Food festivals and family fun all across Florida
Loosen up those belts and don some stretchy pants because, from fall through spring, Florida weekends are jam-packed with festivals dedicated to every food imaginable. From craft beer and gourmet tapas to cultural cuisine and plant-based morsels, everyone can find a festival fit for them. Which one will you take a bite out of?
Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Now through Monday, Nov. 12
Traveling from Australia to Germany and then on to Japan in a day is only possible at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Stroll the globe, visit your favorite international locations and also enjoy new location stations dedicated to specialty items—think spicy food, California wines and even a stop all about kombucha.
Fan favorite events such as Party for the Senses and the Eat to the Beat Concert Series are both returning this year to delight guests. One new event this year is Sunday Brunch with celebrity chefs. Each Sunday, enjoy a delicious brunch buffet followed by a conversation with a renowned television personality, including Buddy Valastro, Carla Hall and Alex Guarnaschelli.
Visit disneyworld.com to purchase tickets and learn more about special events and schedules.
SeaWorld Craft Beer Festival
Weekend days Nov. 3 through 11
Just in time for International Beer Day, SeaWorld Orlando is hosting its first-ever festival celebrating all things beer and brew.
The SeaWorld Craft Beer Festival will have more than 100 beers available on draft from breweries all over the state of Florida, plus a few well-loved domestic and international craft favorites. The festival will also feature a menu of unique foods to pair with any beer they choose.
The best deal for guests to experience the all-new Craft Beer Festival—and all of SeaWorld’s special events throughout the year—is with an annual pass. Guests looking to taste their way around the Florida craft beer scene can purchase sampling packages or buy a la carte as they go.
For more information on pricing options, visit seaworld.com.
St. Petersburg Rib Fest
Friday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 11
If sampling the barbecue stylings of award-winning “ribbers”—rib cookin’ experts—sounds like your kind of weekend, the St. Petersburg Rib Fest is the fest for you. Northeast Exchange Club’s Ribfest, presented by Sonny’s Bar B Q, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with ribs, music and family fun as a fundraiser for local youth.
This three-day event features some of the best ribbers in the world and many other beloved fair food options. National touring artists and local talent will come together to perform Southern rock and country hits, including acts like Runaway June, Josh Turner and Barenaked Ladies.
The event is held in Vinoy Park on the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg. Tickets are $5 for Friday’s event and $20 each for Saturday and Sunday.
Check out the full concert lineup and purchase tickets at ribfest.org
Dade City Kumquat Festival
Saturday, Jan. 26, 9am-5pm
Downtown Dade City
It’s not just a cute name! The annual Kumquat Festival brings travelers from all over the state to Dade City for the weekend—as many as 35,000 visitors and 400 vendors for the day. Kumquats are, of course, the pride of the festival with kumquat pie, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, salsa and more available for sale. The neighboring town of St. Joseph is actually known as the Kumquat Capital of the World.
Like any good seasonal festival, there will be live music by local entertainers and arts and crafts booths as well. Fun activities at the festival include a car and truck show, health and wellness area, Kumquat Kids Corral and the annual Quilt Challenge. Admission to the festival is free, as is transportation from two satellite parking areas and parking downtown.
If you decide to drive to Dade City and spend a weekend, you wouldn’t be remiss. To kick off the month of the festival, the first Friday evening of January is First Friday in downtown—shops and restaurants open and host special entertainment. The next day, the historic downtown area hosts the Dade City Cruise-In, featuring hundreds of classic and cool cars and owners showing them off.
During the week of the festival, Kumquat Growers host an open house (Thursday and Friday prior to the festival) with grove and packing house tours (visit kumquatgrowers.com for times and more information)—all part of the festivities that round out our Kumquat Festival month.
30A Wine Festival
Wednesday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 24
If events like oyster and Champagne pairings are right up your alley, the 30A Wine Festival is made for you. This five-day, can’t-miss event is about learning all there is to know about wine and spirits from the mixology experts who create them.
The Bourbon, Beer & Butts event features barbecue tastings paired with bourbon from distilleries from across the country and beer from local and national breweries. And who would want to miss a boozy, breezy brunch event dedicated to rosé and croquet?
For more information, visit 30awinefestival.com.
Alys Beach is a luxury community nestled on the coast of Florida’s panhandle between Destin and Panama City, right along those signature white sandy beaches of the Gulf. It’s also minutes away from multiple state parks and the Point Washington State Forest. Stay in one of many Airbnbs or resort rooms available if you’re looking for an indulgent weekend getaway. If you relax best outdoors, camping is available in the state forest along with hiking and biking trails from 3.5 to 10 miles.
Visit dadecitychamber.org for more information.
South Florida Garlic Fest
Saturday, Feb. 9 and Sunday, Feb. 10
How could you miss “the best stinkin’ party in South Florida?” This year, the South Florida Garlic Fest celebrates its 20th anniversary with a festival featuring local musicians, artists and especially chefs. Each year more than 40,000 visitors attend to enjoy the delicious garlicky food and the accompanying entertainment.
The event is all about showcasing the numerous health benefits and culinary possibilities of the humble garlic. Countless recipes and unique dishes have been created by professional chefs in the Garlic Chef cooking competition and by concessions vendors—think garlic ice cream, garlic barbecue and garlic crab cakes. The Garlic Fest has been featured on the Food Network and in countless national newspapers and magazines.
The Garlic Fest also hosts an eclectic lineup of musical talent each year. In past years, guests have enjoyed Dispatch, Collective Soul, Sister Hazel and more. The 2019 lineup will be announced soon!
Tickets are $10 for entry before 6pm or $20 to enter after. Visit garlicfestfl.com for more information on parking and purchasing tickets.
The Garlic Fest is held in John Prince Park, a beautiful, 726-acre green space with easy access from I-95 and 48 acres of campground with amenities. Lake Worth is also just 40 minutes away from Ft. Lauderdale and an hour from Miami, so enjoy those cities while you’re in the area.
South Beach Wine and Food Festival
Wednesday, Feb. 20 through Sunday, Feb. 24
The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival is a national, star-studded, five-day destination event that hosts some of the world’s most renowned, beloved chefs and culinary personalities. However, its purpose is surprisingly local. The festival is hosted by Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, and to date, the event has donated more than $28 million back to the school.
With more than 85 events to choose from over the course of the festival, there is plenty to do, see and taste! Event details are not quite ready yet, so keep an eye on sobewff.org to learn which celeb chefs will be in attendance.
Florida Strawberry Festival
Thursday, Feb. 28 through Sunday, March 10
The annual Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City is one of our fair state’s most beloved events and marks the very beginning of spring each year. It’s a festival with something for everyone—live music by national talent, eating contests, youth livestock shows, a battle of the bands, stunt shows, racing pigs and plenty of carnival rides, too.
Of course, be sure to stop by the various vendors and tents showcasing delicious strawberry dishes to get a taste of what the strawberry festival is celebrating. Pies, tarts, jams, jellies and more will be available for purchase, and you should probably plan to buy two of everything. It’s all won-a-blue-ribbon-at-the-county-fair good.
Concert lineups and ticket sales will be announced in mid-November on flstrawberryfestival.com.
St. Augustine Lions Seafood Festival
Friday, March 22 through Sunday, March 24
The St. Augustine Lions Seafood Festival invites all Floridians to visit America’s oldest city for a taste of its newest culinary innovations. Now in its 38th year, this festival draws out some of historic St. Augustine’s best restaurateurs and local diners, so visitors can sample everything from fried candy bars to conch ceviche. Of course, seafood will be in the spotlight, so be sure to taste fresh-caught grilled mahi, award-winning white chowder or stuffed lobster tail. Admission is $5, but kids 16 and under and military members with ID get in for free.
More info is available on lionsfestival.com.
The festival takes place near downtown
St. Augustine, so if you don’t want to make the drive there and back in a day, this is a great locale to turn into a weekend trip. Local bed and breakfasts—both haunted and not, your choice—line the nation’s oldest streets, as do plenty of top-rated Airbnbs.
Ocala Veg Fest
Sunday, March 24, 10am-4pm
Ocala Downtown Market
The inaugural Ocala Veg Fest calls itself the first event in town to offer 100 percent vegan foods. It’s organized by local nonprofit APlantBasedDiet.org, which has hosted popular Veg Fests in other areas of the state in years past.
Board members and fest organizers Mike Young and Denise Landa say this fun, all-day event is for everyone, not just those who eat vegan.
“We know there’s an active vegan community, but we’d love to introduce the lifestyle to others or maybe those who have some uncertainty. We’d love to show them it’s all positive and that you can live a lifestyle like that and still enjoy life,” says Young.
“Most of this food you can’t even tell is vegan,” says Landa, citing some of her favorite cookies that will be available at the festival as an example. “And there’s always a coffee vendor there, too for our coffee lovers out there.”
There will also be plenty of opportunities for Veg Fest visitors to learn something new.
“We’ll have speakers all day long doing presentations, and we hope to have some music, too. It’s not only about food but related causes,” says Young. “We’ll have some speakers focused on the environment and sustainability in our daily practices, like being zero-waste. Many people don’t realize what small changes they can make that will have a larger impact.”
APlantBasedDiet.org also promotes using healthy eating and food choices as a way to prevent most illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes, so Young and Landa say to expect some speakers on this topic as well.
“We want to educate people so they know they can have control over their own health,” says Young.
Ocala Veg Fest is free to attend, but bring some money to enjoy the food and vendor offerings. RSVP to their Facebook event for updates leading up to Ocala Veg Fest.
Visit veganocala.org to learn more.
Ocala Culinary Festival
Wednesday, April 3 through Sunday, April 7
High-end food tasting events were once reserved for Florida’s major metropolitan areas, but the Ocala Culinary Festival changed that perception after its inaugural event just a few short years ago.
Chefs from around the United States and beloved chefs of Ocala join together in a days-long celebration of unique food and cocktails. Last year, many of the chefs involved were James Beard Award nominees.
Keep your eye on the website ocalaculinaryfestival.com to purchase tickets and learn more about the scheduled events as information becomes available.