Food festivals are a massively booming business — and they’re totally worth it for organizers and vendors. A whopping 99 percent of millennials will recommend food they found at a festival, and 84 percent of festivalgoers will share pics of their festival food on social media, according to 2016 stats from Eventbrite. But are food festivals worth the money for the foodies who go to them?
Before you drop your hard-earned cash on often steep event tickets, click through to see which food festival tickets are definitely worth the money.
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Ticket price: $20 to $300 for each event
The South Beach Wine and Food Festival — or SOBEWFF, for the super hip — is a juggernaut of the festival circuit. For the past 16 years, about 65,000 food industry pros and fans swarm Miami Beach, and they’ll do it again in February of 2018.
If you want to spend your festive dining dollars on a sure thing, you can bank on over 80 events and 400 chefs packing the festival’s five days with workshops focusing on wine and spirits, and presentations buoyed by Food Network and Cooking Channel celebs. Tickets don’t go on sale until October 2017, but last year’s prices ranged from about $20 to $300 for each event.
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Ticket price: $1,650 for a consumer pass
The Food & Wine Classic dubs itself the place to be for “celebrity chefs, renowned wine experts and epicurean insiders.” Deemed “America’s Hottest Festival” by Adweek in 2015, this summer fest features everything from cooking demonstrations to discussion panels to tastings. Previous “how to” highlights include how to make stuffed banana s’mores with Gail Simmons or how to make “epic” paella with Toro chefs.
Everything is tied together with an elegant vibe, so don’t expect a street food party. That upscale feel comes at a price, though. For the 2017 Food & Wine Classic, consumer passes cost $1,650, so you’ll want to save up at least that much for when the festival rolls around again in June 2018.
Ticket price: Starting at about $125 for a day ticket
The F&W Classic’s got you covered for classiness, but La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain, has your back if you’d rather get down and dirty. Very, very dirty.
Every year in August, about 30,000 folks descend on this tiny town to participate in a daylong food fight involving over 100 metric tons of overripe tomatoes. There’s music, dancing and fireworks among the chaos, and it all culminates with a foodie-approved paella cooking contest.
The city’s official La Tomatina Tours will hook you up with full travel packages or just an entry pass for about $125. With the right planning, you can also save a lot of money on last-minute travel to this buzz-worthy food festival.
BottleRock Napa Valley
Ticket price: Single-day passes start at $149, VIP access up to $14,475 per couple
BottleRock’s springtime festivities split the action into three key categories: Music, food and art. At past festivals, bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Macklemore and the Foo Fighters headlined the music stage. Meanwhile, huge celeb chefs like Martha Stewart and Masaharu Morimoto headlined the culinary stage. Of course, it’s Napa, so there’s plenty of wine to wash down that Michelin-star food.
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Tickets run the price gamut, but general admission for the most recent fest offered access to both musical and culinary stages as well as some free craft beer and cocktails.
Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
Ticket price: About $200 for regular events or $300 to $400 for VIP access
Why should you drop upwards of $200 per event at the seventh annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival? If the diversity of events doesn’t sell you, the signature Hawaiian style will: 12 events spread across three islands during perfect fall weather revel in a laid-back vibe.
If sampling street food at a Maui resort isn’t your thing, you’re bound to enjoy the Raw & Wild seafood workshop in Oahu or a Bloody Mary showdown in Waikiki.
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The Taste of Vail
Ticket price: $50 to $430
Every spring, 30 of the best chefs from Vail, Colo., show off their goods before this quaint mountain town’s picturesque backdrop. About 50 winemakers from across the country offer pairings, too, and seminars abound. Though the offerings are diverse, two of the key yearly events in the 2017 festival revolved around Mediterranean-style rose wine and lamb.
Vail’s prices flex to your budget. Although 2018 tickets aren’t yet available, in 2017, you could pop into individual events for as little as $50, get seminar multipacks for $150, or access to all four signature events — the Debut of Rose, American Lamb Cook-Off, Mountain Top Tasting and Grand Tasting — for $430.
Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival
Ticket price: About $45 for opening night
Food festivals like the September event in Galway, Ireland, keep the focus tight. Since 1954, the International Oyster and Seafood Festival has seen more than 3 million oysters and about 500,000 visitors, thanks to that focus on celebrating the jewels of the sea.
Galway attendees participate in seafood trails, watch oyster shucking championships, attend talks and tasting events, and take in some street music with a Mardi Gras-style celebration. Opening night tickets sell for about $45, but extra event admission ranges from $17 to $115 per event.
Ticket price: Starting at around $30
On the second Saturday of every March in the New Zealand town of Hokitika, the casual, family-friendly Wildfoods hosts just what you’d expect from a food festival — gourmet meals, game meat, seafood and international dishes. But the “wild” part comes in with the fest’s focus on quirky local and Maori delicacies, like leaf-wrapped hangi (meat and veggies cooked in a hole in the ground), worms, scorpions and even — wait for it — horse semen.
The $30 ticket price — which gets you in the door — is worth it just for the stories you’ll come back home with. After-party and campground access comes at an additional cost.
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All-Star Chef Classic
Ticket price: Individual events ranging from about $125 to $425
If you’re looking for food festivals that are worth your while, don’t go much further than Los Angeles. The unofficial home of the foodie doesn’t mess around when it calls this fest “All Star” — the 2017 event welcomed more than 55 Michelin-starred chefs.
This LA Live event, which happens downtown in spring, has a sports-like, arena-focused style, with strolling food tours, the Chefs’ Tasting Arena and the 300-seat Restaurant Stadium. Tickets aren’t on sale for 2018 yet, but last year’s individual events — many of which were multi-course meals with featured chefs — ranged from about $125 to $425.
Ticket price: About $135 to $335
Ready for its sixth annual go-round in February 2018, Amsterdam’s Chocoa is part festival, part food conference, all chocolate. The tagline is “good cocoa and better chocolate,” and that bean-to-bar attitude really shows in the events, which include cocoa farmers, chocolate suppliers and choco-fans.
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Alongside public demonstrations of chocolate-flavored spectacle and seminars of cocoa sustainability, you can partake in two full days of chocolate tastings, diving into all the regional taste differences among specific beans. In 2017, the conference part cost about $335, while the two-day trade fair was $135 per person.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
Ticket price: From $185 to $985
Every Memorial Day weekend, New Orleans celebrates its signature cuisine with hundreds of local restaurants and wineries shilling Creole flavor in the French Quarter. The “experience” will cost you about $185 to $985, according to 2017 prices, via bundles that range from the street-strolling Tasting Package to the all-inclusive VIP Connoisseur. Key events include seminars, tastings and some majorly indulgent celebrations of wine and cake, respectively dubbed ViNOLA! and the Big Gateaux Show.
Los Angeles Times: The Taste
Ticket price: $95 to $300 per event
The Taste celebrates food in just about the most LA way possible. Hosted over Labor Day weekend at Paramount Pictures Studios, this LA Times-sponsored fest embraces the spectrum of the city’s food landscape, from Boyle Heights to Venice Beach.
Mixologist-crafted cocktails and sommelier-approved wines — as well as LA Times food critics and locally famed chefs — guide you through diverse tastes ranging from Latin-inspired meals to Italian-esque seafood. This melting pot of flavor is also ideal for film buffs who will enjoy strolls through movie back lots and a block-party style atmosphere, with tickets to individual events ranging from $95 to $300.
Charleston Wine + Food
Ticket price: $70 to $225 per event
Swinging through South Carolina for its 13th round in March 2018, Charleston Wine + Food serves up a diverse selection of boozy lunches and dinners, featuring lots of casual and comfort food done right. Meal events include pizza, perfectly paired oysters and wine, Cajun boils, signature dinners from local venues like Chez Nous and Cypress and cocktail dinners with Prohibition-themed concoctions.
Seminars on everything from cultivating honey to designing restaurant architecture give you a chance to digest. Tickets for 2018 aren’t on sale yet, but in 2017 each event came at a cost of about $70 to $225.
Gilroy Garlic Festival
Ticket price: $8 to $56
California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival, held yearly in late July, pitches itself as the “World’s Greatest Summer Food Festival.” While that claim’s up for debate, you can’t debate the value of the $8 to $56 tickets if you’re a garlic fan. The standard $31 adult ticket gets you a garlic combo plate, but don’t forget $10 for parking.
Sure, it’s got music and flashy cooking shows put on by skillet-wielding “pyro chefs,” but the real star is the stinking rose itself. Pack plenty of breath mints and dive into plates of garlic-infused festival foods, including calamari, scampi, pasta con pesto and sausage sandwiches, as well as staples like garlic fries and garlic bread. Don’t leave without sampling Gilroy’s signature garlic ice cream — you know, just to say that you did.
Austin Food + Wine Festival
Ticket price: $250 to $625
From tech to film to music, the increasingly hip town of Austin is really coming up in the world, and it’s not about to leave foodie fever behind. This spring shindig embraces a part-party, part-cookout atmosphere, showcasing a combo of live music, dueling cook-offs, dozens of demonstrations and intimate mingling with local and visiting chefs.
In 2017, attendees paid $250 for a Weekender ticket or $625 for an All-In pass, with highlights including an excess of BBQ fire pits, refreshingly fruity paletas, casual grilling classes and lots of tacos and tequila.
AltaMed East LA Meets Napa
Ticket price: $175 to $300
In late July, AltaMed’s East LA Meets Napa is a festival where two worlds collide. With Napa in the name, you know the vintners will be there in abundance. And the “East LA” part means you can expect a lot of Latin-inspired food and wine from Latino-owned vineyards, too.
With a modest crowd of about 2,000, East LA Meets Napa is still growing its reputation, so the $175-to-$300 ticket gets you a lot of value. More than 80 LA restaurants and vintners will be there, and your ticket includes unlimited food and wine — plus free parking, which is basically as valuable as a unicorn in LA.
Taste of Chicago
Ticket price: Individual events in the $45 range
Every July, Chicago’s nearly 40-year-old celebration offers a lot of value. Admission is free — so you can take in all kinds of art and music without paying a dime — while individual events with celebrity chefs were in the $45 range in 2017.
Festivalgoers took in the full range of Chi Town’s flavors, with multi-course meals featuring everything from Latin-infused ahi tuna with watermelon ceviche to roasted rabbit saddle, with maple bacon ice cream for dessert.
Ticket price: About $75 to $385 per event
When it comes to the Cayman Cookout, it’s all in the name. You can attend this island food festival barefoot, despite its January date. On the postcard-friendly Seven Mile Beach, huge chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Jose Andres host a relaxed gathering that includes tastings, demos, dinners and tours soaked in lots and lots of wine.
In 2018, look forward to festival foods, including Andres’ paella, Cajun cuisine from Emeril Lagasse and an extravagant 10-course dinner with chef Eric Ripert. Dining events are priced individually, with prices that ranged between $75 and $385 in 2017.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Ticket price: About $100
If you’ve dropped the roughly $100 that it costs to attend Epcot, you’ve already paid your way to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which runs from late August through mid-November. Food comes at a varied cost, including grub from more than 30 kiosks that embrace Epcot’s international theme.
Your visit includes events that really speak to Epcot’s educational focus, such as wine and spirit seminars, cheese classes, courses from world-famous chefs and a live visit from the hosts of ABC’s “The Chew.”
Pebble Beach Food & Wine
Ticket price: $100 for individual events up to $6,500 for a VIP package
When the 11th annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival hits in April of 2018, it’ll welcome a huge slate of 250 wineries and 100 celebrity chefs for what the organizers call a “hedonistic four-day destination on one of the most picturesque strips of coastline in the world.”
That’s a pretty big claim that comes with a big ticket price — the all-inclusive VIP experience fetched $6,500 in 2017. But Pebble Beach packs a lot of content to help ease that sticker shock. Alongside wine tasting and 25 seminars, 2017 dazzled beachgoers with foodie delights like a Joe’s Stone Crab pop-up and a taco fiesta with Guy Fieri. And don’t forget the wine — there were a dozen events dedicated to love of the grape.
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