It took me a while to come around to attending the Music City Food & Wine Festival (MCFWF). Not because three days of eating and drinking didn't appeal to me but because the price tag seemed way too high compared to similar festivals in the area. I waited for it to get its legs before I jumped in. This will be my third year in a row to purchase my All-In ticket (all three days) and I'm going to give you the in's and out's and what to expect. You can decide whether you want "all-in" or just attend for a day.
Some background MCFWF was founded by a bunch of industry people I've never heard of, except for chef Jonathan Waxman, who've done this kind of thing in other areas. What makes this a Nashville thing is the addition of the members of the band, KIngs of Leon, who are locals. The thing with Nashville is it is very supportive of their people. They show up for you and you show up for them. I see it everywhere across industries. People in Nashville get out of their houses and support one another. It doesn't make any difference how famous you are, Nashville wants you to succeed.
What I love about this festival. Even with all the famous people involved and celebrity chefs, this event is free of snobbery. There is no VIP ticket. No separation of people based on how much money they are willing to spend or how important they are. You are either there or you're not. I love this and I'm not someone to shy away from paying for better seats, access, bathrooms, etc. I also think this lack of ego makes for an ever-evolving event. There is always a little tweak every year. Some are more successful than others, but I look forward to what they come up with. The experience at any festival is 80% the people you are attending with. Since Nashville is what it is (see above) you will be with fellow food lovers who respect the craft and are overall positive and having a good time.
How to survive three days of eating and drinking. I have to admit, the first year we didn't pace ourselves and had to tap out early the first session so that we had enough reserve for the Harvest Night event. Last year was better. It helped that they added Friday night.
- Don't eat and drink everything you come across. Make a first pass and only take things that really jump out at you. There are four big tents of food and drink and last year it felt like there was more drink than eat. If you have time, then make a second pass. There are different people under the tents offering food each day so make sure you get to your favorites.
- Check the schedule and attend a presentation. It's a great way to take a break, sit, and learn something.
How to survive the Tennessee weather. Even though it's late September it's still hot as Hades in Tennessee. The good thing is that if you are out of the sun, it's not so bad. There are many tents around to keep you out of the heat in Bicentennial Mall. The exception to that is the Gospel Brunch at the Walk of Fame Park. Last year we roasted. There were a few tables with umbrellas but people camped out at them so the vast majority were in the wide open. The only thing I can offer is to wear a hat. One year it poured down rain but we just put on rain gear and kept going.
If you can only do one event. If you can only attend one day I would say Saturday is better because you get an extra hour. Friday evening is better if you want to beat the heat. Look at the schedule and see what presentations appeal to you the most because both Friday night and Saturday cost the same. Harvest Night is expensive on its own. We like it because it's a smaller crowd and that's where all the big name chefs are in one place and the music is always great. It's more of a party. I would leave off the Gospel Brunch. It is significantly cheaper but the food choices are limited and the heat is killer. By all means, if you get the All-In ticket don't skip it. I just wouldn't buy that ticket on its own.
Where to stay, How to get there MCFWF events happen in two different parks. I would stay downtown somewhere north of Broadway to make walking easy to both locations. Some of the hotels in that area are 21C, Noelle, Bobby, Double Tree, and Indigo. MCFWF also offers hotel discounts with ticket purchases. You can find more information for that here. If you don't want to walk, they have Uber and Lyft drop off points or you can take the free downtown bus. You will take the Blue Circuit to the Bicentennial Mall and the Green Circuit to the Walk of Fame Park.
If you want to check out all the great Nashville restaurants and then some, this is the place to be!
For tickets and more information visit their site.
Let me know if you have any other questions. Hope to see you there!