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The 12 Best U.S. Food Festivals in 2024

These delicious celebrations are worth traveling to—just make sure to bring your appetite with you!

In many cases, exploring a city's local food scene can be the top reason someone chooses to visit in the first place. But besides being able to sample a destination's best restaurants, food festivals can also be an excellent opportunity to get in as much of a culinary experience as possible in a relatively short amount of time. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for those looking to eat up when they hit the road. Read on for the best food festivals in the U.S. that are worth traveling to, according to experts.

Taste of Chicago — Chicago, Illinois

Taste of Chicago Food Festival Entrance
hayden. h/Shutterstock

The Taste of Chicago has been a summertime highlight in its namesake city since it launched in 1980. Since then, the festival has grown to be one of the biggest in the country and inspired spinoff iterations in other cities, including Taste of Chicago Austin. To get an idea of just how iconic it is, over a million people attended in 2019—which is a crowd that outnumbers Chicago's Lollapalooza.

The annual event is free to the public and typically spans three to five days, featuring over two dozen food vendors. Attendees can also enjoy free concerts from both new and beloved artists.

Waikiki Spam Jam — Honolulu, Hawaii

Whether you love it or are mystified by it, Spam remains one of the most beloved shelf-stable food products on the market, thanks to its versatility as an ingredient. Those looking to celebrate the beloved canned meat can get their fill at the Waikiki Spam Jam festival, which bills itself as one of Hawaii's top annual food festivals with more than 30 vendors.

"Visitors can sample creative Spam dishes from local restaurants (think classic Spam musubi or Spam burnt end skewers), shop local vendors, and enjoy a block party," says Alex Howard, travel writer and editor with Lonely Planet.

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Eat Drink SF — San Francisco, California

San Francisco Food Festival

While many food festivals happen during the summertime, Eat Drink SF is a notable autumn celebration. Since 2009, the festival has given Bay Area restaurants an opportunity to show off their skills, with more than 150 eateries feeding thousands of attendees at the annual 10-day event.

Per Visit California, the event includes chef collaborations, price-fixed menus for lunch and dinner from a variety of restaurateurs, cooking demonstrations, and lectures and talks throughout.

Queens Night Market — Queens, New York

Some food festivals require careful planning and a free spot on your schedule to be able to attend. But one popular fixture in the Big Apple provides a unique experience throughout an entire season.

"If you want to try food from all of the countries represented in Queens, New York, head to the Queens Night Market in Flushing Meadow Corona Park," says Becca Siegel, co-owner and travel writer at Half Half Travel blog. "Rather than taking place just one day or one weekend, this 'night market' takes place on Saturdays from 4 p.m. to midnight every summer."

It's also an incredibly diverse set of eating options. "There's food from vendors selling Brazilian, Filipino, Tibetan, Fujianese, Mexican, Antiguan, Indonesian, Ashkenazi Jewish, Salvadoran, and Bangladeshi treats," she says. "What's not to like?"

Maine Lobster Festival — Rockland, Maine

Maine is synonymous with fresh, delicious lobster, so it might not come as a surprise that the state is home to a five-day event celebrating the crustacean. For just shy of a week, the Maine Lobster Festival puts your cracking skills to the test as tens of thousands of visitors descend onto Rockland to enjoy buttery, lobstery goodness.

Of course, the festival includes eating lobster, but you can also look forward to cooking contests, entertainment, and local artisan booths. It also serves as a fundraiser, having donated half a million dollars to communities across Midcoast Maine since 1947.

Picklesburgh Festival — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Picklesburgh Festival in Pennsylvania

The Picklesburgh Festival was once voted the Best Specialty Food Festival in America. While the simple pickle might seem like an odd thing to celebrate, the festival is a locally beloved celebration and expanding to four days for its 2024 showing.

The food found here includes international dishes, prepared specialties, and even cocktails that include pickles as an ingredient. Those feeling particularly brave can even enter the annual pickle juice drinking contest.

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Gilroy Garlic Festival — Gilroy, California

Are you the type of person to quadruple up on the amount of garlic called for in a recipe? If so, there's an annual celebration you might want to mark off on your calendar.

"Known as the 'Garlic Capital of the World,' Gilroy hosts this pungent festival celebrating all things garlic, with dishes ranging from garlic ice cream to flaming garlic shrimp," says Arsen Misakyan, travel expert and founder of LAXcar.

This year, the festival will introduce a "Garlic Chef of the Year" contest and expand its range of garlic-infused vegan and vegetarian options. It also features live music, and those who are able to score tickets can enjoy a seated garlic-themed dinner among the famous Gilroy cherry orchards.

Cheese Curd Festival — Ellsworth, Wisconsin

If you're hoping to get a real taste of one of Wisconsin's most beloved foods, the Cheese Curd Festival is a great way to dive in. This free festival started in 2001 and incorporates cheese curds in all their best (and squeakiest) forms. Locals would probably argue that deep-fried curds are the big favorite here—they're considered a true Wisconsin delicacy worthy of a trip.

And the event is not just about all things dairy: Guests can also sample more than 30 different types of craft beer along with their curds, as well as hard ciders and local wines. There's also free live music and a cheese curd eating contest for the truly dedicated.

The Barbecue Festival — Lexington, North Carolina

Created in 1983, Lexington's Barbecue Festival has become one of the country's most notable celebrations focused on food fired on the grill and in the pit. Each October, thousands of visitors and thousands of pounds of barbecue come together in a delicious party atmosphere. Notably, the festival serves one kind of BBQ: Lexington Style.

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Wellfleet OysterFest — Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Whether you're looking to experience a new type of "meroir" or can't seem to stop shucking, the annual Wellfleet OysterFest has become a regional hit for a reason.

"Running since 2001, this two-day fest held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is a tribute to the beloved bivalve," says Howard. "In addition to live music, beer and wine, and local seafood, visitors can witness the oyster 'shuck-off' competition, in which competitors race against the clock to shuck as many oysters as they can and ultimately take home the Golden Oyster trophy."

Creole Tomato Festival — New Orleans, Louisiana

Two blood Marys with garnish
Copyright @visitneworleans / Instagram

Many food-obsessed travelers would tell you that there's no bad time of year to be eating in New Orleans. But among the many festivals that celebrate the city's unique culinary traditions, there's one that stands out to locals as a true gem.

"The Creole Tomato Festival is my personal favorite. It is smack dab in the middle of the French Quarter and at the beginning of our hot weather season, so it has a much more relaxed atmosphere than the spring and October festivals," says Christopher Falvey, co-founder of Unique NOLA Tours. "If you're looking to do a great NOLA festival with fewer people, this is the one."

Carne Asada Fest — Dallas, Texas

Dallas' Carne Asada Fest is more than just another food festival. It's also a celebration of the Latinx culture that can be found all over the city as well as in the rest of Texas and across the United States.

This festival is relatively new to the food fest scene; They held their first annual event in 2021. Even so, over two dozen vendors were on hand to serve up the savory as well as the sweet to visitors of the fest on its first run.

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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