Food lovers on a travel budget may want to consider more affordable culinary destinations that are found off the beaten path such as Carolina barbecue, wineries in Oregon and New York State, and chocolate trails in Connecticut.
After looking at the most affordable cities for accommodations this summer, experts at Hotels.com mapped out ideas for gourmet travel experiences in the US, offering up under-the-radar trails for the frugal gourmand.
Here are a few ideas on how to beat the crowds, beat the bank, and indulge the taste buds this summer:
* Kansas City, Memphis and St. Louis may boast bragging rights to being the most popular pilgrimage sites for devout barbecue fans but the Carolinas are also home to some tasty pit meat. The North Carolina Barbecue Society, for instance, has designed a barbecue trail that stretches from the east to Tennessee, featuring stops at 24, society-approved barbecue pits and restaurants.
* Likewise, the South Carolina barbecue trail plots out the restaurants that best exemplify the state’s trademark mustard-style barbecue sauce. Other styles include vinegar and tomato-based sauces.
* In Texas, visitors may want to drive past Austin and stop instead at Lexington, Lockhart, Luling and Taylor for equally good barbecue.
* Kentucky’s bourbon trail has become a major tourist boon for the state in recent years. But Tennessee is also catching up with its own whiskey trail. This year marks the second annual Tennessee Whiskey Festival.
* Further to the north west, the whiskey trade is also gaining momentum in Montana, notably Bozeman.
* Love wine, but not the fuss? Bypass Napa and add Sonoma County to your itinerary, suggest experts at Hotels.com, where the wine-tasting experience is more casual, and less crowded. It’s a similar story over in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
* For oenophiles on the east coast, New York’s Finger Lakes region is home to three wine trails that cover 200 wineries.
* Chocoholics, brace yourselves. It’s not just Belgium, Switzerland and France that boast artisanal chocolatiers. The Connecticut Chocolate Trail, for example, takes visitors along Norwalk to Hartford and features a dozen chocolate-themed stops. Two hours outside Chicago, the Blackhawk Chocolate Trail also features more than 20 chocolate coffee shops, bars, and wineries.