10 Delicious Food Festivals Around the U.S. This Month
Strategy: Stay warm by consuming tons of calories.
Food festivals are all about community, touching things, and putting things in unmasked mouths. So it’s understandable that last year, many beloved food (and wine, and beer) fests across the US had to take a hiatus. This year, many of those events are back with revamped programming and safety protocols in place; some festivals have even gone hybrid, expanding their audience to include anyone around the world. That’s just good business.
Here are 10 of the best food festivals happening this November, where you can stuff your face with everything from cracklins to seeds, sausages on sticks to shrimp also on sticks. Because when it gets chilly, we eat.
October 28-November 14
Forget what you’ve heard, state fair season is definitely not over. At least not in the warmer states, anyway. And what are state fairs if not vehicles for grub? You’ve got your fried cheese, your caramel apples, your funnel cakes, and all manner of things on sticks—and this is Louisiana, so that includes cajun shrimp. But wait, there’s more: Hollywood racing pigs (we take that to mean that they’re famous), magic shows, horse shows, high dive shows, a camel show, and dog show, and a “pork chop revue” (kind of like a variety show, but with pigs wearing sunglasses and doing tricks). There’s a rodeo and to top it all off, a performance by Arrested Development.
Port Isabel, Texas
In Port Isabel, just a bridge away from the warm gulf waters of South Padre Island, amateur and professional cheftestants face-off with their specialty seafood dishes, part of a day-long festival which includes art exhibits and live performances. The food is judged on taste, aroma, and appearance, but for $5 entry you can also sample and judge based on how it makes your tummy feel. And maybe while you’re there, tell a few jokes. Here’s one: Why wouldn’t the shrimp share its french fries? Because... it’s shellfish.
This one’s for the plant-based in the crowd. We see you, and we want you to get tipsy. This Miami festival will have plenty of vegan beverages on offer (because fun fact, not all booze is strictly made from plants). Then try fare from an alternative burger battle, five-course veggie dinners, free yoga, meditations, workshops and panels, and a tasting village extravaganza, with cruelty-free shopping, cooking demonstrations, and a smorgasbord of things to tickle your tongue. All without any animal protein.
This year, you don’t need to be in Hawaii to learn all about their incredible coffee, birthed out of rich volcanic soil. For its 50th anniversary, the award-winning Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (Hawaii’s oldest food festival) has gone hybrid, expanding its reach around the world. If you happen to be in the area, you can still attend in-person events like farm tours and picking experiences, art demonstrations, performances, and of course, plenty of delicious coffee tastings. Virtual events include much of the same, many on demand. Maybe just brew some Kona coffee beforehand to make it an immersive sensory experience.
New Braunfels, Texas
Wurstfest? More like Bestfest (sorry). This literal sausage fest began in 1961 when Ed Grist, a veterinarian and the city meat inspector, created a humble one-day festival to honor the banger. Now in its 60th year, the ten-day extravaganza celebrates the area’s German heritage; in years past, Grammy winners have performed and Good Morning America has visited. Located on the banks of the Comal River, you’ll find family sausage recipes dating to the 1800s, live music, encased meat, schnitzel, sauerkraut, and strudel. It all kicks off with a tapping of a keg to share with the crowd and the annual “biting of the sausage,” a nod to local purveyors that is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
San Diego, California
You know what would go well with all the sausage of Wurstfest? Beer. For ten days, San Diego Beer Week celebrates local craft brewers, with hybrid programming so everyone can get in on the action. It kicks off with a virtual tasting on the 5th—choose between two beer packages to sip on at home (order by November 3rd for timely delivery). And for locals and in-towners, just pick a brewery, any brewery. Many will host events and special deals, which you can find on the calendar. Get your beer slushies, new releases, beer and cheese pairings, free donuts and more. You’ll find us on November 5th puckering up at the Russian River sour tap takeover at Carlsbad Brewing.
Alabama just goes nuts for nuts, it seems. Over in Mobile, you can hit up the Alabama Pecan Festival (Nov. 5-6) to eat pie and see the annual crowning of the Pecan Queen. But if peanuts are more your speed, it’s about a three hour journey to the National Peanut Festival, which will have a week’s worth of tenuously legume-themed activities. Come for the nutty fare and carnival foods, stay for the chainsaw art, sea lion splash, racing pigs, circus entertainers, and live concerts. Dothan, too, hosts a Peanut Queen parade, and a raucous demolition derby. Theme: “Nuttin’ But Fun in 2021.”
We pointed this one out in our story on the wackiest fall festivals, but it bears repeating: they really, really like bacon in Easton, Pennsylvania. So much so that they’re throwing this festival with everything from candied bacon on a stick to bacon jam to chocolate-dipped bacon-covered strawberries to regular old pork belly. You’ll find your bacon ice-cream, bacon s’mores, corn on the cob with bacon, bacon-infused bourbon… okay you get the idea. When you’re done eating, enter a hog calling contest, strut your bacon-themed costume for a prize, and catch musical acts on four stages. Or watch other people overdo it at the bacon eating contest, measuring how fast they can eat a pound of the stuff. The winner gets a Big Pig trophy.
Is there a more frustrating yet rewarding fruit than the pomegranate? We think not. And that’s why they get a festival (OK, one they share with fruits and nuts). We’re right in the middle of pomegranate season (September through December) and over in Madera there will be chef-led cooking demos, tastings, and—arguably most important—educational seminars on how to juice them and harvest the pesky arils. And when you’re hopped up on pomegranate juice check out the rest of the fairgrounds: folded into the festival is a Comic-Con, a Muay Thai competition, and a fire truck pull, benefiting Northern California Special Olympics.
Port Barre, Louisiana
It’s graton galore at this festival, a fundraiser for the Port Barre Lions Club, but really it benefits all who love fried pork skins. And they get into it: Not only is there a Cracklin Cookoff, but a Cracklin Festival Queen will be crowned, with a court. There’s a parade, carnival rides, music, and food to let you know you’re in South Louisiana, in case the zydeco wasn’t hint enough. Besides your cracklins (of course) you’ve got your regular boudin, boudin balls and egg rolls, sweet dough pies, crawfish bisque and fettucini, jambalaya, shrimp po-boys, meats on sticks, and cowboy stew: simple and hearty, with enough meat to fill up a herd of cowboys. And cowgirls.