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Road Trip? 7 Must-Visit U.S. Food Capitals

By Daily Passport Team
Read time: 4 minutes

Some travelers plan a road trip to see quirky roadside attractions, to visit charming small towns, or to see spectacular natural landscapes. Others have a different motivation: food. If you’re looking to plan a road trip in celebration of local specialties, start by visiting the cities that claim themselves to be food capitals. From the “Blackberry Capital of the World” to the “Tenderloin Trail,” these seven U.S. foodie cities are sure to satisfy your appetite. 

Castroville, California – Artichokes

Artichoke fields in Castroville, California
Credit: lfstewart/ Shutterstock

Love artichoke dip? There’s a good chance those artichokes came from Castroville. This community in central California’s Monterey County produces almost 80% of all artichokes in the U.S. and is the (self-proclaimed) artichoke center of the world. Castroville celebrates its most important crop each summer at the Artichoke Festival, with chef demos, a car show, and other entertainment. There’s no beauty pageant, but in 1948, Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as Marilyn Monroe, was California’s first honorary Artichoke Queen. Hungry for more? Head to the Giant Artichoke Restaurant for French-fried artichoke hearts, and then make a side trip to the nearby city of Gilroy, known as the “Garlic Capital of the World.”

McLoud, Oklahoma – Blackberries

Close-up image of person picking blackberries from plant
Credit: Konstanttin/ iStock

The small town of McLoud, Oklahoma (population: 4,500), has been the official “Blackberry Capital of the World” since 1949. That year, enterprising growers sent a box of their best berries to then-U.S. President Harry Truman. Every summer, the town celebrates the sweet designation at the annual McLoud Blackberry Festival, a weekend jam-packed with events including a cobbler-eating contest, parade, and beauty pageant — as well as, of course, a bushel of blackberries and blackberry-enhanced foods. If you can’t make the festival, stop down the road in the city of Stroud at Stable Ridge Winery for some blackberry wine any time of year.

Buffalo, New York – Buffalo Wings

Plate of Buffalo wings
Credit: grandriver/ iStock

It’s estimated that Americans consume over 1 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday alone. The finger-licking craze was born in 1964 at Buffalo’s Anchor Bar, but the wings have spread far and wide since. While many locals pledge allegiance to Duff’s, others go all in for the offerings at Gabriel’s Gate. Since 2002, wing worshippers have convened over Labor Day Weekend for the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where visitors can sample entries in the sauce-off, “bob” for wings in a baby pool filled with blue cheese dressing, and watch the wing-eating contest. Chicken averse? Seek out another Buffalo specialty, beef on weck.

Warrens, Wisconsin – Cranberries

Cranberry farmer standing in cranberry bog with handful of cranberries
Credit: Ralf-Finn Hestoft/ Corbis Historical via Getty Images

Cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving. Although the town has fewer than 400 permanent residents, little Warrens draws 120,000 visitors each September to the world’s largest celebration of the tart and tangy official state fruit. Browse the art and antique stalls and farmers market, attend the parade, or fuel up at the pancake breakfast. Throughout the rest of the year, visitors can tour a cranberry marsh or stop by the old-fashioned ice cream parlor, which features different flavors of cranberry confections.

Wenatchee, Washington – Apples

Close-up of apple growing on tree
Credit: Miragest/ iStock

Washington grows more apples than any other state in the country, with about 12 billion orbs hand-picked from lush orchards each year. While harvest is in late summer and fall, spring finds 100,000-plus people heading to the small town of Wenatchee to celebrate the blossoms that appear before the fruit. At the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival, visitors enjoy 11 days of carnival rides and booths, parades, a golf tournament, live entertainment, and of course, apples in every form from fritter to wine. If you’re in town another time, be sure to grab a slice of pie at local favorite the Windmill.

Kodiak, Alaska – Crab

Fisherman with bucket of crabs
Credit: Photo_Time/ Shutterstock

Alaskan crab is indisputably some of the finest flesh to grace a shell. If eating your body weight in crab is an item on your bucket list, the Kodiak Krab Fest is for you. While the events have changed since the festival’s 1958 founding — there is no longer a seal-skinning contest — the four-day Memorial Day weekend event has plenty of activities in addition to delicious crab offerings, including Alutiiq dance performances, a Survival Suit race. For non-festival dining, head to Henry’s Great Alaskan Restaurant and tuck in with the locals.

Hamilton County, Indiana – Pork Tenderloin

Plate of pork tenderloin
Credit: mphillips007/ iStock

The Midwest loves its pork tenderloins, and nowhere more than in this county just north of Indianapolis. Fuel up on the “Tenderloin Trail,” where more than 50 restaurants offer up different versions of the classic dish — even including a vegan version. Every Tuesday in July, visitors can savor discounts and specials on Tenderloin Tuesdays. Served as a sandwich or smothered with gravy, it’s a hearty meal and a Hoosier tradition.

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