- Audra Clemons
With its year-round tropical climate, Florida produces a plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables, while its position next to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean make it perfect for daily seafood catches. Lovers of food are taking advantage of what Florida has to offer with many food festivals taking place each year. Here are ten of the best.
Florida Seafood Festival
The annual Florida Seafood Festival is the oldest seafood festival in the state and has taken place for over 50 years. The two-day event happens every autumn in the nook of Florida’s panhandle at the mouth of the Apalachicola River – home to the Apalachicola oyster which is known worldwide for its smooth taste. The Florida Seafood Festival offers many events: a carnival, blue crab races, an oyster shucking contest, a parade, a five-kilometre run and a special blessing event for the fishing and shrimp vessels. Beyond events, the food served by local non-profit organisations ranges from oyster stew and fried shrimp to pulled pork sandwiches and a low country boil.
The Florida Seafood Festival, 1 Bay Ave, Apalachicola, FL, USA, +1 850 653 4720
The Strawberry Festival was first held in 1930, and takes place in one of Florida’s most important winter strawberry growing regions, which spans more than 8,000 acres. The festival began at a time in American history when fairs and festivals were held to bring together communities in celebration of their harvested crops. Now, ranking among the Top 50 Fairs in North America, the Strawberry Festival exhibits agriculture, commerce, industry, livestock, fine arts, horticulture, top-notch music and crafts. Guests of the fair can enjoy luscious strawberry desserts prepared in every way alongside the local berry farmers that work hard to harvest them.
The Strawberry Festival, 2107 West Oak Avenue, Plant City, FL, USA, +1 813 752 9194
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
The most famous food festival in Florida is Miami’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival and features celebrity chefs, culinary personalities and food as far as the eye can see. More than 50,000 people visit this annual winter gathering in one of Florida’s most beautiful and trendy beach towns. Presented and sponsored by the Food Network and Food & Wine magazine, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival showcases the best of gastronomic decadence and sees crowds of people buzzing between tasting tents set up on the beach to sample what each culinary purveyor has to offer.
Taste of St. Augustine
Taste of St. Augustine is a premier outdoor food festival located in one of Florida’s most historical cities. The signature festival serves up local tastings from over 20 of St. Augustine’s most acclaimed restaurants. Taste of St. Augustine puts restaurants to the test by having them compete for the prestigious TOStA (Taste of St. Augustine) award. The categories include: Best Family Dining, Best Ethnic Taste, Best Upscale Taste and Best Dessert, as well as the People’s Choice award. Most of the proceeds of this event go to EPIC Behavioural Healthcare, which provides substance abuse care.
Taste of St. Augustine, 1340C A1A, St. Augustine, FL, USA, +1 904 829 2273
Key West Food & Wine Festival
The annual Key West Food & Wine Festival is held on the famous Duval Street within the first two months of every year. Festival events range from walk-around tastings in Mallory Square during the famous Key West sunset to educational wine and food seminars given by local culinary talents. The festival celebrates the unique culinary arts of the Key West community, which boasts a rich food and drink heritage. Festival attendees can expect savoury restaurant samplings with local ingredients and gorgeous weather with a funky, fun atmosphere. To enjoy the festival at its best, rent a bicycle and download the Key West Food and Wine Festival smart phone app which highlights the area’s best dining hotspots.
Taste History Culinary Tour
Over the bridge and around the corner from Mar-A-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club, the Taste History Culinary Tour journeys through Palm Beach County’s historic downtown districts of Lake Worth, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. Hosted by Palm Beach County’s Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion, these tours offer international culinary tastings at locally owned and family-owned restaurants and eateries. Along the travel route, a live guide narrates the local and regional history of Florida’s most popular areas, landmarks and people. Offered year-round on the second Saturday of every month, this tour exposes the little culinary gems based throughout some of Florida’s wealthiest communities.
Summer of Rum Festival
Each year on National Rum Day The Cuban Club in Ybor City, a 1917 building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, hosts the Summer of Rum Festival. The festival is an ideal experience for any dedicated lovers of rum with a variety of rum-based drink from various rum brands available – including frozen daiquiris, pina coladas and Cuba libres. Taking place within The Cuban Club’s three-story interior and its outdoor patio area, the Summer of Rum Festival also includes food trucks and food vendors, as well as performances from various bands, to keep festival attendees entertained as they enjoy every rum drink imaginable.
Florida’s Cowtown Rodeo
Florida’s Cowtown Rodeo is held every spring and fall in the heartland of Florida, where agriculture still reigns over tourism, and cowboys round up cattle and take them to market. Rodeo is the premiere entertainment of this sleepy southern town of Okeechobee where the event takes place, and the town’s historic grandstand arena gives spectators a burly show of man versus beast. Alongside the five-event professional rodeo, the festival offers dishes including the famous pumpkin fry bread of the Seminole Indians, and other local favourites like BBQ ribs and the legendary ‘swamp cabbage’.
Stone Crab Festival
The annual Stone Crab Festival is held on Florida’s Paradise Coast in October at a historic Old Naples Waterfront locale called The Tin City. This free, three-day festival invites guests to sample fresh seafood and the season’s first catch of stone crab claws. In line with The Tin City’s fishing industry of the 1920s, the Paradise Coast continues to hold the title as the second largest fishery of stone crab in the state of Florida. Expect a day chock-full of live music, food and beverages, and discounted scenic water cruises.
Stone Crab Festival, 1200 5th Avenue South #45, Naples, FL, USA, +1 239 262 4200
Orlando Food Truck Bazaar
Debuting in March of 2011, the Orlando Food Truck Bazaar remains the nation’s original food truck roundup. Every month more than 20 gourmet food trucks line up at 11 different locations across the city of Orlando and open for business. Experienced food truck patrons bring blankets, chairs and bottles of wine to share with friends in true picnic fashion. The beauty of this event is in the sampling of many different flavours and cuisines in one night. From The Crepe Company and Korean Taco BBQ to Yum Yum Cupcake and Café Rouge, this event is perfect for all food fans.
By Audra Clemons