Nothing says springtime more than eating the season’s freshest culinary treats in an outdoor setting. Food festivals are abundant this spring, and are a terrific way to celebrate the earth’s reawakening.
Life in the car-free lane does not mean giving up on enjoying an off Manhattan foodie jubilee. Some of the best food festivals are easy to get to without a car, and make for fun day trips or weekend getaways. From the nation’s oldest outdoor market in Philadelphia to a delectable stroll through a historic New England district to a Ramp Fest in the Hudson Valley, here are six food festivals worth the out of town excursion.
1. What: Ramp Fest
Where: Basilica Hudson, Hudson, NY.
When: May 4, 2013
Why: Ramps are a forageable green with a pungent taste and scent that combines elements of onions and garlic. Eaten raw or cooked, they are a much-coveted spring delicacy during their short season. Join Hudson Valley, New York City Chefs and participants like Applewood, The Farm on Adderley, and Gigi Trattoria as they create original dishes featuring ramps for your tasting pleasure. Tickets cost $30 for adults, $10 for kids 5-11, cash bar. Get ramped.
How to get there: Amtrak from Penn Station to Hudson in 2 hours. The Basilica is located across the street from the railway station.
2. What: Herb Day Festival
Where: Easton Farmer’s Market, Easton, PA.
When: May 7
Why: This is the oldest, continuous open-air farmers market in the country, said to have started in 1752. It runs each Saturday, May-November and Herb Day ushers in the start of the 259th season. Festivities include herbal cooking demonstrations, tastings, herb-themed workshops, live music and planting activities, featuring fresh basil. You’ll be able to carry home loads of jewel-toned fresh produce from local farms and orchards, as the market is located in Centre Square, only a few minutes walk from the bus terminal.
How to get there: Trans-Bridge Lines from Post Authority to Easton in under two hours.
3. What: The Italian Market Festival
Where: 9th Street Italian Market, Philadelphia, PA
When: May 18-19, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Why: If you can’t get to Italy to sample the glorious bounty of the season, heading to Philly is the next best thing. The nation’s oldest outdoor Italian market celebrates la dolce vita with vendors selling mouth watering Italian delicacies, a traditional Procession of Saints, and live, non-stop entertainment on three stages. Everyone can feel Italian for a day at this packed South Philly event. Free.
How to get there: See oM’s Philadelphia transportation guide. From 30th Street Station, take SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line to 8th Street and walk south for approximately 15 minutes to the Italian Market.
Where: National Harbor, Maryland
When: May 4 and 5, noon-6 p.m. with VIP admission, 1-6 p.m. for general admission.
Why: Enjoy views of the Potomac as you join thousands of Metro DC foodies at this culinary extravaganza. The Tasting Theater presents top-caliber chefs in hands-on cooking demonstrations utilizing the freshest seasonal Mid-Atlantic ingredients. Over 150 wines, beers and spirits are available to sample at this all-you-care-to-taste affair. General admission is $35 in advance, $45 at the door. It may be worth splurging for the $75 VIP admission, which gives you entry to the VIP Pier and its special tastings. The Gaylord National, a soaring 18-story, 2,000 room, 1.5 acre glassed covered-atrium hotel located next door to the event, is offering festival goers a VIP Hotel Package. The packages includes a room, a two-day VIP pass to the fest and lots of other extras, starting at $227 for one night and $334 for two nights, double occupancy.
How to get there: See oM’s Washington D.C.’s transportation guide. Shuttle Service to National Harbor is available from Union Station, for $20 round-trip, and will have you at the venue in about 25-minutes. A nautical alternative is to arrive in Alexandria, Virginia and take a Water Taxi, $16 round-trip.
Where: Town Point Park, Norfolk, Virginia
When: June 8-11
Why: This coastal town may be known for its naval base, but it is quickly making a name for itself in culinary circles as a world-class eating city. Its large port means the catch of the day is sure to be fresh. The HarborFEAST on June 8th from 6-9 p.m. includes unlimited local seafood provided by the Virginia Seafood Council, paired with beer and wine and is free this year. Plan on staying for the entire weekend, as the 35th Annual Harborfest will keep non-stop fun and Southern hospitality coming your way through Sunday, June 12. Fantastic food, 130 hours of live entertainment, tall ships, Virginia wine samplings, and fireworks make this outdoor dock party unforgettable. Norfolk makes a great car-free getaway, as you can walk to most destinations, or hop on NET, the free electric trolley system. Pick a downtown hotel, convenient to Town Point Park and nearly all the town’s attractions. The Norfolk Waterside Marriott enjoys a great location, indoor pool, and Shula’s 347, a steakhouse and bar that offers an exotic martini menu.
Photo: Credit: R. Kennedy for GPTMC