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The Best Menu Items at Summer Festivals Across the U.S.

Savor the best pancakes, barbecue and ice cream at these family-friendly food festivals across the United States.

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La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival.EddieHernandezPhotography/Shutterstock

Looking for a family activity that’s more exciting than another trip to the pool? Festivals pop up all over the U.S., especially during the summer, with eating competitions, games, live music and more. But the best part is having an opportunity to eat a dish that’s unusually delicious (or simply unusual). So we’ve rounded up the best things that you can enjoy at food festivals happening all summer!

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Eli’s Cheesecake

Taste of Chicago—Chicago, Illinois

Since 1980, Grant Park in Chicago has been home to Taste of Chicago, the world’s largest food festival. There’s an endless cornucopia of foods, from sweet treats and savory bites to food trucks and world-renowned restaurants, but a giant cheesecake will do the trick for us! This one is from Eli’s Cheesecake Company, a Chicago favorite that made their public debut at the first Taste of Chicago, and is now churning out some of the best cheesecakes nationwide.

Can’t make it to Chicago? Make one of these luscious cheesecakes at home.

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Salt & Straw Ice Cream

Feast Portland—Portland, Oregon

The showstopper at Feast Portland is Salt & Straw Ice Cream, a Portland-based shop. Salt & Straw has unexpectedly good flavors like Olive Oil, Pear & Blue Cheese and Cinnamon Snickerdoodle. We’ve got a feeling something even better is churning for this hometown festival that ends summer with a bang in mid-September.

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Pasta Con Pesto

Gilroy Garlic Festival—Gilroy, California

In its 40th year, the Gilroy Garlic Festival takes place in the Garlic Capital of the World at the end of July. You might not be brave enough to sample the garlic ice cream, but word on the street says the Pasta Con Pesto is definitely what you’ll want to chow down on.

Hey, garlic lovers! Don’t miss out on these tasty recipes.

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Display of different cheeses

Vermont Creamery Cheese

Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival—Shelburne, Vermont

This mid-August festival is a one-day event that’s filled to the brim with the best cheesemakers from Vermont! There’s so much delightful dairy to go around, and one of the artisan producers that stands out is Vermont Creamery. Their perfectly packaged soft cheeses are delish, and you won’t be able to stop eating the “Cremont”–a combination of cow’s and goat’s milk with a hint of cream.

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The Grilled Cheeserie

Music City Food + Wine Festival—Nashville, Tennessee

The Music City Food + Wine Festival happens each year in September. Stop by The Grilled Cheeserie, one of Nashville’s most popular food trucks, for a Pimento Mac & Cheese that’s made on country white sourdough with pimento cheese, local cheddar, macaroni, a slice of tomato and a garlic dill pickle. YUM!

Here’s how to make your own ultimate grilled cheese.

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Blueberry Pancakes

Maine Lobster Festival—Rockland, Maine

Sure, all of the lobster at the Maine Lobster Festival will be tasty–but there’s something about the warm and comforting taste of blueberry pancakes we simply can’t pass up! Lobster and blueberries are two of Maine’s most popular foods, so it’s no surprise there’s a pancake breakfast during the last four days of the early August festival.

See more iconic foods from around the U.S.

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Austin Ice Cream Festival—Austin, Texas

By late June, it can get pretty hot in Texas. What better way to cool off than with all the ice cream you can eat at the Austin Ice Cream Festival? Go a little outside your soft-serve comfort zone and enjoy some fluffy ribbons of snow ice from SnoMo. This popular Taiwanese dessert is made into blocks from fruit extracts and milk, before being shaved into a pillowy dessert that’s tasty and unique!

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The World’s Best Barbecue

Windy City Smokeout—Chicago, Illinois

In mid-July, the Windy City Smokeout serves up tasty barbecue from 20 of the world’s best BBQ pitmasters. While it’s tough to choose whose tasty grillings we’d like best, this preview from Fox Bros Bar-B-Q in Atlanta looks pretty finger-lickin’ good.

(Think you have BBQ chops? Grill up our best slathered, rubbed, spiced and smoked barbecue recipes.)

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Grand Traverse Pie Co.

National Cherry Festival—Traverse City, Michigan

What’s better than a slice of cherry pie? A whole festival dedicated to cherries! At the weeklong National Cherry Festival, which spans late June and early July, you can expect cherries in every form, from breakfast to dinner and dessert. This slice from Grand Traverse Pie Company looks very appetizing.

See the most iconic pie from every state.

Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.
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