We write a lot about summer music festivals. With good reason, of course — they’re a blur of awesome music, stoked people, and raging parties. That’s an easy recipe for lifelong memories, right there. Sadly, the same can’t be said of every food festival. A fair few are stuffy, mellow, downright quaint. But the best of the bunch take that music festival format and simply mix in some of the best food in the country.
Who wouldn’t like to marvel at the versatility of garlic in Gilroy, California or eat endless downy pillows of shaved cheese in Vermont while bands play in the background? A monster, that’s who.
The following food festivals are all still-to-come this summer. Meaning you have time to plan a road trip or score a cheap flight to check them out. We suggest you get on it. This isn’t food as sustenance, it’s food as recreation. And guess what? It’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Gilroy Garlic Festival (Gilroy, California)
Dates: July 26-28
Started In 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is both a major fundraiser for local charities and the largest homage to this savory relative of the onion. Seriously, it’s been officially recognized by Guinness World Records. Held the last full weekend of each July, and over the course of three days, thousands of visitors enjoy garlicky eats, live music, arts and crafts, and cooking competitions. They also go through more than two tons of garlic. It’s no surprise that you can score some first-rate stuffed mushrooms, garlic bread, garlic fries, scampi and pasta with pesto. But the more adventurous eaters will have to get in on the garlic frog legs, garlic pineapple upside down cake, garlic kettle corn, and garlic watermelon.
The garlic ice cream is the stuff of legend, so you can’t miss out. Plus, the festival offers it up for free. It uses a vanilla base, which often tricks your mouth into thinking that is all you are eating. But every few bites, the garlic creeps in. It’s a little perplexing without being at all gross.
Taste of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
Dates: July 10-14
The Gilroy Garlic Festival may be the largest garlic fest in the U.S., but Taste of Chicago claims it is the world’s largest food festival period. Each summer since 1981, Grant Park on Chicago’s scenic lakefront has hosted the event, which brings in nearly four million people. Given its scope and the fact that it’s free, the festival draws in tourists as well as locals who want to sample the most popular dishes from more than 80 local restaurants, chefs, and food trucks. To participate, you purchase food tickets, which can then be used for food and drinks. In addition, most booths offer a specially sized version of their core menu items at a reasonable price. And attendees who are of legal drinking age can score beer, wine, and cocktails if they need a buzz. Pretty much any kind of food you want, you can get here. Tamales, tacos, barbecue, cupcakes, kati rolls, egg rolls, pizza, wieners, sandwiches, Chinese, and Aussie pies are all options.