As culinary travel continues to be a great motivation to hit the road all over the South, the calendar of food and drink festivals and events continues to grow. If you’re looking for a delicious way to spend your summer, load up on doggie bags and stick the Yeti cooler in the trunk — here are the best Southern food festivals taking place this summer!
Through June 10, 2018: Barbecue & Bluegrass at Dollywood — Pigeon Forge, TN
There will be great barbecue all over the theme park as Dollywood feeds the masses in attendance to watch some of the luminaries of bluegrass music including Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Dailey & Vincent and The Grascals.
Through June 10, 2018: Kentucky Bourbon Affair — Louisville, KY
Like a fantasy camp for bourbon lovers, this exceptional week of spirited events offers behind-the-scenes access to some of the state’s most renowned distilleries, plus opportunities for special barrel tastings and evening events featuring the renowned master distillers who make America’s premier spirit so beloved. Local restaurants throw dinner events each evening to pair their food with rare bourbons.
Through June 10, 2018: Taste of Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
Spanning six blocks on Tryon Street, Taste of Charlotte showcases more than 100 of the city’s favorite restaurants offering tastes of their best bites. This family-friendly festival also features cooking demos, children’s activities and musical entertainment.
June 10-12, 2018: FAB Conference — Charleston, SC
Aimed specifically at educating women in the food and beverage industry (hence the name), FAB brings together successful females from all aspects of the industry to share their knowledge with women who might be just starting out in the business or who might want to kick-start their own careers.
June 16, 2018: PahBREWcah — Paducah, KY
This local beer fest shines a spotlight on Paducah’s local brewing scene but also regional and national craft breweries that are special invited guests. Two ticket levels entitle attendees to multiple tastings with special VIP passes granting access to an air-conditioned lounge and several breweries that won’t be available to the general public.
June 16, 2018: Taste of Music City — Nashville, TN
Pay one price at this all-inclusive tasting event set up around Nashville’s Public Square Park. Take a tour of some of the city’s best cuisine while only parking once as you travel around the square sampling food and drink from local favorites. There will also be cooking demos and live music to entertain visitors between bites.
June 16, 2018: RC Moon Pie Festival — Bell Buckle, TN
Celebrate small town America at this festival that venerates the traditional workingman’s lunchbox special of an RC Cola and a chocolate Moon Pie marshmallow treat. Expect entertainment from live bands, cloggers, beauty pageants and the chance to share a bite from the world’s largest Moon Pie.
June 16-18, 2018: Blue Ridge Mountains Wine and Jazz Festival — Blue Ridge, GA
This tribute to the North Georgia mountains is designed for the whole family, with local food vendors offering their wares for sale, live jazz and wines from North Georgia, North Carolina and across the globe available for sampling. Buy wine by the glass or by the bottle and settle back on a blanket or in your lawn chair to enjoy music under the stars,
June 21-23, 2018: Southern Foodways Alliance Summer Symposium — Lexington, KY
The Southern Foodway Alliance encourages the study and preservation of the region’s culinary traditions. This year the group is taking a deep dive into the culture of Lexington, a college town where agriculture and academia come together to move the regional food conversation forward.
June 23, 2018: Nuit Belge — Nashville, TN
Some of Nashville’s finest chefs prepare very special food pairings to accompany rare beers from all across the world at this high-class beer festival. Patrons dress to impress, and the chefs really strive to show off and live up to the quality of these exotic brews, primarily from Belgium.
June 23, 2o18: Kentucky Craft Bash — Louisville, KY
The Kentucky Brewers Guild showcases their membership at this event which only serves beers brewed in the Bluegrass State. More than 30 breweries will tap 70+ beers including experimental beers and collaborations that aren’t in widespread distribution and are rarely found outside of the breweries’ taprooms.
June 23, 2018: Nashville Predators Craft Beer Festival — Nashville, TN
It’ll be time for beer on ice as the Nashville Predators hockey club puts on one of Nashville’s best beer festivals to raise money for their charitable foundation. Entry includes a commemorative tasting glass and t-shirt, unlimited tastings from dozens of breweries and the chance to upgrade to a special VIP tasting area.
June 30, 2018: Great Slider Showdown — Franklin, TN
A dozen talented chefs compete to create the best fun on a tiny bun at this celebration of the slider. The competitors come from five Southern states and the august panel of judges include notable television culinary celebrities Alton Brown and Maneet Chauhan. Attendees will also have the opportunity to sample the chefs’ entries and vote for a People’s Choice award.
June 30, 2018: Baton Rouge Oyster Fest — Baton Rouge, LA
It’s all about the oyster at this first-time festival hosted by Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar. The festival features a shucking competition, oyster-eating contest and an oyster cookoff plus nationally-known musical acts like Spin Doctors and Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
July 4, 2018: Nashville Hot Chicken Festival — Nashville, TN
Nashville’s fiery fowl is the highlight at this scorching festival. Patrons stand in lines for free samples from some of Nashville’s most beloved hot chicken purveyors, and there is also plenty of chicken available for purchase. Other highlights of the day include a fire truck parade, live bands and the ultra-competitive amateur hot chicken cooking contest.
July 13-15, 2018, and September 14-16, 2018: Chef & Maker Series — Pinehurst, NC
The renowned golf resort shows off its culinary side during this series of special weekends where visiting chefs are paired with craftsmen from the region around Pinehurst for a series of special dinners, craft demonstrations and the chance to rub elbows with these creative superstars. The July weekend features Dean Neff from Pinpoint Restaurant in Wilmington, NC along with makers Dan and Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolates in Asheville, NC while the September event showcases beloved Chapel Hill chef Bill Smith from Crook’s Corner and Shannon Nealy from Alley Twenty Six Tonic Syrup in Durham, NC.
July 15, 2018: Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival — Atlanta, GA
For the tenth year, Atlanta chef/restaurateur Ford Fry is throwing this fun festival as a benefit for Georgia Organics. Attendees enjoy tomato-based treats from dozens of invited chefs and mixologists during the day and rock out to live music from G. Love and Special Sauce during the evening. You’re gonna lyc(opene) this festival a lot!
July 19, 2018: Nourish Dinner — Nashville, TN
This annual dinner for the Nashville Food Project helps the organization with its efforts to “bring people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.” Local chefs team up with invited guests to create memorable meals for this very worthy cause.
July 20-21, 2018: Louisville Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival — Louisville, KY
Situated in the historic Louisville Water Tower Park, this is two days of hot barbecue, cold craft brews and cool blues. Smoked meat, beer and music, what else could you need for a weekend of fun?
July 21, 2018: Taste of Memphis Vegan Food & Drinks Festival — Memphis, TN
It’s not just about the meat in Memphis, acknowledged as one of the barbecue capitals of the world. This festival pays tribute to the best vegan chefs and restaurants from the Mid-South and the surrounding areas. Enjoy a day of guiltless gluttony!
July 17-22, 2018: Tales of the Cocktail — New Orleans, LA
Mixologists from around the world join with spirits producers and fans of the cocktail culture to create the center of the bartending universe at the festive week of educational seminars and tasting events headquartered right in the middle of the French Quarter. Even though it’s aimed at industry professionals, cocktail lovers are also welcome to take part in the fun.
August 2-4, 2018: l’Eté du Vin — Nashville, TN
The country’s longest-running charity wine auction, l’Ete du Vin raises money to combat cancer by engaging the local and global wine collector communities. A series of tastings and dinners offer various levels of participation from casual to upscale, and the bottles poured at the events are universally excellent. This year’s event focuses on “Women in Wine,” saluting female vintners from around the world.
August 5, 2018: Southern Wing Showdown — Atlanta, GA
The wing is king at this competitive cooking event where 25 chefs from across the region come together to practice their magic at the poultry arts. Attendees enjoy samples of chicken, side dishes, wine, beer and cocktails along with the soulful musical stylings of Alex Guthrie.
August 9-13, 2018: Great Inland Seafood Festival — Newport, KY
Just because Kentucky is a landlocked state doesn’t mean they don’t love some good seafood. Fresh seafood will be served fried, broiled and boiled along with plenty of wine and cold beer plus live music.
Here’s to a season of good eats, drinks and sunshine. Cheers!
Learn about more amazing Southern stories — subscribe to StyleBlueprint!