How To Guide: Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2016

In six short weeks, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival begins with an opening toast in the lobby of the Loews Atlanta. In its sixth year, this festival is not to be missed. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, these insider tips will help you to make the most of your culinary weekend.

Launched in 2012, this “feastival” was created by entrepreneurial friends Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love as a way to shine an international spotlight on the rich traditions of the South. “As we get ready to celebrate five years as a festival, we have to make note of how our region continues to grow in awareness, surprise in the kitchen and our talent is influencing culinary traditions across the globe,” says Love. “The commitment these chefs have to educating the general public and our event consumer continues to awe and inspire. In our five years, we have just scratched the surface on the depth and richness of the food and beverage traditions of the South.”

Atlanta Food and Wine Festival takes place from Thursday, June 2nd to Sunday, June 5th with nearly 100 classes, curated tasting tents, exclusive dinners and a new a pop-up Vineyard. The weekend will be organized around three different categories: Learning Experiences, Tasting Experiences, and Dinners & Events. The Learning Experiences will feature cooking and cocktail demonstrations, tasting seminars, and panels with industry professionals. To take full advantage of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, we recommend the Connoisseur Three-Day Pass, which includes a personal concierge to help with planning your weekend as well as access to connoisseur-only areas, exclusive event invites, and special dinners.

Here are a few tips to make your tasting experience the best that it can be!
  • Choose your ticket level carefully: VIP tickets are more costly, but you have access to a special areas and classes with wine, beer and cocktails tastings as well as exclusive restaurant tastings (no additional tasting tickets required). You may feel the extra money is worth the benefit.
  • Do your Research: The AFWF has a fantastic planning guide with printable schedules, worksheets, and festival maps. There is also a frequently asked questions page with valuable information on tickets, parking, etc.
  • Make class reservations: Take the time and effort to go through the class schedules and reserve a space in the classes that are of most interest to you. Classes fill up, so you may not be able to attend the sessions you want without a reservation made in advance.
  • Download the App: Yes, there’s an app for that! A new 2016 app is coming in May which will be available for iPhones and Android phones, will have full schedules, maps and personal options for you to enter your classes and events.
  • Plan your Parking: Expect to pay $15-20 to park close to the event. There is limited street parking in the neighborhoods around the festival, however, with all the walking you will be doing, a hike back to your car at the end of the day may put you over the top. Additionally, the police enforce parking aggressively. Consider taking Uber especially if you plan to partake of cocktail samples at the Tasting Tents.
  • Check the weather forecast: AFWF is held rain or shine. It is better to be prepared than to be too hot, cold or wet!
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes: While there is no enforced dress code, you should plan to dress appropriately considering the nature of the event. Shorts and t-shirts are not considered appropriate attire for evening events. You may want a light sweater for air-conditioned class sessions. For the Tasting Tents; do not wear your skinny jeans; you will need some breathing room. The terrain is not optimal for high heels, while they may look great, you will struggle to maneuver through the crowds with ease.
  • Consider taking a bag: While frequently there are vendors handing out reusable bags of some sort, you may not have a bag when an opportunity to collect some take home samples presents itself. I take a plastic grocery store bag folded tightly enough to fit in my pocket to use until that better bag presents itself.
  • Allot plenty of time: This is not a “I’m just gonna stop by” kind of event. There will be crowds and there will be lines.
  • Pace yourself: Maximize your sample to appetite ratio. The same holds true for cocktail sampling. Consider drinking some water between libations. It is a long day and you may have a considerable walk back to your vehicle.
  • Water: Whether you take a refillable water bottle or pick up a bottle along the way, drink lots of water. Both the climate-controlled hotel spaces and the outdoor venues can be very desiccating. Stay well hydrated.
  • Take advantage of all offerings: Several vendors provide cooking and product demos in the common areas of the hotel during the festival. You can rest your feet and your palate, and who knows you might actually learn something new. There are also evening dinners and sponsored events both at the Loews and around the city; explore all that’s happening during the festival.
  • Lastly, cancel your dinner plans! You will not leave hungry.
To purchase tickets, download the app, or obtain other information, please visit the AFWF16 website.