Theme #1: Culinary Tourism
I am going to start with one of the most universal themes, Food. Almost everyone loves to eat. The trick to this rather obvious theme is to stretch your comfort zone. Think of yourself as the next great food critic and prepare for the fact that some stops may be duds. In contrast, most will be amazing finds. Andrew Zimmerman and Anthony Bourdain move over!
Traveling Planning Theme Series
I want to start this series with some general information and assumptions.
First, this series is intended to be a “jumping-off” point. These ideas will not be exhaustive. I hope that each reader will take the ideas in a thousand new directions. I would love to hear from you, about the “interesting things” you discovered.
My second assumption is that every theme will not fit everyone. I have strived to keep the ideas universally manageable. However some themes may be physically or financially impractical.
Some themes may simply fail to interest you. I do encourage you to step outside of your typical comfort zone though. My experience has been that the most unlikely activities have created the greatest memories.
Finally, I would encourage you to use these ideas near and far. I understand that we all have jobs and lives that don’t allow for frequent week-long vacations. But most of us do have a couple of free days each week. Use the time that you have to explore the curiosities of the world around you. Stretch yourself, Go Learn Things!!
Create Your Own Best of….List
The most obvious idea is to pick your favorite food and start hunting down all the offerings. This activity works close to home, in far flung places and simply added to any existing itinerary. Make a game of it and do an unofficial rating of each place. I think you will be surprised by places you never knew existed right down the street.
Look for the:
Best Ice Cream
Best Tea Shop
Use TripAdvisor.com, Thrillist.com, the food column in your
local newspaper, travel and food blogs for ideas and lists.
I also use Google Maps when trying to find spots while on the fly.
When in Rome…
If you want to stretch beyond your own personal favorites, choose something a region is famous for. After all, there must be a reason that the region is known for this food. Again this will work in your own backyard or you can venture out. Be sure to discover the trendy as well as the “hole in the wall”. Eventually, you will find yourself planning a trip solely for the food of a region.
BBQ in Kansas City, Crab Cakes in Maryland, Poutine in Montreal, Gumbo in NOLA.
As an extension of the region’s famous cuisine, you can also look for regional food production. These itineraries often cross-over with Agricultural tourism which will be a theme covered in a later post. But it can also be industrial. My father always found a production facility that gave tours on our family vacations. One of our favorites was a doughnut factory that we managed to hit just as warm gooey treats were rolling off the belt. Ohio Donut Trail .
I have neighbors who tour our state of Wisconsin on a Cheese Trail. My last trip to Phoenix happened to coincide with the Hatch Chile season. I had never heard of this particular chile but have since run into several Southwest towns boasting Hatch Chile Festivals. Hershey, PA calls itself the “sweetest place on earth”. Michigan celebrates peaches and cherries, even Kenosha, WI has the Jelly Belly factory Don’t forget the SPAM museum in Austin, MN.
Culinary Tourism Beyond Eating
If you are looking for a more participatory food experience, many local restaurants offer culinary events with their chefs. Here in Milwaukee you can participate in cooking at the trendy, farm-to-table restaurant, Braise.
You can take a cooking class. Check out my post on cooking at THAT cooking school in Roseville, MN.
Participatory cooking can be a one day event in an itinerary or the focus of the entire trip. Cooking vacations allow for a culturally immersive experience. International cuisines offer wonderful options. Tuscany cooking tours are immensely popular.
Many years ago I had the rare opportunity to take a trip to Italy with my father. We joined a Culinary Arts course that involved 2 weeks of cooking with a Tuscany chef in Lucca, Italy. This was a life-changing experience. My cooking skills, and love for travel were changed forever. For more on this trip see my post here.
An amazing fellow blogger, Suzanne Stavert at Adventures of Empty Nesters, also enjoyed Tuscany cooking. She highlights her culinary adventures here. A quick online search turns up cooking tours all over the world. How about Pho in Vietnam, classic Mayan dishes in Mexico, Paella in Spain?
The digital world brings global food experiences to our fingertips. Most eateries have a website and many have their menus available. Food and Travel bloggers number in the thousands with incredible images and ideas. New travel apps for your mobile devices launch everyday. Today the internet is a traveler’s best bet for current information. Try out some of these digital options:
Food and Travel Mags:
The well known glossy print magazines all offer equally glossy online blogs. These blogs are rich with culinary tourism ideas and opportunities for exploration.
Many popular journalists have ventured out to their own food and travel blogs. These bloggers often focus on the cultural and personal stories behind the food.
Best of Lists:
Food and Cooking Tours:
Happy Bellyfish https://happybellyfish.com/
Food Travel Apps:
Share your foodie adventures
If you try one of these foodie ideas please leave a comment. Please share your own great culinary ideas in the comments.
Be sure to check out all the posts in The 12 Days of Travel Themes;
Part 2: Fairs and Festivals
Part 3: Historic Destinations
Part 4: Museums
Part 5: Boozy Trips
Part 6: Get Outdoors
Part 7: Agritourism
Part 8: Urban Adventures
Part 9: Scenic Road Trips
Part 10: Literary Travels
Part 11: The Arts
Part 12 : Oddities