12 Food Truck Festivals In The U.S. You Should Know

Food trucks are often considered to be a modern phenomenon that sprang out of the rise of pop-up restaurants in the 2000s, but history buffs may be aware that the general concept of a mobile food cart has been floating around in the U.S. since at least the days of the Texas chuckwagon. Sometimes dismissed as a fad, the recent interest in trucks reflects a changing economy that has seen fewer entrepreneurs able to open a brick-and-mortar shop instead of relying on the comparatively low cost and mobility of a food truck. Although some authorities believe food trucks detract from local economies, other experts state they may help rather than hinder local restaurants, making them an all-around economic boon in many scenarios.

With the popularity of food trucks apparently not yet having reached its peak, festivals celebrating the proud tradition of these restaurants on wheels have been making appearances around the country for years. As food truck festivals and rallies can make for some of the best-attended local food events for many cities, there are plenty of gatherings for foodies to take note of when planning their summer travels. While the pandemic forced many into hiatus, temporary or otherwise, there are still a lot of food truck festivals happening year after year that you should know about.

Food Truck Friday - Reno

Reno's Food Truck Fridays run from the first Friday in June to the last in August, making it an excellent summer event that you can catch any weekend that you choose to visit "the world's biggest little city." Located near the Tahoe National Forest, swinging through Reno will only add roughly a 90-minute drive each way if planning a vacation in the beautiful Lake Tahoe area. As for Reno itself, it's home to tourist destinations like The National Automobile Museum, seemingly endless penny slots, and, of course, Food Truck Fridays.

In 2023 alone, this event will feature more than sixty food, dessert, and drink vendors, including Cajun and Creole food, several kinds of Mexican cuisine, satisfying soul food, BBQ trucks, Thai takeout, hot dog stands, and more. For 21+ guests, there are options for beer, wine, and spirits, as well as non-alcoholic choices like fresh-squeezed lemonade. Its current recurring location at Idlewild Park grants plenty of grass and shade, as well as rotating musical guests, a large playground, and even train rides. Although it's a no dogs allowed event, you can bring a blanket or some folding chairs and enjoy the delicious smells of a summer day in the park at Food Truck Fridays.

Main Street Food Truck Fest - Little Rock

If you're "Big on Little Rock," then you already know that it's one of the prettiest cities in the South, with an incredible river district that can easily make for a vacation destination all its own. Usually held in the late summer or early fall months, Main Street Food Truck Fest is the largest free annual event in Little Rock's downtown area, with the 2023 event set to feature 64 trucks and more than 50 other vendors, including artisans selling everything from jewelry to vintage clothing. Main Street is an all-ages, family and pet-friendly event, but 21+ guests can enjoy any number of offerings from local brewers.

All of this is in addition to the built-in appeal of downtown Little Rock, which has an abundance of public art and murals and live musical performances from a variety of performers. The fest first started over a decade ago as part of a revitalization attempt of the area and has since grown into one of the best-known food events in the country, attracting several new businesses over the years. If you are planning on visiting Little Rock, put this event and its wide array of affordable food samples from dozens of vendors at the top of your list.

Street Eats - Scottsdale

The city of Scottsdale, Arizona, might be a bit off the beaten path for foodies, but the Street Eats Food Truck Festival has more than earned its reputation as a must-catch event. Generally taking place in the early months of the year, this fest makes it exceptionally easy to catch without causing any scheduling conflicts with other, more summer-oriented gatherings. Located at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the fest is only about half an hour's drive away from downtown Phoenix, making it well worth the trip for anyone planning a stay in Arizona during the "winter" months.

More than 40 vendors gathered for the 2023 event in late January, where visitors were invited to enjoy  live music, lawn games, eating contests, and a free kids' zone. Although Street Eats is a ticketed event rather than a free one, the cost of samples tends to be exceptionally low, and there is usually a special VIP option for anyone planning to stay for all the extras. To enjoy the fest, plan ahead, buy tickets in advance, arrive early, and, of course, make sure not to load up on starches too early or run the risk of needing a nap before the fest has barely begun.

Great New Mexico Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival - Albuquerque

The Great New Mexico Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival takes place in Albquerque's famed Balloon Fiesta Park, so named for the city's autumnal celebration of hot air balloons, the International Balloon Fiesta. Though this festival generally takes place in the spring, the park itself features events all year long. 2022 saw the festival start back up again for its seventh year as it made its triumphant return for the first time since 2019. This is a ticketed event, and as such, offers various VIP tiers while granting cheaper general admittance tickets at the gate for attendees. 

Traditional New Mexican foods are very much its own thing, merging Pueblo Native American cuisine with Hispano Spanish and Mexican cuisine, so be sure to check out what Albuquerque has to offer. In addition to its incredible food selections, New Mexico is known for its artisans, so the non-food vendors can be a major part of the draw for local and out-of-town visitors alike. While food is still the star of the show, beer lovers should make a point of visiting this one due to its diversified selection of national and regional brewers.

Tacos 'N Taps - Various

As the name implies, Tacos 'N Taps sets itself apart from the other festivals on this list by zooming its focus on Mexican cuisine and craft beer. There's another small difference between this festival and other food truck events that you might visit, which is that it is a mobile festival that takes place in various cities. The 2023 season saw the fest occurring in four cities, including Cary, North Carolina, Baltimore, Maryland, Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, establishing this as an East Coast series that leaves an impression in every municipality it sets up shop.

These fests often include the choice of purchasing drink-only or food-only tickets, but our recommendation is to go all in. Passes include the ability to sample multiple food and drink items, and with most events attracting around a dozen vendors, it's worth trying as many as possible. As with many other food truck fests, Tacos 'N Taps also makes room for a small market of vendors selling hot sauces, jewelry, and other things. Setting up multiple one-day food truck festivals every year sounds like a handful for the organizers, but allowing as many people as possible to enjoy the wonder that is food truck tacos and beer is a wonderful service to provide the world.

Sea Isle City Food Truck Fest - Sea Isle City

Located in Cape May County, Sea Isle City, New Jersey is often hailed as a boon to outdoor enthusiasts everywhere due to its ample opportunities for fishing, surfing, and sailing. Should you find yourself looking to visit this lovely destination, consider coinciding your trip with the Sea Isle City Food Fest, which in 2023 takes place over two weekends in the summer, one in June, and the other in August. Over the course of these combined four days, the event runs at a total of around 32 hours, giving plenty of time for locals and tourists alike to swing on through for some food truck magic.

While many food truck festivals shut down during the early months of the COVID pandemic and some simply never returned, Sea Isle City's 2020 edition opted to create a takeout event, showing a level of quick thinking that has kept the gathering going strong. Today, the event continues on, with high attendance and many dining and artisanal options, making it one of the most widely celebrated food truck festivals in the U.S. as it regularly appears on 'best of' lists in no small part due to its impressive array of options from the Tri-state area.

Chicago Food Truck Fest - Chicago

When it comes to U.S. cities known and loved for their unique food, Chicago rates pretty high on the list. With its famous deep-dish pizza regularly taking center stage, Chicago's diverse range of local foods makes it an ideal destination for food fans everywhere. To that end, the Chicago Food Truck Fest is a fantastic opportunity to sample some of the city's very best. With both summer and fall events, there are double the chances to catch one when you visit Chicago.

2023 sees this gathering officially hitting its tenth season, and the decade has seen it rise up the charts as a regularly cited must-catch food event. Admission is free, although planning ahead and arriving early is always advised for those looking to beat the lines at any food truck festival. The options between so many tantalizing gourmet food trucks may give you choice anxiety, but with vendors specializing in cupcakes, tacos, lobster, ribs, and many other delicious food items, you'll have a great time trying to pick a favorite.

Columbus Food Truck Fest, Columbus

With a booming tech industry and a thriving art scene to its credit, Ohio's state capital of Columbus is easily one of the great underrated cities of the U.S. In the same vein, its food truck festival is one of the less-known, most well-organized events on this list. With 2023 marking its twelfth year in the food truck festival game, the assembly has only gotten more recognition as time has passed. Taking place over two days in August at the historic Franklin County Fairgrounds, the most recent edition promises to be something special.

Columbus' thriving music scene means that it has an exceptionally well-curated list of performers each year, making for a mini music fest alongside a food truck event. Presale tickets go for around $5 every year, making it a highly affordable event to enjoy with the family. Oh, and then there's the small matter of the food itself. Seafood specialists, Mediterranean fare, BBQ, empanadas, pretzels, eggrolls, donuts, and more grace the event lineup year after year alongside local vendors selling art, clothing, jewelry, and more. This festival was cited as Columbus' best food event by the Columbus Underground in 2015, and things have only gotten better since then.

Food Truck Tuesdays - Haulover Park

The 177-acre urban recreational area of Haulover Park is one of the Miami area's most aesthetically pleasing attractions, sporting picnic areas, sandy beaches, and blue waters as far as the eye can see. The regularly occurring Food Truck Tuesdays grant residents and visitors an open invitation to enjoy the natural beauty of the area while partaking in some of the city's best cooking. Taking place from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Tuesdays throughout the summer, incentives include DJs and live music along with the incredible atmosphere of the park itself.

As with many of the festivals on this list, choosing which foods you wish to sample may be the most challenging part of attending Food Truck Tuesdays, but the free entry to all may loosen the pressure to make the right choice since locals can always return the next week. The occasion features around fifteen vendors specializing in foods including Italian, Argentinian, Mediterranean, French, Asian, Seafood, and other entrees will prove more than enough to lure most fans in, but child-friendly features like bounce castles and plenty of space to fly kites make it easy to stay late and watch the Miami sunset over your meal.

Food Truck Carnival - Northglenn

Located in the Denver suburb of Northglenn, Food Truck Carnival is one of Colorado's strongest celebrations of local cuisine. 2023 marked the festival's sixth year, starting in 2016 and taking two years off due to COVID before coming back in 2022. The Carnival is aptly named in regard to its inclusion of various amusement rides. Meanwhile, its location at the E.B. Rains Park and Civic Center Campus near the Northglenn Recreation Center makes public transportation readily available, allowing more foodies to join in on the fun without requiring a designated driver to get home safely.

The festival is free to attend, but the purchase of all-day passes or single tickets allows participants to enjoy the rides. As a three-day event, there is plenty of time to enjoy the many features of the event, which includes live music selections from homegrown Coloradan talent. Not only are there a number of amusement options, this dog-friendly event often highlights pet services such as gourmet dog treats. Arcade games and rides are a lot of fun, but make sure to save plenty of time to sample the work of the many chefs that make the Carnival the best it can be.

Milwaukee Food Truck Fest - Milwaukee

Alongside Minneapolis and Chicago, Milwaukee is highly regarded as one of the Midwest's great cities for foodies everywhere to visit and take advantage of the diverse and well-organized options for local cuisine. Each of these cities likewise has a thriving food truck culture, which is perhaps why Milwaukee's Food Truck Fest is so highly regarded among street food enthusiasts. Priding itself on its many family-friendly offerings, including on-site games, live music, and an open view of the Milwaukee Air and Water Show, making this event an excellent option for kids of all ages to enjoy.

The festival tends to take place right smack dab in the middle of summer and sports more than 20 trucks. As a free event along Milwaukee's famed waterfront, this is also an excellent event for anyone simply looking to acquaint themselves with the city's gorgeous architecture and waterways. With a strong vegan presence, the fest courts an inclusive crowd of people with any number of dietary preferences or restrictions. Be sure to save room for dessert, as options ranging from flavored popcorn to ice cream and funnel cake add a sweet note to the celebration.

MN Food Truck Festival - Various

The MN Food Truck Festival is a series of local Minneapolis area events that span the cities and suburbs of Hopkins, St. Paul, and Anoka, all taking place through the summer months. The Twin Cities area is known for gorgeous public parks, accessible public transportation depots, and, of course, exceptional food trucks. Each of these festivals takes place in spaces like St. Paul's Union Depot or Anoka's scenic downtown. The similarities don't end there, with each event sporting more than 40 different food vendors spanning just about any style you can think of, including pierogis, fried shrimp, Indian street food, and many more. Additionally, the fests feature interactive games and giveaways.

With an eye toward providing beverages for drinkers and non-drinkers alike, these fests provide a wide selection of the Twin Cities' many local breweries alongside ciders and nonalcoholic drinks as well. With music legends like Bob Dylan, Lizzo, and Prince all at once calling Minneapolis home, the area's music scene has always been strong, so be sure to catch the live music that accompanies these events. MN Food Truck Festival frequently pairs with the nonprofit FMSC, each free drink wristband providing three meals for those in need.