Photo Source: Flickr - Sarah-Rose
Exploring local food when traveling offers a delicious way to immerse oneself in a destinations culture. While cooking classes, markets and restaurants offer these opportunities, another exciting option is a food festival. In fact, some food festivals are so exciting they're worth planning your entire trip around them. To help, here is a guide to delicious spring festivals not to miss in the United States.
Not many other US cities are as renowned for their culinary scene as New Orleans, where French, Creole and Cajun cooking combine. One great time to immerse yourself in the destination's deliciousness is during the annual New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. Here, almost 200 wineries from all over the world come to offer samples of their whites, reds and roses, which are then expertly paired with dishes from 75 local restaurants. Flavors are savored through dinners, seminars, street fairs, parties and decadent Grand Tastings. Bonus: A portion of the proceeds goes toward benefitting local nonprofits.
For those who love fall-off-the-bone meats and feel-good music, the Bloomin' Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival is not to be missed. Taking place during the annual Smoky Mountain Springfest, this tasty happening is perfect for those on a budget, with free admission and musical entertainment. Bluegrass is the perfect accompaniment to the events: chicken, pork and brisket, cooked by teams with names like Chairman of the Boar, Jerry's Tender Butt BBQ and Uncultured Swine. Crafts are also part of the fun, with local vendors offering the chance to immerse yourself in local arts culture. Keep in mind this is a family-friendly event, with opportunities for young ones to play games, learn instruments and jump around in bouncy houses.
Did you ever hear the slogan "Virginia is for lovers"? Well, we think it should be edited to "Virginia is for MAPLE lovers." During the annual Highland Maple Festival - which has been taking place for almost 60 years - the state showcases its pride for Highland County's delicious maple syrup. During the event, you'll tour sugar camps, listen to bluegrass music, peruse local arts and crafts, see dance performances and savor delicious maple syrup-laced meals (don't miss the donuts!).
Taking place at Tom Lee Park, this annual competition brings together the country's best barbecue chefs, who battle it to see who actually is THE BEST in the nation. Awards - including many large cash prizes - are given for categories like "Sauce," "Exotic" and "Hog." Don't cook? It's still worth going to savor the creations made by these talented chefs. While the food is the highlight, another major draw is the Ms. Piggie Idol Competition, where contestants dress up in outlandish costumes (snouts included), grab a mic and try to impress the judges. The event is part of the larger Memphis in May competition, which boasts other experiences like a Beale Street Music Festival, Salute to Poland and AutoZone Sunset Symphony.
While it may sound odd to some, Spam is an important part of Hawaiian culinary culture, introduced during WWII when meat wasn't easy to come by. Today, it's sometimes touted as "Hawaiian steak," and is served in a wide variety of ways. The annual free-to-enjoy block party-style Waikiki Spam Jam celebrates this facet of food life, with Spam dancers, Spam memorabilia, Spam-themed games and, of course, delicious Spam dishes. Make sure to also get your photo taken with a live dancing can of Spam, or donning a festive Spam can hat. And if you savor one dish, make it the Spam burgers, a thick patty of Spam sitting on a bed of lettuce, cheese and peppers and topped with a tangy pineapple. Some of the many other tasty options include Spam nachos, Spam cheesecake, Spam burritos, Spam pita pockets and Spam fried rice.
Some like it hot, and for those who do, the NYC Hot Sauce Expo is not to be missed. Taking place at the Brooklyn Expo Center, make sure to bring plenty of towels to wipe the perpetual stream of sweat dripping from your forehead as you sample free hot sauce tastings from vendors like the Chelsea Fire Hot Sauce, Heartbreaking Dawns, Holy Schmitts and Mild to Wild. Other reasons to attend include a hot wings eating competition, spicy pizza eating contest, Bloody Mary mix off, a spicy pepper eating tournament - basically there are a lot of fiery competitions as well as frosty craft beers to help ease the burn. General admission is $10, although beer and VIP packages can help you save if you plan on eating and drinking.
Please drink responsibly and use a designated driver, as your RoamRight policy does not cover loss resulting from or caused by being under the influence of alcohol.
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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