Savor The South - Food And Drink Festivals
Food is said to be the gateway to a person’s heart, and there are few destinations that will warm your heart quite like the South.
In the home of American soul food, the hearty dishes that grace the menus of many iconic restaurants — like shrimp 'n' grits, fried green tomatoes, spicy Cajun jambalaya, buttery biscuits, and slow roasted barbecue — are meant to comfort you and keep you full. The food culture in the states below the Mason-Dixon Line has embraced farm-to-fork and local-vore eating with many ingredients sourced from the lush Southern regions and along the expansive Southern coastlines.
For a true, eclectic taste of the bountiful food that’s found in America's Southern states, head to one of these food and wine festivals, which are celebrated all throughout the South — from the coastal foodie hub of Charleston all the way to the hipster haven of Austin, Texas. These festivals pay homage to the comfort and nostalgia that food brings to this region but also showcase the exciting new trends emerging in food, wine and cocktail scenes. Whether you’re going all in and opting for a VIP ticket or just hopping in to graze at a grand tasting, there’s one thing you can’t leave home without: a hearty appetite, because the South is one place that’ll never let you leave hungry.
Charleston Wine + Food Festival
This South Carolina festival produces a five-day culinary extravaganza the first full weekend of March and encompasses over 100 events located across the city. Check out the Culinary Village, brunches and lunches with special menus, culinary excursions, signature events and dinners, hands-on classes, and beverage workshops. This festival infuses homegrown flavor with top chefs, winemakers, authors, artisans, and food enthusiasts.
National Cornbread Festival
You can’t make a great slab of cornbread without a proper skillet, so it’s obvious that South Pittsburg, Tennessee — 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.
The International Biscuit Festival
More than 20,000 biscuit lovers will fill the streets of downtown Knoxville to pledge their allegiance to these buttery pillows of love. Stay to see Mr. & Miss Biscuit crowned in the big pageant and 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.
SAVOR Blowing Rock
SAVOR Blowing Rock is held in North Carolina’s prettiest small town, Blowing Rock. This year’s event includes an expanded range of demonstrations, seminars, and events that feature regional culture, music, craft beers from local breweries and across the state, beverage tastings, and dinners that showcase area culinary artistry. savorblowingrock.com
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
Only New Orleans could have the “Royal Street Stroll,” when galleries open their doors for a taste of fine wines, antiques, art, live jazz, and a parade by the colorful Krewe of Cork. Two “Grand Tastings” feature more than 75 chefs and 1,000-plus wines, as well as Saturday’s popular Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. nowfe.com
Annual Chincoteague Seafood Festival
Most people know Chincoteague as a small town located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where wild ponies swim ashore each year. But, Chincoteague is also home to a shellfish tradition that has existed for half a century. The festival celebrates spring and the bountiful seafood found around the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll find clams and oysters, which come fried, steamed, or for those who prefer their seafood untouched, raw.
Asheville Bread Festival
For nearly 15 years, the Asheville Bread Festival has celebrated everyone from the bakers to the farmers who help produce the carb-loaded loaves we all love. Festival attendees will be treated to an array of bread, flour, and pastries they can taste and purchase, along with hands-on workshops and lectures from artisanal bakers.
West Tennessee Strawberry Festival
Strawberry season is in full swing during the month of May. In Western Tennessee, a springtime celebration of these berries has been a tradition for the past 80 years. Attendees can get a taste of strawberry-centric dishes — strawberry shortcake, anyone? — as they are treated to live music and parades. And don't forget to wear something red!
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
The Memphis in May International Festival takes place every weekend in May. All the events lead up to the heart of the festival — the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest — serious barbeque, baby! Throughout the weekend, barbecue lovers will be treated to cooking demonstrations using Big Green Eggs, eat barbecue in BBQ Alley, and get the chance to taste and judge barbecue from the teams competing in the Kingsford Tour of Champions. You’ll have to wait to until Saturday night to see who’s won Best in ‘Cue.
Watermelon Days Festival
In the south Georgia community of Cordele, you’ll find the biggest, sweetest watermelons in the world. To celebrate the watermelon harvest, Cordele’s Watermelon Days Festival has parades, watermelon eating, seed spitting, chucking contests, and lastly, sweet, cold wedges of watermelon.
Kentucky Bourbon Affair
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.
Asheville Wine & Food Festival
The searing hot destination dubbed “Foodtopia” and “Brewtopia” becomes even more of a foodie utopia come August during this festival when they focus on Western North Carolina chefs, restaurants, farmers, purveyors, breweries, distilleries, and wineries.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
This six-week-long festival features nearly 30 daily international and themed tasting marketplaces with tapas-sized tastes of food and beverages. In addition, there are dozens of culinary demonstrations, wine and mixology seminars, dinners, “Eat to the Beat” concerts, and more.
Shrimp & Grits Festival
Located on the Golden Isles on the Georgia coast, Jekyll Island serves up pristine beaches, beautiful wildlife, and the annual Shrimp & Grits Festival. This three-day festival offers up shrimp, family fun, shrimp, live entertainment, and more shrimp.
TerraVITA Food & Drink Festival
North Carolina’s Triangle region — and Chapel Hill specifically — is becoming known for its sustainability efforts through farmers, purveyors, chefs, and restaurants. With educational events like the popular “Sustainable Classroom” sessions and “The Grand Tasting” featuring chefs, brewers, distillers, farmers, and cheesemakers, TerraVITA shows that successful sustainable local food and drink is more than just a tasty trend.
Georgia Apple Festival
If you are looking for a food festival that is geared toward family fun, then the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay is the perfect fit. Families from all over the country flock to this North Georgia town for two exciting fall weekends. Vendors offering food, art and crafts, and all things apples are ready to serve you. Stick around for the craft and apple cooking demonstrations, parade, and the annual classic car show. georgiaapplefestival.org
Annual National Shrimp Festival
Every October, Gulf Shores, Alabama becomes a shrine to the South’s favorite crustacean. Enjoy a boardwalk lined with food vendors, local music, and special events. This is a fun time for the whole family.
World Food Championships
Competitive cooking is a spectator sport at this Orange Beach, Alabama 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. worldfoodchampionships.com
Music to Your Mouth
Rounding out the foodie festival season at South Carolina’s Palmetto Bluff near Bluffton, this intimate taste of the Lowcountry attracts renowned chefs from nearby Charleston, as well as Atlanta and beyond. This lively event combines talented chefs, vintners, brewers, distillers, and artisans from across the South (and around the world) to toast the tastes, sips, and sounds of the South.
It's time to get outside and enjoy what the South does best: festivals, especially the food-related kind. Southern food and culture deserve a platform of holy reverence. The food and wine festivals in the South give a rare opportunity to witness what we’re all about — just plain goodness.
More Southern Foodie Destinations
Tennessee Legend Distillery
Tennessee Legend Distillery isn’t just another moonshine stop on your way through the Smokies. They have the best moonshine selection you can find, and signature vodkas, whiskeys, and more. Stop by and taste some of the most legendary flavors of the Smoky Mountains with the Tennessee Legend Moonshine or try the newly popular cream liqueurs. Don’t forget to also stop by the gift shop that features t-shirts and other great souvenirs.