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America's Best Road Trips For Foodies (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/30/2012 7:00 am

Despite the many annoyances of driving -- traffic, road rage, rest-stop bathrooms -- the allure of the road trip is still strong. That's because the window of an automobile is still the best way to explore the American landscape, from the craggy coastlines of the Pacific Northwest to the buffalo-dotted grasslands of South Dakota's Badlands National Park. Itineraries across the country cater to barbecue fiends, culture hounds and oenophiles.

Here, Food & Wine names America's Best Road Trips.

-- Ratha Tep, Food & Wine

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  • Arizona: Ancient Monuments and the Red Rock Scenic Byway

    <em>Phoenix to Sedona: about 130 miles</em> <strong>Why go:</strong> The cliff dwellings of Montezuma Castle National Monument are over 1,000 years old, and towering sandstone rock formations along the 7.5-mile Red Rock Scenic Byway date back to prehistoric times. Sedona's Crescent Moon picnic area at Red Rock Crossing in Coconino National Forest is the best place to watch the sun set. <strong>Where to stay:</strong> Sedona's Enchantment Resort features a Yoga for Foodies package from December 1 to 4, which includes morning and afternoon yoga sessions followed by a wine or chocolate tasting or even a three-course meal (doubles from $295, Yoga for Foodies retreat from $1,990). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> In Sedona, the kitschy Coffee Pot Restaurant keeps 101 kinds of omelets in its repertoire, and the Barking Frog Grill specializes in buffalo burgers and cactus fries. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-burgers-in-the-us" target="_hplink">Best Burgers in the U.S.</a> <em>Photo Courtesy of Enchantment Resort </em>

  • California: Santa Barbara and Big Sur

    <em>Los Angeles to Big Sur: about 300 miles</em> <strong>Why go:</strong> Convertibles were made for drives like this. After a quick stop inland for a Santa Barbara wine tour, and a peek at majestic Hearst Castle, the route heads up the ruggedly beautiful Big Sur Coast Highway, through giant redwood groves with a backdrop of crashing waves. <strong>Where to stay:</strong> Post Ranch Inn's rooms have breathtaking ocean views 1,200 feet above sea level (doubles from $595). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> Meats grilled over an open fire of red oak and an excellent wine list make the Hitching Post II a super-popular roadside steakhouse in Buellton; Big Sur Bakery's oversize pastries, beautiful omelets and wood-fired breads provide a thrilling break from burritos and trail mix. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/americas-best-bars/" target="_hplink">America's Best Bars</a> <em>Photo Courtesy Hearst Castle®/California State Parks </em>

  • California: Napa Wine Country

    <em>San Francisco to Calistoga via the Silverado Trail: about 105 miles</em> <strong>Why go:</strong> California's--and the country's--very best wines come out of Napa, thanks to a perfect climate-and-soil combination for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Among Napa's stellar wineries: Jarvis Winery, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and Kuleto Estate (all require reservations). Those who want to make their own wines can attend a blending session at CrushPad. <strong>Where to stay:</strong> Solage Calistoga features stand-alone studios with private patios (doubles from $325). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> Gott's Roadside in St. Helena is beloved for its Niman Ranch burgers and crispy ahi poke tacos; Thomas Keller serves an unparalleled family-style menu at Ad Hoc in Yountville. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/americas-best-doughnuts" target="_hplink">America's Best Doughnuts</a> <em>Photo Courtesy of Joseph Phelps Vineyards</em>

  • Florida: The Overseas Highway and Tropical Fish

    <em>Miami to Key West: about 160 miles</em> <strong>Why go: </strong>After leaving Miami, Route 1 heads over a chain of islands linked by 42 bridges surrounded by stunning water views. In Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park runs glass-bottomed boat rides with views of the reefs, home to 260 species of tropical fish species. Ernest Hemingway fans can tour his former Key West property, now home to more than 40 six-toed cats (descendants of the writer's favored pets). <strong>Where to stay:</strong> The Artist House is a restored Victorian mansion in Key West's Old Town (doubles from $115). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> Keys Fisheries in Marathon supplies stone-crab claws to the famous Joe's Stone Crab in Miami; Eaton St. Seafood Market in Key West makes great crab cakes. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-steak-in-the-us" target="_hplink">Best Steak in the U.S.</a> <em>Photo © Joe Cotterman </em>

  • Louisiana: Great River Road and Cajun Country

    <em>New Orleans to Cajun Country: about 180 miles</em> <strong>Why go:</strong> The Great River Road runs through 10 states, and the stretch from New Orleans up to Baton Rouge offers a spectacular glimpse of plantation-era estates. Among the grandest are the San Francisco Plantation House and Houmas House. Traveling further west cuts deep through Cajun country and shady bayous. <strong>Where to stay:</strong> On the Mississippi River in Vacherie, LA, Oak Alley Plantation recalls Gone with the Wind, with a quarter-mile canopy of 300-year-old oak trees leading to an antebellum house (doubles from $130). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, LA, fries airy beignets and prepares couche-couche, a hot cereal made with fried cornmeal; Poche's Market and Restaurant, also in Breaux Bridge, sells wonderful boudin (a pork and rice sausage that's a Cajun staple). Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-grilled-cheese-in-the-us" target="_hplink">Best Grilled Cheese in the U.S.</a> <em>Photo © Courtesy of Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, LA </em>

  • Maine: Lobster Rolls and Acadia National Park

    <em>Portland to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island: about 180 miles</em> <strong>Why go:</strong> Route 1 hugs the coast past lighthouses, fishing villages and jagged rock shores. Some trails in Acadia National Park are not for the faint of heart: The hike up the face of the Beehive, a 520-foot-high rock overlooking the Atlantic, is mostly vertical. <strong>Where to stay:</strong> Ullikana (left), a pair of charming inns in Bar Harbor, overlooks Frenchman Bay (doubles from $160). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> Lines form for whole-lobster rolls at Red's Eats in Wiscasset (be sure to add seasoning because it's all lobster, nothing else). Bayview Market & Takeout in Penobscot sells great crab rolls; the family-run Chase's Daily makes extraordinary breakfasts with fluffy pancakes in Belfast. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-cheap-cities-to-visit" target="_hplink">Best Cheap Cities to Visit</a> <em>Photo © Virginia Balabanova </em>

  • Massachusetts: Cape Cod's Beaches and Fried Clams

    <em>Boston to Provincetown: about 145 miles</em> <strong>Why go:</strong> Cape Cod's dreamy beaches, like the crescent-shaped Old Silver Beach in Falmouth, and tidy coastal towns (Wellfleet still has an operating drive-in theater), lead to art gallery-hopping in colorful Provincetown. A terrific leg stretcher: The Province Lands Bike Trail meanders through sand dunes and forests to end at the ocean. <strong>Where to stay:</strong> In the town of Orleans, MA, A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay is set high on a hill for dramatic shoreline views (doubles from $250). <strong>What to eat along the way:</strong> The Dirt Bombs at Cottage Street Bakery in Orleans are muffin-size cake doughnuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar in Eastham sells perfect fried clams and stellar lobster rolls. <strong><a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/americas-best-road-trips/10" target="_hplink">Click Here for More of America's Best Road Trips</a></strong> <em>Photo © Courtesy of A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay</em>

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