Over the last two decades, interest in plant-based diets has been on the rise. Take a peek at the menus of the hottest new restaurants or assess your social circle, and it’s clear — there’s been a significant increase in the number of people who identify as vegan or vegetarian.
As plant-based diets become more popular, the community seeks more ways to connect, discover new things, and further educate the world about going meat-free. Since the earliest vegetarian festivals in the ‘80s and ‘90s, more continue to pop up in cities worldwide. With tons of talks, performances, activities, and vendor stalls, these festivals are fun for people on any diet.
Here are nine annual vegan festivals that are worth checking out if you’re interested in plant-based lifestyles.
1. Vegan Camp Out — Nottinghamshire, England
For an overnight camping experience with veganism at its center, look no further than Vegan Camp Out. It’s the world’s largest vegan camping festival and was voted the UK’s best vegan festival. Every summer, thousands of eager campers flock from over 40 countries to the campsite in Nottinghamshire for a weekend of inspiring talks, music, and more.
Vegan Camp Out’s roster of speakers has featured nutritionists, chefs, athletes, and comedians like Russell Brand. There are also musical performances, discussions and workshops led by some of the UK’s top activists, and yoga and fitness classes. Dozens of vegan food items are available, as well as gluten-free and raw options. And the fun doesn’t stop once the sun goes down. From 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM each night, a DJ takes the stage for an afterparty before it’s time to go to bed and start again the next day.
If you think a camp out with an afterparty means it’s not a family-friendly event, think again. Vegan Camp Out offers family tickets that get your group its own camping plot away from the action of the afterparty and loud stages. This designated family area is off-limits to non-families. In addition to separate toilets and showers, this area comes equipped with tons of fun activities for kids.
2. Vegan Gourmet Festival — Nagoya, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan
Veganism is far from mainstream in Japan, making the Vegan Gourmet Festival’s success even more impressive. The festival attracts over 24,000 attendees every year, split among three cities and five separate events. Founded in 2011 in Nagoya, it has since spread to Kyoto and Tokyo. It’s now held five times a year — once in Kyoto, and twice each in Nagoya and Tokyo.
The festival offers yoga classes and sells vegan products, but as you might have guessed from the word “gourmet,” the main attraction is the food. Strolling through the booths, you’ll find vegan versions of Japanese favorites like sushi, ramen, takoyaki, and gyoza. There are also plenty of vendors selling international foods like burgers, burritos, and falafel. And don’t forget dessert! Sweet treats like donuts, mochi, and soft serve ice cream are everywhere. But to guarantee a taste of the most popular items, make sure to get there early; things tend to sell out quickly at this festival.
Health and transparency are important to the festival’s organizers. The menu is entirely vegan so you can order freely, a welcome change for vegans in a country with a meat-focused cuisine. And to make sure you know that what you’re putting in your body is safe and natural, all food stalls have their ingredients prominently listed (in Japanese).
3. Vegan Street Fair — Los Angeles, California
Vegan Street Fair is a two-day event held in March each year. It’s one of the largest vegan events in the United States, pulling in over 60,000 attendees in 2019 with over 200 vendors. If you’re thinking there’s no possible way you could fit so much food in your stomach, don’t worry. Besides full-sized portions, most menus include $4 small bites so you can enjoy snacks from different stalls throughout the day. Fast passes are available to skip some lines, which is totally worth it if you want to spend less time waiting and more time eating. If you opt not to buy a fast pass, try to arrive early; this event is so popular that items always sell out toward the end of the day.
While food is the highlight of this festival, that’s not all you’ll find. During the event, live DJs play crowd-pleasing hits. With a beer garden for the adults and free water stations to keep everyone hydrated, no one will go thirsty. Vendors sell apparel and handcrafted vegan items, and there’s plenty of entertainment for all ages, including balloon artists, face painters, stilt walkers, and hoopers. Also set up at the festival are various lawn games, rock climbing, and inflatable obstacle courses.
And if you’re a night owl, you’ll enjoy Vegan Street Fair Nights. This event is held on Labor Day weekend. It’s just as large and has all the same entertainment and activities as the day version, only after dark.
4. VegfestUK — Multiple cities in the UK
VegfestUK is a veteran of the vegan festival community in Europe, launching in 2003. Founder Tim Barford wanted to combine his passion for veganism with a lively festival atmosphere, which was a new concept back then. “The future is vegan,” Barford says. “It’s the only future that makes any sense.” He may be onto something. Since the festival’s inception, there have been about 40 VegfestUK-hosted events around the UK, and that number is growing. Official locations have included London, Brighton, Bristol, and Scotland. Additionally, VegfestUK has inspired and supported many grassroots events in other places across the nation.
The festival brings together vegans and non-vegans for two days of food, shopping, expert talks, music and comedy performances, films, art, cooking demos, fitness classes, and kids activities. It features a staggering 300+ vegan-friendly stalls selling mouth-watering food and drink, clothing, and cosmetics. With so many options, it would be impossible not to find something you love. Some of the many varied foods you can try include British bubble and squeak, Spanish paella, Indian curries, and French crepes.
VegfestUK also hosts the VegfestUK Awards every year, recognizing the best vegan products and businesses in the UK across 20 categories. The winners are determined through public votes. Examples of categories include Best Vegan Clothing, Favorite Animal Sanctuary, and Best Vegan Magazine.
5. World Vegan Day — Melbourne, Australia
To honor the official World Vegan Day on November 1, Melbourne’s World Vegan Day festival is held sometime in November each year. It’s a free event that’s split up into several zones, making it easy to navigate the many things to do.
Along with over 100 exhibitors and food stands, there’s a stage for notable speakers and cooking demos, diverse live music and performances, and a fashion show which spotlights creative vegan designs from Australia and beyond. To show their respect to Australia’s indigenous people, the World Vegan Day organizers created the Indigenous Zone. This space showcases the Australian bush-food and describes how natural indigenous eating habits can inform a vegan lifestyle. For artsy folks, there’s an exhibition where you can view and purchase vegan art — art created using no animal products. In the VegVic Zone, you can discuss veganism with a group of experts from Vegetarian Victoria, a nonprofit working to promote the benefits of a plant-based diet. There’s also a Fitness Zone with fitness coaches, Paleo and Keto Zone for learning how to integrate these diets with veganism, and Kid’s Zone full of activities for the little ones.
6. Vegfest Brazil — São Paulo, Brazil
Vegfest Brazil takes place over four days in the fall. It’s run by the Brazilian Vegetarian Society, a nonprofit founded in 2003 to promote veganism and make it easier for people to access vegan products. By providing free entry to the festival, it has lived up to its mission. Recent years have seen more than 5,000 attendees enjoying the talks, entertainment, and food at the festival.
You’ll find over 100 speakers of Brazilian and international backgrounds on the schedule, from chefs to doctors to lawyers. These experts share their wisdom through presentations, cooking demonstrations, workshops, and more. There are also over 80 exhibitors to check out, featuring a range of vegan goods. Everything sold at the festival is 100 percent vegan, making it simple to discern what you can eat — although the vast number of options may actually make it harder to decide.
In addition to the main festival, the 18+ crowd can enjoy a late-night afterparty called Balada Vegfest. The party runs until the early hours of the morning and features live music, DJs, special guests, and — you guessed it — more vegan food.
7. Veg Food Fest — Toronto, Canada
Toronto’s first Veg Food Fest was in 1985, making it the longest-running vegan/vegetarian festival in North America. It’s often referred to as the largest of its kind, consistently attracting over 40,000 visitors with over 150 stalls overlooking the Toronto harbor. The highly regarded event is run by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, an organization that’s been around for over 70 years. Its mission is “to inspire people to choose a healthier, greener, more compassionate lifestyle through plant-based eating.”
Since its first iteration, this free three-day festival has come a long way. Held every September, it brings together keynote speeches, Q&A sessions, and panel discussions by prominent activists, doctors, and other esteemed speakers. These talks cover a lot of ground on various aspects of veganism, including animal rights, nutrition, and the environment. The festival also encourages you to attend informative cooking demos, interactive workshops, and screenings of award-winning documentaries. After soaking in all that knowledge, you’re bound to get hungry. Luckily, there’s no shortage of vegan food vendors that can take care of that for you. Hot dogs, samosas, poutine, ice cream — if you’re craving it, chances are you’ll be able to find it.
8. Vegan Summer Festival — Berlin, Germany
The Vegan Summer Festival is a free vegan event in Berlin. The festival is organized and led entirely by volunteers, and its immense success goes to show how hard they work. Held every summer since 2007, it’s one of Europe’s biggest festivals of its kind with over 65,000 visitors. With several themed tents and over 100 exhibitors gathered in one venue, there’s more than enough to keep you full, educated, and entertained over the festival’s three-day duration.
As you peruse the many food stands, the sights and smells of vegan fare like doner kebabs, sushi burgers, pink mayo sweet potato fries, and churros are sure to tempt you.
To get your learning on, visit the workshop tent or see who’s speaking in the lecture tent. Catch one of the many cooking demos or stop by the Ask a Vegan tent to chat with a vegan volunteer about your experiences or ask questions.
For entertainment, watch a live music performance or view the festival’s famous fashion show highlighting stylish vegan labels. Kids will enjoy the children’s tent, complete with crafts, face painting, books, games, and the festival’s now-iconic bouncy castle. If you’re looking to make friends, pay a visit to the V-Friending tent, where you can partake in a speed dating session to meet new people. You can also enter raffles to win awesome vegan prizes and even get tattooed with vegan ink.
9. Black VegFest — Brooklyn, New York
When Omowale Adewale realized that the best way to support animals is to spread veganism to a larger and more diverse audience, he knew he had to create Black VegFest. By combining his local culture and veganism into one festival, he aims to broaden the reach of veganism to all. In his own words, “I recognized that fast food eateries and a lack of healthy food access were huge problems for a large population who didn’t know what veganism was…Black VegFest is the answer.”
Founded in 2018, Black VegFest has dozens of endorsements from local and global vegan groups. Most of its 70+ exhibitors are people of color-owned businesses. The two-day festival is packed with informative talks and exciting workshops from doctors, authors, athletes, and other vegan community leaders. You’ll also find food demonstrations and film screenings, as well as yoga, meditation, and fitness classes to promote wellbeing. As it’s a family-friendly event, there’s a play area to keep the kids occupied. Throughout the day, talented New York-based DJs and artists take the stage to perform. And of course, there are plenty of street vendors to keep your stomach satisfied with the most delicious vegan cuisine from New York, Africa, the Caribbean, and around the world.
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