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10 Best U.S. Summer Food Festivals for 2016

Summer is festival season, and there’s one in every corner of the U.S. to suit every taste. From pig roasts to cheese fests, food trucks to cherries, we’re here to help you find a summer food festival worth traveling for.—Katherine Martinelli

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Austin Ice Cream Festival

When: August 13, 2016 

WHERE: Fiesta Gardens in Austin, Texas

Growing up, the start of summer was always signaled not by the date on the calendar, but by the first sound of the ice cream truck. Relive that childhood nostalgia and cool off in the best way possible at the 10th annual Austin Ice Cream Festival. Participate in (or simply watch) the ice cream making contest, ice cream eating contest, or popsicle stick sculpture contest. And, of course, eat lots of ice cream. ($10, includes ice cream.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Austin Travel Guide
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Beer Bourbon BBQ Fest

When: August 5-6, 2016

WHERE: Cary, North Carolina

If your ideal summer involves beer and barbecue, then head to rib country for the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival in Cary, North Carolina. This traveling festival (it was in Manhattan in January and will end in Tysons, Virginia, in September) offers 60 beers, 40 bourbons, and lots of BBQ. Enjoy unlimited beer and bourbon tastings, seminars, contests, live music, and “The Shrine of Swine,” featuring a new pig every hour. (Ticket prices vary; check the website for details.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's North Carolina Travel Guide

Copper River Wild Salmon Festival
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Copper River Wild Salmon Festival

When: July 15-16, 2016

WHERE: Cordova, Alaska

Escape the heat and head to Alaska for the Copper River Wild! Salmon Festival. Enjoy the bounty of the “Taste of Cordova Salmon Cook-off” or indulge in an Alaska salmon barbecue in the evening. In addition to the fish focus, there's also an arts and crafts fair, musical performances (called the “Salmon Jam”), and Salmon Runs if you want to work off all that fish. (Free admission; tickets needed for ancillary events.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Cordova Travel Guide

Gilroy Garlic Festival
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Gilroy Garlic Festival

When: July 29-31, 2016

WHERE: Gilroy, California

Vampires beware: The 38th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival is back and better than ever. Featuring two tons of fresh garlic and ten tons of beef, the festival is a mecca for garlic lovers. You can expect live entertainment, garlic-based cooking demonstrations, a garlic cook-off, and, of course, plenty of food with the stinking rose as the star. Garlic ice cream, anyone? (Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children and seniors.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's California Travel Guide

Maine Office of Tourism
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Maine Lobster Festival

When: August 3-7, 2016

WHERE: Rockland, Maine

Nothing says summer like indulging in lobster in New England, and the annual Maine Lobster Festival is one of the best ways to celebrate. There's nearly a whopping 20,000 pounds of lobster ready to be eaten, along with a Food Network cooking contest, a storytelling talent search, live entertainment, and even a crate race (participants run across lobster crates floating in the water). (Ticket prices vary; check the website for details.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Rockland Travel Guide
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National Cherry Festival

When: July 2-9, 2016

WHERE: Traverse City, Michigan

First held in 1926, the mission of the National Cherry Festival ”is to celebrate and promote cherries, community involvement, and the Grand Traverse region.” Festivities include a cherry pit spit contests, kid and adult cherry pie eating contests, and more. In addition to the cherry love, there are also lots of fun auxiliary events, like an air show, a beach volleyball tournament, and musical performances. (Free admission; tickets needed for ancillary events.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Traverse City Travel Guide

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When: Weekends, April–November 

WHERE: New York City: Williamsburg on Saturdays, Prospect Park Breeze Hill on Sundays

New York City's hippest weekend food festival is back outdoors for the summer. The foodie favorite features food and other food-related items from close to 100 vendors. So while away your summer at Smorgasburg sampling natural slushies, Asian-inspired hotdogs, and all the varieties of grilled cheese you can imagine. (Free admission; food prices vary.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's New York City Travel Guide

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Taste of Chicago

When: July 6-10, 2016

WHERE: Chicago

One of the world's biggest food festivals, the annual Taste of Chicago (known locally as “The Taste”) has been going strong since 1980. Over five days, the festival attracts millions of people to Grant Park to sample food and drinks from dozens of local restaurants and bakeries that set up stalls. In addition to the food, don't miss the musical performances. (Free admission)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Chicago Travel Guide

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When: May 20, June 17, July 8, August 19, & September 16, 2016

WHERE: Washington, D.C.

Come see what the food truck craze is all about at Washington, D.C.'s Truckeroo Food Truck Festival, which will be held four times this summer. Sample the fare from more than 20 food trucks while enjoying live music, cornhole, and a festive atmosphere. Participating food trucks offer everything from tapas to bahn mi. (Free admission; food prices vary.)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

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Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

When: July 17, 2016

WHERE: Shelburne, Vermont

If you're a cheese lover, then act fast and book your tickets for the annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. Situated on the beautiful, sprawling Shelburne Farms, the festival celebrates Vermont's cheesemakers, the highest number of cheesemakers per capita of any state. Check out the seminars and cooking and cheesemaking demos, and head home with as much local, artisanal cheese, wine, and samples you can carry. ($50)

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Northern Vermont Travel Guide