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festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ben Timney

The best festivals in NJ

Check out the best festivals in NJ, from food to music to Pride to an official celebration of pork rolls (or Taylor Ham)

By Alyssa Ammirato
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Flower crowns, bare feet and costume jewelry found at some of NYC’s best jewelry stores may be staples of some summer music festivals like Governors Ball, but we happen to think there’s more to a good outdoor bash than the fashion trends. No place proves that like (surprise!) the state of New Jersey. In the garden state, there’s a celebration nearly every month to honor and appreciate everything from the state’s best restaurants and wineries in NJ, to activities like hot air ballooning. Get your calendars out and clear your schedule for these upcoming festivals in New Jersey.

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Best festivals in NJ

festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy Neil Grabowsky/Montclair Film Festival

Montclair Film Festival (Montclair)

April 29–May 8

Indies, documentaries, animated films and discussion panels abound in this city-inspired suburban film festival. Events and screenings take place all over town in playhouse-inspired theaters, historic venues and auditoriums and tickets run as little as $14 for an evening screening. The 10-day 2016 fest attracted fan favorites like Norman Reedus and Rob Reiner, and the New Jersey-specific category brings the whole thing home for natives to the Garden State. (montclairfilmfest.org)

festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jazz Guy

Pork Roll Festival (Trenton)

May 28

Whether you call it Taylor Ham or refused to acknowledge anything but pork roll on your bagel, this breakfast (and late-night diner stop) favorite is a big deal to New Jersey folks—big enough for a day-long celebration in the capital. For three years and counting, kids and adults alike have enjoyed craft vendors, live music, a recipe contest, pork roll-themed menu items and—yes, for real—the Pork Roll Queen Competition. Mill Hill Park, Trenton, NJ (porkrollfestival.com)

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jazz Guy

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festivals in nj
Photograph: Shutterstock

Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Festival (Augusta)

June 3–5

It may sound like a food frenzy better suited to the Gulf Coast, but this annual event has made a big splash in West Jersey for over 25 years. Crawfish Fest attracts families and individuals with its hat tip to southern charm and tradition of community and hospitality. (The event began in 1989 as a small boil for just 70 people homesick for New Orleans flavor.) (crawfishfest.com)

festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy Lee Cherry

Hot 97 Summer Jam (East Rutherford)

Music

June 5

Fans of hip hop music have been gathering for the radio station’s annual summer kick-off party for more than two decades. Featuring two stages and the rap game’s biggest names, this star-studded parking lot party is Mecca for followers of the Hot 97 radio station and artists like A$AP Rocky, Future, the Terror Squad and more. (hot97.com/summerjam)

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festivals in nj
Photograph: Shutterstock

Big Greek Festival (Randolph)

June 10–12

For almost 50 years, this Morris County cultural festival has been a big draw for kids, families and adults who like to eat, drink and be merry. Packed to the brim with the best in fine Greek cuisine and crowd-pleasing snack foods, fine Greek wines and liquors, gift shops and live entertainment, you’ll never leave this one hungry or empty-handed. (biggreekfestival.com)

festivals in nj
Photograph: Shutterstock

Jersey Shore Wine Festival (Lakewood)

June 11–12

This year’s festival rounded up 11 wineries from near and far plus handfuls of food vendors, craft makers and sellers, merchandisers and entertainers for the two-day event. And as a bonus, you can sip for a good cause: all proceeds from 2016’s event went to Sylvia’s Children, a NJ-based nonprofit that provides for thousands of African children. (jerseyshorewinefestival.com)

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festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jazz Guy

Atlantic City Food Truck Festival (Atlantic City)

June 18–19

All the debauchery of world famous Atlantic City meets its family friendly beachside attractions in this celebration of food trucks and the best eats around. Everything from BBQ and empanadas to peanut butter (yes, there’s a peanut butter food truck!) is represented, with famous favorites like Wahlburgers to satisfy every taste bud in the Garden State. (acfoodtruckfest.com)

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jazz Guy

festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy Wildwood Beer Festival

Wildwood Beer Fest (Wildwood)

June 10–11

Sip on small batch seasonal brews and crowd-pleasers (like event sponsor Yuengling) alike to refine your persnickety palate or just try something new and exciting. New Jersey Brew Co., Cape May Brewing Company, Pinelands Brewing Company and others represent the home state, but you’ll also have the chance to indulge in labels from New York to California. (wildwoodbeerfest.com)

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festivals in nj
Photograph: Shutterstock

Jersey Pride Festival (Asbury Park)

June 5

For 25 years, Asbury Park has been home to New Jersey’s Pride Festival, complete with a can’t-miss parade, live performances, food and beverages and important information booths to celebrate and educate folks from the LGBTQ community and their friends and allies. (jerseypride.org)

festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ben Timney

QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (Readington)

July 29–31

Hot air balloons are just one piece of this three-day festival of food, music, crafts, beer and—well, of course, ballooning. Pay for a sky-high ride or just enjoy the view and all-day background music as hundreds of balloons take flight at dawn and dusk. Past musical performers include Meatloaf and Three Doors Down, and on 2016’s lineup are Third Eye Blind and KC & the Sunshine Band. (balloonfestival.com)

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Photograph: Shutterstock

NJ Taco Festival (Augusta)

September 9–10

The second annual event in 2016 promises to be as fun and flavorful as this fest’s first year, if not more so. As if an abundance of tacos wasn’t enough to get you in the door—er, fairgrounds gates—there’s also beer, tequila, a recipe competition, mariachi music and much more over the course of this large-scale two-day event. (njtacofestival.com)

festivals in nj
Photograph: Shutterstock

Asbury Park Oysterfest (Asbury Park)

September 9–11

Bid the Jersey Shore adieu for the summer with this last hurrah at the beach. Over 20,000 people attend this family and adult-friendly event on the Asbury Park Waterfront downtown at the iconic Carousel building for the food, booze and views. (balloonfestival.com)

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Jumbo lobster

AC Seafood Festival (Atlantic City)

September 10–11

Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, the Atlantic City Seafood Festival brings attendees the opportunity to enjoy their favorite and never-before-tasted seafood dishes at a low and affordable price point: the event asks all vendors to keep things below $10. Add wine and beer, a kids’ fishing competition and the last days of summer on a warm, sandy beach and it’s a perfect friends or family weekend. (acseafoodfest.com)

festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy MIndy Tucker

Hoboken Comedy Festival (Hoboken)

September 26–October 2

Swing by one or many events during this week-long barrel of laughs to discover new acts and be a part of the for-a-cause fun. The event helps to support the Liberty Humane Society so your laugh (and $25 ticket) goes a long way. Specific names for the 2016 event are still TBA, but you can follow along with @HobokenComedy to see who’s being announced as the stand-ups are selected. (hobokencomedyfestival.org)

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festivals in nj
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Visit_Cape_May

Exit Zero Jazz Festival (Cape May)

November 11–13

This surfside music extravaganza brings newcomers and Grammy-winners alike to the beach for three days and—ready?—45 chances to enjoy all kinds of jazz. Tickets range from $20 for door entry to certain clubs to a $48 club pass for the weekend and all the way up to baller status with a $185 VIP weekend pass. Daily passes are also sold for $30 to $165. (exit0jazzfest.com)

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