The most intimate way to experience a destination is its food. Whether you want to stomp grapes, slurp oysters, learn cheesemaking, taste wild mushrooms or dine with a world famous chef, there’s a fall food festival for you.
Here are 10 West Coast fall food festivals so delicious, they’ll inspire you to travel. They’re listed in chronological order. Go forth and taste!
Image: Mack Male
When: September 18-21
Where: Portland, Oregon
Ranked one of the top 10 food festival’s in North America by Fodor’s, we’ll go so far as to say Feast Portland is #1. Why? Sheer talent. Portland is home to more destination restaurants, fanatical food artisans, food carts, craft breweries and distilleries per capita than any other city on the West Coast. Presented by Bon Appétit magazine, Feast Portland celebrates Oregon’s bounty by bringing together leading chefs and food/drink makers from Oregon and beyond for four days of showing off and total overindulgence.
Standout events include Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational (Feast Portland’s killer kick-off party, where wildly imaginative, chef’d-up interpretations redefine everything you thought the humble sandwich could be), The Hot 10 Dinner (a showcase of the best new restaurants in America), and Brunch Village (an idyllic town built up from the best elements of Sunday brunch — bacon, pancakes, eggs, and even cocktails). Tickets are going fast. If an event says sold out, you may get lucky by checking the classifieds.
Image: Terri Tu
When: September 27
Where: Seattle, Washington
This festival is cheesy, but it’s sure to make you feel grate. Washington State is home to a thriving dairy community with over 60 artisan and farmstead cheese makers. Meet them and sample their finest cheeses at the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers’ Festival. The festival will also showcase Washington wine, craft beer and cider producers. If you’re looking for more hands-on involvement, sign up for a cheese tasting seminar or a cheesemakers’ dinner. Tickets are on sale now here.
Image: Paul Miller
When: September 27
Where: Hood River, Oregon
Craft beer connoisseurs know that wet, fresh hops make for intensely flavourful brews. Opportunities to drink fresh-hopped brews are rare; the time to try fresh-hopped and wet-hopped beers is at hops harvest when the hops are coming directly off the vine. Hood River’s annual Fresh Hops Fest is a thirsty beer lover’s dream with over three dozen well-known and renegade PNW craft brewers offering fresh-hopped beers on tap. Expect 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian, Full Sale, Ninkasi and Crux, among others. As for food, you’ll find tasty beer-sponge fare like wood-fired pizza, tacos, bbq and pretzels, to soak it all up. Tickets are on sale now here.
When: September 28
Where: Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
You’ve probably heard about the UBC apple festival, but it’s worth going farther afield to taste the best of the B.C. organic crop at the annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival. Salt Spring has been growing apples since 1860. Today over 350 varieties of organic apples grow on the island. You can see the organic apple varieties on display at Fulford Hall, as well as visit 18 island farms welcoming visitors for tours, tastings and apple sales. The best bit is the pie showdown with 12 different types of apple pies on sale by bake-stars known as the Pie Ladies. Tickets are available only in person on the festival day.
Image: Rob Jamieson
When: October 3-13
Where: Okanagan, British Columbia
Held during the Okanagan grape harvest, the fall festival is the time to visit an Okanagan winery, to learn about and share in their traditions of winemaking, and experience and onslaught of tempting wine and food pairings. This festival is large and diverse, with over 165 tours, lunches, dinners, unique events held throughout the entire Okanagan, B.C. wine region. Browse event tickets here.
When: October 3-5
Where: Santa Rosa, California
Sonoma County, the heart of California wine country, is also a food lovers Eden. Discover both at this sophisticated county fair that features over 150 Sonoma County wineries, the complete farm to table experience at massive tasting pavilion and a grape stomping competition so rowdy that will make I Love Lucy’s grape stomping look wimpy. Tickets are on sale here.
When: October 3-5
Where: Carpinteria, California
This wacky, massive party dedicated to California’s avocado growers began in 1986 and currently draws 100,000+ festival goers over three days of fun. Festivities include world’s largest vat of guacamole, a largest avocado contest and a best dressed avocado contest. There’s also live music and many, many other avocado-themed dishes to sample including avocado ice cream. Festival admission is free.
When: October 5-6
Where: Port of Shelton, Washington
OysterFest is not only the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship competition, it’s also home to many other hidden pearls. Head to the food pavilion to sample raw and bbq oysters as well as over 100 other Washington seafood dishes. 20 different Washington breweries bring their suds to help you find your perfect oyster pairing. There’s RV camping available and live music all day. Tickets are on sale here.
Image: Kim Ahlstrom
When: October 11
Where: Lincoln City, Oregon
Wild mushrooms are among the most prized delicacies for chefs and fall is official wild mushroom season in Oregon. At this wild mushroom smorgasbord, Oregon chefs forage Pacific Northwest forests for matsutake, boletus, and golden and white chanterelles. They use their finds to concoct tempting dishes for the competition. Attendees can purchase amuse bouche sized samples of the chefs’ creations for $0.75, or small portions for $3 and help vote for best chef. Entry is free.
When: November 6-16
Calling all bon vivants: this over-the-top B.C. event features a sumptuous variety of hands-on food and wine seminars, intimate winery dinners, mega tasting events and never-ending after-parties. Must-attend events include the Crush Gala Grand Tasting, the flagship tasting event of Cornucopia, and Cornucopia Night Market, a heady and overwhelming mix of global street food market with wine tasting on hand. Many event tickets are already on sale here.
Feature image: Mathias Erhart