There is no better way to experience the soul of a destination than through its food. Add in a craft cocktail (or three) and a sommelier-paired glass of wine, and you’ve got a guaranteed good time. Crossing the continent as far as Hawaii and as high as Canada, we’ve handpicked North America’s most mouthwatering food festivals based on epicurean education, chef interaction, and grand tastings. With this we give you taste bud-tempting travel. We dare you not to salivate. Insider tip: If you’re interested in food fest travel but don’t want the full meal deal, start with a few events in a city you love (or are dying to visit) to taste test if you want to go all in.
By Trish Friesen
Food at Taste MTL
When: November 1-11, 2013
Just before the snow completely coats Eastern Canada, Montreal turns up the heat on its already haute restaurant scene—there are over 5,600+ eateries in town—for Taste MTL, an 11-day gastro-gala offering prix-fixe menus all over the bilingual city. To make things super simple, 125 restaurants including favorite, Le Local, will plan three-course meals at one of three set price points ($19, $29, $39). Canadian cuisine enthusiasts: yes, poutine and maple syrup will make an appearance on select menus.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Montreal Guide
Food at SOBE WFF
When: February 20-23, 2014
Beach and eats? Count us in for The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Foodies and sunbathers alike will want to dive into South Beach in late February to sample the Latin and Caribbean flavors spicing up one of Americans’ favorite shorelines. As one the sharpest events in the food fest circuit, over 200 top tier chefs and famed Food Network stars will don sunglasses and shake it up under the SOBE sun.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Miami Guide
BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival
When: March 6-9, 2014
The BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival is much more than chicken and waffles; spirits, seafood, and pork shape this four-day event, too. Thanks to a growing local restaurant scene, plus the honor of winning the best city in the world to visit by Conde Nast Traveler in the 2012 Readers’ choice awards, Charleston’s history-rich past and forward-thinking chefs are making its southern-Atlantic cuisine the main event.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Guide
Austin FOOD & WINE Festival
When: April 25-27, 2014
You’d assume Austin, America’s culinary darling, would have been in the food fest game for years, yet this spring marks round two of Austin’s recipe for success, the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Folding in local talent like brisket king Aaron Franklin and international-come-national sensation Marcus Samuelsson, expect an indie feast slathered in Texas’ brand of special southwest sauce.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Austin Guide
Alain Ducasse at Vegas Uncork’d
When: Exact dates TBA, May 2014
Mingling glam, glitter, and gourmet, Vegas Uncork’d takes cooking demonstrations, cocktail classes, and grand events to the next level using Sin City’s scale. While big-ticket tastings are held poolside, and cocktail competitions take place in front of the Bellagio’s bouncing fountains, it’s the ideal time for fun-loving foodies to visit Vegas and also rub shoulders with chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Michael Mina, and Nobu Matsuhisa.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Guide
The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
When: May 21-24, 2014
The Mardi Gras of food fest, this May marks New Orleans’ 22nd annual foray into food and wine with the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. Dubbed as a feaster’s fantasy, the epicurean experience goes outside restaurant walls where guests browse art galleries, eat at food trucks, and sip glasses of grape in a street party atmosphere. And that’s just the first night. Aside from the requisite food and wine seminars, unique events like The Big Gateaux Show display the area’s affinity for desserts.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New Orleans Guide
Food and Wine Classic in Aspen
When: June 20-22, 2014
For the past 31 years, Aspen’s Food and Wine Classic has been skiing figure eights around other food festivals. In 2014, it slides into its 32nd year with the finesse of Lindsey Vonn. Pairing crisp mountain air and a star-studded pull—it is Aspen after all—household names like Mario Batali and Bobby Flay have been known to fly in for the turn-of-season sizzler full of peak wine picks, barbecuing, and breathtaking views.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Aspen Guide
Taste of Chicago
When: Exact dates TBA, July 2014
As esteemed veteran of the bunch, Chicago is home to the world’s largest food festival: Taste of Chicago. Encouraging foodies of all ages to partake in the lakefront fest, the entrance is free. The vintage event—around since 1980—caters to au courant eaters as well as tiny taste buds.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide
Food at Bite of Seattle
When: Exact dates TBA, July 2014
Bite of Seattle is a hyper-local event dedicated to the land, sea and culinary creativity in and around the Emerald City. In true Seattle form, over the three-day nosh-a-thon, you can munch to music: eight stages are scattered over the grounds. Borrowing a cup of sugar out of the Taste of Chicago cupboard, Bite of Seattle is also free.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Seattle Guide
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival
When: Exact dates TBA, August 2014
Studded in red carpet chefs and heavenly bites, the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival is on its way to A-list faster than you can say Grant Achatz (of Alinea, Chicago fame). Going into its fourth year, the festival takes place city-wide, meaning you can sip and savor your way over all of LA’s famous zip codes.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Guide
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
When: September 4-7, 2014
The brainchild of Hawaiian regional chefs Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is the hottest gourmet ticket in the tropics. Showcasing Hawaii’s homegrown food stars and a bevy of other Pacific Rim palate pleasers with namesake restaurants like Masaharu Morimoto, the fourth annual event is the perfect excuse to hit Oahu’s shores to sip and savor in the sand.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Hawaii Guide
Music City Eats: Nashville Food, Wine & Spirits Festival
When: Exact dates TBA, September 2014
This year marked Nashville’s first annual foodie fest: Music City Eats. Nashville includes chefs and farm-fresh eats into its daily repertoire—after all, someone’s got to feed all those singer-songwriter residents when they’re resting between gigs! Started by Grammy award-winning brothers Caleb and Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, plus a bevy of other food-forward fellows, tap your toes to live music while consuming southern eats at this festival.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Nashville Guide
Samples at Feast Portland
When: Exact dates TBA, September 2014
Feast Portland is done to such perfection you’d think one of the Pacific Coast’s biggest-catch food events was in its 30th year. Surprisingly, this year only marked the second anniversary for this eat-a-thon. Expect butcher face-offs, craft brew tastings, coffee sampling sessions, intimate meals, and grand events (like a Sandwich Invitational!) celebrating Oregon’s bounty. Check out our review from this year’s event.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Portland Guide
Chef at NYC Wine & Food Festival
When: October 16-19, 2014
Fall is one of the best times of year to visit NYC. The leaves are vibrant, the temperature is worthy of an all-day stroll in Central Park, and the food scene is cooked to perfection for the NYC Wine & Food Festival. Beginning as a one-night event, it’s no surprise that one of the world’s economic engines and greatest dining cities savors homegrown talent and celeb chefs with a benevolent bent: 100 percent of the net proceeds go to hunger-focused community organizations. Eat, drink, and help those in need.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Guide
Chef at Epcot International Food & Wine
When: Exact dates TBA, starting in September 2014
Leave it to Disney to organize a food fest of epic—make that Epcot—proportions. Sure, Walt’s empire caters to the kid in all of us with rides, Mickey Mouse, and malts, but the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival combines fantasy, food, and festivities over its 46-day gourmet gateway showcasing 270 international chefs serving 1.5-million bites.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Walt Disney World Guide