While crustaceans can range in size from a water flea measuring 1/125 of an inch to the 12-foot Japanese spider crab, the most universally-celebrated species -- at least in the kitchen -- are crabs and lobsters. The most widely-consumed crabs are the king, stone, snow and blue variety and are used as main ingredients in soups, dips, sauces, entrees and even sushi. While lobsters are also used in similar recipes, they are often served with just their tails and crackable claws as the celebrated dish. If one dish isn't enough, grab a bib, mini-fork, some drawn butter and get cracking at some of the United States' crab and lobster festivals.
Get Cooking at Florida's Blue Crab Festival
Held annually over Memorial Day weekend in May, Palatka, Florida's Blue Crab Festival promises family fun. With carnival rides, games, seafood cook-offs, live music and floats, this southern festival not only celebrates the cerulean-colored crustacean, but aims to commemorate the fallen members of the United States military. This riverfront soiree is always free and open to all ages.
Battle It Out For Blue Crab
Since its start back in 1981, the Little River World Famous Blue Crab Festival has been bringing blue crab to the masses. Now, with attendance records nearing 50,000 people, it is considered one of the largest festivals in the southeast region. Celebrating crabs as well as the local communities of Little River, North Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand area, this crustacean party also features live music, over 200 arts and craft vendors and a children's area. Children can enter free via a downloadable pass on the festival website, while adult entry can be purchased on arrival, or in advance per day or for the entire weekend.
Unlimited Crackin' in Maryland
The National Harbor and Baltimore Crab and Beer Festivals are identical twin celebrations that prove Maryland takes its parties and its crabs seriously. While enjoying live entertainment -- including a human-sized Old Bay seasoning mascot -- these festival attendees can get cracking on more than 50,000 crabs in National Harbor and over 20,000 crabs in Baltimore. In addition to the crabs and other a la cart items, the two-city Crab and Beer Festival has "All-You-Care-To-Taste" booze, including craft beer, wine and spirits. While they do not cater to vegetarians, the festival has crustacean-less items such as hot dogs and burgers as well as free watermelon for cooling down in the summer heat.
Loving Lobsters in Maine
Maine is practically synonymous with the lobster, so it's no surprise that the coastal town of Rockland throws a four-day crustacean celebration. Located along the water at Harbor Park, the Maine Lobster Festival is full of lobster food, floats and activities. The festival also includes a fun run, road race and walk, a lobster crate race, interactive marine life tent, arts and crafts and a steamy cooking contest. For those who like to sit back, relax and be entertained, there is also live music and a parade. Admission price varies, but the Maine Lobster Festival is free on Family Day.
Claiming two seafood superlatives, the Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival boasts the Guinness World Record for most seafood served at an outdoor event and is the self-proclaimed world's largest lobster festival. They also boast world-famous discount lobster meals, pirates, up-and-coming and well-known music acts and free parking. It's important to note that the Port of Los Angeles is located in San Pedro, California, and is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles.
Kodiak's Catch of the Day
The Discovery Channel may have shed some light on the harsh crabbing conditions Alaskan fishermen face while procuring the sweet meat of the state's king crabs on its show, "The Deadliest Catch," but visitors to our northernmost state need not brave the fierce waters. Instead, crab lovers can head to Kodiak Island's Kodiak Crab Festival where they will find rides, games and crabby foods. They even have a poster and logo contest where the chosen designer's work can be spotted on posters, jackets, pins, yoga pants and more.