After another long winter in much of the Northern Hemisphere, spring has sprung, and farms and flowers are abloom. Food festivals are delightful ways to celebrate the season, so read on for our top choices. Pro tip: Some ticketed events sell out way in advance, so now is also a good time to plan for next year.

Flavor!

Napa Valley, California

Courtesy of Flavor! Napa Valley. Photo by Bob McClenahan


This five-day festival in the United States' best-known wine region offers (deep breath) full-day tasting tours of Napa wineries; a Grand Tasting of 80-plus Napa wines and 25-plus local restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena; and dinners with star San Francisco chefs Tyler Florence of Wayfare Tavern and Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb. There’s also a smaller tasting at the CIA’s brand-new campus in downtown Napa city at Copia with 40 Napa wines plus bites from downtown eateries like Torc, Angele and Nuri, and a tasting/seminar with iconic winemaker Heidi Barrett.

Where: Napa Valley, CA
When: Mar. 22-26
More info: flavornapavalley.com


Taste Washington

Seattle

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Savor the Pacific Northwest bounty from almost 300 Washington state wineries and more than 70 local restaurants at this festival. Kicking off with the Red & White Party, a tasting of reserve wines with gourmet nibbles at waterfront restaurant Aqua by El Gaucho, the fest also features a two-day Grand Tasting farm tours and a chic party at Four Seasons Seattle. Food tours of Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, showing off everything from shellfish to maple-bacon donuts, are also offered. Bonus: March is Washington Wine Month, so some restaurants offer winemaker dinners. 

Where: Seattle, WA
When: Mar. 23-26
More info: tastewashington.org


Ubud Food Festival

Bali, Indonesia 

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Eat Play Sip could be the name of this festival in Bali’s arts capital, Ubud, which is home to one of the hottest restaurant scenes you've ever seen in a city of under 50,000. Top Indonesian chefs and a smattering of international names will be in the spotlight, including Bangkok’s husband-and-wife duo at Bo.Ian; Australia’s (Indonesian-born) “Spice Sisters,” Tasia and Gracia Seger; and Yannis Janssens, the Belgian pastry chef at Joel Robuchon Bangkok. Janssens will collaborate in a six-course dinner with craft beer pairings at Copper Kitchen & Bar. Five chef demos daily and cooking classes are on the program. Special events pre- and post-fest: Dinner at the W Bali – Seminyak, dinner at Bikini, even a week’s cruise of the Lesser Sunda islands and Komodo National Park with festival founder Janet DeNeefe and the Spice Sisters.

Where: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
When: May 12-14
More info: ubudfoodfestival.com 


Montana Master Grillers

Greenough, Montana

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If the smell of BBQ makes your mouth water, head to Big Sky country at the end of May for a weekend of grilling goodness. Four BBQ grillmasters, like Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller’s Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, and Charlie McKenna of Chicago’s Lillie’s Q and Dixie, will serve their smoked-meat specialties. Napa’s Cakebread Cellars provides the wine pairings, while craft brews and spirits are Montana made. The fest is just one of many foodie weekends at The Resort at Paws Up, which sprawls over 37,000 acres and offers adventures both outdoors and epicurean. If you miss it, don’t fret: Earn your MGA (Master of Grilling Awesomeness) at BBQ-U in July.  

Where: 40060 Paws Up Rd., Greenough, MT 59823
When: May 26-29
More info: +1 877-588-6764 pawsup.com


Big Island Chocolate Festival

Big Island, Hawaii 

Photo by Sasha Zvereva


Hawaii is the only U.S. state where cacao is grown commercially. Fittingly, it hosts a chocolate festival, which offers a tour and tasting at a cacao plantation and booths featuring masterpieces from chocolate makers like Valrhona and Guittard as well as Hawaiian chefs. This year, the theme is the history of chocolate: The tasty treat began as a beverage in ancient Mesoamerica and evolved into bar form in Europe. (We know because we went to a great chocolate museum in Mexico, Choco-Story.) Vendors will be judged on the originality of expressing that theme, and the best bonbon, savory item, bean-to-bar, Hawaiian cacao and plated dessert will win prizes.    

Where: Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, 62-100 Kauna'oa Dr., Kohala Coast, Big Island, HI 96743
When: Apr. 28 & 29
More info: bigislandchocolatefestival.com


New Orleans Oyster Festival

New Orleans

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The glory of the Gulf oyster is celebrated at this free festival in a Missississippi River waterfront park. Eat 'em up in forms like chargrilled, gumbo, fried oyster po' boys to oyster-stuffed mushrooms. More than 20 local restaurants, including favorites such as Drago’s, Acme Oyster House, Red Fish Grill and Bourbon House, will sell their takes on the beloved bivalve. Rockin’ local bands like Bonerama perform on stage, where chefs also offer cooking demos. (If you're wondering why we didn't list the Big Easy’s premier gourmet food fest, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience — it's because we did in 2016 and we like to mix it up.)

Where: Woldenberg Park, New Orleans, LA
When: June 3 & 4
More info: nolaoysterfest.org


By Sharon McDonnell

Sharon McDonnell is a San Francisco-based travel and food/beverage writer for many outlets.