With the weather starting to warm up, that means it’s time for outdoor food festivals. Sitting down for a leisurely brunch is fun, but there’s just something about a food festival. Maybe it’s the variety of options or maybe it’s also the sense of community some festivals have. Either way, if you’re a hardcore foodie or at least just appreciate indulging every now and then, a food festival should be at the top of your list. Whether you’re a vegan or a proud meat eater and especially if you love specific cuisines, there’s something for every appetite. Some of these festivals are just a quick drive or flight but some will even require a passport.
National Fried Chicken Festival
Photo Credit: @friedchcknfest
Chicken. That glorious juicy meat that can be cooked a variety of ways, but it’s especially tasty when fried. If that sounds heavenly to you, then you need to check out New Orleans’ Fried Chicken Festival on September 21-22. Vendors from Louisiana and neighboring states will be serving up countless ways you can indulge on fried chicken and all the fixins. And of course, there’s more than just chicken. Attendance is free, but if you pay a bit extra for VIP entrance, you’ll really be living it up. Last year’s festival featured a Moët Chicken and Champagne Lounge.
Photo Credit: Vegan SoulFest Baltimore
On the other end of the culinary spectrum, there’s the Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore, which celebrates its sixth year on August 3. Organized by owners of the popular restaurant, Land of Kush and Thrive Baltimore, the day will feature cooking demonstrations, vegan products from local vendors and info on animal rights and healthy lifestyle choices. Even if you’re not a vegan, don’t be surprised if you find yourself salivating over vegan crab cakes, curry “chicken” and mac and cheese.
Whitianga Scallop Festival
Photo Credit: Whitianga Scallop Festival
Seafood lovers will want to gather their passport for New Zealand’s Whitianga Scallop Festival. Maybe you’ve never heard of it, but the festival is in its fourteenth year. You’ll find more than 60 food and beverage vendors and scallops cooked in every way imaginable from New Zealand’s top chefs. There are also opportunities to get up close and personal with a variety of cooking demos that can show you new ways to incorporate the mollusks into your diet. There’s even a best-dressed competition, so you might want to start planning now for the festivities on September 21.
Photo Credit: NYC's Dessert Goals
Have you ever had a meal that was almost too pretty to eat? Yeah, that’s what NYC’s Dessert Goals is. The two-day event (March 23-24) will feature sweet treats from more than 20 vendors. You’ll have the chance to satisfy your sweet tooth with desserts made exclusively for the festival and of course you’ll have to swing by the Instagram Garden that will have fun backdrops. This year’s theme is Party Animal, so come dressed accordingly.
Gather by JW
Photo Credit: Gamma Nine Photography
Not that anyone ever really needs a reason to visit Italy, but here’s yet another reason in three words: Gather by JW. Taking place over multiple days (September 26-29) at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, attendees will experience Italian cuisine from the best of the culinary community and wine experts. The hands-on cooking demos and interaction will be perfect for any true foodie. There are a set of wellness events on tap as well. So you’ll be nourishing your mind and belly.
Wonder of the Cocktail
Photo Credit: Wonder of the Cocktail
Most people have a go-to drink they order, but if you want to switch that up and expand your palette, the Wonder of the Cocktail is worth a visit. Enjoy master class seminars, liquor tastings and more. Cocktails are the stars of this event, but food will also be on hand to play a much needed supporting role. This is especially helpful if you’ve always wondered what foods pair best with which spirits. The second annual event takes place on June 19-21 at the Foxwoods Casino Resort in Connecticut.
Photo Credit: @braiselocalfood
You either love or hate garlic, if you’re in the former group, mark your calendar for the afternoon of June 23. The annual Garlic Fest in Milwaukee celebrates, you guessed it, all things garlic. Hosted by James Beard semifinalist restaurant, Braise, local restaurants prepare their face garlicky dishes. You’ll also find live music, games and you don’t want to miss out on the Garlic Bloody Marys!
Bacon and Beer Classic
Photo Credit:Bacon and Beer Classic
Bacon. Beer. There’s a chance you like one or maybe both of those things. The Bacon and Beer Classic has both. And on June 8, it’s coming to Brooklyn for the first time. More than 50 restaurants will offer unlimited samplings of bacon-inspired dishes and there’s also unlimited pours from local breweries. There’s even a bacon eating contest! You might want to cop your tickets ASAP. Also, some festivals are limited to a particular city, but not this one. The nationally-touring fest also has stops in cities including San Jose, Chicago, and Seattle.
Jamaica Rum and Blue Mountain Coffee Festivals
Photo Credit: @jamaicacoffeefest
The not so great news? Both of these early March festivals just passed. But that means you have more time to plan for next March’s events. You can’t mention JA without mentioning rum. So it’s only natural the Jamaica Rum Festival showcases the nations best with tastings and educating consumers about pairings. And the Blue Mountain Coffee Festival gives attendees a true understanding of the farm-to-table experience that produces some of the best coffee in the world. Both tours have the lush Jamaican scenery as the perfect background.
Art + Soul Oakland
Photo Credit: @artandsouloakland
In its 19th year, Oakland’s Art + Soul fest is a must for anyone in the Bay. Held July 27 and 28 in downtown Oakland, this is a great way to spend a day with your girls, roll solo or even make it a family affair. There’s music, there’s fun and for the foodies, there’s a marketplace where you can find a diverse range of foods like gumbo, jerk chicken, lumpia and more. And another thing that’s great and green about Art + Soul? All vendors will be using compostable cups, plates, and utensils.