Tuesdays through Thursdays through October 10
Civic Center Park
You may not consider this summer-long institution a festival, but with the addition of a Thursday beer garden to the lunchtime food-truck gathering, Civic Center Eats feels more celebratory than ever. The communal seating contributes to a convivial atmosphere, and with the addition of over twenty new trucks, the breadth of cuisine is impressive. Of note: Bruna's Cheese Bread, serving Brazilian pão de queijo; Cilantro & Perejil, slinging a sandwich found in only one Mexican town; and the Veggie Whisperer, with vegan Israeli food that even carnivores can get behind. This summer, a picnic in the park is more fun than it's been in years.
Main Street, Frisco
It's a basic tenet of barbecue: Hurry up and wait. Whether you're babysitting the meat while it soaks up all those smoky flavors or sitting in a car on I-70 on your way to Frisco, you've got to pay your dues for good ’cue. But the wait is worth it at our favorite barbecue festival, where piles of pork, brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage await (you'll need to purchase Hogbacks to pay for your plate), alongside chef demos, bands and road races (in which both humans running the Bacon Burner 6K and porcine participants whizzing down Frisco's streets try to outrun their impending mortality).
Snowmass Base Village
$150 to $200
Despite the evolved price tag, Heritage Fire Snowmass is the fest that most appeals to our primal core. There aren't many aromas as evocative as wood smoke and roasting meat; it's the earliest — some would say purest — form of cooking, and makes our mouths water like nothing else. So put fifty chefs and butchers, 2,500 pounds of whole heritage-breed animals, open fires and free-flowing wine, spirits and craft beer into a pristine mountain setting, and you've got an event that satisfies your soul and stomach on a fundamental level.
Denver Performing Arts Complex
Shake Shack? Not here, not at the Big Eat, the biggest celebration of local independent eateries in town. Over sixty restaurants, breweries and distilleries will gather under the complex's glass galleria to put out unlimited food and drink pairings that reflect Denver's true food scene, with nary a campy Rocky Mountain oyster in sight. Instead, there will be mainstays that have been upping Denver's game for decades (Vesta, Duo, TAG) as well as newcomers bringing inspiration from across the globe (Liberati, Cirque Kitchen). While national chains are finally starting to look to our city as a viable market, we've had everything we need here all along — and the Big Eat proves it.
Sayre Park, Glenwood Springs
There's something charming about small-town festivals; their wholesome events and resolute un-coolness are a balm to the strain of constant irony and urbanity. And while Glenwood Springs hasn't been a small town for decades, this agricultural festival has maintained its pastoral feel for a whopping 122 years. There's a parade followed by free ice cream and strawberries for spectators, as well as an arts and craft show, free concerts and the fiercely contested Miss Strawberry Days competition. And if the action proves to be too much for you, you can always have a soak in one of the town's restorative hot springs before heading back into the fray.