Road fare doesn’t have to be from a chain restaurant. Here are routes where you can savor local produce.
To enjoy artisanal cheeses year-round, follow U.S. 7, within the “Vermont Cheese Trail,” north from Bennington, through to Middlebury (with seven cheesemakers in the vicinity), then to Burlington. Aside from the famously aged Vermont cheddar, choices now include feta, goat cheese, and ewe’s milk cheese. Planning: The Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival is held every July. www.vtcheese.com
Blueberries, Rhode Island
As you journey along R.I. 77 from historic Tiverton Four Corners to Sakonnet Point, watch as the landscape changes from stone-fenced pastures and woodlands to vineyards. After a wine tasting at Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, enjoy the cooling breezes at Sakonnet Point, then return to Tiverton for blueberry ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream Shop. Planning: Visit in August when the produce at Rhode Island roadside stalls runs from blueberries to sweet corn. www.gonewport.com
Pumpkins and Chocolate, Pennsylvania
From Philadelphia, head west on U.S. 30 through Amish farm country to Lancaster, where the Landis Valley Museum hosts “Harvest Days with the Pumpkin Patch” in October. The same weekend (this year on October 9), a “Chocolate Walk” in nearby Lititz invites you to visit over 20 chocolate-tasting sites. Take the slow lane on an Amish buggy ride in Bird-in-Hand or Ronks, down roads lined with amber autumn color. Planning: For all things chocolate, and a theme park, spa, and zoo visit Hershey, 25 miles northwest of Lititz. www.padutchcountry.com
Start a tour of the Peach State at Macon and head south to the town of Byron. In June’s warmth, peaches are at their peak, weighing down the farm stalls and starring at the Fort Valley Georgia Peach Festival. This is a chance to see—and taste—the world’s largest (11 feet wide) peach cobbler. It’s so big that its sweet biscuit topping has to be stirred with canoe paddles. Planning: Ga. 49 south of Byron is known as Peach Parkway. www.gapeachfestival.com
Throughout Michigan, May is the time for cherry blossoms. In mid-July, just as the cherries ripen and are ready for picking, Traverse City hosts the National Cherry Festival, first held in 1926. Here cherries are used in everything from vodka to cheesecake. Take Rte. 22 outlining the Leelanau Peninsula—stopping to sample cherry wine en route—through orchards and vineyards to Glen Arbor, where cherry-themed goodies can be found at the Cherry Republic Shop. Planning: You will need to buy tickets in advance for many events during the popular National Cherry Festival. www.absolutemichigan.com
Crab season in Puget Sound begins in July and is the perfect time to explore the Northwest’s culinary treasures. Drive north on I-5 from Tacoma toward Bellingham at a leisurely pace, going through Seattle and lunching on juicy crab claws along the way. Allow time for a detour to Whidbey Island, which you can reach by bridge or by ferry. Planning: If you can, allow at least a week to tour this attractions-rich area. www.experiencewa.com
In the 19th century, German immigrants founded wineries west of St. Louis. Visit Hermann, 80 miles from St. Louis, a quiet riverside town playing the part of a Rhineland settlement. From here the Hermann Wine Trail meanders some 20 miles east along the banks of the Missouri River to New Haven, another small, wine-making community. Several wineries along the route open their cellar doors to the public for tours and tastings. Planning: The towns of Hermann and Berger are at their most lively during the annual Oktoberfest. hermannwinetrail.com
Pick-Your-Own Fruit, Idaho
From summer and into fall, potatoes, apples, and even rosy apricots roll in from Idaho’s fields and valley orchards. For a pick-your-own fruit tour, explore the orchards found throughout Emmett in Gem County, “The Valley of Plenty.” In early July, watch for the Tilton variety of apricots with their sweet-tart taste. By September, a wide range of apples are ready for picking from farms that line the roadside. Planning: Visit during summer, when roadside stalls overflow with fresh fruit. www.visitidaho.org
Take U.S. 90 along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Shrimp boats dock at Biloxi’s small craft harbor and the Pass Christian harbor, loaded with shellfish bounty. Whether you buy white or brown shrimp, bring a cooler and get there early. In late April, witness the Blessing of the Fleet, a colorful custom initiated in 1929 by fishermen of Croatian descent. Planning: The gulf’s seafood industry has been severely impacted by the 2010 oil spill, although local restrictions have been lifted and Mississippi shrimp are now available. Check www.gulfcoast.org for updates.
Citrus Fruits, Arizona
In the area surrounding Mesa, Arizona, during March and April, roll down your windows to soak up the aroma of orange blossom. Turn off Ariz. 202 onto Reebs Road, which leads south to Val Vista Drive and East Brown Road. Stalls and stores normally close from May until October, but along some roads you’ll find everything from tamales to tangerines being sold from car trunks and pickups. Planning: The Mesa region is a short drive southeast of Phoenix. It is also home to the nation’s largest organic peach growers. Schnepf Farms offers a blossom walking trail and $2 train rides as part of their annual Peach Blossom Festival. www.mesa-goodlife.com