America's Best Cities for Food Festivals

Article by: Brandon Presser|@bpnomad

Fri February 28, 2014 | 00:00 AM

America’s 50 states may be united, but the nation’s food scene is a testament to its “melting pot” mentality. From Philly cheese steaks and Chicago deep-dish pizza to Tex-Mex, Cajun and Asian fusion along the Pacific Rim, the United States is indeed a kaleidoscope of cuisine. Each city is a veritable potluck with newly minted citizens bringing dishes from their homeland for hundreds of years. Some of these towns have become bastions of their native flavors, others embody the smorgasbord spirit—either way their signature dishes are best experienced through the myriad food festivals throughout the year. The following cities offer the best opportunities to celebrate the country’s most beloved pastime: eating.

San Francisco & The Bay Area, California

Photo credit: John via Flickr Creative Commons

The west coast’s culinary starlet, San Francisco and its bayside brethren roll out a parade of food fests throughout the year that champion the local nature-to-table tradition and the innovative attitude that made it famous. In the city itself, you can join the food cart revolution at SF Street Food Fest, while across the bay Oakland’s Eat Real shines with a fun state fair vibe. Down the coast, Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival classes things up for a good cause, while Napa Valley offers a yearlong roster of vineyard visits and culinary events.

Portland, Oregon

Photo credit: Dina Avila, Feast Portland

The trendiest food city by far, Portland is but a fraction of a heavy hitter San Francisco, but its already earning a name for itself across the country with forager-friendly The Bite of Oregon, foodie-favorite Feast Portland, and Eat Mobile, which brings together Portland’s roaring, 400-plus food truck scene for the annual “Carty” awards.

Miami & The Keys, Florida

Photo credit: Joe Schildhorn/Billy Farrell Agency, SOBEWFF

The gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, Miami fully embraces its inner mamacita with fiery fusion fare at the world-famous Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival, which attracts dozens of big names in food. Warm up during winter at the Key West Food and Wine Festival held every January with a focus on fresh seafood.

New Orleans, Louisiana


Photo credit: Christian Sosa via Flickr Creaive Commons, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

No one does food like the Big Easy, in fact its food festivals are well worth attending if you’re looking a reason beyond Mardi Gras to head down. The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is the big ticket event, held in May, and the NOLA Food Fest keeps things real in March with classic, Cajun and Creole inspired eats.

Chicago, Illinois

Photo credit: Adam Alexander Photography, Taste of Chicago

The home of deep-dish pizza, classic hotdogs and Italian beef, Chi-town may not be flush with food fests, but its annual eating event crushes the rest. Taste of Chicago is the world’s largest, with dozens of restaurants and pop-ups serving around four million attendees.

New York City, New York

Photo credit: Joe Schildhorn/Billy Farrell Agency, NYCWFF

No city beats New York when it comes to eclectic eats, and its biggest food event, the New York City Wine and Food Festival, feels like the Oscars of eating. Dozens of celebs roll out the red carpet to “eat, drink and end hunger,” as the show’s motto goes. But let’s not forget that the Big Apple also hosts a variety of quirkier festivals, like the NYC Hot Sauce Expo.

Nashville, Tennessee


Photo credit: Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

Now a headliner foodie destination in its own right, Nashvegas has a clutch of eating events that showcase the city’s surprisingly diverse bites (with a country twist, of course). Music City Eats made its debut to the discerning gourmand in 2013 and promises even more pomp and circumstance in 2014. The Southern Ground Music and Food Festival keeps things down to earth by fusing the two things Nashville does best.

Travel expert Brandon Presser is an award-winning writer, photographer and TV personality. He's penned over 40 guidebooks—most for Lonely Planet—and has appeared on a variety of programs for ABC, CBS and the Weather Channel. For more, check out