USA's Most Delicious Food Trails
Three-quarters of American travelers consider food and dining to be an important part of their vacation experience — and for good reason. From coast to coast, the United States is a culinary dream, with each state offering its own unique assortment of satisfying local staples.
No longer content to simply dine at an amazing restaurant or two, more and more hungry travelers are taking advantage of food and booze trails — state-specific collections of restaurants, bars and shops dedicated to a signature food or drink. From a bourbon journey in Kentucky to a cheese trek in California, these trails promise a culinary experience like no other.
The following 15 trails across the nation are the best of the best. Don't forget to pack your stretchy pants.
Butler County Donut Trail - Ohio
America’s first and only donut-centric trail offers the ultimate sugar high at its 12 locally owned donut shops spread across 80 miles. The trail’s shops boast an impressive 372 years of combined donut-making experience and serve every decadent flavor you can imagine, from pineapple fritters to s’mores to maple bacon.
It should come as no surprise that this satiating trail is wildly popular, having welcomed over 17,000 people from all 50 states and 21 countries, many of whom make it their mission to collect all 12 stamps on their donut passport. Their reward? An official Donut Trail T-shirt, plus serious bragging rights.
In September, the Donut Trail Cycle Challenge — a one-day cycling journey to all dozen stops — promises a way to offset at least some of the gluttony.
California Cheese Trail
If cheese is your indulgence of choice, head to California for an epic dairy excursion on the California Cheese Trail. Taste the Golden State's distinctive, hand-crafted cheeses at some of the trail’s nearly 30 farms and creameries, spread across a hundred miles of canyons, pastures and oak-covered hills.
Depending on the property, guests can reserve full tours, cheese tastings and even cheese-making classes, then visit with the farm's goats, cows, sheep or water buffalo.
Standouts include Cowgirl Creamery, which has mastered the art of the French-style cheese; and Di Stefano, credited with helping to bring Italy's divine burrata to the American masses.
Urban Bourbon Trail - Kentucky
Quickly becoming known as Bourbon City, Louisville has harnessed the power of its local tipple to create an immersive experience for liquor enthusiasts. The drink has been an integral part of Louisville’s cultural fabric since the city was founded in the late 1700s, but has become particularly popular in the last decade thanks to an influx of hipster-friendly downtown distilleries.
What started as a passport with only six restaurants and bars, Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail has since evolved into the state’s premier bourbon experience — a cocktail and culinary adventure encompassing over 40 different stops. To be included, a stop must offer at least 50 different types of bourbon and be a local bar or restaurant (no chains allowed!).
Unlike many other food and liquor trails in the U.S., this trail is walkable, with many stops situated within a few blocks of each other. Thanks to the trail’s growing popularity, new locations are added every September, just in time for Bourbon Heritage Month.
Crab & Oyster Trail - Maryland
No trip to Maryland is complete without eating the local seafood; to make sure you’re trying the best of the best, turn to the Crab & Oyster Trail, which touts a stellar assortment of oyster houses, seafood markets and special seafood events.
The highlight of the trail is Maryland’s famous Chesapeake Bay blue crab. Can’t decide whether to try the hard- or soft-shell variety? Eat a bit of both.
Hard-shell crabs are often topped with Old Bay, a traditional seasoning of the Chesapeake region that combines pepper and paprika to zesty effect. Soft-shell crabs are typically pan-fried or deep-fried, with butter and seasonings mixed in. Fried soft-shell crab sandwiches, as delicious as they sound, are also a staple of crab houses along the trail.
In the cooler months, oysters are the seafood du jour. Expect oyster houses on the trail to serve oysters raw, in a creamy oyster stew, crispy-fried or Rockefeller style — boiled or broiled, then topped with butter, parsley, herbs and bread crumbs.
Richmond Beer Trail - Virginia
Rich in beer history, Richmond can boast of being the first place in the U.S. where beer was sold in a can, all the way back in 1935.
Today, the Richmond Beer Trail takes brewski enthusiasts on a journey through 30 craft breweries, guided by a handy trail map for easy navigation.
Local brews cater to all tastes — stouts, saisons, IPAs and red ales are all the menu, to name but a few — and for those of the sweet-tooth persuasion, cideries are available too.
Plus, there’s an extra incentive to drink up: Collect five stamps on your Beer Trail Map, and earn limited-edition Richmond Beer Trail gear, like a trucker hat, T-shirt or bottle-opener sunglasses.
Pork Highway - Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is unique in many ways, from its year-long warm weather to its postcard-ready beaches to its rich culture. And it’s safe to say its food scene makes the list as well.
While visitors can find delicious culinary offerings all over the island, the best traditional food is located in the heart of the destination. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, La Ruta del Lechón — aka the Pork Highway — is a legendary road that travels across Guavate, an area in the South Central region of Puerto Rico.
Along the road you’ll find several lechoneras, outdoor restaurants that specialize in seasoned whole-pig, slow-roasted over an open fire, as well as other local specialties such as mofongo (pickled and fried plantains), arroz con gandules (rice, pigeon peas and pork) and pasteles (a tamale-like dish filled with pork and wrapped in banana leaves).
Families and groups of friends often journey down the Pork Highway on weekends to enjoy drinks, food and live music at stops along the way.
Tenderloin Trail - Indiana
The Hoosier State does pork tenderloin better than anyone. And if you don’t believe that statement, you will after journeying along the Tenderloin Trail.
In Hamilton County, more than 50 restaurants serve up the state staple, served grilled, fried, cracker-crusted, panko-breaded and everything in between. But for our money, the tastiest version is the golden-fried pork tenderloin sandwich, a play on a traditional German schnitzel that reportedly dates back to 1904 and is as popular today as it was then.
While the trail is tantalizing all year long, it’s best enjoyed in July, when deals are offered every Tuesday during an annual event known as Tenderloin Tuesdays (move over, Taco Tuesdays!).
Masters & Makers Trail - Tennessee
Tennessee’s renowned drink scene is anchored in Nashville, where honky-tonks and hipster bars serve the libations the South is famous for. The ultimate boozy experience in the state, though, is found a little farther south near the town of Franklin, where a collection of wineries, breweries and distilleries cater to the indecisive craft-beverage connoisseur.
The Masters & Makers Trail is small but mighty, encompassing two distilleries, two breweries and one winery along its winding 70-mile path through Williamson County. Don’t miss H Clark Distillery, which in 2014 became the county’s first legal distillery in a century. The establishment serves a mean Tennessee bourbon, and is located on a former Civil War battlefield site.
Ohio Buckeye Candy Trail
If you’ve never tried Ohio’s own Buckeye candy — peanut-butter fudge dipped in chocolate — it’s time to remedy that situation. Start by journeying along the Buckeye Candy Trail, an epic route spanning from Cleveland to Cincinnati that features 31 shops, each showcasing its own take on the classic treat.
The traditional version of the candy is frequently found, of course, but you can also taste renditions that mix in cookie dough and coconut, and even Buckeye candy ice-cream sundaes (yes, please!).
Swing by Sweet Tooth Cottage in Powell, a family-owned bakery that crafts everything from scratch and, according to many impassioned locals, makes the best Buckeye candy in the state. Wittich’s Candy Shop in Circleville is another favorite; the nation’s oldest family owned and operated candy shop, it dates back 178 years.
Santa Fe Margarita Trail - New Mexico
Whether you like your margarita fruity or spicy, on the rocks or frozen, with or without a salted rim, you’ll find what you want on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail.
Since launching in 2016, the trail has expanded to include 47 participating locations. But one thing has stayed the same: Every margarita you’ll drink on the trail is made with 100% agave tequila.
The Santa Fe Margarita Trail App offers an interactive map of all the locations, the recipe for each margarita, the ability to track your stamp-collection progress and a $1 discount on each cocktail. Drinkers can even earn a variety of prizes based on how many locations they visit, ranging from a T-shirt to a signed copy of “The Great Margarita Book.” Game on.
Wisconsin Cranberry Highway
Wisconsin harvests an astonishing 60 percent of all the cranberries produced in the U.S. So naturally, its Cranberry Highway is top-notch.
Experience 50 miles of century-old cranberry marshes in central Wisconsin, while taking in the charm of small cranberry-producing towns like Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa and Cranmoor.
Make the experience immersive at Splash of Red Cranberry Tours in Pittsville, which offers weekday tours of its working cranberry marsh, led by students from the nation’s only class focused on cranberry science. Pick fresh fruit off the vine, observe the cranberry process from testing to freezing, and indulge in a few cranberry treats along the way.
If you’re looking for a party, plan your trip around the world’s largest cran-bash, the Warrens Cranberry Festival. It's the end-all-be-all for cranberry lovers, more than 100,000 of whom attend each year to enjoy three miles of shopping, arts and crafts, plus flea markets and a rousing parade.
But the real highlight of the festival is, of course, the fruit of the hour itself. You’ll find just about every cran-inspired food imaginable here, including cranberry bratwursts, cream puffs and wine.
Cajun Boudin Trail - Louisiana
First thing’s first: It’s not “Boodin” or “Bowdin”; the locals pronounce it “Boodan.”
As for what it is, boudin is a uniquely Cajun specialty comprised of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers and seasonings, stuffed in a sausage casing. You can sample the best of the best on the Cajun Boudin Trail in Lafayette and throughout its surrounding communities. There are 28 boudin masters in Lafayette alone, and another 14 in the neighboring towns.
You won’t just find boudin links along this trail designed for meat connoisseurs; varieties like fried boudin balls and smoked boudin also make an appearance on the menus.
Make a pit stop at Bayou Boudin & Cracklin’, located in a 141-year-old cabin, where the proprietor Rocky serves up a Cajun plate with delicious boudin, cracklin pork rinds and hog’s head cheese. Another favorite is Early’s Food Store, beloved for its smoked pork boudin and peach bread pudding.
North Carolina Historic BBQ Trail
It’s no secret that Southerners take barbecue extremely seriously, so you can bet that the North Carolina Barbecue Trail doesn’t mess around. All 21 ‘cue joints on the trail meet the high standards of the North Carolina Barbecue Society: Pits must be operated continuously for 15 years or more, cook their meat by wood or charcoal, and make their own sauce.
Speaking of sauce, you’ll run into two different styles on the trail: Lexington-style, which is more ketchup-based, and Eastern-style, which favors a vinegar base. If you ask us, they’re equally delicious when slathered on a pile of smoked pulled pork.
Eat at the famed Skylight Inn in Ayden, which has been smoking whole hogs since 1947, and Hubba Bubba Smokehouse in Flat Rock, where Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Starr Teel puts his expertise to work.
Hoosier Pie Trail - Indiana
Sugar cream pie has long been considered the unofficial state pie of Indiana; its nickname is even “hoosier pie.” Made with heavy cream, flour, vanilla, milk and sugar, it was historically referred to as desperation pie, because it was made when fruit wasn’t readily available.
With 26 stops around the Hoosier state, the Hoosier Pie Trail isn’t just about this state favorite — it loves and celebrates all pies. Don’t have time to hit up all 26 stops? The highest concentration of pie is found in and around Indianapolis. Grab a fork and don’t forget to add a scoop or two of ice cream.
The must-visit on this trail is Mrs. Wick’s Pie. Widely heralded as the gold standard of sugar cream pies, it bakes millions of the treats annually and now sells them in 25 states. But the original outposts in Indiana still do it best.
Salty Southern Route - Virginia
This trail, which arguably has the best name on the list, pays homage to two of Virginia’s most beloved foods: pork and peanuts. (The state is home, after all, to Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer on the planet, and the world-famous Planters Peanuts.)
In the southeastern Virginia region — easily accessible from Virginia Beach, Richmond and Washington, DC — explore an eclectic mix of peanut processors, country stores, restaurants, markets and smokeshops.
More than a foodie journey, the trail also includes a stop at the First Peanut Museum in the USA, an accurately named institution located near the country’s first commercial peanut distribution company. You can even greet a statue of Mr. Peanut, Planters’ iconic mascot, in downtown Suffolk.