celebrate the Knotts family and their unique legacy. We promise not to go all "Bubba" on you, but there’s boysenberry bread pudding with crème anglaise, boysenberry carne asada pizza, and so much more. Wash it down with some boysenberry sangria and it’s one heck of a good time for berry enthusiasts (or general food fans) everywhere.
3. Cheese Curd Festival
We have never met a cheese we didn’t like, and for our fellow queso obsessives, we’ll see you in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. It’s no surprise that the self-proclaimed "cheese curd capital" is home to the annual Cheese Curd Festival. Taking place every June, the gathering is an ode to the town’s century old cheese making tradition helmed by Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, and is a celebration of all thing associated with the little white morsels of absolute joy that has earned them worldwide attention.
Squeaks abound at the free festival, and guests can partake in devouring hand-battered and deep-fried cheese curds of all shapes and sizes along with a multitude of gourmet dipping sauces. You’ll also discover that curds are not limited to savory only (you can also enjoy them dusted cinnamon sugar). Craft beer and wine are expertly paired with your curds as you sit back and relax to the sounds of the best bands in the region. The festival’s peak is a cheese curd eating contest that is an absolute delight to witness.
4. Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
It’s all thing sugar, spice, and everything nice as you’ll be singing "Oh What Yum" it is to visit the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays at Walt Disney World in Orlando. One of the smaller of Epcot’s festivals, but nevertheless noteworthy, it is a celebration of the season that comes with the added bonus of milder Florida temperatures. Aptly taking place around the World Showcase, this festival brings together the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the holidays as you experience traditions from a selection of global destinations.
At over a dozen holiday kitchens, you can take in the bites of traditional dishes served at these locales during the holidays, from a traditional American Thanksgiving turkey dinner to a French Bûche de Noël au Caramel. Don’t miss the fan favorite cookie stroll that will have you wandering around the festival on the ultimate sugar-loaded scavenger hunt of sorts — if you seek out and consume five different cookies, you’ll ultimately be handsomely rewarded. Spirited performers also showcase the music and oral traditions of these international communities with stunning décor and a massive Christmas tree serving as a centerpiece. This is the ultimate way to get in the festive mood for the season.
5. Beignet Fest
If you’re visiting New Orleans we can guess a few of the things on your must do list. Hurricanes ( as in the cocktail)? Check. Taking in some live music? Check. Eating copious amounts of beignets and washing them down with chicory root coffee? Double check. You can accomplish all this and much more at the annual Beignet Fest, which takes place every September. At this festival you will experience beignets all ways during this ultimate showcase of the beloved deep-fried pastry. You can indulge in its many, limitless variations, from the classic sweet version that is covered in powdered sugar to savory options with cheese and seafood.
This is the birthplace of jazz so, of course, you can expect incredible live musical performances and an all-around good time. As you dust off your powdered sugar covered hands you can ignore the amount of calories you just consumed and take comfort in knowing that your ambitious eating efforts all went to benefit the Tres Doux Foundation, an organization that raises awareness and funds for autism programs.
6. Harvest Festival
No one does it quite like Dolly Parton, so it is of no surprise that Dollywood — whose "Dreamer-In-Chief" is the music icon herself — pulls out all the stops for their annual September Harvest Festival. Although the theme park hosts award-winning seasonal events year-round, the Harvest Festival should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list. With cooler fall temperatures, it’s the ideal time to visit Pigeon Fork, Tennessee and partake in a number of sweet and savory delights. Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains provide a stunning backdrop as you devour Autumn inspired treats, like sweet potato poutine, spiced pumpkin bisque, and maple pecan and bacon funnel cakes.
For a truly unique festival element, Dollywood brings in visiting artisans for demonstrations in creating original treasures and keepsakes. Music also plays a key role in the festivities with daily shows from nationally recognized gospel, country, bluegrass, and Americana artists. As the sun goes down, make sure you stay for the Great Pumpkin Luminights to witness thousands of glowing carved pumpkins brighten the night sky.
7. South Beach Wine and Food Festival
If you desire to have your toes in the sand while imbibing and spotting celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri letting loose, then the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is definitely for you. For over 20 years, this multi-day event takes over the sands of Miami Beach as attendees party on the beach and hobnob with food royalty — we’re talking the best of the best including world renowned spirits and wine producers, chefs, and food television personalities. Dubbed "spring break for chefs" by the Miami New Times, prepare for all-around debauchery as you nibble on samples while catching Bobby Flay in the corner doing a shot with Tom Colicchio.
At its core, this Food Network and Cooking Channel-sponsored fest is all about bringing the best in the food and beverage world to the masses — and do they come … to the tune of over 60,000 people in attendance each year. The festival typically takes place each February and with a mission to eat, drink, and educate, as all proceeds benefit the Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Drinking and doing good? See you there.
8. International Flavors of Carnaval
For over 20 years, Universal Studios Orlando has been home to a wildly popular annual Mardi Gras festival. The central Florida theme park comes to life with the spirit of the iconic event through live music, parade floats, colorful décor, and of course, food. International Flavors of Carnaval is the festival’s food and beverage component — and let’s just say that the good times do indeed roll. Food and beverage mini kitchens are found throughout the parks with over 70 dishes on offer highlighting regions around the globe that hold Mardi Gras and Carnaval celebrations.
The Puerto Rican booth shines with traditional pernil and mofongo, while you can enjoy authentic pork schnitzel from the Germany booth — plus wash it all down (and get a nice buzz) with these popular destinations’ best beverages. Mardi Gras beads won’t be the only thing you will want to be sporting around your neck as it’s an absolute must to get the festival tasting lanyard. This allows guests to pre-purchase a number of food and drink items for a discounted rate.
9. The National Buffalo Wing Festival
For over two decades, thousands have flocked to Buffalo, New York to celebrate the city’s namesake culinary creation: buffalo wings — invented here in 1964. The National Buffalo Wing Festival is the epitome of pride for the gleeful Buffalonian and takes place each Labor Day weekend. Their spirit is on true display as the many visitors consume thousands of pounds of chicken wings and a never-ending list of sauces and flavors — from honey lime sriracha to bacon horseradish ranch.
Wing lovers unite in droves as the festival has welcomed over 1,000,000 fanatics and served a total of over 5.1 million wings over the years. It is also home to the annual National Chicken Wing Eating Contest. Novices need not be worried as they also throw an amateur eating contest as well as a hot wing eating contest for those looking to get spicy. Restaurants, both local and national, come together to showcase their finest version of the beloved appetizer. Wet wipes not included.
Hershey, Pennsylvania might just be the sweetest place on earth. It is where all your Willy Wonka-esque, candy coated dreams can come true — whether it’s paying a visit to a place literally called Chocolate World or celebrating the celebrated candy that the town was built upon at Hersheypark. It’s a fascinating place, chock full of history and all things chocolate 365 days a year. During fall at Chocolate Town Square Park, the annual Choctoberfest becomes the ultimate destination for cocoa enthusiasts everywhere. This family-friendly festival is your one-day free pass to indulge in an array of incredible chocolates from over 70 booths — it is touted as one of the best chocolate festivals in the country after all!
The music is plentiful, regional craft beers are spotlighted, and there’s food from favorite local restaurants. It’s a smaller festival compared to others on our list, but well organized and a must for lovers of the cocoa.
11. Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Classic
Foodie dreams come true each year at the Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic. This is no ordinary street festival — at this event, guests can enjoy unlimited bites and tipples from over 20 stations featuring culinary offerings from the Disney World hotel pair’s award-winning portfolio of eateries. Home to 22 restaurants and lounges, the Swan & Dolphin resort is continually awarded for its outstanding and innovative food and beverage program. With over 70 certified wine sommeliers and nearly 1,500 wine selections, the festival is the true essence of what the property has to offer.
Nibble on angus beef tenderloin from Shula’s Steak House or ahi tuna from Kimonos as you take it all in under the stars at this picturesque property’s causeway. Wander the beer garden and bubble lounge where anything is possible — including a sighting of celebrity chef Todd English whose restaurant bluezoo is a favorite at the resort. With live entertainment to boot, this is one festival you do not want to miss. You can also seek comfort in the fact that you can literally stumble to your room afterwards — it’s a win, win.
12. SoCal Taco Fest
California knows how to party and boy, is that ever more on display than at the SoCal Taco Fest. Taco ’bout a good time! (Okay, we’re done here.) Gorgeous downtown San Diego welcomes thousands each October to one of the area’s favorite festival dedicate to the all mighty taco. A food fiesta each and every year, dozens of Southern California’s best taco slingers show up with one goal: feeding the masses.
Eclectic to say the least, the festival offering plenty of food and activities. Guests can enjoy handcrafted margaritas from the popular Corralejo Margarita Cantina or witness with their very own eyes adorable chihuahua races, a beauty pageant, and live Lucha Libre traditional Mexican wrestling (Did we mention it’s eclectic?). National and local music artists take to the stage with past performers including Flo Rida. It’s a true all day and night party and a must for those that love the fest’s namesake portable Mexican staple.
13. Bluegrass & BBQ Festival
The annual Bluegrass & BBQ Festival combines two of America’s finest exports for what results in the ultimate celebration of mountain heritage and life. Taking place at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, the park is no stranger to standout festivals — including An Old Time Christmas — and they fire up the grill (and the fiddles) for this 16-day-long celebration that is held each spring. Over 50 bands, both local and nationally recognized, come together for hundreds of performances that honor the history of Bluegrass music.
Silver Dollar City is known for their standout food and that excellence is truly on display at this festival. The slow-smoked creations range from Kansas City smoked chicken to Memphis-style dry rub ribs, not to mention over 300 barbecue sauce options! Learn about ‘cue cooking tips from award-winning experts before taking the opportunity to judge the People’s Choice BBQ Sauce Contest. If you like your pulled pork with a side of ear candy, Bluegrass & BBQ Festival is a must.
14. Taste of Chicago
The Windy City is a mecca for any food lover, and that passion for culinary craftsmanship is on display at the annual Taste of Chicago festival. For five long days each July, an estimated 1.5 million people show up for what has become one of the biggest, free-admission food festivals in the world. Along the lakefront of downtown Chicago, guests can sample a diverse range of options from food trucks, celebrity chefs, pop-up restaurants, and more.
To say it is an extravaganza would be an understatement. For over 40 years, the festival has welcomed guests to savor the flavors of the Midwest and beyond, from local staples like deep-dish pizza to international-inspired creations. Multiple stages present concerts from local and national acts and there’s even a silent disco. Chefs take to their own stages for live cooking demonstrations so you can take notes and bring the culinary fun home with you.
15. Memphis Food & Wine Festival
Incredible music scene, Graceland, and indescribably good barbecue — those are just a few of the things that make Memphis the must-visit destination that it is. With an amazing lineup like that, it’s only fitting that this outstanding culinary city would be home to a top-notch food festival. Each fall, thousands gather to sample over 100 different wines and cuisine from both local and nationally renowned chefs at the Memphis Food & Wine Festival. Your taste buds will be treated to both Southern delicacies and globally inspired flavors.
The lush Memphis Botanic Gardens are adorned with beautiful string lights, and live jazz music can be heard in the background as the smell of open-pit barbecue wafts through the air. It’s the ultimate intersection of food, wine, art, and doing good — festival ticket sales go directly to benefiting the FedExFamilyHouse, which provides housing for families with children receiving treatment at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
16. Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Epcot at Walt Disney World has been hosting acclaimed food and wine festivals since the 1990s. While the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival — the longest running and largest event — usually gets all the attention, we think you should adjust your plans for an early winter visit to experience the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. This festival celebrates not only the culinary arts but visual and performing arts as well. Food here is both delicious and visually appealing, but the true draw is the incredible lineup of musical and artist talents.
The Disney on Broadway Concert series bring star-studded talent to the festival every day and it is included with admission. You can also take in some incredibly talented artists as they use paint to bring your favorite Disney characters to life right before your eyes, and explore galleries from both established and up-and-coming artists. You’ll leave this festival utterly full and inspired.
17. Family Style Feast
Taking place each fall at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, Family Style Festival celebrates the intersection of food and fashion. It is all about the collaborative process here as some of the biggest fashion brands come together with biggies in the culinary world for an unprecedented merchandise and dining fusion experience. Jon & Vinny’s, Russ & Daughters, and Mister Softee are just some of the food favorites that share space with apparel brands such as Nike, Off-White, and Guess U.S.A.
As you enjoy bites courtesy of iconic restaurants from Los Angeles and beyond, know that you’re doing some good in the process — the event directly gives back to the community and supports chefs and restaurant workers. Family Style Festival is sponsored by The Hundreds, a streetwear line based in Southern California, so you can expect some really unique partnerships between restaurants and fashion brands, like their collab with the famous Felix Trattoria. The fest also features live music, photo opportunities, and art installations with plenty for your entire crew to enjoy.
18. The Great American Foodie Festival
There are many reasons we will never resist the chance to visit Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and we are hoping the calories do as well. The Great American Foodie Festival is one of the largest and most celebrated food centric festivals on the West Coast. They do things a little differently here. Instead of relying solely on the pool of incredible local talent, they also bring in chefs from across the country, making this a celebration of some of the nation’s biggest and brightest culinary talents.
In addition to over 50 of the country’s best food trucks, there are demonstrations led by celebrity chefs, a beer garden, carnival style games and rides, and an eating contest — because, America! The cuisine is diverse — from Southern comfort cuisine to the eclectic flavors of the West Coast— so there’s something for every taste bud at this truly not to be missed annual event.
19. Feast Festival
Gearing up to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the aptly named Feast Festival in Portland, Oregon is unlike anything else. It is a celebration of craftmanship from the artisans, chefs, farmers, and winemakers that make the restaurant industry go ’round. Taking place each September, the large-scale event is also intimate in that it plays host to collaborative dinners at notable local restaurants, small-group hands-on classes, and panels. While on the pricier end of festivals, it comes with the added bonus of easier to navigate crowds and all-inclusive bites and sips. It is all about the chef here, and you’ll sample foods from familiar faces and some of the most celebrated emerging chefs in the area and beyond.
The event has a philanthropic initiative as well. Since 2012, they have donated over half a million dollars to help fight hunger in Oregon and areas of need throughout the country.
20. The Feast of San Gennaro
Few festivals hold such an iconic title as the downright legendary debauchery that is New York City’s Feast of San Gennaro. Thousands upon thousands of people from nearby and beyond pile into the streets of Little Italy throughout the multi-day fest for the ultimate depiction of Italian pride. (When there’s a cannoli eating contest you know it’s going to be a good time.) Walking the string light-adorned streets of lower Manhattan, you can feast on food from some of the best Italian restaurants in the Big Apple. The celebration is over a week long with red, white, and green flung throughout and colorful parades adding to the celebration.
Food is, without a doubt, the highlight here and there are seemingly never ending options — from fried dough and chicken parmesan to sausage and peppers sandwiches and cheesecake cones — served by the street vendors that line the sidewalks. The people watching may even be just as good as the bites.
21. Festival of the Sea
New Jersey is famous for being home to The Boss, but it lays claim to some of the best seafood you can get your hands on in the Northeast. The Garden State is home to a treasure trove of tiny beach towns each with their own distinct personality. That includes Central Jersey’s Point Pleasant, which is well known for its destination-worthy boardwalk, complete with plenty of attractions. But we head there for one reason: Festival of the Sea.
Each September, as the tourist population slowly dwindles, it is the locals’ time to shine with lighter crowds and picture perfect weather. The annual festival has been dishing out delights from the Atlantic for over 40 years. Jersey isn’t short on seafood festivals, but this is arguably one of the best. Vendors large and small, from near and far, gather to shell out their best seafood dishes. Plus, there is plenty more for the seafood-opposed including live entertainment, making this a true family affair.