What’s better than enjoying an amazing meal while soaking up the sunshine? Doing so while being completely surrounded by food vendors, of course! Luckily, angelenos can do just that at the regions many food festivals this spring and summer.
As a frequenter of festivals large and small, I’ve come up with a few guidelines for myself — and you — to help navigate through the many stalls and not get overwhelmed by all the crowds and delicious choices.
First, make sure you’ve got cash — nothing feels worse than being that person who’s only got credit-card plastic surrounded by cash-only vendors. Sadface… 🙁
Second, take a walk around and survey your food options before committing which lines you and your friends will stand on.
Third, have a blast, eat well, and experience everything! Aside from all the yummy food, many festivals also have art on display, craft vendors, and so much more to make it a day — or night — you’ll never forget.
Easy enough right? Now here are some of this spring and summer’s food festivals you totally need to keep on your radar (in no particular order).
1. 626 Night Market
This incredibly popular Asian-themed market enters its fourth season of bringing the foodie spirit of the 626 (San Gabriel Valley) and more to Santa Anita Park, Orange County, and Downtown L.A. Vendors have ranged from the original ramen burger and Japadog to spiked juices and shave ices. Bring an empty belly and remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The market will open during various weekends during the summer.
2. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire
Sure, the first thing you think of when you think “Ren Faire” is knights and princesses, but you should really be thinking of delicious turkey legs and meade. The old timey festival is currently open through May 17 at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Center and boasts a food court filled with turkey legs (duh), English eggs, whole quail, pork chops on a stick, and more. Pair it with some beer, wine, or meade that are flowing into the festival chalices.
3. Street Food Cinema
Good movies, amazing venues, live musical performances and tasty local area food trucks. What more could you ask for? Street Food Cinema will take place at four different L.A. venues with over 50 screenings in total starting with a screening of The Breakfast Club on May 2 at Exposition Park. Food trucks scheduled for the summer (on select dates) include Boba Ni Taco, Ragin Cajun, My Delight Cupcakery, The Beignet Truck, Cousin’s Maine Lobster, Good Greek Grub, The Grilled Cheese Truck and many, many more!
If outdoor movies are your bag then you’ll also want to check out the Eat|See|Hear film series with dates from May 9 to Sep 12 and a selection of food trucks that includes Street Kitchen, Good Greek Grub, The Gastrobus, The Urban Oven, The Deli Doctor, Slummin Gourmet, Say Fish Taco, Dot Saigon, Wafl, Coolhaus and many, many more!
5. The OC Fair
The venerable Orange County fair is advertising itself as “one big party” this year and it’s a slogan that’s right on target. In addition to awesome rides and kitschy carnival games, the Costa Mesa festival at the OC Fairgrounds fries up everything you could possibly imagine. Everything. Oreos, snickers bars, avocados, turkey legs, fried green tomatoes — you name it, someone at the fair has probably fried it up. But the whole party, which runs from July to August, isn’t all about raising your cholesterol — non-fried vendors have included Pink’s Hot Dogs, Texas BBQ, and ice cream, frozen fruits, and more.
(Of course you can always check out the L.A. County Fair as well, running in 2015 from Sep 4 – Sep 27 at The Fairgrounds in Pomona)
6. LA Street Food Festival
Have you ever thought that LA has so much good food that it could all fit in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium? Well, the folks who run the LA Street Food Fest have thought it — and made it a reality. This all-you-can-eat foodie heaven will hold its sixth annual tasting event on July 11th. Past events have included Churro Borough, Badmaash Indian food, Kitchen Mouse Vegan Café, craft beer gardens, a tequila tasting tent, and more.
7. Los Angeles Vegan Beer and Food Festival
Calling all vegans! While most other festivals do make sure to include meat-free and diary-free options, this event is truly all for you. Grab all the vegan grub and beers you can handle on May 16 at the Rose Bowl. More than 100 approved brews from the likes of Babe’s Brewery and Smog City Brewing Company will be present, along with eats from Floret Vegan Kitchen, Starlite Cuinse, Health & Spice, and more.
Dreams do come true, especially the dream of gathering all of the best and delicious tacos LA has to offer in one place. LA Weekly’s celebration of the gourmet taco will be on June 6 this year at El Pueblo De Los Angeles and will feature tortillas filled with yummy-ness from Kogi BBQ, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, The Hungry Cat, Puesto, and more.
9. Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival
The best of the best of the LA food and wine scene gather at this can’t-miss annual event. Now in its fifth year, the festival has become a four-day, star-studded feast that has showcased celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri, Giada De Laurentiis, Michael Chiarello, Michael Voltaggio, and so many more. It doesn’t look like a date has been set for this year’s festivities, but the event usually takes place in August at various venues in the Los Angeles area.
10. L.A. Times The Taste Festival
This food and drink extravaganza takes over the back lot of Paramount Pictures Studio every Labor Day weekend with lots of cooking demos and mingling with LA’s hottest chefs, pop-up bars, Sundaybrunch, and lots of other foodie fun. More than 70 of the city’s best restaurants, along with dozens of breweries and wineries are on hand for a fabulous fest. Tickets do cost a pretty penny, but it’s guaranteed that by the end of the weekend, your appetite will definitely be satisfied.
11. Long Beach BBQ Festival
Get grillin’ and ready to feast on three days of the most delicious BBQ at this August event held at Rainbow Lagoon. Last year, the festival boasted the “World’s Best BBQ Ribs,” along with pulled pork, sausages, and a big ol’ BBQ competition. For those that don’t want to wait in line for their grilled up eats, visitors could opt for the VIP Rib Village All-You-Can-Eat pass, which included all the meat you can possibly eat (calling Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson), guaranteed seating, and other non-meat eats, like salad and dessert.
12. Big Bite Bacon Festival
All aboard the S.S. Bacon. You can get your bacon on and on and on at this celebration of pork’s finest, held Aug. 1-2 on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Last year’s sold-out inaugural event included all the bacon eats you could ever want from restaurants like Slater 50/50 and Beachwood BBQ, beer, and delicious desserts — some of which, yes, had bacon in them, too.
Did we miss your favorite outdoor foodie fest for the summer? Let us know in the comments below!