Under-the-Radar Foodie Havens
Under-the-radar destinations are starting to whet the appetite of the general population based on their food and beverage offerings, according to Hotels.com’s latest Hotel Price Index (HPI).
This includes destinations along prime barbecue trails, whiskey trails, wine trails and even chocolate trails.
"By offering local and authentic culinary experiences to visitors, these destinations are able to share a piece of their culture," said Taylor L. Cole, APR, Hotels.com travel expert, via a release. "Social media and mobile technology have also played an important part in the growth of this tourism trend as travelers can easily find affordable places and amusing ways to explore new cities this upcoming summer season."
According to Hotels.com, head to the Carolinas and some under-the-radar Texas towns for affordable barbecue goodness.
You’ve probably heard of the delectable offerings available in Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis and Austin, but look a little deeper and you’ll find some scrumptious hotspots.
The North Carolina Barbeque Trail traces from the eastern part of the state all the way to Tennessee, which 24 barbeque pits welcoming travelers along the way (selected by the North Carolina Barbeque Society).
South Carolina—well known for its mustard-style barbecue—has 70 barbecue restaurants stretching from Greenville to Columbia to the state’s popular coastal cities.
And Lexington, Lockhart, Luling and Taylor in Texas are alternatives to ultra-popular (and more expensive) Austin (Lexington alone has four barbeque restaurants).
For hotel stays under $100 per night in these areas, check out Winston-Salem, North Carolina (average daily rate of $99 in 2014, according to HPI), Greenville ($97) and Bastrop, Texas ($99).
If you are a fan of whiskey, chances are you’ve heard about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (in short, it’s fantastic).
But, while the state of Tennessee has a longstanding reputation as a quality whiskey producer, its whiskey trail is relatively new and just beginning to attract publicity.
That’s because the number of whiskey distilleries has grown from three to 20 since 2009, thanks to a change in legislation.
Montana is also becoming a popular whiskey destination. Bozeman, in particular, is seeing increased interest among whiskey lovers.
For hotel stays under $110, travelers should check out Bardstown, Kentucky ($104); Fayetteville, Tennessee ($101); and Bozeman ($109).
Anyone who has even the slightest interest in wine has probably heard of Napa, California, one of the world’s greatest wine producers.
But just next to Napa and Napa County lies Sonoma County, a more casual and less crowded wine experience.
Sonoma County wineries have more space to occupy, and that extends to the hotels in the area. Check out Petaluma and Oak Hurst in Sonoma County for premier wining and dining, without all the hoopla.
Further north, Oregon's Willamette Valley has also become a more popular area among wine connoisseurs (check out the Oregon Wines Fly Free program).
For you East Coast travelers, New York’s Finger Lakes region features three dedicated wine trails (including the popular Seneca Lake Wine Trail) and more than 200 wineries. And, while the Finger Lakes region is most known for its Riesling white grape variety, it also sports a tasty pinot noir that is attracting a good deal of attention.
For hotel stays under $130, check out Petaluma ($126), Seneca Falls ($121) and McMinnville, Oregon ($100).
Last but certainly not least, there is chocolate tourism.
Europe has long been known as a chocolate haven, but the United States has plenty of delicious chocolate-y treats, as well.
The Connecticut Chocolate Trail spans from Norwalk to the Hartford area. Visitors can not only make their own chocolate bars along the trail, but they can also visit a chocolate-themed café along the trail’s 12 mouth-watering stops.
The Richmond Chocolate Trail—an hour outside of Indianapolis—gives out “Chocolate Trail Passports” for visitors to sample free chocolates.
And the Blackhawk Chocolate Trail, two hours outside of Chicago, boasts more than 20 stops, including chocolate-themed coffee shops, bars and wineries.
For hotel stays under $110, head to Milford, Connecticut ($103); Richmond, Indiana ($83) and Dixon, Illinois ($90).
More by Ryan Rudnansky
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Airlines & Airports
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship