Fall is peak foodie season—and packed with great culinary events, from coast to coast. If you’re hungry for a culinary adventure this autumn, try these standout food festivals. They’re as fun as they are delicious.
The South Beach Seafood Festival is much like the Miami neighborhood that gives it its name: chic, glossy and very VIP.
This weeklong event includes ticketed dinners where cutting-edge chefs do their stuff in exclusive locations.
Star chefs doing innovative things with expensive ingredients is a big part of the event. But there are still plenty of affordable, family-friendly activities to enjoy.
Pop-up cafes will serve great inexpensive food in the balmy air. DJs will spin music. And the Milam’s Markets Culinary Showcase Kitchen will feature live cooking demos, so attendees can sharpen their kitchen skills.
People in Arkansas take their cornbread seriously.
That’s all to the culinary benefit of visitors to this late-October event in Little Rock’s fashionable SoMa district.
But great cornbread isn’t all there is here. There’s also live music and artisan booths, heaps of Southern cooking besides cornpone and lots of debate about those eternal cornbread questions: White flower or yellow? Sugar or no sugar? Baking pan or cast-iron skillet?
The festival peaks with a cornbread baking competition that Southern foodies take very seriously. Festival attendees get to vote for the winner, so get ready to sample lots of the big-flavored golden stuff that gives this event its reason for being.
Just shy of Wisconsin’s northern border, the small town of Eagle River celebrates one of autumn’s quintessential foods. More than 40,000 visitors buy 10,000-plus pounds of fresh and dried cranberries there each October. Impressive for a town with a population of 1,500.
The event is both culinary and educational. Sure, visitors will get their fill of cranberry pancakes, cranberry sausages, hot cranapple cider and shredded cranberry pork sandwiches. But they can also tour the local cranberry marsh to learn about the role that this tiny red fruit has played in Eagle River’s economy and culture over the centuries.
And to round out a long weekend of fun, there’s an art show, an antiques market and live entertainment.
A big festival in a small town is great. But a small festival in a big city can be just as delicious.
Each October, New York City’s Lower East Side celebrates its immigrant history with Pickle Day. In a nod to the neighborhood’s long-ago pushcart market, vendors line three city blocks with pickled everything, courtesy of local restaurants and other picklers.
There’s also live music, face painting, carnival games and a giant talking pickle.
If you don’t actually make it to lower Manhattan to give pickled watermelon, kimchi or good ol’ pickle-on-a-stick a whirl, you can still get in on the fun. The festival sells whimsical Pickle Day merchandise online. It’s perfect for pickle enthusiasts everywhere.
Don’t worry. There’s no actual roadkill at this festival. But if it was called the “West Virginia Wild Game Cook-off,” it just wouldn’t be as fun.
And fun is at the heart of this quirky event in the tiny town of Marlinton, West Virginia. At the end of each September, inventive chefs assemble here from all over the country.
They join locals in taking a gourmet approach to ingredients ranging from the humble—like squirrel, deer and rabbit—to the exotic—think iguana, snapping turtle and wild boar.
In addition to the chance to try once-in-a-lifetime dishes like squirrel gravy over biscuits and teriyaki-marinated bear, visitors get to enjoy a bit of true Americana. Come for the rabbit Alfredo, stay for the square dancing and Miss Roadkill contest.
Ready to taste your way through fall? With these mouthwatering food festivals on your calendar, this could be your most appetizing autumn yet.
A former downtown development professional, Natalie Burg is a freelancer who writes about growth, entrepreneurialism and innovation.
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