5 Top American Seafood Festivals

From California to Maine, we’ll show seafood lovers which festivals to visit for food, fun and sun.

Close-up of lobsters in a pot on a picnic table

by NEA Member Benefits

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One of the quickest ways to understand a destination is to taste its local cuisine. In American cities both large and small, food festivals offer the opportunity to sample a region’s must-have dishes while meeting the people who produce it. Consider yourself a crab connoisseur? You’re in luck. You’ll find Maryland blue crab and more at five American seafood festivals across the country. Interact with renowned chefs, amateur cooks and local fishermen and, most importantly, enjoy delicious seafood.

1. Maine Lobster Festival, July 31 - August 4, 2019

Photo courtesy of Maine Lobster Festival

For five days, lobster lovers converge on Rockland’s Harbor Park at the Maine Lobster Festival, July 31 - August 4, 2019. Indulge in lobster dinners, lobster tail cocktails, lobster rolls, lobster Caesar wraps and lobster salads. And every Mainer knows that a piece of blueberry cobbler with the fresh fruit from local farms is the best dessert to follow a lobster meal. 

But there’s more to the Maine Lobster Festival than succulent lobster. Enjoy cooking contests, watch lobster being prepared on a giant cooker by the shore or wave at the newly crowned Maine Sea Goddess in The Big Parade. The festival also includes headliner music events, a 10K road race and a 5K walk/run event. Tickets cost $8 for adults and $2 for children 6 to 12. (On opening day only, adult tickets are only a dollar and kids 11 and under are free.)

Lesson-plan resources: How to catch a lobster.

Plan your trip: Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce | Maine Office of Tourism

Other nearby activities/attractions: Penobscot Marine Museum | Coastal Children’s Museum | Farnsworth Art Museum

Where to stay: Hampton Inn & Suites Rockland | Rockland Harbor Hotel | LimeRock Inn | Rockland Red Roof Inn (be sure to use your NEA member discount!)

2. Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival, June 22, 2019

Crabs on a table

If crab is your thing, you have two chances to enjoy the tasty crustaceans at the Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. On June 22, 2019, visit Rash Field at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where you can enjoy all-you-care-to-taste crab. Ticket prices range from $30 to $89, including a designated driver option.

Covered tents offer shade from the heat as you peel and eat the steamed crabs corn on the cob and cole slaw. Participate in a 5K run, attend tasting seminars and listen to live music at the fest.

Did you enjoy the crab? Then repeat the gastronomical experience on August 24, 2019, at SouthPointe in Maryland’s National Harbor. Tickets will set you back $39 to $89.

Lesson-plan resources: Learn about Chesapeake Bay.

Plan your trip: Baltimore Convention and Visitors Bureau | Maryland Office of Tourism

Other nearby activities/attractions: Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum | National Aquarium | Sightseeing cruises on Potomac River | Fort McHenry National Monument

Where to stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor | Hyatt Place Baltimore/Inner Harbor | Red Roof Inn Baltimore Northwest (be sure to use your NEA Member discount!)

3. Galveston Island Shrimp Festival, September 27-28, 2019

Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

In the movie “Forrest Gump,” Forrest called shrimp “the fruit of the sea.” If you agree, consider visiting two of the best shrimp festivals in the country.

At the Galveston Island Shrimp Festival in Galveston, Texas, the shrimp comes gumbo-style. The fun happens September 27-28, 2019. Don’t miss the Shrimp Gumbo cook-off with amateur and restaurant divisions or the Lil’ Shrimps Parade. Purchase a ticket for gumbo tasting and then run off the calories in a 5K race. Live music and a children’s area round out the shrimp fun. A “Gumbo Stroll” ticket sells for $14 and entitles you to sample gumbo from dozens of teams.

Lesson-plan resources: Learn how tides affect the geology of Galveston Island.

Plan your trip: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau | Travel Texas

Other nearby activities/attractions: Moody Gardens | African American Museum | Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

Where to stay: Hilton Galveston Island Resort | The Tremont House | Coppersmith Inn B&B

4. Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival, September 20-22, 2019

Photo courtesy of Jekyll Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

If you prefer shrimp and grits, then visit the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival, September 20-22, 2019, in Jekyll Island, Georgia. .(Note: All future festivals will be held in November instead of September.) The Southern Living event includes family-friendly entertainment, live music, wildlife demonstrations and shrimp, shrimp, shrimp. Attend cooking competitions presented by chefs who are chosen through regional cooking competitions. Or stroll the paths of Jekyll Island’s Historic District to check out more than 100 arts and crafts vendors. Enhance the experience by purchasing tickets for the brew fest, Jekyll Island wine cruises or a behind-the-scenes turtle center tour. This event is free but you can buy a VIP Experience that includes extras such as catered meals and snacks, beverages and access to on-site lounges. 

Lesson-plan resources: Learn about sea turtles.

Plan your trip: Jekyll Island Convention & Visitors Bureau | Georgia Office of Tourism

Other nearby activities/attractions: Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark | Georgia Sea Turtle Center | 4-H Tidelands Nature Center

Where to stay: Days Inn & Suites Jekyll Island | Hampton Inn & Suites Jekyll Island | Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island Jekyll Island

5. The Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival, October 12, 2019

Photo courtesy of the City of Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival, October 12, 2019, honors the sustainable fishing folks whose hard work provides seafood for the citizens of Santa Barbara, California, and beyond. The free event includes lectures at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, boat rides and tours of the tall ship, Spirit of Dana Point, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Blackfin. A wide variety of seafood, from lobsters to oysters, is available for purchase. Walk off the seafood meal by browsing arts and crafts booths or dancing to live music. 

Lesson-plan resources: Discover Santa Barbara Coastal sea life.

Plan your trip: Santa Barbara Convention & Visitors Bureau | Visit California

Other nearby activities/attractions: Old Mission Santa Barbara | Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History | Condor Express Whale Watching

Where to stay: Best Western Beachside Inn | Holiday Inn Express Santa Barbara | Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Hotel

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