Imagine tasting the creations of some of the hottest restaurants in the country without making a reservation or waiting for a table. In cities from San Diego to New York, you can do just that at wonderful food and wine festivals.
In cities large and small across the country, food and wine festivals showcase the best cuisine and beverage options that communities have to offer.
After attending festivals in locations around the U.S., I am convinced that attending a food and wine festival is one of the most entertaining ways of immersing yourself in the culture and cuisine of a region.
Of course, entrance to the festivals can be a bit pricey — usually upwards of $100 per person, and more for VIP treatment. But when you consider that you have unlimited access to the Cajun flavors of New Orleans or the foodways of Southern Appalachia in Asheville, North Carolina, plus entertainment unique to the communities, it can start to sound like a bargain.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to some of the festivals in 2020 and 2021, many of the popular events are back on in 2022 and 2023.
From longtime community institutions to trendy upstarts, here are six of America’s best food and wine festivals, listed in order from January through November.
1. Key West Food & Wine Festival, Key West, Florida
For 5 days in January, Florida’s southern island city of Key West showcases its diverse wines and inventive food scene at the Key West Food & Wine Festival. The festival comprises a series of unique events ranging from waterfront wine tastings to winemaker/chef collaborations.
The combination of a tropical setting and culinary creations brings thousands of visitors from around the country to the festival to escape the winter and delight their senses.
2. New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, New Orleans, Louisiana
From a parade-style Royal Street stroll that showcases fine art, live jazz, and outstanding wines, to a grand tasting event featuring foods served by New Orleans’s finest chefs, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has been delighting food and wine lovers for 30 years.
The grand tasting event takes place in the Sugar Mill venue, just across from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center near the Mississippi River in the historic Warehouse District, while the Royal Street stroll passes through New Orleans’s iconic French Quarter.
3. Taste Of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Unlike many of the other major U.S. food fests, Taste of Chicago doesn’t have an all-inclusive entrance price. Rather, admission is free, and visitors buy strips of tickets that they use to pay for food and drink samples.
The festival — known for regional favorites such as Chicago-style pizza, Polish sausages, hot dogs, pierogi, and barbecued turkey legs — also features live music on multiple stages, as well as carnival rides. It takes place in Chicago’s Grant Park along Lake Michigan.
Pro Tip: With its numerous menu items, Taste of Chicago can be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors. Veterans suggest getting a list of the offerings beforehand and deciding which ones you want to try.
4. Chow Chow, Asheville, North Carolina
June, August, September
Even its name conjures up a tasty treat. The Chow Chow culinary event series in Asheville, North Carolina, is named for the region’s traditional pickled slaw/relish that consists of colorful vegetables.
Like its namesake, Chow Chow’s offerings focus on the unique foodways of Southern Appalachia. The culinary event series promises to highlight all aspects of the supply chain, “from farmer to maker, mixologist to chef, brewer to baker, artist to potter.”
Pro Tip: Chow Chow tickets will go on sale on the website in mid-April, and the complete schedule of 2022 programming will be announced in tandem with ticket sales.
5. New York City Wine & Food Festival, New York, New York
For a star-studded affair that includes hundreds of chefs and dozens of events, head to New York City in October for the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival.
The festival got its start in 2007 with a one-night event and has since grown to an extravaganza that brings together some of the world’s greatest culinary talents. Events range from culinary demonstrations to intimate dinners to a grand tasting.
Pro Tip: Tickets are expected to go on sale on the event’s website during the summer.
6. San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, San Diego, California
If sailboats and sandy beaches sound like an irresistible backdrop for a food festival, then the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival should be on your November travel itinerary.
The weeklong festival features dozens of events, hundreds of domestic and international wineries, and a grand tasting finale on San Diego’s scenic Embarcadero. The festival regularly attracts celebrity chefs, legendary winemakers, and James Beard Award-winning authors.
Pro Tip: While November might not seem like the most inviting time for an outdoor food festival, San Diego enjoys nearly year-round sunshine, and its average high temperature in November is 69 degrees.
Other popular food and wine festivals were still in the planning phases early in 2022. Events to watch for dates and schedules include the Feast Portland festival, the Austin Food + Wine Festival, and Devour Phoenix.
For more food festivals that will pique your interest, be sure to check out these articles: