Held every summer, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is one of the southeast’s premier events for foodies. It’s a popular spot for chefs to preview menus before opening restaurants or for exciting projects to be announced. Some of the country’s best culinary talent descend upon midtown Atlanta for four days. The Loews Atlanta Hotel is ground-zero for all activities, but the tents are in a nearby parking lot. I attended the 2015 festival and am sharing my tips for first-timers going to the events.
There are events beyond the tents.
Many people who go to Atlanta Food & Wine never make it out of the tasting tents, but so many things happen beyond this small area. For example, last year I went to both an early tasting event at Ponce City Market, whose food hall hadn’t opened yet, and to a chef’s demonstration with Kevin Gillespie right before he opened his new restaurant. There are also wine tastings and classes. Do your research before buying tickets to see what appeals to you more. Remember that these experiences beyond the tents are where you’ll actually get close to the chefs. You’ll also get a guide when you arrive to the event that has schedules and maps to help you get around.
Dress comfortably and prepare for any weather.
I went on a Sunday after an unseasonably warm weekend in April, but rather than sunny skies, I dealt with rain and mud. I recommend being prepared for all sorts of weather, especially when it comes to what you wear. I can’t tell you how many people’s feet I saw ankle-deep in mud. Throw an umbrella in your tote bag, which you’ll want to throw in goodies you get at the festival. Remember that this isn’t a fashion show and comfort is key!
Take it easy on the booze.
Once you pay to get into the tents and many of the additional events, drinks are included. This can get tricky as you might wait in line for a while to get a small bite to eat when there is no line for alcohol. Be sure to eat a full meal before you go to the event, as you’re never sure of how much you’ll be eating. Despite sampling almost everything, I was still hungry after leaving the festival. You’ll also find generous pours of liquors, beers, and wines.
Not everything is a freebie.
I was surprised to see attendees on Sunday taking items from tables that were not giveaway items, namely full display bottles of alcohol. You also might find people going to events they don’t have tickets for, like the breakfast before the tents started in the afternoon. Be sure you know what is included with what you’re paying for.
Parking is hard to come by in this part of Atlanta, so find another way to get there. The closest MARTA station is around the corner at Midtown Station, but Arts Center Transit Station is also nearby. Bus stops are also found on Peachtree Street. Ride sharing apps like Uber or Lyft are also good options, but you may want to pick up and drop off a block or so away from the chaos. Get a free ride if it’s your first time by using this link.
Tickets start at $45 for just one event and $80 for one-day tasting tent passes. They go up from there for three day VIP packages.
I went to the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival as a member of the media.