There are few events more joyous than a food festival. Full days devoted entirely to eating and drinking, providing aficionados and fanatics with the utmost variety of dishes in which to stuff their faces with. Of course they test the limits of the human stomach, so the downside is you’ll likely leave with a buzz and a belly ache. Just how many beer tastings can you responsibly consume in a five-hour period? How many arepas and fusion tacos can you eat before sinking into a food coma?
Food festivals are more than just opportunities to consume and imbibe. They’re rare opportunities to wholly celebrate local ingredients and cultures in all their quirky splendor. Take, for example, the Peanut Boil Festival in Luverne, AL, or California’s famous Gilroy Garlic Festival.
“For the real food fans, there’s no more concentrated group of food professionals from every category assembled in one place, and the access is unparalleled,” says culinary expert, chef, and television personality Andrew Zimmern. “It’s a rare energy—hundreds and hundreds of makers, vintners, chefs, all interacting with the people who are the biggest consumers of their products—and I adore it.”
Don’t just take his word for it. With food festivals happening year-round throughout the country, there are ample opportunities for you to experience one (or eight) for yourself within a calendar year. To make things even easier, we’ve done the legwork for you—pulling together a master list of some of our favorite food festivals in the US of A. From a big-city extravaganza where you can dine alongside Food Network stars to an entire festival paying homage to the briny and humble pickle, here are our top picks.