There are few better events to plan a trip around than food fairs and food festivals. Whether you're off to Munich for Oktoberfest or Coney Island for Nathan's annual hot-dog eating competition, food is certainly the most delicious way to explore a new place. Travel + Leisure's editors and contributors scour the globe for the very best immersive food experiences, from the deep-fried variety served up at the Minnesota State Fair to the confections of Perugia's annual Eurochocolate Festival, andn even the leaf-wrapped dumplings traditionally eaten during Hong Kong's Dragon Boat Festival.
Not all food festivals are created equal, and a bad food fair—like a bad poetry reading—is pretty much excruciating. Too many of us have paid a hefty fee to wait in line for tiny samples of over-cooked food, or paid for the privilege of waiting in line to pay again. But when a food festival is good, it's great: a convenient way to explore many different kinds of food and drink all at once. Food fairs run the gamut from homegrown volunteer operations, like Nashville's Hot Chicken Festival, to elaborate professional endeavors, like New Orleans's Tales of the Cocktail. Though several exciting new food fairs sprout up every year, there are also many excellent mainstays that have been on the scene for decades. Founded in 1947, Rockland's annual Maine Lobster Festival has grown from a sleepy local event to an internationally recognized food fair. (Writer David Foster Wallace named his classic essay collection, Consider the Lobster, after a piece detailing a 2004 visit to Rockland during the festival.) In Munich, Oktoberfest can trace its origins back to 1811.
T+L sorts through food festivals and food fairs both old and new, large and small, to identify the gems—and the duds—of the field. Get ready to dig in.