There’s a popular belief that calories consumed while standing up don’t count. (OK, maybe we made that one up but it gets us through holiday parties and food festivals.) If you subscribe to that theory, then you should have nothing to worry about as you peruse this list of food festivals and events around the South. Just to be safe, you might want to call both your travel agent and your personal trainer.
November 8-12, 2017: World Food Championships — Orange Beach, AL
Competitive cooking is a spectator sport at this event where hundreds of contestants compete in different categories (BBQ, Chili, Burger, Dessert, Sandwich, Bacon, Recipe, Steak and Seafood) for the chance to battle at The Final Table for the crown of World Food Champion.
November 16-19, 2017: Music to Your Mouth — Palmetto Bluff, SC
Some of the South’s most talented chefs descend on this bucolic resort community to join vintners, mixologists and musicians from across the country for a weekend of food, fun and merriment under the Spanish Moss-draped live oaks of Palmetto Bluffs.
November 17, 2017: Celebration in the Oaks Preview Party — New Orleans, LA
Dress to impress at this stylish soiree that benefits City Park New Orleans. Guests are the first of the season to see the dazzling holiday lights displays as they stroll around the park and enjoy the best of the Big Easy’s food, drink and music.
November 19, 2017: South Carolina Oyster Festival — Columbia, SC
Bring your own oyster knife to this event, the largest oyster roast in the state. Steamed oysters are available for sale by the bucket in addition to oyster shooters and fried oysters. Since wine and oysters are a natural pairing, there’s also a wine garden for the adults while kiddies enjoy amusements and games.
December 2, 2017: 12 South Winter Warmer — Nashville, TN
Nashville hosts a lot of beer festivals, but none are more beloved than this convivial event. Brewers bring samples of some of their most creative beers that they have stashed away especially for this day, so that they can share them with scores of their fans who bundle up in warm clothes under a tent to enjoy a festive afternoon of tasting.
January 10-14, 2018: San Antonio Cocktail Conference — San Antonio, TX
Unlike some other festivals that focus on cocktails and seem to concentrate almost exclusively on mixologists, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference specifically focuses on enthusiasts, educating them on the history and culture of the craft cocktail experience through tastings, seminars and parties set up in bars and restaurants around the city’s vibrant downtown.
January 21, 2018: Von Brewski Beer Festival — Huntsville, AL
Cheekily named in honor of Dr. Wernher Von Braun, the German scientist who headed up the NASA rocket research team in Huntsville that sent man into space, this festive beer tasting event is held in the civic center that is also named for the good doctor. Officially a part of Huntsville Beer Week, the fest features brewers from around the region plus food vendors and live music.
February 3, 2018: Queen City Brewers Festival — Charlotte, NC
This fundraiser for ACEing Autism brings together the Charlotte-area’s best breweries, brewpubs and craft beer-focused restaurants for a day of food and beer tasting as well as live music. There are two sessions of tasting, so you can choose early or late.
February 22-24, 2018: Pairings — Nashville, TN
The Nashville Wine Auction has raised millions of dollars through the years to aid in the treatment of cancer, and their winter fundraising weekend is a local favorite. Chefs from another city are paired up with Nashville chefs for private vintner dinners around town and for a grand tasting dinner auction on Saturday night. This year’s partner city will be New Orleans, so it should prove to be a spicy affair!
February 22-25, 2018: 30A Wine Festival at Alys Beach — Alys Beach, FL
The stylish Alys Beach community plays host to this 7th edition of the 30A Wine Festival. Events range from casual bourbon, beer and barbecue tastings to more formal grand tastings and the competitive Rosé & Croquet tournament. It’s all in good fun as the events raise money for the Children’s Volunteer Health Network.
February 24, 2018: Southern Foodways Alliance Winter Symposium — Birmingham, AL
Oxford, MS-based SFA is the leader in exploring the cultural and historical aspects of Southern culinary traditions, and they share their findings through events around the region. Their Winter Symposium is an opportunity for SFA members and anyone interested in the diverse Southern food culture to gather to learn about and discuss what matters in the study of the region’s foodways.
February 28 through March 3, 2018: Bourbon Classic — Louisville, KY
Bringing together the best of the culinary and bourbon worlds, the Bourbon Classic is a week of tastings, seminars and special dining events to showcase the innovation and the heritage of Kentucky’s distilling industry. There are also numerous opportunities to interact with some of the personalities who make the bourbon biz so fascinating.
February 28 through March 4, 2018: Charleston Food + Wine Festival — Charleston, SC
The Charleston Food + Wine Festival celebrates the best of lowcountry cuisine with almost a week of tasting events, dinners and central festival grounds that showcase purveyors, chefs, food and drink professionals, and music from around the region. As hot as the restaurant scene is in Charleston, they always up their game a little bit more for this event.
March 9, 2018: Nuit Belge — New Orleans, LA
Literally “Belgian Night,” this festival combines some of the world’s greatest beers (including those from Belgium) with the finest chefs in New Orleans to create truly special pairings. Intentionally limiting the number of patrons to encourage a more refined beer festival experience, Nuit Belge is unlike any other tasting event on the culinary calendar.
March 23 & 24, 2018: Hogs for the Cause — New Orleans, LA
Unlike many barbecue festivals where it’s pretty much impossible to actually find something to eat unless you’re a member of a competing team, selling their food is a big part of Hogs for the Cause as teams raise money for pediatric brain cancer research and treatment. Pitmasters from around the country hold fundraisers in their hometowns all year, culminating in the big check presentations at the end of the weekend.
April 21, 2018: Gumbo Gala — Birmingham, AL
One of the largest gumbo cooking competitions in the Southeast is held a fur piece from Louisiana, but that doesn’t mean that the contestants aren’t in it to win it. They battle to see who’s roux is true and to raise funds for Episcopal Place by the Episcopal Housing Foundation, Inc. and Episcopal Housing of Birmingham, Inc. Come hungry!
April 25-29, 2018: Nashville Cocktail Festival — Nashville, TN
Nashville’s premiere mixology event brings together spirit representatives and craft cocktail makers from around the country to celebrate a properly made drink. Events throughout the festival highlight some of Nashville’s best bars and bartenders while featuring boutique spirits and other artisan products.
April 26-29, 2018: South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival — Miramar Beach, FL
Located at the Grand Boulevard Towne Center in Sandestin, this four-day festival features a juried selection of wines offered at a series of tasting events, plus an evening of craft beer and spirits and plenty of bites from some of your favorite South Walton restaurants. It’s not like you need much of an excuse to head to the Florida coast, but here’s another one for you!
April 28, 2018: Destin Charity Wine Auction — Miramar Beach, FL
Held concurrently with the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, the Destin Charity Wine Auction is one of the top five wine fundraisers in the entire country, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a stuffy affair full of snooty oenophiles. Instead, the atmosphere is casual and festive as a group of philanthropic wine lovers comes together to have a great time and raise millions of dollars for children’s charities bidding on once-in-a-lifetime wine experiences and trips all over the world.
April 28 & 29, 2018: National Cornbread Festival — South Pittsburg, TN
You can’t make a great slab of cornbread without a proper skillet, so it’s obvious that South Pittsburg, the home of Lodge Cast Iron, should play host to the National Cornbread Festival. In addition to music, arts and crafts, a carnival midway and Cornbread Alley where you can sample dishes from churches and civic groups around the area, the highlight of the weekend is the National Championship Cornbread Cook-off where home cooks compete for big prizes and bragging rights.
May 11 & 12, 2018: Rocket City Brewfest — Huntsville, AL
The state of Alabama was late to the party when it came to beer, with craft breweries only becoming legal to operate in the state in the past decade or so. But they’ve sure caught up since then with a proliferation of great producers, many of which are showcased at this tasting event that raises funds to support Free the Hops, a lobbying and education organization of craft beer enthusiasts. Drink for a good cause!
May 16-19, 2018: Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest — Memphis, TN
One of the biggest cooking competitions in the world, Memphis in May stretches the length of Tom Lee Park running along the Mississippi River. Hundreds of cook teams compete for the prize of Grand Champion competing for top scores in whole hog, pork shoulder or ribs. At night, they compete to see who can throw the best party!
May 19, 2018: The International Biscuit Festival — Knoxville, TN
More than 20,000 biscuit lovers will fill the streets of downtown Knoxville to pledge their allegiance to these buttery pillows of love as they see Mr. & Miss Biscuit crowned in the big pageant, a winner named in the esteemed biscuit baking contest, shop for biscuit art and listen to live music as part of the biscuit songwriting competition.
May 25-27, 2018: New Orleans Wine & Food Experience — New Orleans, LA
Known colloquially as “Nowfe,” this is one of the biggest food and drink events in a town known for its bites and its booze. Now in its 25th year, the festival features hundreds of restaurants and wineries that come together to sample their wares to thousands of locals and visitors who flock to rub shoulders with top chefs and winemakers while raising money for local non-profits. Wine dinners, grand tastings and educational seminars are all on the agenda, and patrons can buy tickets to individual events or packages for the whole festival.
May 26, 2018: North Carolina Wine Festival — Clemmons, NC
The largest and longest-running celebration of wine in the state, the North Carolina Wine Festival offers up a full day of tasting regional wines as well as live music, local food and artisan crafters.
May 31 through June 3, 2018: Atlanta Food & Wine Festival — Atlanta, GA
Centered around the Loews Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, this festival offers fascinating education seminars in the conference rooms of the hotel along with multiple tasting session opportunities in the massive festival grounds set up on the edge of Piedmont Park. Some of Atlanta’s best chefs and restaurants also host special dinners during the course of the weekend, especially for festival attendees.
June 5-10, 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 bourbon.
For more savory ideas check out our food and dining section. It’s filled with all sorts of amazing flavors!