The National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan

With fresh produce all around, sunny skies and a kicked-back state of mind, summer is the best season to indulge in delicious food festivals. One of the best parts of any journey is the cuisine – so why not plan a trip based on food?

Visit one of these top ten summer food festivals and discover new flavors on a culinary expedition.

1. Northern California Soy & Tofu Festival (June 7 in San Francisco, CA) – Taking place in Japantown Peace Plaza, this meat-free event features a tofu dessert competition, interactive games, dance performances and free food samples.

2. Smoked Meat Festival (June 27 – 28 in Ville Platte, LA) – In addition to smoked sausage and pork, you can try exotic meats like smoked deer and rabbit at this Cajun country event. Enjoy live music and mingle with the easygoing crowd.

3. Denver Taco Festival (June 28 – 29 in Denver, CO) – With a Chihuahua beauty pageant, salsa war, low-rider car and bike show, tequila tastings and yes, tacos, this unique downtown festival offers something for everyone. Other highlights include the green chili cook-off, Mexican wrestling by Lucha Libre and Chihuahua racing.

4. National Cherry Festival (July 5 – 12 in Traverse City, MI) – The Grand Traverse region is known for its world-record harvest of tart cherries, and this festival features cherry pie-eating contests, classic car shows, fireworks and an air show.

5. Copper River Wild! Salmon Festival (July 18 – 19 in Cordova, AK) – Situated on the banks of the famous Copper River, this fishtastic festival promotes the health and sustainability of local salmon runs. Don’t miss the Salmon Jam live music showcase!

6. Vermont Cheesemakers Festival (July 20 in Shelburne Farms, VT) – Sample find cheeses from more than 40 artisan cheesemakers at this savory event, which takes place on the shores of Lake Champlain at the historic Shelburne Farms Coach Barn.

7. Gilroy Garlic Festival (July 25 – 27 in Gilroy, CA) – Featuring two tons of fresh garlic, this pungent celebration includes cooking demonstrations, live music, a garlic cook-off and tons of garlic-based food – like free garlic ice cream! Visit the wine pavilion and peruse booths of arts and crafts.

8. Maine Lobster Festival (July 30 – August 3 in Rockland, ME) – Head to the spectacular coast of Maine to eat your weight in lobster at this family-friendly festival. Watch the lobster crate sea race, discover touch tanks, and find carnival rides.

9. Austin Ice Cream Festival (August 17 in Austin, TX) – Your $10 ticket includes ice cream at this riverside celebration, which features ice cream trucks galore. Competitions at this sweet celebration include ice cream making, ice cream eating, and a popsicle stick sculpture contest.

10. Pittston Tomato Festival (August 21 – 24 in Pittston, PA) – With beauty pageants, a big parade and the popular tomato fight, this homegrown party is a blast. You’ll also find a farmers market, 5K run, and a contest for the ugliest tomato.

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 Image: Joey BLS