If dining out is a vital part of your travel experience, a food tour is sure to satisfy your cravings. Food tours combine walking, touring, conversing, and tasting in one delicious package. Led by a professional guide, food tours typically involve visiting multiple eateries, sampling artisan products, meeting restaurateurs and chefs, and learning how the history and culture of a community influenced the development of its cuisine. The tours typically last from two to three hours and cover one to two miles, with pauses between food stops to learn about landmarks and lore. And because you’re moving around, you’ll also get your steps in while you dine!
Passion for food tourism has grown exponentially in recent years, thanks to exposure from social media and travel television. In fact, current research by the World Food Travel Association (WFTA) found that 7 out of 10 travelers pick a destination expressly for the cuisine.
FINDING A FOOD TOUR
Food tours are offered in most major cities and some smaller towns. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I toured Reading Terminal Market, where our guide explained the history of the food hall and demonstrated how to properly consume a Philly Cheesesteak (hint: it’s messy). In Savannah, Georgia, between bites of shrimp and grits and butter-pecan ice cream, our guide pointed out the First African Baptist Church—a stop on the Underground Railroad where, during the Civil War, enslaved people hid under sanctuary flooring as they made their escape to freedom.
One of most colorful food tours I’ve taken was in Miami, Florida’s Little Havana District. Our guide was a Cuban American who explained the Cuban migration to Miami in the 1950s and ’60s, during and after the Cuban revolution. She took us to see gentlemen rolling Cuban cigars and led us to bodegas to try beef picadillo empanadas and guava pastries. With such amazing food and memorable stories, food tours always feel like a great bargain.
You may not even need to go on vacation to join a food tour since there might be a tour in your hometown. One of my favorites was in the historic city of Frederick, Maryland, a short drive from my home. During the tour, I learned that the town became a hospital center for soldiers injured in the Civil War battles of Gettysburg and Antietam. We stopped at six downtown establishments to try everything from locally produced root beer to Blue Crab Macaroni and Cheese. Since then, I’ve sampled Ethiopian cuisine on a U Street DC Food Tour and Salvadorian pupusas on a tour of DC’s Capitol Hill. I’ve learned so much about food, culture, and history right in my own backyard.
The WFTA defines food tourism as the pursuit of unique food and drink experiences, both far and near. Food traveling is something we all do, even if it’s just driving across town for the best ramen or tacos we can find. Food travel includes wine tastings, cooking schools, cultural festivals, and food trucks. Whether you travel to a new place or take a culinary journey in a nearby neighborhood, a food tour is a fun, informative way to immerse yourself in a locale.