Best of Denver

The Ten Best Food Festivals in Colorado This Summer

From slow food to fast fun, metro Denver will host a smorgasbord of culinary festivals. Here are the ten tastiest.

Pig out at Frisco's 25th annual Colorado BBQ Challenge. - COURTESY COLORADO BBQ CHALLENGE
Pig out at Frisco's 25th annual Colorado BBQ Challenge.
Courtesy Colorado BBQ Challenge
Colorado BBQ Challenge
June 14-16
Main Street, Frisco
Free admission (food and drink extra)
The skies over Frisco grow smoky every summer at the onset of one of Colorado's biggest and most popular barbecue events, now celebrating its 25th year. If you're a little piggy, you'll cry wee-wee-wee all the way to Frisco for tastes of brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken and other smokehouse delights from multiple vendors. The challenge itself is a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competition pitting more than seventy teams against each other. Throughout the weekend, there are multiple events, from the Bacon Burner 6K to piglet races, with plenty of opportunities to chow down on good 'cue. If you plan to just wander and take in the sights and smells, the event is free from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, but if you want to eat and drink you'll need to exchange your cash for "hogbacks," the official currency of the festival.

click to enlarge The sky will be smoky over Denver the weekend of June 15-17. - COURTESY DENVER BBQ FESTIVAL/FACEBOOK
The sky will be smoky over Denver the weekend of June 15-17.
Denver BBQ Festival
June 15-17
Sport Authority Field at Mile High
Prices vary
If a drive to the mountains for smoked meats isn't in the cards, how about a smoky event a little closer to home? The first-ever Denver BBQ Festival includes a $99 preview tasting on Friday and free festival days on Saturday and Sunday. The food will be provided by ten "Legends of the Pit" from around the country, including Mike Emerson of Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis, Scott Roberts of the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas, and Denver's own Jason Ganahl of GQue Championship Barbecue. Enter for free and pay as you eat, or land a $75 VIP pass so you can leave your wallet in your pocket. There's also a Denver Outlaws pass that gets you barbecue and a seat inside the stadium for a lacrosse match. See the festival's website for Saturday and Sunday session times and a complete list of barbecue classes, live music and other events surrounding the main cookout. It's perfect for Father's Day weekend.

click to enlarge Outdoor cooking over open flames is the name of the game at Heritage Fire. - HERITAGE FIRE BY COCHON555
Outdoor cooking over open flames is the name of the game at Heritage Fire.
Heritage Fire by Cochon555
Heritage Fire Snowmass
June 16
Snowmass Base Village
The annual Aspen Food & Wine festival sells out well in advance every year, so you're probably out of luck if you're not already clutching a ticket. But Cochon555 organizers are making sure you can still have fun in the ritzy ski town this weekend even if you didn't drop big bucks for the main event. Heritage Fire is an outdoor version of Cochon555's whole-animal competition, except that chefs get to work with more than just hogs. Cooks from all over the country will fire up more than 3,000 pounds of beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, duck, fish and goat over open fires from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Guests will enjoy the fresh air, the smell of wood smoke and unlimited food and drink. Pigging out is just a small part of the eating action.

click to enlarge Get close to macaws with your margarita at Do at the Zoo. - COURTESY OF THE DENVER ZOO
Get close to macaws with your margarita at Do at the Zoo.
Courtesy of the Denver Zoo
Do at the Zoo
June 21
Denver Zoo
Dine like a celebrity while supporting a great cause at the Denver Zoo's annual fundraiser dinner. You won't have to munch on hay or pellets; food will be provided by more than seventy Denver restaurants, and there will also be plenty of beer, wine and cocktails to sip while you stroll. The price of admission goes toward ongoing animal care as well as local and global conservation and science education. The event runs from 7 to 10 p.m. and is for those 21 and over only, so it's just about the only time you won't have to squeeze through a throng of kids to see the animals. Cocktail attire is suggested — or wear your best animal prints or safari gear.

click to enlarge Eat big at the Big Eat. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Eat big at the Big Eat.
Danielle Lirette
The Big Eat
July 12
Denver Performing Arts Complex
If you're looking for a food festival that delivers on its promises, one with the words "big" and "eat" shows plenty of potential. The Big Eat is EatDenver's annual food-and-drink soirée, this year with 65 independent restaurants serving their best bites. Add unlimited samples from local distilleries, breweries and wineries — all selected by the Colorado Bartenders Guild — and you've got a gastronomer's dream. The event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. under the Galleria canopy at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, so dining in cool, breezy comfort is all but guaranteed. Admission also includes a commemorative glass. Eat big!

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.