Florida Food and Wine Festivals-South/Central/North, FL
KEY WEST LOBSTERFEST
People come from all over the world to fish for lobster at the start of the Florida Keys lobster season, so naturally a kick-off celebration is a must. Known as spiny lobsters, the clawless crustaceans offer sweet and tender meat, delicious served cold with lemon and cocktail sauce, warm with drawn butter, chopped and mixed with mayo for salads and sandwiches and broiled with garlic and tomatoes. If this sounds mouthwatering, hit the Lobsterfest.
Where: Downtown Key West
FLAVOR PALM BEACH
This month-long event is designed to introduce diners and visitors to the vast array of restaurants throughout Palm Beach County. Each offers a selection of specially priced three-course meals to help guide guests through a gastronomic sampling of great dishes, ranging from steakhouse favorites such as prime rib and truffle-mashed potatoes to lighter ceviche cups and sushi rolls. Just find a restaurant you’d like to try on the website and go check out its special Flavor menu.
Where: Various locations in Palm Beach County
STONE CRAB FESTIVAL
The annual Stonecrab Festival is a weekend of food and fun starring, of course, the stone crab. It’s also your chance to explore the beautiful Naples waterfront with activities on land and by water in and around Bayfront, Port of Naples Marina, Tin City and Naples Transportation and Tours General Store/Heritage Museum.
DELRAY BEACH WINE AND SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
Delray Beach’s annual free-admission wine and seafood festival draws thousands to its various vendor selling fish tacos, shrimp gumbo, Cajun crab cakes and other delicacies best eaten with a cold Chardonnay or sangria.
Where: Downtown Delray Beach
PALM BEACH FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
The Florida food festival brings an eclectic collection of the world’s award-winning chefs, culinary personalities, authors, winemakers and mixologists to this picturesque island of South Florida. Includes specialty cocktail and hors d'oeuvre receptions, five-course dinners with premium wine pairings, kids' cooking classes, and the final grand tasting and cooking competition.
Where: Palm Beach
FELSMERE FROG LEG FESTIVAL
For a true, down-home, small-town festival experience, look no further than the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, which is exactly what it sounds like: platters of delicious frog legs served with grits, cole slaw and hush puppies. For the squeamish, there’s also the less adventurous gator tail as well as hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, candy apples and other festival food fare.
Where: Fellsmere, Indian River County
KEY LIME FESTIVAL
Florida’s Space Coast pays homage to the state’s signature citrus fruit, the esteemed key lime. Try several variations of a key lime pie, including in a martini or a margarita, and watch the spectacle that is the key lime pie-eating contest or applaud along as Miss Florida Key Lime Pie as crowned.
Where: Cape Canaveral
EINSTEIN ON FOOD AND WINE
Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) continues one of its most popular fundraisers with a “celebration of the senses.” Traditional and ethnic cuisine of Tampa Bay alongside palate-tingling wines from around the country, a beer garden, a restaurant competition and sensory experiments and artwork throughout the museum.
CENTRAL FLORIDA RUM AND FOOD EXPERIENCE
Rum aficionados, rum collectors or simply rum-curious folks will have a blast at this festival designed to both educate and entertain. A $50 ticket includes rum tastings, unlimited food tastings, cooking and cocktail demonstrations by local chefs and mixologists, as well as music and other good times.
As one of Dade City’s most well-attended events of the year, this festival honoring the small, squat little citrus fruit draws tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of vendors, most of which rise to the challenge of creating various kumquat jams, syrups, pastries, smoothies, ice creams and salsas.
Where: Downtown Dade City
ST. PETE BEACH SEAFOOD & MUSIC FESTIVAL
This two-day festival promises the perfect recipe for a great time, blending delectable seafood creations with outstanding live musical performances and a marketplace of arts, crafts and select fine products.
Where: St. Pete Beach
EAU GALLIE FOUNDERS’ DAY FISH FRY
Eau Gallie celebrates its 155-year-old historical roots and harkens to a day when neighbors and business owners looked out for each other and children played in the street. An old-fashioned fish fry – a complete fish dinner with two sides – seems fitting, but the festival organizers also provide other meat and vegetarian options to make sure everyone leaves full.
Where: Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne
CLEARWATER BEACH UNCORKED
Nationally acclaimed chefs work alongside the area’s great local chefs, winemakers, spirits producers, and culinary experts to produce what is billed as “the most anticipated beachfront foodie event of the year.” Expect lots of samplings of seafood, salads, appetizers, desserts, wines and microbrews.
Where: Clearwater Beach
PUNTA GORDA WINE & JAZZ FESTIVAL
The tastings are a delectable backdrop to performances by some of the best jazz and blues musicians from around the world.
Where: Punta Gorda
FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL
Guests come from near and far to discover not only creative ways to enjoy strawberries, but also to see exhibits of agriculture, commerce, industry, livestock, fine arts, live entertainment, horticulture, and crafts.
Where: Plant City
NATIONAL CUBAN SANDWICH FESTIVAL
Miami and Tampa have been battling over who has the best and most authentic Cuban sandwich for decades. This festival aims to settle the debate – at least until the next year – with its annual three-day competition spotlighting sandwich makers from both regions, working their magic with pork, Swiss cheese and whatever other secret ingredients the competitors slip between slices of fresh-baked Cuban bread.
Where: Historic Ybor City, Tampa
FLORIDA WINEFEST AND AUCTION
The highlight of this four-day fundraising event is undoubtedly the massive amounts of food served by various restaurants and banquet halls spread throughout Sarasota. There’s a street party featuring seafood and meat dishes, a lunch tasting, a brunch tasting and several wine tastings, including the final soiree, Wine on the Water.
LAKERIDGE WINERY AND VINEYARDS WINE AND SEAFOOD FEST
To kick off Florida’s beautiful spring weather, Lakeridge Winery hosts its signature event featuring its own cuvee blanc, chardonnay, ports and other types of wine, as well as beer, soft drinks and a variety of seafood specialties. Complimentary tastings and tours are included.
FORT PIERCE OYSTER FESTIVAL
Oysters Casino, Oysters Mexicali, oyster stew, grilled oysters, raw oysters, fried oysters. While oyster lovers get their fill, festival goers will also contribute to a better ecosystem as shells will be gathered for oyster reef restoration projects. Kids (or anyone who doesn’t love the bivalves) can nosh on other delicious dishes served at this charity event.
Where: Downtown Fort Pierce
Historic Ybor City is known for its Cuban roots thanks to its former cigar-rolling jobs, but the district also likes to honor its Italian culture as well. The Festa Italiana, which began in 1997, kicks off with a wine party featuring more than 70 wines, as well as Italian antipasti, cuisine and desserts. It ends with the main event, during which dozens of the Tampa Bay area’s top restaurants and catering companies serve delicious dishes and tastings.
Where: Historic Ybor City, Tampa\
BEARD IN BALDWIN FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
Dozens of the area’s top restaurants serve BBQ, sushi, Mexican cuisine, pasta dishes and other flavorful plates paired with wine, craft cocktails or local brews. The event, set against the backdrop of gorgeous Lake Baldwin and Harbor Park, benefits the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program, which helps aid talented students studying culinary arts, baking and pastry, agriculture and other disciplines.
Where: Baldwin Park, Orlando
FOOD AND WINE ON PINE
Top chefs and culinary students from around the region prepare their best dishes, including lobster and shrimp ceviche. gourmet tater tots and frozen wine slushies, as guests watch chalk demonstrations and sip Kentucky Derby drink specials along Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue.
Where: Anna Maria
CLEARWATER BEACH TASTE FEST
The Annual Clearwater Beach Taste Fest, on a beach recently named Trip Advisor's #1 in America, features tastings from more than 30 participating restaurants, wine and craftbeer, live entertainment, a live auction, and vendors.
Where: Clearwater Beach
HISTORIC COCOA VILLAGE’S BBQ & BLUES – In one of Cocoa Village’s most competitive events of the year, culinary teams from around the southeastern United States bring their pork butts, ribs, sauces and A-games to grill, smoke and slow-cook their way to win cash prizes. You be the judge of People’s Choice, Best Sauce and Best Dessert.
Where: Historic Cocoa Village
DUNEDIN ORANGE FESTIVAL
In a town known for its history of oranges, orange groves and citrus packing, this festival became a natural fit in 2010 and has been held every July in Edgewater Park since. Sample some contest entries in the local restaurant Mojo cook-Off Contest, or try some fruity ice cream, smoothies and juice blends.
Named one of the “10 Great Beer Festivals in the Country” by USA Today, this annual tasting event features 275 beers and beverages from around the world, tasty food samplings from favorite Tampa Bay area restaurants and live music throughout the Zoo.
Where: Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa
EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
If it’s at Walt Disney World, you know it’s going to be magical. Here, you’ll “dine around the world” with tasting events and enjoy big-name entertainment, plus culinary demonstrations and seminars on mixology, beverages, cheeses.
Where: Walt Disney World Epcot
CENTRAL FLORIDA PEANUT FESTIVAL –
Truly Florida’s nuttiest event, Levy County’s peanut festival features all manner and preparations of this prized legume crop. Try peanuts boiled, fried, roasted, mashed into butter, mixed into cookies and cakes, dumped into stews and even fashioned into arts and crafts. Stick around for the crowing of the Little Peanut Baby, King and Queen.
FOOD, WINE & BREW FESTIVAL
This annual festival, on the scenic banks of the Intracoastal Waterway in Downtown Daytona Beach, starts with a beer dinner, and includes food samples from the best local restaurants along with 100 craft beers and 30 wines from around the country. Enjoy the sports bar with college football games, live entertainment and a Cigar Lounge.
Where: News-Journal Center
WHEN PIGS FLY SOUTH BBQ CHALLENGE
Held at Lakeland’s SUN ‘n FUN, a convention campus devoted to all things aviation, this popular Florida BBQ competition draws dozens of teams boasting their brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage and pulled pork, as well as country-style sides, desserts, sauce tastings and plenty of beer and soda to wash it all down.
Zoofari draws some of the area’s best restaurants to prepare delicious bites such as bacon mac ‘n cheese, tenderloin nachos, Cuban sandwiches, artisan pizzas, seared tuna and more. Come hungry!
Where: Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa
Ongoing Central Florida events
The Food Truck Bazaar
which recurs every fourth Monday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m., draws hundreds to its caravan of meals on wheels serving up tacos, cupcakes, Thai food and other delicious made-to-order treats.
Sand Point Park, Titusville
Melbourne: For fresh produce, honey, jams, hot food and drinks, homemade pasta sauce, bread, baked goods and more, hit the Old Eau Gallie Farmer's Market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Eau Gallie Square Park.
Cocoa Village: Local artisans and vendors offer a variety of baked goods, fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, local raw honey, jams and jellies at the quaint Historic Cocoa Village Farmer's Market every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Melbourne: Sample pestos, buy bunches of biscotti, sip gourmet coffee and grab a slice of pizza at the Downtown Melbourne Farmer's Marketevery Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tampa: Stroll among the brick streets and Spanish-style architecture at the Ybor City Saturday Market, where you can pick up organic fruits and veggies, Cuban guava pastries, fresh pasta, smoothies and coffee.
St. Petersburg: Downtown St. Pete’s Saturday Morning Market is a popular stomping ground among humans and dogs alike. Between early October and late May, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., check out the squash and radishes from Pinellas County small farms, order an empanada for lunch and buy some fresh bread with dipping oils and herbs for later.
Dunedin: Buy a $10 wristband for the Wine/Art Walk, held the second Friday evening every month, and taste various red, white and rose wines as you stroll the streets of downtown Dunedin and take in the art and boutique shop displays.
APALACHICOLA OYSTER COOK-OFF
Up to 90 percent of Florida’s oysters come from the shallow waters of Apalachicola Bay, so naturally, one of the town’s biggest events of the year pays homage to the plump, briny treats. Eat all the oysters you can handle, as well shrimp, smoked mullet, hot dogs, hamburgers, local beer, and help raise funds for the town’s volunteer fire department.
Where: Downtown Historic Apalachicola
AMELIA ISLAND RESTAURANT WEEK
At one of Florida’s prettiest islands, spend a week dining at some of the 30-plus participating restaurants – from Cuban fare to seafood and pub-style dishes – offering a prix-fixe menu for under $30. Includes Mixology Tours in which you can stroll among watering holes in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach and sample craft cocktails, meet the bartenders and mingle with the Island’s friendly locals.
Where: Amelia Island
FIDDLER CRAB FESTIVAL
The small, inedible fiddler crab is a mere backdrop to this festival featuring the Swampwater Cook-Off, in which both amateur and professional chefs toil and boil from sunrise until lunchtime on their secret recipe soups, stews (particularly Brunswick) and chili. In the meantime, festivalgoers can nosh on seafood, BBQ, kettle corn and funnel cakes.
THE SANDESTIN GUMBO FESTIVAL – Chefs from all over the Gulf Coast out their own spin on gumbo, whether made with dark or light roux, different types of meat and a range of flavors and spices. Get a wristband and a “taster’s guide” and sample a wide variety of gumbo as you vote for the People’s Choice winner.
30A WINE FESTIVAL
About a dozen vineyards and wineries from all over the country as well as a handful of local restaurants feature their best stuff during an elegant, three-day fundraiser tasting event.
Where: Alys Beach
ST. AUGUSTINE LIONS SEAFOOD FESTIVAL –
For more than three decades, this seafood festival has been a favorite among Floridians, drawing tens of thousands every year. And it’s no wonder; with a handful of refundable tokens, you can fill up on everything from seafood quesadillas to rockfish strips to alligator skewers. For dessert, try the chocolate key lime pie or fried candy bars.
Where: St. Augustine
NORTHEAST FLORIDA VEG FEST
In a state that loves its seafood and BBQ, the Veg Fest is a welcome break for local and visiting vegetarians and vegans. The Veg Fest celebrates healthy and sustainable foods through cooking demonstrations, a beer garden, a pie-eating contest, seminars on how to grow your own food and other activities for the meat-free mobs.
ISLE OF EIGHT FLAGS SHRIMP FESTIVAL
Amelia Island’s “Isle of Eight Flags” story is a long and complicated one, involving bloody battles and a clash of cultures, but the main takeaway from it all is that the island’s deep-water harbors contain shrimp. Lots of shrimp. This festival honors Florida’s shrimping industry by serving the little guys up hot, cold, fried, on skewers, in gumbo and chopped into salads. There’s also an ice cream contest for the brave and brain-freeze immune.
Where: Fernandina Beach
SOUTH WALTON BEACHES FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
Wash down fine cheeses, olives, sushi, oysters, charcuterie and chocolates with a selection of more than 800 wines. This jam-packed weekend of events is spread among several resorts, wine shops and other venues where people can smell and taste different reds, whites and champagnes, sample craft beer and try creative and unusual wine and cheese pairings.
Where: South Walton
A TASTE OF ST. AUGUSTINE
The Taste of St. Augustine is a great way to become familiar with more than 20 of the city’s best restaurants as they all bring their A-game to compete for food contest categories such as Best Family Dining, Best Upscale, Best Ethnic and Best Dessert. Local breweries and wineries also get in on the fun, and there are soft drinks and familiar finger foods for the kids.
Where: St. Augustine
JACKSONVILLE CRAFT AND IMPORT BEER FESTIVAL
As Florida’s beer scene grows, so does this festival, which typically draws between 40 and 50 breweries and more than 20 restaurants, working together in gastronomic harmony. Pair various Belgian beers, ciders and ales with pizza, burgers, seafood dishes and desserts.
ST. AUGUSTINE SPANISH WINE FESTIVAL
This festival features Spanish foods and wines presented at a variety of special events and restaurants. The festival includes Vino Veritas, where guests learn the secrets of authentic Spanish recipes and Spanish wine pairings from Spanish food and wine experts, and the Grand Tasting, where folks sample more than 120 different types of wines made in Spain.
Where: Various locations in St. Augustine
ANNUAL TASTE OF AMELIA ISLAND - The Taste of Amelia Island offers guests the opportunity to sample cuisine from the island’s best chefs, while enjoying a selection of fine wines from a variety of distributors. The event includes a live chef demo during the cocktail hour, live music, a 50/50 raffle, and a Best Dish of the Taste award voted on by attendees and announced on the main stage.
Where: Amelia Island
GREEK FOOD FESTIVAL – Florida’s Greek population brings a lot of great things to the Sunshine State, not the least of which is delicious Mediterranean cuisine such as gyros, spanakopita, baklava, moussaka, Greek salad and the anise-infused ouzo. Try them all at the two-day Greek Food Festival, held at the Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church.
TALLAHASSEE BREWFEST – The Brewfest’s popularity stems from its massive and eclectic beer list, as dozens of national beer brewers, local breweries and home brewers bring their ales, IPAs, stouts and ciders, all served inside the Tallahassee Auto Museum. Food is also provided and usually included in the ticket price.
ST. MARKS STONE CRAB FESTIVAL – As the fishing boats begin hauling in giant-clawed Florida stone crabs in October, you’ll know it’s time for this small-town festival. Sit down with a platter of tough-shelled and messy (but delicious!) claws, served with lemon, drawn butter and/or cocktail sauce, or take a break from the cracking with hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, funnel cakes and other fun foods.
Where: St. Marks
THE GREAT CHOWDER DEBATE – Thousands gather for St. Augustine’s famous Great Chowder Debate, hosted by the Conch House Marina Resort. More than 30 area restaurants compete for top honors at this fundraiser for Shriners Children's Hospitals, where tastes are $1 each and winners are selected for New England, Minorcan and various conch and seafood categories.
Where: St. Augustine
SEEING RED WINE FESTIVAL – The four days of festivities include reserve wine tastings, dinners and a brunch with featured guest winemakers. Several of Seaside’s well-known restaurants showcase how their farm-to-fork and gulf-to-table offerings pair beautifully with the featured red wines.
FLORIDA SEAFOOD FESTIVAL – A two-day event annually drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the historic town of Apalachicola in scenic Franklin County. The festival features delicious seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, seafood related events, musical entertainment and more.
ST. AUGUSTINE DISTILLERY SUGAR CANE HARVEST FESTIVAL – Watch sugar cane milled in a Cast Iron Sugar mill built in 1883 and experience a traditional old fashioned cane boil. The sugar cane boil is a North Florida tradition where families and friends get together to harvest the sugar cane and create syrup. Guests can help out with the harvesting of the sugar cane and taste it in its purest form, as well as tasting spirits and cocktails made at the distillery and eating food made from local restaurants and artisans.
Where: St. Augustine
Ongoing North Florida events
Tallahassee: Every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m., locals make their way to the popular Food Truck Thursdays inside the Cottages at Lake Ella. It’s a great way to try new cuisine from mobile restaurants.
Fernandina Beach: Tucked away at the south end of Amelia Island sits a fun and educational wine tasting at A Taste of Wine by Steve. Try two whites and two reds every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m.
FESTIVAL OF CHOCOLATE – Indulge in chocolate and wine pairings, participate in interactive classes and be amazed at chocolate-themed fashion shows during this festival.
Where: Various times in Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach.
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