food trail

Plot a trip along one of the tasty food trails in the U.S. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eat + Drink

The 7 Best East Coast Food and Wine Trails to Follow This Fall

Autumn is an ideal time for a road trip, and what better way to explore a new region than through its hyper-local food and drinks? These seven food trails dive deep into each area’s unique culture, serving up not only delicious bites and sips, but also time-honored traditions.

Break out your calendar and plan to follow these trails this fall. Just be sure to check for any local restrictions or closures prior to your trip.

Vermont Cheese Trail

Vermont is already one of the most colorful states in the country in which to experience autumn, and you’re going to need great food to fuel all that leaf peeping. One of the Green Mountain State’s most popular and tasty trails to follow is the Vermont Cheese Trail.

Comprised of nearly 50 cheesemakers across the state who use milk from sheep, goats and a variety of cow breeds, the trail introduces travelers to more than 150 varieties of cheese.

Some farms even allow guests to pitch in on chores — guaranteeing they’ll never take a glass of milk for granted again. Print out a map of the trail on the Vermont Cheese Council website, where a key describes if the farm or cheese production facility is open to the public.

North Carolina Historic BBQ Trail

North Carolina takes its barbecue very seriously, and if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, you should know the differences between Eastern and Western style.

Both kinds of BBQ are done the old-fashioned way: slow-roasted hogs over wood pits or charcoal, while Eastern-style barbecue is mixed with a tangy vinegar sauce, and Western style uses a ketchup-based sauce.

In 2006, Jim Early, a lawyer and avid barbecue fan, made it his mission to find the best barbecue in North Carolina, which led to the founding of the North Carolina Barbecue Society and the Historic Barbecue Trail.

Starting east in Ayden, North Carolina, at Skylight Inn and ending in Murphy, North Carolina, at Herb’s Pit Bar-B-Que, the trail spotlights 21 carefully selected restaurants, and many spots along the trail are family owned and in operation since the 1940s and 1950s. Wherever you stop, make sure to supplement your barbecue with coleslaw and hush puppies.

New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail

food trail
We all scream for ice cream! (Photo: Getty Images)

Who says ice cream is only a summertime treat? Every season is a good season for ice cream, and it’s safe to say that New Hampshire’s dairy farmers would have to agree.

The group came together to create the New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail and map, a collection of nearly 40 ice-cream shops across the Granite State serving delightful flavors like cashew caramel cluster, chocolate peppermint stick and homemade waffle cones.

Pick up a passport at New Hampshire rest areas and welcome centers; then start collecting stickers at each stop along the trail, making sure to Instagram every delicious bite with the hashtag #eatlikeacow.

Once the passport is complete, mail it to the Granite State Dairy Promotion office for a chance to win a basket of New Hampshire–made goodies, an #eatlikeacow sweatshirt and a one-year membership to your local Planet Fitness (ha!).

Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Many oenophiles are familiar with the world-class wines of the Finger Lakes in Central New York, but because the region is so large, it’d be impossible to explore the eleven-lake area in one visit.

Start at the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country at Seneca Lake, where the 31-stop Seneca Lake Wine Trail (map) offers more wineries than any other wine trail east of the Mississippi River.

All of the wineries here grow their own grapes, so guests are getting an actual taste of the soil, topography and climate that contributes to the unique taste of Seneca Lake’s award-winning wines. Each winery offers a tasting room surrounded by stunning scenery, and some stops along the way offer vineyard tours.

Maryland Crab & Oyster Trail

food trail
Crack into a crab or oyster. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maryland’s seafood industry is legendary, and it’s possible to savor the jewels of the Chesapeake Bay along the Maryland Crab and Oyster trail.

The trail is divided into five geographic regions: Eastern Shore, known for its traditional fisherman culture and daily fresh catch; Central Maryland, an oyster paradise; the Capital Region, close to D.C. with seafood restaurants along the Potomac River; Southern Maryland, home to traditional crab houses; and mountainous Western Maryland where you can hike all day and eat crabs all night.

Each region features dozens of restaurants, and if you find that working your way through a steamed blue crab is too intimidating, you can still enjoy the delicacy in cream of crab soup, jumbo lump crabcakes, crabcake Benedict, crab imperial or fried soft-shell crabs.

Richmond Beer Trail

Did you know that the first canned beer was sold in Richmond, Virginia, in 1935? That one innovation changed the entire beer industry, and Richmond has cemented its place in beer culture ever since.

Today, the region’s focus is on craft beer, where there are close to 40 craft breweries to explore along the Richmond Beer Trail that offer a variety of styles, including stouts, wild ales, saisons, IPAs and lagers, to name a few. Many breweries are pet-friendly and offer live music, board games and other special events.

Pick up the Richmond Beer Trail Map at a participating brewery or the Richmond Region Visitors Center, or download and print it before setting out on your journey. Collect stamps at a minimum of five participating breweries to earn limited-edition Richmond Beer Trail gear.

Bonus: Cajun Bayou Food Trail

Although technically in the deep south, the Cajun Bayou Food Trail in southern Louisiana offers uniqueness of both cuisine and scenery. Follow the bayou through wetlands and Cajun communities to immerse yourself in Cajun culture, where 22 restaurant stops offer traditional dishes like oyster and shrimp po’boys, boudin, gumbo and crawfish stew.

Download the passport and map, and after five stops on the trail, mail in or drop off your passport to a visitors center to collect an “I wandered up and down the bayou” T-shirt.