10 Great American Food Trail Road Trips

American food road trips are a growing trend. Flickr.com/Take Back Your Health Conference Los Angeles
One of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling is sampling the local food, and to suit our growing hunger for the authentic, tourism authorities have developed specialized "trails" across the United States to guide visitors to the best flavors on their vacations. While some of these food road trips are well-established—loaded with popular restaurants, markets, and shops—others remain under-the-radar as their home regions build their reputations as epicurean destinations. 
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North Carolina’s Historic Barbecue Trail Bill Russ—VisitNC.com
On the North Carolina Barbecue Society Historic Trail, each of the 24 stops had to meet the strict criteria of being in the business for 15 years or more, cooking on wood or charcoal pits, creating their own sauces, and earning positive reputations within their communities. Much of the action takes place near Lexington, but stops are spread out across the state beginning in Ayden and continuing to Murphy. Smoked pulled pork sandwiches are a staple dish at most trail locations, and sauces vary between vinegar or tomato-based blends.

Route: North Carolina Barbecue Society's Historic Barbecue Trail map
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The Finger Lakes Wine Trails Stu Gallagher Photography
New York States’ Finger Lakes region contains more than 100 wineries thanks to sloping vineyards and lakes that created a micro climate especially favorable to Rieslings. The beautiful setting is even more spectacular during vibrant fall foliage. There are three wine trails with similar appeal: Seneca Lake, Cayuga Lake (pictured), and Keuka Lake—Seneca Lake is the largest with 35 wineries and two cider producers. Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards and Glenora Wine Cellars are two of the oldest on the trail.

Route: Finger Lakes Wine Country route maps
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Louisiana’s Bayou Bounty Trail Denny Culbert
With influences from Cajun and Creole heritage, Louisiana is a culinary dream, and the Bayou Bounty Trail shines with unbelievable food and a steady soundtrack of Zydeco music. The trail spans from Houma to its main hub of Lafayette. To earn a spot in the network, each location must serve authentic Louisiana cuisine, so there are dishes such as pork and crawfish boudin at Legnon’s Boucherie in New Iberia, alligator tenderloin at Cafe Vermilionville in Lafayette, or breakfast biscuits with crawfish étouffée at Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, known for Zydeco music in the mornings.

Route: Louisiana Culinary Trails maps
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Alabama’s Northern Trail Art Meripol
Following the release of a book called 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die, the state introduced a culinary map. Each restaurant is voted on by a panel, with menus showcasing Alabama classics like Southern tomato pie and fried catfish as well as trendy, contemporary dishes that follow the farm-to-table concept. On the Northern Trail, don’t miss Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur (pictured), a landmark that got its start in 1925. Or, combine the Northern Trail with the Magic City Trail to discover the Irondale Café, the inspiration for the Fannie Flagg book (and film), Fried Green Tomatoes—which also happens to be a delicacy cooked to perfection at many stops on the trail.

Route: I Love Alabama Food trail map
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Kentucky Bourbon Trail Kentucky Tourism
Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon and Congress declared it America's only native spirit. Formed in 1999 to teach the science of producing bourbon, in the past few years the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has boomed, attracting millions of visitors from around the globe. It takes about three days to complete, and tours (current guides are listed on its website) include transportation so you won't have to worry about driving after a rough day of tastings. Household names such as Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark (pictured) are found on the trail—which can also be combined with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour to discover lesser-known distilleries. A free Bourbon trail passport grants a tee-shirt for those who collect all nine stamps.

Route: Kentucky Bourbon Trail map
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Denver Beer Trail The Brewtography Project
Colorado has 2700 craft breweries and counting—more per capita than any other state. With such an overwhelming number spread in such a large area, the Denver Beer Trail is a great place to start. The trail includes more than 20 breweries often coupled with food trucks for a truly happy combination. Located in an old garage, Denver Beer Company’s Platte Street Taproom (pictured) has one of the city's largest open-air seating areas and excellent brews on tap such as Graham Cracker Porter and Incredible Pedal IPA. Fiction Beer Company takes a literary approach to beer, with events that include author signings and book clubs. Travelers can appreciate themed beers like Old Bums and Beat Cowboys, a pale ale inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  

Route: Denver Beer Trail
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Great Wisconsin Cheese Tour Travel Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s love affair with cheese dates back 175 years and today, it's an art form that manifests in more than 600 varieties. The state produces 2.8 billion pounds of it each year, and with so many options, Travel Wisconsin created the Great Wisconsin Cheese Tour, a three-day itinerary that begins in Madison and blends hands-on learning with tastings and some of Wisconsin’s best beer. Start things off at Fromagination (pictured) for tastings of local artisan cheese as well as classes (for larger groups), or take a tour of the Emmi Roth Cheese Factory in Monroe and view the production process. 

Route: Eat Wisconsin Cheese
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What started as an effort to promote New Hampshire’s dairy farms after years of decline has grown to more than four dozen participants. In addition to ice cream shops selling Northeastern favorites such as maple walnut and moose tracks, visitors can meet professional ice cream makers at places like Brookford Farm (pictured) and Connolly Brother’s Dairy Farm to get a reminder where the milk comes from. The state has an affection for its quaint ice cream stores, and there are plenty of them, such as Dewey’s Ice Cream Parlor and Café, located near New Hampshire’s natural attractions like beautiful Lake Winnipesauke. 

Route: Granite State Dairy Promotion
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Oregon’s Willamette Valley Wineries Janis Miglavs
The Willamette Valley in Oregon is home to more than 500 wineries and tasting rooms that are easily accessible from Portland. The region is renowned for pinot noir and is broken into several wine routes with enough options to keep travelers busy for weeks. On the Northern Willamette trail, visitors will find great wineries, and on winding route 47, some more unusual options including a sake brewery and a cider producer, plus fabulously scenic wineries such as Montinore Estate and Apolloni Vineyards.

Route: Willamette Valley Wineries
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The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail
While Austin often takes the spotlight as a barbecue city, the newly established trail, found near the coast between Houston and San Antonio, is gaining steam with a collection of authentic, no-frills barbecue joints surrounding Victoria, Texas. The goal of the trail is to add more of a true Lone Star State experience to barbecue, and each of the eight restaurants brings a different style to the table. At Quality Packers ("QP") Smokehouse, the slow-cooked brisket is prepared in same cooker that was used 50 years earlier, and after sampling the three meat plate with ribs, sausage and chicken at Uncle Mutt’s Bar-B-Que, visitors can swing by Schroeder Hall, the second-oldest dance hall in Texas.
Route: The Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail map
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