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Hosting fun-filled festivals throughout the year, Florida’s fresh seafood cuisine inspires an array of festive events across the state. Even if you’re not a seafood fan, these festivals offer something for every palate, so save room in your itinerary to sample the local cuisine in the Sunshine State. From a strawberry-focused event to A-list parties, succulent seafood and Cuban flavors, here are some of the best food festivals in Florida.
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Dating back to 1930, the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City takes place in one of Florida’s most important winter strawberry growing regions that stretches across 8,000 acres. There are sweet treats galore, where you can nibble on anything from strawberry shortcake and chocolate-dipped strawberries to strawberry pizza and strawberry burgers. Just 20 miles outside of Tampa and usually held in March, this festival showcases a Strawberry Festival Queen in addition to live entertainment, rides, arts and crafts vendors and livestock exhibits.
A two-day event that draws thousands of visitors to the small town of Apalachicola, the Florida Seafood Festival is the oldest seafood festival in the state running for over 50 years. Taking place every autumn at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, you can cheer on your crustacean of choice at the blue crab race, watch an oyster shucking contest, or sit back and watch a lively parade and a fireworks show. You’ll find plenty of delicious food to nosh on, ranging from oyster stew and fried shrimp to pulled pork sandwiches and a low country boil.
Both visitors and locals alike eagerly await to hear the dates of when Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival will be announced, as it’s a fun time of year when you can visit more than 30 unique global marketplaces to sip and nosh your way around Disney to sample delicacies from around the world. For six weeks serious foodies delight in the array of events held at the park, from the culinary demonstrations to the beverage seminars, celebrity chefs and even a concert series.
If you like your food to be paired with A-list celebrities, then the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami is the place for you. Boasting celebrity chefs, culinary personalities and plenty of fine dining cuisine, this event is a showcase of gastronomic decadence. Sponsored by the Food Network and Food & Wine magazine, it is a five-day event in February that draws a buzzing crowd of people on the beach to indulge in tastings, seminars and events like “Grilled Cheese Happy Hour”.
A festival surrounding Florida’s favorite crustacean, the Key West Lobsterfest celebrates the opening of lobster season by throwing the biggest party of the summer. At this event in August, thousands of lobster lovers head to Key West for four days of pure indulgence. A huge party filled with lobster delicacies, there is a street fair, free concerts, a pub crawl, lobster boil, and it wouldn’t be Key West without a chance to go on a catamaran sail and snorkel trip excursion.
Held in the fall, the Pensacola Seafood Festival is one of Northwest Florida’s most popular festivals, held at Seville Square, Fountain Park and waterfront Bartram Park in Historic Downtown Pensacola. The longest-running festival in Florida’s postcard-perfect Panhandle, expect lots of great Gulf-to-table cuisine like fried mullet and shrimp and grits from the city’s top restaurants in addition to live entertainment, cooking demonstrations and an array of family-friendly activities like face painting and arts and crafts.
Every November, meat lovers unite at Ribfest in St. Petersburg to celebrate the smoked, grilled and slathered slabs of meat. Held on the waterfront in beautiful Vinoy Park, you’ll find a combination of meat and music, with rib-masters competing for top prizes, while families can enjoy live country, classic and southern rock held throughout the day and a children’s play area. Spend an afternoon sampling all the meat offerings and pair it with other carnival-like food from various vendors for three days of fun, music and ribs and raising money for youth-oriented charities.
One of the tastiest festivals held in the Sunshine State, the International Cuban Sandwich Festival is held in Ybor City every year. At this event, they hold an exciting contest to find the best Cuban Sandwiches in the world, where you can fill your belly deciding what celebrated chef has the most delicious creation. There is plenty of entertainment, such as live music and dance performances and over 100 booths with food vendors, art, cultural exhibitors.
Boasting an impressive roster of celebrity winemakers, distillers, chefs and brewmasters, South Walton Wine & Food Festival is a jam-packed weekend of events where visitors can smell and taste different wines and try a variety of cheese pairings. Showcasing more than 800 wines, you can wash down fine cheese, olives, sushi, charcuterie and even chocolate while benefiting children’s charities. A four-day celebration, it is held throughout the Town Center of Grand Boulevard with food tasting seminars and live entertainment.
You can’t come to Key West without sampling a slice of Key Lime Pie, so why not attend the annual Key Lime Festival? This classic Florida dessert is celebrated with pie eating competitions and an array of performances and live entertainment. A four-day event with events like a Key Lime Cocktail Sip & Stroll, a Key Lime Pie Hop and a Key Lime Rum Sampling, you’ll find plenty of fun summertime activities to keep you entertained.
Held in the spring, A Taste of St. Augustine is an annual outdoor food festival that features “tastes” from over 25 restaurants in this historic city. A great way to sample some of the local cuisines, here you’ll see restaurants stepping their game up to compete in an array of prestigious awards, from Best Family Dining to Best Ethnic Taste and Best Dessert. Local breweries and wineries are also on hand, while the kids will delight in the variety of finger foods available.