Written by: J. Vigotsky
With the first official day of spring less than a month away, it’s time to start looking forward to warmer weather, budding flowers, and a wide range of spring food festivals. With popular festivals scattered all over the United States, there are options for food lovers in every corner of the country. Before deciding which festivals you’ll attend, make sure to educate yourself about all the great offerings. Here are just a few of the great spring food festivals available to gourmets around the country:
Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit – Las Vegas, NV – Thursday, April 27 - Sunday, April 30
A four-day event that takes place in six different luxury hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, Vegas Uncork’d has been attracting epicures since its inaugural event in 2007. Featuring 25 unique events and 80 of the world’s most talented chefs, the food festival enables attendees to eat meals that are usually only served in exclusive restaurants of Paris, New York, and the UK. This year, cooking icon Bobby Flay will prepare and serve brunch in an intimate private setting. The festival’s main event is “The Grand Tasting,” in which more than 2,500 food fanatics sample the signature dishes of some of the world’s most famous chefs. Each Vegas Uncork’d event stands by itself, and most tend to be pretty costly. But if you have cash to spare, Vegas Uncork’d offers an unrivaled experience.
Austin Food and Wine Festival – Austin, TX – Friday, April 28 - Sunday, April 30
Benefitting the nonprofit Austin Food & Wine Alliance, the Austin Food and Wine Festival features chef showcases and artisanal food. Not to be outdone by food, the wine and spirits offered at the festival come from all over the country. With more than 70 food and lifestyle exhibitors, the Austin Food and Wine Festival also provides live music that sets the tone for a rockin’ weekend of fun, food, and drink. Culinary demos allow festival-goers to learn all the newest cooking techniques, while the beer, wine, and spirit tastings enable drink lovers to indulge in all the tastiest beverages. The festival culminates with a “Rock Your Taco” showdown in which chefs battle it out to see who can cook the best taco. Attendees reap the rewards by sampling each delicious creation. Most events at the Austin Food and Wine Festival are accessible with an “All-in Ticket.”
Taste of Vail – Vail, CO – Wednesday, April 5 - Saturday, April 8
Perhaps the most scenic spring food festival in the country, Taste of Vail benefits from the breathtaking backdrop provided by Vail Mountain. Showcasing more than 30 of Vail’s best chefs, the festival also attracts winemakers from close to 50 of the country’s finest wineries. Taste of Vail features four signature events, ensuring there’s something for every food lover and wine connoisseur. The events include a tasting that will have over 100 varieties Rosé wine–a diverse wine best-known for its prevalence in Mediterranean France. For meat lovers, Taste of Vail offers “The American Lamb Cook-Off,” which provides a sampling of several unique lamb dishes. A Mountain Top Tasting event includes gourmet food, beer, wine, and spirits–all enjoyed with awe-inspiring views from 10,350 feet above sea level. The final signature event is The Grand Tasting and Auction, which offers food and drink from all of Taste of Vail’s restaurants and wineries.
Italian Market Festival – Philadelphia, PA – Saturday, May 20 - Sunday, May 21
Taking place at Philadelphia’s famed South 9th Street Italian Market–Amercica’s oldest outdoor market–the Italian Market Festival will return this year for another weekend of food, drink, music, parade, and sport. 70,000 attendees are expected as it’ll be cannoli, roast pork, sausage, pepper and pizza galore! Local Italian-American vendors line the streets, offering specialty meats and cheeses. There is also no shortage of international food like Mexican, Asian, and South American dishes. The festivities also include the Procession of Saints and a half ball tournament. But the real main event is the greased pole climbing! Traditionally known as Albero Della Cuccagna, the contest sees teams of contestants attempting to climb a 30 foot high pole that’s been thoroughly greased with lard. At the top of the pole are meats, cheeses, gifts, and money. At the bottom of the pole are padded mats for soft landings.
2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest – Memphis, TN – Wednesday, May 17 – Saturday, May 20
Celebrating its 40th year, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest will take place at Tom Lee Park–a beautiful 33-acre piece of land that overlooks the Mississippi River. For the first time in the illustrious history of the contest, the competition will span four days. The festival features a variety of competitions in which teams compete for culinary supremacy. The competitions include beef, poultry, seafood, sauce, and hot wing contests. But the main attraction is the pork division–the winner of which brought home a whopping $30,500 last year! There are also fun special events in which people dress up as pigs and perform songs or skits. A Kingsford Tour of Champions ticket is required if you want to taste and judge delicious barbecue from the competing teams.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience – New Orleans, LA – Thursday, May 25 - Sunday, May 28
Featuring over 1,000 wines from around the globe, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has raised more than $1.2 million for non-profit organizations during its 25-year history. The festival also spotlights top local chefs and attracts over 7,000 food and wine fanatics. The festival’s events include wine tastings, educational seminars, intimate dinners, pastry competitions, and even a parade with art and music! With many events taking place in the heart of the French Quarter, this spring food festival also offers a slice of culture. There are several different types of tickets that can be purchased, which enables attendees to personalize their experiences.
SAVOR Blowing Rock – Blowing Rock, NC – Thursday, April 20 - Sunday, April 23
Formerly the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival, SAVOR Blowing Rock is a celebration of food, wine, craft beer, and entertainment. The festival’s itinerary includes a restaurant showcase, cooking classes, educational seminars, and even a 5K race. Wine, beer, and spirit tastings are also on the schedule. This festival has a more of a small town-feel than others on this list, so it’s perfect for food and wine lovers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle. The area surrounding Blowing Rock is also exceptionally beautiful. After all, the town was named after a rock formation that extends out over John’s River Gorge and provides spectacular views.
Crawfish Music Festival – Biloxi, MI – Thursday, April 20 - Sunday, April 23 & Thursday, April 27 - Sunday, April 30
Taking place on consecutive weekends at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, the Crawfish Music Festival brings together fans of both crawfish and music. With the Mississippi Sound setting a scenic background, festival-goers enjoy live performances while eating a southern classic–spicy boiled crawfish with potatoes and corn-on-the-cob. There are also a wide range of food vendors that offer unique crawfish-based dishes. Crawfish etouffee, crawfish pies, and fried crawfish are just a few of the many offerings. This year’s music lineup includes 26 different artists over the two weekends! If you are particularly confident in your own crawfish dish, enter the festival-hosted crawfish cook-off for the chance to win $3,000! If cooking isn’t your thing, you can instead purchase a ticket to sample other chefs’ crawfish.
With so many great spring food festivals, it’s difficult to choose just one. Luckily, these celebrations take place throughout the spring season, allowing you to attend multiple events. Start planning your trips now, as it’s always preferable to ensure lodging well in advance.