New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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New Orleans has no shortage of culinary celebrations — starring pigs, oysters, po-boys and more — but our favorite is Jazz Fest. Many attend the spring gathering for its impressive slate of local and national musicians, but hardcore fans know the real draw is the 70-plus food vendors honoring the region's Creole, Asian, African and Southern traditions.

One annual standout is the Cochon de Lait Po-Boy, a butter-soft shredded pork sandwich that can inspire fainting spells with a mere reference. (A huge cup of mandarin sweet tea is a great resuscitator.) There's also jambalaya, crawfish beignets, gumbo, frozen café au lait … you get the idea. Attendees looking to re-create some Southern flavors can also enjoy daily demos and tastings hosted by local chefs.

Stay at La Belle Esplanade

Funky local art and an eclectic breakfast highlight this colorful B&B, located about a mile from the Fairgrounds on the tree- and mansion-lined Esplanade Avenue.

 

 


 

 

Music City Food + Wine Festival
 

Music City Food + Wine Festival

Nashville, Tennessee

 

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Music City Food + Wine Festival is a relative newcomer to the food fest scene, this outdoor weekend soiree provides yet another excuse to visit Nashville. Located downtown in historic Bicentennial Park, it's a three-day September feast broken down into mini-events, including a whole-animal BBQ, a gospel brunch and a harvest night concert featuring an army of small plates catered by the vanguard of local chefs.

During festival hours, patrons can enjoy unlimited bites at the Chef's Showcase and pours from 80-plus beer, wine and spirits outfits. Culinary education is also part of the package, so there are seminars and panel chats aplenty, led by TV food celebs and local tastemakers who are encouraged to mingle with attendees.

Stay at Germantown Inn

Walk or drive to the festival, Ryman Auditorium or the Country Music Hall of Fame from this historic home with six modern, boutique-style rooms named after U.S. presidents.

 

 


 

 

State Fair of Texas

Dallas, Texas

 

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America's biggest state fair is an ode to delicious artery-clogging excess, with well over a million adventurous souls crunching through deep-fried Jell-O, jambalaya, bubblegum and butter during the 24-day fall event. 

The grease-induced coma that befalls even the hardiest attendee is balanced by plenty of live music, an auto show and a storied livestock exhibition, should you wish to explore the origin of your fried pulled pork balls. Chili, Dutch oven and BBQ cook-offs round out the menu, which is to say, don’t forget your Tums.

Stay at Corinthian B&B

Built in 1905, this Victorian charmer features wood flooring and antique flourishes throughout. It's an under-two-mile stroll to Fair Park.

 

 


 

 

Maine Lobster Festival

Rockland, Maine

 

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With the arrival of King Neptune and the previous year's Maine Sea Goddess pageant winner — "from the briny deep," write the organizers — so begins the epic five-day summer seafood event.

Launched in 1947 by locals to rejuvenate the coast's summer scene, today's nationally recognized fest is still driven by a spirited set of area volunteers. Crustacean-loving attendees can feast on massive lobster platters, lobster rolls, lobster Caesar salad and a variety of fried, boiled, smoked and steamed Maine seafood. Wash down all that succulent, butter-infused shellfish during Steins & Vines, a series of tasting events highlighting local beer and wine.

Pinch me, there's more. Entertainment includes carnival rides; a parade of floats, lobster boats and dancing shellfish; live music; and audience-participation events like a speed knitting contest and a little lobster diaper derby.

Stay at Berry Manor Inn

This lovely Victorian mansion has rooms with working fireplaces and is within daytrip distance of Acadia. Oh, and there's a 24-hour guest pantry provisioned with homemade pies.

 

 


 

 

Buffalo Wing Festival

Buffalo, New York

 

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The Labor Day weekend stalwart honors Buffalo's legendary namesake chicken dish with 100-plus variations, multiple indescribably messy eating contests and even a 5K, should patrons feel the need to burn off the equivalent of a wing or two. Inspired by "Osmosis Jones," a Bill Murray film about a junk food addict who dreams of attending a (then) fictitious wing fest in Buffalo, the event now hosts tens of thousands of feasters identifiable by the deep orange stains around the corners of their mouths. It's not all about eating — a Miss Buffalo Wing pageant, trivia contests and live music also anchor the two-day event.

Stay at Oscar's Bed & Breakfast

Oscar's is an accommodating Downtown Buffalo option that's a quick two-mile cab ride to the festival and a fine launching point for Niagara Falls.

 

 


 

 

Food & Wine Classic

Aspen, Colorado

 

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The iconic three-day June event is billed as the beluga caviar, the Dom Perignon, the European white truffle — it's classy — of culinary gatherings. It's also one of the most scenic, set 7,900 feet above sea level in an idyllic, summertime-green Rocky Mountain ski town. Those lucky enough to score a ticket will enjoy seminars hosted by culinary elites, swanky parties at boutique hotels and mansions and so much good wine you'll start to confuse your veins for vines. The ticket prices — $1,500-plus for a three-day pass — are as lofty as the festival's ambition to define the future of food, but it's a culinary pilgrimage all serious epicureans must make at least once.

Stay at Snow Queen Victorian Bed & Breakfast

Built during Aspen's Wild West silver boom, the welcoming Snow Queen is only a stumble and stagger from the wine-soaked festival events. (Book especially far in advance here.)

 

 


 

 

Taste of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

 

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Over a million eaters gather for the colossal five-day July event in Chicago's Grant Park, a lakeside urban oasis that's worth a visit even without the lure of fresh-baked deep dish. Unsurprisingly, Taste visitors can drool over the city's infamous takes on hot dogs and pizza, but the vibrant Asian, Latin and Italian food scenes also dish out the stuff of food porn. More than 60 vendors hawk their Pad Thai, breaded steak sandwiches and upside-down caramel cupcakes. A nice touch: Tasting portions are usually available for just a few clams. Cooking demos and reasonably priced "Celebrity Chef du Jour" meals are also on tap, and a holy booze trinity — beer hall, wine garden and cocktail lounge — keeps the crowd buzzing. And just when you can't eat another thing, there's a full bill of bands and activities to feast on.

Stay at The Publishing House Bed and Breakfast

Rebuilt in 2017, this 110-year-old beauty has 11 uniquely designed rooms featuring touches like clawfoot tubs, big sun-loving windows and a ram's head. It's about two miles from Grand Park.

 

 

 

—by Daniel Askin