Nothing says summer in the Centennial State quite like sipping IPAs or eating a mountain of smoked meat while listening to live music in the sun. Festival season is officially here and, while there are plenty of good reasons to hop in the car and head to the mountains or the Western Slope, there are also a variety of indulgent food and drink festivals right here in the Denver metro area. Below are a few of our favorites.   

Denver BBQ Festival | June 17–19

The Denver BBQ Festival. Photo courtesy of the Denver BBQ Festival

Once a year on Father’s Day weekend, Empower Field at Mile High transforms from a football stadium to a literal barbecue paradise for the Denver BBQ Festival. Talented pit bosses from Colorado, Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Arizona, and Florida will smoke more than 30,000 cumulative pounds of succulent meat—and you can try it all, in between barbecue demos, live musical performances, and a “Rib Rumble” meat-eating contest. And if you want to get in a little exercise before the festivities, sign up for the Run for the Ribs, a 5K that, naturally, ends with a serving of ribs at the finish line.

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Denver Greek Festival | June 17–19

Though the Denver Greek Festival is more of a full-blown cultural festival, food plays a starring role at this family-friendly event, which is in its 55th year. Gyros, spanakopita, souvlaki, loukoumades, baklava, and other classic Greek foods are on the menu all weekend long at the Assumption of Theotokos Greek Orthodox Metropolis Cathedral of Denver, along with live Greek music, dancing, and church tours. 

Top Taco | June 23

If your idea of a good time involves unlimited tacos and tequila cocktails, head to Westminster for Top Taco (there’s even an entire tent dedicated to tasting mezcal!). Choose from five stages of live music and chat with chefs and mixologists, all while casting your vote for the best tacos and cocktails.

Blues & BBQ | July 16

Over the last 24 years, this festival has raised more than $470,000 to support affordable housing projects in the Denver metro area via Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. If that’s a cause you can get behind (and you enjoy delicious barbecue and good music, to boot), then be sure to put Blues & BBQ for Better Housing Festival on your calendar. The musical lineup this year includes a Bruce Springsteen tribute band (Glory Days) and a tribute to Prince (Paisley Park).

Colorado Dragon Boat Festival | July 23-24

The theme of this year’s Colorado Dragon Boat Festival is “celebration,” and that feels incredibly appropriate, given what we’ve all endured over the last two-and-a-half years. Head to Sloan’s Lake Park to watch the impressive boat racers and performers, but perhaps more importantly, to sample the mouth-watering cuisines of Thailand, India, the Philippines, Laos, Hawaii, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and other Asian and South Pacific nations at the festival’s Taste of Asia food court.

The Big Eat | July 28

The Front Range wouldn’t be the culinary powerhouse it is today without the many dedicated chefs, bartenders, servers, dishwashers, owners, and everyone else who works tirelessly in restaurants and bars. Say thank you by attending the Big Eat, the annual fundraising event for EatDenver, which supports more than 275 restaurants in Denver. Feast on signature dishes, plus cocktails, wine, cider, and beer, from nearly 60 restaurants and bars across the city, all organized conveniently by neighborhood. 

Denver Burger Battle | August 4

Tap & Burger at the Denver Burger Battle. Photo courtesy of Denver Burger Battle

Chefs from across the metro area go head-to-head at the Denver Burger Battle, all vying for the crown (and the street cred) of making the best burger in Denver. Snarfbuger and Cherry Cricket are the defending champs from 2021, but there are plenty of restaurants to give them a run for their money this year, from Stoic and Genuine to Border Burger Bar. As a festival-goer, all you have to do is eat as many burgers as you can (and sip unlimited beer, wine, and cocktail samples), then follow your taste buds and vote for your favorite.

Boulder Taco Fest | August 6

For a Saturday full of gourmet tacos and margs, make the quick trek up U.S. 36 for the Boulder Taco Fest, where you’ll also be able to watch lucha libre wrestling and jam out to live music. And if tequila isn’t your thing, they’ll also have craft beer from breweries like Cerveceria Colorado (Denver Beer Co.’s sister brewery) and Avery. Don’t feel guilty going back for seconds (or thirds) at all the participating restaurants—from Centro Mexican Kitchen to Tacos Tepa Jalisco to Lola’s Kitchen. Consider it research for voting on the best taco at the festival.

Cherry Creek Al Fresco | August 18–20

You may remember this event by its old name, Cherry Creek North Food & Wine, but for the beloved festival’s 14th year, the organizers are switching things up a bit by calling it Cherry Creek Al Fresco – A Food & Wine Event. The name may be different, but the focus of this four-day culinary gathering remains the same: To celebrate the flavors of Denver’s Cherry Creek North district. 

Events range from a ceviche- and margarita-making class led by Toro executive chef Oscar Padilla to a sultry cocktail seminar at Five Nines. The festival’s capstone is Dinner on the Plaza, where you can rub shoulders with fellow food-lovers at an impressive 120-foot-long community table during a four-course meal. All proceeds benefit Food for Thought Denver, which is working to end childhood hunger. 

A Taste of Colorado | September 3–5

The right way to send off summer? By eating and drinking your way across the 16th Street Mall at A Taste of Colorado. This historic gathering dates back to 1895 and has grown to become one of the Centennial State’s essential end-of-summer bucket list items. On Labor Day weekend, snack on cuisine from more than 50 vendors, enjoy live music, shop arts and crafts, and let the kids have a blast at this family-friendly event.

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