Food festivals should be some combination of sunshine, world-class chefs, unique dishes, charitable contributions, the finest wines, home-brewed hops, and a bit of the unexpected. Some of the best fests might be happening right in your backyard, while others are worth planning a trip around. Some events have been happening for decades and some for just a few years, but they all share one thing in common: delicious, mouth-watering eats that everyone from a true foodie to a foodie newbie can enjoy. In chronological order, here's our list of the top food festivals for 2014:
When: April 10-13
Where: Sandestin, FL
Why: This award winning wine festival in beautiful Sandestin, FL is entering its 28th year. Wine novices and aficionados alike will enjoy the experience with ample tastings, celebrity chef dinners, and the ability to purchase discounted wines immediately after falling in love with them. There's also an ability to purchase rare, hard-to-get wines here. Don't miss out on the Seafood Cruise or the Champagne Brunch, both are rumored to be the can't-miss events of this can't-miss event. They are always adding new activities to the lineup so pay close attention to their website.
When: April 25-27
Where: Austin, TX
Why: Austin cements its reputation as a mecca for the up-and-coming and the already-established talents of the world to showcase their crafts. Take a dozen of the hottest chefs, sprinkle in another dozen of the finest wine purveyors, and a pinch of local musical talent and you have the Austin Food & Wine Festival. With events like "Rock Your Taco", "Best of Texas" and "Feast Under the Stars" set for this festival, you can tell that the Austin flavor is bursting through all of these gatherings. Tickets online run from $185-$850 with even more costly travel packages available too.
When: June 7 - October 25
Where: New England
Why: Eating food served from a truck is a relatively new concept that has exploded onto the culinary scene. New England has embraced the concept and the unique foods more than most regions. The Food Truck Festival of NE offers six events throughout the summer and fall featuring the top food trucks in the area (all small businesses) and familiarizing the community with this hot trend. The fourth annual festival will kick things off in Somerville, MA on June 7 at Assembly Row. Participating food trucks will include Captain Marden’s Cod Squad, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Bon Me, The Happy Taco, Frozen Hoagies, The Latin Spoon, Sweet Tomatoes, Pasta Pot, Maine’ly Lobstah, Moyzilla, and others.
When: July 10-13
Where: Crested Butte, CO
Why: One of the most scenic areas on our list is Crested Butte, Colorado. There are events aplenty, like The Grand Tasting Event on Saturday which features more than 250 wines from around the world and a selection of light hors d’oeuvres. There will also be amazing food demonstrations by celebrated chefs. Throughout the weekend, the festival offers a series of official wine seminars hosted by sommeliers and wine makers. Topics include Red Wines for Summer, Old World v New World, and a reserve tasting. The Bursting Bubbles Champagne Brunch that closes the festival is as awesome as it sounds. Tickets range from $40-$250 depending on the date and the event.
When: July 11-12
Where: Snowmass, CO
Why: Daily cooking demos along with the Palette of Pairings event (combining a mouth watering sample of specialty foods and liquors) highlight this event, set so perfectly into the quaint Snowmass Village in Colorado. Celebrity chefs will be in attendance again, as the 2013 festival featured Chef Christy Rost, who is not only an internationally recognized Colorado chef but also a published journalist. This festival also has an art exhibit with more than 40 regionally and nationally recognized artists. Don't miss out on the cooking workshops too!
Read more about the California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara here!
When: September 18-21
Where: Portland, OR
Why: Feast Portland is the top food and drink festival in the Pacific Northwest. Feast Portland exhibits local Oregon culinary talent and ingredients, alongside nationally recognized chefs and industry leaders during a four-day celebration. The lineup is being announced in May, but in 2013, there were wine tastings, sandwich competitions, a night market and a cookbook social. Net proceeds from Feast Portland are donated to Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon and Share Our Strength in an effort to end hunger in Oregon and the US.
When: September 19-21
Where: Oakland, CA
Why: At Eat Real a state fair, street-food festival, and block party all come together to produce one heck of an event. Participants learn about the origins of food, including who is behind its production, and even how to make it on their own. Eat Real’s mission is to help revitalize regional food systems and to encourage the growth of American food entrepreneurs. Here's the best part: free entry! Food costs no more than $5 and you can sample a variety of delicious foods that are locally-sourced and organically-grown. Eat Real is the top educational program of the Food Craft Institute, a non-profit organization focused on creating and making viable small to medium-scale, handmade, artisan food companies in the United States.
When: November 6-9
Where: Big Sur, CA
Why: Probably the only entry on this list that features gorgeous cliffside views and natural wildlife, the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival takes place over four days and in various locations in the area. From inns, to wineries, to even a library venue - the tastings and special dinners abound. This festival fosters a feeling of companionship unlike any other. With dual goals of strengthening the local economy and charitable contributions, in its first four years, the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival raised over $100,000.
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