Taking place in cities on every continent, food festivals bring locals and tourists together to celebrate amazing food and drink. Consider the following eight festivals Rory Brown, Food Writer, suggests are worth visiting during your travels.
Charleston Wine + Food
Charleston, SC, USA
This US-based festival is fueled by a passion for the people and places that make Charleston, SC worth praising. The March 2020 celebration will highlight more than 100 unique culinary experiences that will fill your stomach + feed your spirit. For five days Charleston will host top chefs, winemakers, authors, storytellers, food enthusiasts, and more from around the world.
Certamen de Queso
Las Arenas de Cabrales, Spain
This Spanish food festival celebrates the food of Asturias, especially the region's artisan cheeses. Made from cow, sheep and goat milk, more than 100 varieties of cheese come from this region. Sample as many of them as you can stomach at the Certamen de Queso Festival, which is held annually in late August. Reserve your hotel room in this small village early, or visit the festival as a day trip from Oviedo or Santander.
Fête du Melon
Every year on the weekend preceding July 14, the little town of Cavaillon in the south of France works itself into a fruity frenzy. It's time for the annual Melon Festival, where the streets fill with melon vedors. Melon tastings abound, and the truly dedicated can attend a French-language lecture on the history of melon cultivation or attend a melon-focused cooking class. You can stay right in Cavaillon or base yourself 25 kilometers away in Avignon.
Newchurch, Isle of Wight
Bring extra breath mints to this pungent food festival, taking place each August on the Isle of Wight. Visitors can sample garlicky dishes like garlic burgers, garlic bread, garlic beer, garlic ice cream, and even garlic fudge. This is a great festival for families, as there is also ample entertainment for children. The best selection of hotels is in nearby Sandown.
Girotonno is undoubtedly Sardinia's best tuna festival. It takes place each year in late June, in the resort town of Caloforte on Isola di San Pietro. The main island of Sardinia is only 7 kilometers away and accessible via regular ferry service. For decades, residents of Isola di San Pietro have celebrated the peak of tuna season and the hard work of the local fisherman through events like a tuna-cooking competition, live cooking demonstrations, watersports, and musical performances.
Calvinia, South Africa
How many different ways can you cook a sheep? Find out at Hantam Vleisfees, or the Hantam Meat Festival. This two-day festival is held annually in late August, in the Northern Cape town of Calvinia. Barbecued sheep, sheep kebabs, sheep stew, and curried sheep all appear on the menu, accompanied by an exciting program that typically includes a vintage car rally, the "Miss Meat Festival" beauty pageant and musical performances. If your accommodation has a kitchen, you can even purchase your own whole or partial sheep to cook at home.
Iwa Ji Festival
Also known as the New Yam Festival of the Igbo, this Nigerian celebration highlights the importance of yams to the Nigerian people. Iwa Ji take place in early August each year. The night before the festival begins, locals quickly eat or discard any yams they have in their homes, because only the best new yams can be eaten on Iwa Ji. The next day, fresh yams are offered to the deities and ancestors before being distributed throughout the community for consumption. Typically, only yam-based dishes are eaten on Iwa Ji. Depending on where you stay, you may also see street parties, parades, dancing and other celebrations on Iwa Ji.
Maine Lobster Festival
Rockland, Maine, USA
If anyone in your group has a seafood allergy, steer clear of the massive Maine Lobster Fest. Each year in early August, thousands of people flock to Rockland to chow down on fresh, buttery lobster, show off their lobster-cooking skills, shop local artisan wares and enjoy a full program of top-notch entertainment. If you can't find a hotel room, the festival offers bus service from cities across New England.
Xinjiang Grape Festival
The fertile grounds around Turpan, in China's far northwest, are the nation's best source of grapes. Every August, the local Uyghur people celebrate the grape harvest and its resulting wines. You may get the chance to sample local wines aged with medicinal ingredients like seabuckthorn, goji berries and mulberries, or you can step back in time by walking down the festival's main market street, which has been decorated in the style of the original Silk Road.
Don't waste your summer standing in lines at an amusement park or staring at yet another painting of an 18th-century nobleman in a boring museum. Instead, head to one of these unique food festivals to get an authentic taste of a different culture.
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