If you’ve battled the crowds at Aspen Food & Wine or South Beach, you know that attending a food festival isn’t always the fun and relaxing experience it’s made out to be. But if channeling your inner voluptuary is your idea of a good time, we’ve rounded up seven unique and underrated food and wine festivals where you won’t have to battle the crowds while still enjoying top-notch bites and tipple from the country’s best chefs.
7 Underrated Food & Wine Festivals (In 7 Unexpected Places)
Want to sample creations from the country's best chefs without battling the crowds in South Beach? Add these under-the-radar festivals to your calendar.
1. Nirvana Food & Wine, Paradise Valley, Arizona
The idyllic Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain is the setting for this aptly-named festival, which enters its second year in 2018. It draws a star-studded assortment of chefs, including Stephanie Izard, Scott Conant, Todd English and more. The most popular event? Flutes & Coops, where the delightful pairing of fried chicken and champagne takes center stage, alongside cocktails from top mixologists.
2. 30A Wine Festival, Alys Beach, Florida
This classy festival is set against the beautiful backdrop of Alys Beach, where white stucco homes abutt the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 30A Wine Festival, which supports the Children’s Volunteer Health Network, draws renowned winemakers and Southern culinary favorites. In particular, don’t miss Sunday’s “Rosé & Croquet” event, featuring rosé tastings, brunch offerings and the beloved (and highly competitive!) croquet tournament.
3. Experience Alexander Valley, Healdsburg, California
If you don’t like crowds, this two-day event, held in June, is meant for you. Experience Alexander Valley consists of 21 immersive experiences, each held at a different vineyard and each limited to just 24 guests. You’ll find everything from blending seminars and tastings to mountain biking and yoga, all in the region’s scenic vineyards.
4. BB&T Fall for Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina
BB&T Fall for Greenville calls itself the Southeast’s most popular outdoor festival — and with good reason. Nearly 50 restaurants flocked to the 2017 event, serving up classic low-country favorites like shrimp and grits and new takes on old classics, like a pimiento cheese pulled pork biscuit. The festival’s Carolina Ale House Beer Garden hosts over 25 different brewers from around the area and beyond. (P.S. It’s also held in October, so you don’t have to worry about braving the state’s stifling summer temps!)
5. Taste of the Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Florida
For 23 years, Taste of the Beach has invited the area’s best restaurants to share their favorite dishes with the public. Unlike other festivals, Taste of the Beach has a unique competitive element. Restaurants compete in categories such as Best Appetizer, Best Beef Dish, Best Seafood Dish, Best Chicken Dish, Best Dessert, Best Decorated Booth and People’s Choice. Don’t miss the particularly spirited Server’s Competition, which requires serves to traverse stairs, tires, a maze and other obstacles.
6. Colorado Mountain Winefest, Palisade, Colorado
Colorado and wine? Not a combination that comes to mind often, but a few dedicated vintners are striving to change that. Now entering its 27th year, the Colorado Mountain Winefest features dozens of vineyards from the Centennial State, pouring hundreds of wines from the state’s viticultural areas, all set against the dramatic background of the Rocky Mountains. Just watch out for the altitude as you imbibe — it's easy to overdo it.
7. Wellfleet Oysterfest, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Wellfleet celebrates its world-famous oysters and clams as part of this two-day festival, which takes place in October each year. The town’s deep-rooted shellfish harvesting traditions are on full display, with plenty of raw offerings and comforting chowders, stuffed clams and more. The “green” event benefits Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, Inc., a non-profit that works to sustain the region’s aquaculture.