Fall, with its harvest festivals, is the best time of the year to indulge in hometown delicacies. From harvest staples such as the New Mexico Hatch chile and Cape Cod oysters to locally-crafted beers and bourbons, there’s a culinary adventure awaiting your palate in just about every corner of the US. Here are nine food and drink festivals you don’t want to miss this fall.
1. Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta — Santa Fe, New Mexico
September 23rd to 30th, 2018
This annual event celebrates one of New Mexico’s most famous exports, the chile, by pairing it with wines from around the country. 90 wineries, including many of New Mexico’s finest, pour wines that are coupled with dishes created by more than 75 local restaurants. The main event, held outdoors on the grounds of the famed Santa Fe Opera, is attended by thousands. Smaller events, from intimate wine dinners to sommelier seminars, are held around town during the preceding week.
2. Hawaii Food & Wine Festival — Oahu/Hawaii/Maui, Hawaii
October 6th to 28th, 2018
Don’t let the remote setting fool you, this is one of the best wine and food festivals in the US. More than 10,000 people travel to the archipelago to experience the diverse bounty of Hawaiian cuisine. Spanning three islands, over 20 events showcase the talents of both local and internationally-known chefs, distillers, brewers, winemakers, and mixologists. There are events for everyone, from Keiki in the Kitchen and cooking classes for the whole family, to more racy happenings like the Naughty or Nice pool party. Our favorite event is Spiked! Taking place at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, 13 chefs are challenged to push their seasoning envelopes with spices and flavors from around the world.
3. Fall for Greenville — Greenville, South Carolina
October 12th to 14th, 2018
Fall for Greenville takes advantage of the season’s temperate days to serve up food and fun for families. Over 40 restaurants deliver more than 200 menu items, from old-school Southern favorites like shrimp and grits to highfalutin interpretations of classics such as chicken and waffles. The Carolina Ale House Beer Garden also features over 25 brews from local and national favorites. To top it off, there’s live music, crafts, culinary demonstrations, and a butter-sculpting competition.
4. Bowling Green Bourbon and Brewfest, — Bowling Green, Kentucky
October 13th, 2018
Only an hour away from Nashville, this small town celebrates a festival big on flavor and fun. The Bowling Green Bourbon and Brewfest features select craft brews from the region, hand-picked Kentucky bourbons, live entertainment, and much more. Food options include locally-made artisan popsicles and gourmet hot dogs from local food truck favorite, Whitdogs. For those serious about imbibing, the Four Roses VIP experience is the way to go. This allows early entry to the festival, catered food, VIP-only bourbon tastings, and VIP-only beers. Festival-goers also get up to a $25 credit toward an Uber ride home.
5. Wellfleet OysterFest — Wellfleet, Massachusetts
October 13th and 14th, 2018
Craft brews, music, and family-friendly activities are what you’d expect from a festival in this tight-knit Cape Cod town. But the local flavor truly comes out with the star of this show — oysters. Throughout the weekend, fresh catches are hauled to fuel the fest, and definitely expect raw oysters bars and rich New England chowders. There’s also shellfish farm tours, educational programs, and the annual Oyster Shuck-Off competition. After the festival, the town recycles its oyster shells, dumping them back into the ocean as building blocks for reef restoration.
6. Arkansas Cornbread Festival — Little Rock, Arkansas
October 27th, 2018
Held in the revitalized SoMa area of downtown Little Rock, this little festival focuses on celebrating community and one of the things that brings it together — food. And cornbread, a Southern staple, is apparently the glue in this community. The Cornbread Festival offers up the usuals: music, local brews, and locally-made crafts, but it also allows cornbread connoisseurs a chance to cash in; there are competitions for home cooks, as well as professionals, that offer $1,000 for first prize. Time to get grandma’s recipe out.
7. The Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff — Terlingua, Texas
October 31st to November 3rd, 2018
The tiny town of Terlingua, population 58-ish, is known as mostly being a ghost town. But, once a year, the town booms again with prospectors in search of Texas’ finest chili. The “original” chili cook-off is held in Terlingua while its competitor, the CASI Championship, is held just outside of town at Rancho CASI de los Chisos. Thousands of spectators descend upon the town for these events, going all out — and costumes are encouraged.
8. 2018 Guild Fest — San Diego, California
November 3rd, 2018
As one of California’s reigning capitals for craft brewing, Guild Fest brings together over 60 local breweries on the wharves of San Diego’s Embarcadero South. Guests receive a commemorative tasting cup, unlimited beer samples, and food from local “beer-friendly” restaurants and food trucks. There’s a pre-party VIP harbor cruise where festival-goers can rub elbows with the brewmasters they’ve come to celebrate. You might want to plan to stay in San Diego awhile; Guild Fest kicks off San Diego Beer Week, which is bookended by the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival from November 12th to 18th.
9. Northwest Food & Wine Festival — Portland, Oregon
November 10th, 2018
This celebration includes hundreds of wines from top producers in Oregon and Washington, paired with local delicacies from land and sea. Add to that craft beers, spirits, and kombucha; celebrity chefs; and crowds of those who “Keep Portland Weird.” The event itself is only three hours, so make sure you have the time and opportunity to work your way through it all. We recommend springing for tickets to the limited-attendance VIP Grand Tasting.