Every fall, food and beverage lovers gather in downtown Nashville for the Music City Food + Wine Festival. This year’s throwdown, held from September 15 to 17, features tastings, panels and parties galore. We talked to the team behind the festival, now in its fifth year, about how to have the best experience possible. Get five insider tips below and your tickets here.
1. Keep Your Eye on the Forecast
As with any outdoor event, the weather will affect what you wear and bring to the festival. Mother Nature can be fickle in September—especially in Nashville—so if you’re visiting from out of town, pack options for high temps (breathable fabrics, sunscreen, sunglasses, a brimmed hat) as well as rain (an umbrella, a raincoat or poncho, wellies). You’ll be able to shield yourself from the elements thanks to covered areas on the festival grounds, including the Grand Tasting Pavilion and demo tents; it’s also good to know ahead of time that both festival sites—Bicentennial Park and the Walk of Fame—are grassy and can get muddy in the event of a downpour. No matter the weather, make sure you’re wearing comfortable, broken-in shoes. If you want to shop local, check out Elle Gray (pictured above), ABEDNEGO, or any of these other top women’s boutiques or men’s stores.
2. Get There Early
Plan to arrive about 30 minutes before the doors open: Friday’s Grand Taste starts at 6:00pm, Saturday’s Grand Taste starts at 11:00am, Harvest Night starts at 7:00pm and Sunday’s Gospel Brunch starts at 11:30am. This will give you plenty of time to find parking, if you choose to drive, and get in line for will call or the doors. (You can also pick up will-call passes at the MCF+W box office on Thursday, September 14.) Don’t want to deal with parking? Lyft, the festival’s official ridesharing partner, is offering 15% off two rides to and from festival grounds with code MCFW17. The designated pickup and drop-off location for Bicentennial Park events is at 6th Street and Harrison, while pickup and drop-off for Walk of Fame events (Harvest Night and Gospel Brunch) is at 4th Street and Demonbreun. Adjacent to Bicentennial Park is the Nashville Farmer’s Market, where you can grab early morning coffee, peruse fresh veggies or sneak a bathroom break.
3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Considering the festival has “wine” in its name, it’s no surprise that alcoholic beverages are a major component of Music City Food + Wine. A wide range of vino, beers and spirits will be available everywhere you look, and it’s crucial to pace yourself when imbibing—remember that you have three days to taste everything! If you’re steering clear of the booze, water and other non-alcoholic drinks will be readily available throughout the grounds (plus, you can ask one of the artisans to whip up a special mocktail). Either way, stay hydrated. You’ll be better able to enjoy your experience, and your body will thank you post-festival.
4. Carve Out Time for the Chef Panels
There are tons of dishes waiting to be taste-tested, but don’t forget about the chef panels on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. These intimate conversations give you exclusive access to your favorite chefs and their inner workings—so come prepared with questions! This year’s schedule features four panels that explore the participating chefs’ varied inspirations: culinary necessities, green thumb tips, stories from traveling the world and a question roulette moderated by John Besh. Highlights of these moderated discussions include local personalities like Andrew Little (Josephine) and Margot McCormack (Marché) as well as national notables like Susan Feniger (Border Grill) and festival partner Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto). We suggest arriving a few minutes early to snag a seat.
5. Don’t Miss the Gospel Brunch
If you can attend only one festival function, make it Sunday’s Gospel Brunch. Due to popular demand, the organizers have awarded Music City Food + Wine’s grand finale its very own day. The all-star culinary lineup includes Matt Hyland (NYC’s Emily), Tim Love (Lonesome Dove), Joshua Simpson (Proper Bagel), Levon Wallace (Gray & Dudley) and Karl Worley (Biscuit Love). Eye-opening drinks will be provided by Bell’s Brewery, Copper Cane, Don Julio Tequila, Mighty Swell Sparkling Cocktails, Tito’s Vodka, Torresella and Whispering Angel, among others. As for the music, this one-of-a-kind brunch will feature a live musical performance from Gale Mayes, a fixture in the gospel scene. Tickets to this event are sold separately, so make sure to get yours here.