Finding a just-right food pairing for a favorite wine, beloved beer or go-to cocktail isn’t simply a pleasant happening. When the combo works, the experience can be otherworldly, heightening flavors and aromas both on the plate and in the glass.
Clearly, creating opportunities for next-level pairings is something some food and drink festival organizers are thinking about. Mark your calendars, because these fun food festivals put eats and drinks front and center. From a multi-city celebration of Mexico’s pozole and mezcal, to a fete focused on the joys of pairing Pacific Northwest seafood with Oregon wine, many bring food and drink lovers together in quirky and unexpected ways. We imagine that the chances of finding heavenly pairings are high.
Of note, most fests are about more than just the drinks and food: they’re also about the local community, heritage and traditions. Wherever your travel plans take you in the months ahead, there’s likely a food festival being held nearby. Here are some can’t-miss celebrations.
Food Festivals to Add to Your Calendar
Camp Verde Pecan and Wine Festival
Camp Verde, Arizona
About an hour outside of Phoenix in a dark-sky destination on the banks of the Verde River, this annual celebration of Camp Verde’s pecan growers and wineries includes nut and wine tastings, local artisan vendors, food trucks and live music. Tickets are $20 and include a commemorative wine glass and six wine tastings with some of the 15 local wineries present. Of course, there’s all the scheduled fun: Don’t miss the pecan pie contest.
When: March 18-19, 2023
Nulu Bock and Wurst Fest
The sixth annual festival celebrates two Germanic specialties: Bock, a malty beer style similar to lager, and wurst, a cased sausage. Yes, you can sample plenty of bock from local breweries (and bourbon, too—this is Louisville, after all) and wurst dishes from local restaurants. But the scene-stealer here will be… a series of baby goat races. That’s right: Louisville’s Nulu neighborhood includes two goat-named streets (Nanny Goat Strut and Billy Goat Strut), lending an offbeat theme to the fest. Attendance is free and goat costumes are encouraged!
When: March 25, 2023
Mudbugs & Margaritas
This festival sounds like an over-the-top fever dream: Tasty crawfish dishes (the “mudbugs”), Johnny Cash and Tom Petty tribute bands, a farm animal beauty contest and multiple vendors offering margaritas, as well as craft beer from Fairhope Brewing Company. Plus, a huge entertainment area and petting zoo for kids. Tickets are $5 and kids under 12 are free.
When: April 1, 2023
Connecticut Hard Cider & Doughnut Fest
This small event started in the fall of 2020 to support area bars and restaurants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the event will feature four bars and restaurants serving up special deals on hard cider, beer and hard seltzer and thousands of free donuts. Tickets are $21.99 and include access to drink specials and a choice of two free doughnuts. A “doughnut menu” listed on the ticketing site shows the options including pumpkin pie and sweet apple cider (save us a maple glazed doughnut, please!).
When: April 8, 2023
Bowl of ‘Zole Festival
This event began when chef Danny Mena, author of Made in Mexico, did a pozole pop-up in Brooklyn; now, it’s a triplex of tastings in three different cities. In Denver, Boston and Brooklyn, look for local chefs showcasing their versions of pozole, the comforting Mexican stew, along with copious tastings of mezcal and other agave spirits. Tickets start at $55.
- Denver, Colorado; March 30, 2023
- Boston, Massachusetts; April 12, 2023
- Brooklyn, New York; October 19, 2023
Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival
Astoria Warrenton, Oregon
Since 1982, this annual fest has provided a great excuse to explore the twin bounties of Oregon wine and seafood. (Local craft breweries will be pouring, too.) The event brings together 150 vendors, dozens of community organizations and small businesses. Just looking at the menu highlights from seasons past has us salivating: crab cakes, seafood ramen, fried oysters, shrimp melts and crab mac and cheese. A craft fair and live music on two stages is part of the draw, too. Tickets start at $10.
When: April 28-30, 2023
BBQ & Barrels
Known since 1979 as the International Bar-B-Q Festival, this year the Kentucky festival rebranded to include an emphasis on bourbon—of note, Green River Distilling calls Owensboro home. Expect 15 distilleries offering bourbon pours and BBQ food trucks and vendors alongside a mainstay of the festival: church cooking teams. The event is free to the public and includes a backyard barbecue cookoff, and ticketed bourbon tastings with classes and food pairings. Carnival rides, live music and a “BBQ 5K” also will be part of the family-friendly activities.
When: May 12-13, 2023
Santa Fe Chile & Wine Fiesta
Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you’ve ever visited Santa Fe, you’ve likely noticed clusters of glossy chile peppers hung outside storefronts to dry. The chiles are a state specialty. This event is an opportunity to not only enjoy tasty chile-infused bites, but explore New Mexico’s vibrant wine scene. Attend wine seminars and events ranging from chef demos and sit-down brunches, to “Chile Friday,” a grand walk-around event featuring bites from Santa Fe restaurants and fresh-roasted chiles from local farmers. Tickets for this year’s event go on sale July 5 and prices vary based on events.
When: September 27-October 1, 2023
Hangout Oyster Cook-Off Craft Spirits & Beer Weekend
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf coast oysters are the star bivalve at this festival, which is presented by oyster supplier Murder Point Oyster Company. While 2023 details have yet to be confirmed, based on past events, look for an oyster-shucking contest and tastings from oyster farmers and chefs—including plenty of food celebrity appearances. Don’t forget all of the craft beers, craft spirits (a recent addition to the fest) and live music. Tickets start at $75.
When: November, 2023