The Five Best Summer Food Festivals
From a lobsterfest to punk rock hot dogs, these are the most promising food festivals in the most beautiful locations
Summer is upon us and it’s time for travel. These five food festivals are not only unusual and entertaining, but they’re also all located in cities worth visiting for a long weekend or more.
Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival. August 5-6 in Cary, North Carolina
Celebrate the holy trinity of eating and drinking — beer, bourbon, and barbecue at this two-day festival that features 60 different beers, 40 different bourbons, and plenty of pork to enjoy. The festival also features a tasting theater where you can taste rare expressions of bourbon, a cochon carnival with plenty of pig-themed games of skill, and live music.
Why you should go: Cary is just a stone’s throw from Raleigh. The town is lined with historical homes and is the home of the National Baseball Training Center. Visit Le Farm Bakery for fresh pastries to start the day, or go to the old-school soda fountain at Ashworth Drugs for a taste of nostalgia.
Key West Lobsterfest. August 11-14 in Key West, Florida
In the Florida Keys, the start of lobster season is cause for celebration. Each year, thousands of people stroll Key West’s Duval Street, chowing down on the beloved crustacean, served by the city’s best restaurants. It’s not unusual to see people dressed as lobsters or even walking live lobsters. The festivities start on August 11 with a lobster boil at the Key West Seaport. On August 12 there’s a lobster-themed pool party and a Pub Crawl along the bars of Duval Street, both hosted by the Marker Key West Harbor Resort. On August 13, Duval Street’s restaurants roll out the red carpet with lobster specials. Finally, end the weekend with a lobster brunch.
Why you should go: The drive to Key West from Miami along US1 is considered one of the most scenic drives in the United States. Stop along the way at Islamorada Beer Co. for a cold one or get a freshly caught fish sandwich at Keys Fisheries before watching the sunset in Key West. Don’t forget to visit Captain Tony’s— the dive bar that’s the original Sloppy Joe’s where Hemingway really hung out.
Punk Rock Hot Dogs. July 30 in Asheville, North Carolina
This annual festival and competition sees ten different Asheville restaurants vying for the title of Best Punk Hot Dog, judged by a group of local foodies. This year’s theme is Goth. That’s right — a festival that’s all about Goth Punk hot dogs. The festival raises funds for the preservation of the Asheville Masonic Temple, which was built in 1915.
Why you should go: With warm days and cooler evenings, Asheville is an ideal summer getaway. The city is teeming with James Beard-winning restaurants and breweries, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are literally a stone’s throw away if you want to commune with nature. Plus — goth punk hot dogs?
Tales of the Cocktail. July 25-29 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Part industry convention, part party, Tales of the Cocktail is the week when the world’s best bartenders converge on NOLA to show off their skills, share knowledge, try new spirits, and get hammered. First and foremost — apologize to your liver beforehand. Then, get ready for nonstop tasting rooms, parties, and seminars that all lead to the annual Spirited Awards, a black-tie ceremony that celebrates excellence in the industry. Expect the unexpected — free tattoos, bead throwing, impromptu parades, and pop-up bars and experiences.
Why you should go: New Orleans in the summer is hotter (and thus, quieter) than during Mardi Gras time. That means a chance to eat at the city’s best restaurants, drink absinthe, and stroll the cobblestone streets at a slower pace.
Taste of Chicago. Aug 8-10 in Chicago, Illinois
Taste of Chicago is the Windy City’s largest festival — a sprawling event that offers food, drink, and music. Chicago’s Grant Park is the epicenter of the three-day festival and offers live concerts (this year’s headliner is Nelly).
Why you should go: Chicago is the ultimate city for food lovers and at Taste of Chicago, all of its iconic dishes from deep-dish pizza to Chicago dogs are at your fingertips. When you’re not feasting, go visit Sue, the best-preserved T.Rex in the world. She’s over at the Field Museum.