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The 6 Best Foodie Road Trips in the U.S.

Buckle up and prepare to eat your way through these mouth-watering journeys.

Experiencing local cuisine is at the very heart of an authentic travel experience. In fact, many plan entire trips around culinary itineraries, from food festivals to checking out hot new restaurants. But if you're looking for an even more eye-opening journey, it can be especially worthwhile to get in the car and hit the road with your appetite. Read on for the best foodie road trips in the U.S., according to travel experts.

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The California Culinary Trail

san francisco california

As one of the most geographically and demographically diverse states in the U.S., California is a no-brainer for any travelers looking to get the most out of a food-focused road trip. In fact, you can experience a lot of globally inspired cuisine without even crossing the border.

Kitty Maerz, travel writer and founder of Kitty Meets World, suggests beginning your jaunt down the coast in San Francisco's Chinatown. There, you can sample tasty dim sum or Beijing Duck before heading south towards Monterey for delicious seafood. Once you've had your fill, your next major stop will be for some Danish delicacies in Solvang, a famously quaint town that makes it feel as though you've been transported to Europe.

Next, you'll continue south to bustling Los Angeles. "Of course, here you have a choice of pretty much any cuisine, but your best bet might be Korean," says Maerz. "Whether you prefer Korean BBQ, bibimbap, or Korean fusion, you are sure to find it!"

You'll finish up your drive in San Diego, where Mexican delicacies abound. "Just 17 miles from the southern border, you will be sure to find truly authentic food without having to take your passport!" she says.

The Georgia Coast

Boats docked in Brunswick, Georgia
J K Laws/Shutterstock

Georgia is no stranger to culinary acclaim, from local delicacies in smaller cities to the buzzy restaurants of Atlanta. But according to Pam and Sara Brand, founders of local travel blog Discovering Coastal Georgia, a drive up the state's relatively short seashore can provide an entirely new perspective on what the state is capable of.

They recommend taking U.S. Highway 17 from south to north as your route and staying off the interstate. This will provide you with the same experience drivers had almost a century ago before the expressways were constructed

"You'll begin with a super casual (almost dive-style) location in Kingsland named Ops," says Sara. "The fish and chips are excellent, and their small Greek salad is big enough to be a meal."

From there, you'll head north to the small port city of Brunswick. "Downtown, you'll find fun pub grub at Tipsy McSway's or barbecue at Twin Oaks," says Pam. "It's been there since 1943, so you know it's got to be great with that kind of staying power."

Continue north to the shrimping capital of Georgia, the historic village of Darien. "Skipper's Fish Camp is a sprawling place right on the water with views of the picturesque shrimp boats," says Sara. "Guess what we recommend here? That's right: You can't go wrong with shrimp!"

After an additional hour's drive, you'll arrive in Coastal Georgia's most famous town: Savannah. "The culinary options are practically endless, but whatever you have, we suggest winding down with a nightcap at a rooftop bar like Peregrin or Myrtle & Rose," says Sara.

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The New York Finger Lakes

vineyard overlooking the water in finger lakes

New York is a multifaceted state, from the bright lights of New York City to the rustic charm of the Adirondacks. Naturally, this leads to a lot of possibilities when it comes to exploring great food, impressive wine, and stunning scenery—but especially in the Finger Lakes.

According to Matt Read and Alex DeRosa, hosts of the cooking show Spatchcock Funk on PBS, a drive through the storied region provides a chance to eat and drink in "one of the most beautiful places in the entire country."

"Cruise up the Erie Canal and lock in at Lock 24 in Baldwinsville for a small plates scratch kitchen named BG 1," says Read, adding that a seasonal menu there never disappoints. "There's usually the right blend of locals and Great Loop visitors to share stories with over the acoustic rock playlist that has the coolest laid-back vibe."

From there, you'll continue deeper into the FLX (the local acronym) to Anyela's Vineyards, which they say has more views and "a vibe that can't be beaten," thanks to its approachable sophistication. Here, you can sample some of the best wines from the region while working on a charcuterie plate and taking in the scenery.

Your next stop should be Elephant and the Dove in downtown Skaneateles, where you'll find creative Mexican cuisine. "The vibe inside is eclectic, surprising, and just smooth all around," says Read. "The tacos and the margaritas are worth the time, and they constantly change the menu based on what's around that season."

Finally, you can end your driving with a meal at F.L.X. Table in Geneva, which Read says is a love letter to the area. "They have incredibly talented chefs—some of whom have worked in Michelin kitchens—that set you up family style with a whole bunch of options," he tells Best Life. "It's a great mix of high-end and down-home food that goes with anything. And if you've got room, check out their equally impressive fried chicken joint next store!"

The Skagit Valley in Washington State

multi-colored tulip fields in skagit valley, washington
Owen Whiting / Shutterstock

An hour north of Seattle, the Skagit Valley has long drawn in crowds for its stunning tulip fields. But according to Adria Saracino, travel expert and owner of The Emerald Palate, local agriculture and access to amazing seafood make it worth a culinary-focused trip alone.

"I always send people here so they can experience both surf and turf on their culinary adventures," she says. "And the best part is that pretty much every business is an under-the-radar mom-and-pop shop."

She suggests starting at The Rex Bar & Grill—which is located in a converted historic gas station—for some exceptional road trip sandwiches. Nibble on them as you meander through the valley and stop at the various farm stands to pick up goodies. "Some of my favorites include Waxwing Farms, Boldly Grown Farms, Hedlin Farms, and the famous Snow Goose Produce where people wait in line for ice cream," she says.

Saracino also suggests diving into the thriving local craft beer scene. "Many breweries use malt made with grains grown right in the valley," she says. "Some of my favorites include Farmstrong Brewing for their approachable beers and family-friendly vibe; Garden Path Fermentation for their funky brews using yeast caught from the air; and Terramar Brewstillery, which has a gorgeous patio overlooking a slough and homemade spirits in addition to beers."

Next up should be seafood sampling, which she suggests doing by visiting Taylor Shellfish Farms on the famous Chuckanut Drive. But while this is considered the quintessential Skagit experience, Saracino says she loves visiting the smaller fish shacks to truly understand the region's seafood.

"First up should be Skagit's Own Fish Market where you can find both fresh fish and delicious seafood snacks like oyster 'po boys and lobster rolls," she suggests. "Next head to The Oyster Shuckers, owned by an oyster farmer who wanted to create a seafood-forward taqueria and oyster shop. Don't miss the grilled oysters either on a tray or in a taco!"

And to round things out, any foodie road trip in the region must include Bow and Edison. "This button of a town is small, but it's lined with excellent foodie stops," she says. "The most famous is Breadfarm, which is a leader in the local grain-to-table movement. There's also Slough Foods for charcuterie and wine, Mariposa for tacos, Tweets for breakfast, and Samish Cheese for homemade cheeses."

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Beyond Bourbon County

An aerial shot of the skyline of Louisville and the bridge at sunrise.

Kentucky provides one of the best on-the-ground culinary crawls you can find east of the Mississippi. Lia Garcia, founder of Louisville Food Tours, says it's best to start your trip in Louisville, the biggest city in the state and home to several of its best culinary creations.

"Experience the Hot Brown—an open-faced turkey, bacon, and tomato sandwich smothered in cheesy Mornay sauce—where it was created at the glamorous Brown Hotel," she suggests. "Then, visit Muth's Candies to try a caramel-covered marshmallow Modjeska, a Louisville original."

No trip to Kentucky would feel complete without sampling some of its namesake chicken. On your next stop, head to Claudia Sanders' restaurant in Shelbyville to taste Kentucky-style fried chicken cooked in the style of the master himself, Colonel Sanders, founder of the iconic chain.

On your way to the bourbon distilleries near Frankfort, Kentucky's capital city, Garcia suggests a stop at Rebecca Ruth Candy to experience the "perfection that is the Bourbon Ball," a buttery truffle made with bourbon, pecans, and chocolate. Then, head to Holly Hill Inn in Midway, just outside of Lexington, to experience the Kentucky cooking of renowned Chef Ouita Michel. "The fine dining menu changed seasonally and features farmer-to-table Southern food made from Kentucky's best," she says.

Looking for a true local specialty? Down along the Ohio River is Owensboro, Kentucky's barbecue capital and home to a traditional, Kentucky-style barbecued mutton that you'll only find in one place. "Try it at Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, where folks will drive hours to experience their lunch buffet," says Garcia. "And pair your hickory-smoked mutton with another Kentucky creation: A rich stew called Burgoo."

The Ultimate New England Seafood Adventure

waterfront town with a harbor and boats at sunset

For centuries, travelers have been drawn to New England by the promise of mouthwatering seafood pulled fresh from its coastal waters. Fortunately, it's easy enough to get in a wide range of what the charming region has to offer on little more than a tank of gas.

Your scenic trip should start with some classic New England clam chowder at Boston's Union Oyster House—the purported "oldest restaurant in the United States," says Joe Bowab, CEO and founder of Maine-based premium seafood delivery company Lobster Anywhere.

Then, head north to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a quaint and often overlooked coastal town. There, you'll be able to enjoy buttery lobster rolls at The Beach Plum and revel in historical buildings and waterfront landscapes.

Just short of an hour down the road, your final destination will be Portland, Maine, where the rugged coastline and spectacular lighthouses set the scene for a seafood extravaganza.

"From fresh oysters at Eventide Oyster Co. to the famous Maine lobster at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, you'll get a taste of it all," says Bowab. "With all those bustling harbor views, iconic landmarks like Boston Common, and vibrant waterfront districts, this is a road trip perfectly balanced between taste and sightseeing."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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