The Highlands Food and Wine Festival, now celebrating its fourth year, is the area’s premier culinary event. Highlands, North Carolina is known to many as the crown jewel of the Western North Carolina mountains. A prestigious and picturesque town, Highlands sits on the edge of the Smoky Mountains at an elevation of 4,118 feet. It’s easy to see how the town got its name. During the summer months, many flock to this mountain sanctuary seeking cooler temperatures, breathtaking views from hiking trails, world class fly-fishing and magical waterfalls, but one of Highlands’ main attractions is the Highlands Food and Wine Festival. Events abound as everyone, visitors and locals alike, head for the outdoors. This town isn’t just for outdoor enthusiasts. Upscale shopping and five-star dining experiences complement the setting and beckon those craving nature without sacrificing elevated amenities.
12 going on 4? The Highlands Food and Wine Festival Story
Though the festival is celebrating its fourth anniversary this year, the foundation of the event began 12 years earlier. Presented and produced by the Highlands Chamber of Commerce and originally named Highlands Culinary Weekend, local leadership envisioned an event that would produce more business in the off-season. Since the Town of Highlands’ inception around the turn of the last century, it had always been a seasonal destination. Visitors flocked to the area during the summer months to escape oppressive heat and temperatures back home. Then as the last leaves began to fall, Highlands would become largely vacant throughout the winter. Slowly but surely, the event gained traction. But it wasn’t until its rebranding in 2016 and the restructuring of the initiative that it became as wildly popular as it is today. With tickets going on sale to the public in the spring and selling out in a matter of minutes, Highlands Food and Wine Festival has revitalized fall in the area and has been credited for extending the season through the end of the year.
Important things to Know About the Highlands Food and Wine Festival
The first thing to note is that if you don’t already have Highlands Food and Wine tickets, you should probably start planning for next year. When we say the tickets sell out in minutes, we mean it. Additionally, tickets for many events actually never even made it to the public this year because first priority is given to those who sign up for the newsletter. Thus, those who received the pre-sale notice, scooped up all or most of the tickets immediately. Moral of the story: Sign up for the newsletter! The organizers of the festival have created a Facebook page where those looking to purchase or sell tickets may have an opportunity to do so. For more information, visit Highlands Food and Wine ticket exchange on Facebook. You may still find tickets available for some of the newly added community events and wine dinners. These are supplemental experiences that have been created by some of the local restaurateurs and businesses. But don’t wait as these will sell out, too! Attire for the festival is described as mountain chic or resort casual. All events are for those 21 years old and up. While Highlands, NC is an extremely pet-friendly town, you may want to leave your furry friends at home for the weekend, as they are not permitted at any events.
Why Don’t They Sell More Tickets to the Highlands Food and Wine Festival?
By now, you may be sensing that access to this event is a highly coveted experience and the prospect of securing tickets may seem like the equivalent to winning the lottery. Let us explain. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Highlands, NC, please know that it is a very special place. It is the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains. The natural landscape of the surrounding Nantahala Forest gives way to the charming mountain plateau, where Highlands sits. It is a picturesque town protected by its surrounding elements and guarded by those who cherish it. Spending time in Highlands is like exhaling and breathing in all at the same time. Calm. Serene. Lovely. But, we should also mention small. To maintain the integrity of the experience for all festival attendees, the quantity of tickets must be capped. This intentional limitation ensures quality control and the absence of overcrowding at all events.
Highlands Food and Wine Festival Schedule
Thursday, Nov. 7
The Grand Tasting
The kickoff festivities take place Thursday evening from 7 to 10 p.m., with The Grand Tasting at Kelsey-Hutchinson Park. Wine tastings from over a dozen vineyards complement food samples from some of the area’s most notable chefs. Dance the night away while listening to the groovy sounds of The Dip, an eclectic ensemble of musicians hailing from Seattle.
Friday, Nov. 8
Sip & Shop
Wine and shopping! Two popular pastimes come together for the perfect day. Head to the Park on Main Hotel to grab your commemorative wine glass and begin the stroll down Main Street. Businesses and merchants will be partnered with a vineyard for your tasting pleasure. Enjoy shopping, sipping wine and visiting with a local, like a local! Hours are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Be sure to visit our Landmark Realty Group Highlands office at 225 Main Street for Sip & Shop!
One of the most popular happenings of the festival is Truckin’ hosted at The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts. It is an outdoor celebration of music and a variety of libations and culinary fare offered by some of the most exciting food trucks from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. A new feature this year is the Truckin’ Beer Tasting Experience, presenting samples from local and national breweries. Gates open at noon and the event lasts until 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 9
Sip & Shop
Wine and shopping, again! Two popular pastimes come together for the perfect day. Head to the Park on Main Hotel to grab your commemorative wine glass and begin the stroll down Main Street. Businesses and merchants will be partnered with a vineyard for your tasting pleasure. Enjoy shopping, sipping wine and visiting with a local, like a local! Hours are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., with a reception at 4 p.m. at the Park on Main Hotel. Be sure to visit our Landmark Realty Group Highlands office at 225 Main Street for Sip & Shop!
The Main Event
The most coveted ticket of the Highlands Food and Wine Festival is The Main Event. An entire block of downtown Highlands is closed off and a street party ensues with live music from Shelly Colvin and Anderson East. Oyster lovers can partake in the popular table roasts as chefs keep a steady supply of roasted oysters ready for shucking on tap throughout the event. Wine, champagne, beer and specialty cocktails are pouring all day. And if oysters aren’t your thing, food samples will be available from local artisans. It is truly a can’t-miss event! The gates open at 12 p.m. and the event ends at 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 10
A new addition in 2019 and closing the Highlands Food and Wine Festival is Sunday Shindig. Organizers describe this as a down home cookin’ experience complete with Bloody Marys and spiked coffees. Live bluegrass music will be provided by The Infamous Stringdusters. This Sunday celebration takes place at Kelsey-Hutchinson Park from 12 – 2:30 p.m.
Rental Properties Available with Landmark Realty Group
Where can I stay while in Highlands, NC for Highlands Food and Wine Festival? Because of the popularity of this North Carolina food and wine festival, most hotel rooms are booked well in advance. Not to worry, though, as Landmark Realty Group Vacation Rentals has you covered. Go to LandmarkVacationRentals.com to book your mountain home today. You’ll be staying in style while sipping new and vintage wines discovered at Highlands Food and Wine Festival! Now that you’ve got the skinny on this popular festival, we hope to see you soon! Be sure to stop in and visit our Landmark Realty Group Highlands office at 225 Main Street during one or both of the Sip & Shop experiences Our brokers will be pouring the wine and they’ll be available to speak with you about your next vacation rental or, if you’ve fallen in love with Highlands, your mountain home purchase.
Written by: Dale Gordon