Food on Foot: The Best Culinary Walking Tours in the U.S.

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Food on Foot: The Best Culinary Walking Tours in the U.S.

With so many dining establishments to choose from in major metropolises—everything from street-food carts to Michelin-starred restaurants—how can tourists pinpoint the crème de la crème of their culinary options? These seven stellar food tours have already done the legwork.

Culinary travel has long been a mainstay of the tourism industry, so it should come as no surprise that food-minded entrepreneurs in cities across the United States are always searching for new ways to lure visitors craving authentic regional dining experiences. According to Department of Exercise Science researchers at the University of South Carolina—as well as Europeans, who’ve been doing it since the beginning of time—walking shortly after a meal is a highly effective means of burning energy and aiding digestion. These pedestrian tours of some of America’s favorite cities take that formula one step further by making multiple pit stops at beloved nosh spots and revealing urban lore that even full-time residents may not know about. Whether you’re a longtime local or a first-time visitor, take advantage of these opportunities to please your palate—because who needs a passport when you can eat your way through China, Italy, or Mexico in a single three-hour stretch?

If you're looking for a fun way to explore a new city, give one of these culinary walking tours a try for an experience you'll remember for a lifetime. 

Scott’s Pizza Tours, New York City
New York City is to pizza fanatics what Tahiti is to beach lovers: paradise. So abundant are the city’s pizzerias, in fact, that even native New Yorkers are hard-pressed to visit all of them. Enter Scott Wiener, seasoned traveler, licensed sightseeing guide, and connoisseur of all things pizza-related. His walking and bus tours stop at holes in the wall in the Bronx, East Harlem, and Brooklyn, among other neighborhoods, treating thin-crust adherents and Sicilian devotees alike to the best slices New York has to offer—and that’s no pie-in-the-sky idea.

French Quarter Culinary History and Tasting Tour, New Orleans
Ever wanted to know the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine? Look no further than this tasting tour of New Orleans’ singularly intriguing French Quarter, which boasts long-standing cafés, bars, and specialty food shops. You’ll pass architectural landmarks en route to the two oldest restaurants in the entire area—Antoine’s and Tujague’s, established in 1840 and 1856, respectively—where you’ll fill your belly with classic New Orleans dishes, including muffulettas, gumbo, red beans and rice, turtle soup, and shrimp rémoulade. What better way to learn about the region’s diverse culinary influences than to taste them for yourself?

North End Market Tour, Boston
You don’t have to travel all the way to Italy to sample the dyed-in-the-wool fare that makes it one of the world’s foremost culinary destinations—not when Boston’s North End has everything Italophiles need to whet their appetites. Billing itself as a “cooking class on foot,” the North End Market Tour takes a trip back in time to the Old World, schooling participants on such skills as pairing food with aperitivi, wine, and digestivi; distinguishing between different types of cured meats; and selecting the best biscotti or cannoli. The focus here is not so much on the act of eating itself as on the proper techniques for identifying and preparing traditional Italian ingredients, as well as on the advantages of adhering to a Mediterranean diet. Salute!

Wok Wiz Daily Tour, San Francisco
When she’s not writing books or cheffing it up, Wok Wiz founder Shirley Fong-Torres spends part of each day shepherding hungry visitors through San Francisco’s historic Chinatown. Part history lesson, part dining experience, each daily tour includes both a multicourse dim sum lunch and an insider’s look at Chinatown’s rich legacy, beginning with the first Chinese immigrants to arrive during the Gold Rush. All the Wok Wiz tour guides speak fluent Cantonese, which comes in handy during stops at produce markets, herbalists’ shops, and tea emporiums.

Bucktown/Wicker Park Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tours, Chicago
For the food lover who can’t quite make up her mind between falafel and a hot dog for lunch, this three-hour guided, narrated stroll through Chicago’s Wicker Park–Bucktown district offers both options, in addition to stops at a pizzeria/brewpub, a custom ice-cream parlor, a gourmet grocery, and a dessert restaurant. It’s the perfect eclectic mix to complement the artists’-colony vibe of the neighborhoods through which the tour meanders.

Gourmet Seattle Food & Cultural Tour, Seattle
The question is not what will you eat on this three-hour patrol of Seattle’s most high-end eateries, but what won’t you eat? Promising to teach visitors about Seattle’s “sordid past,” this in-the-know adventure winds through Belltown, downtown, and Pike Place Market on a quest for the best gourmet treats the city has to offer, including Iron Chef and James Beard award winners. A typical three-hour jaunt might feature samples of Washington wines and craft beers, seasonal truffle-infused dishes, local artisan cheeses, seafood-and-saffron risotto, and sushi rolls, among many others. Plus, you’ll get to meet some of the chefs responsible for tantalizing your taste buds.

Old Pasadena Food Tasting Walking Tour, Pasadena
Old Pasadena isn’t just the business district of Pasadena, California; it’s also a foodie’s dream come true. With more than one hundred restaurants packed into a pedestrian-friendly area, it’s an ideal site for a Melting Pot Food Tour. The company, whose goal is to “acquaint guests with extraordinarily delicious treasures that one may not typically find or taste on [one’s] own,” promises not only to lead participants to out-of-the-way eateries offering Mexican tortas, gourmet chocolates, and Asian fusion cuisine, but also to educate them about the history of the region. Add “colorful alleys and secret thru-ways” to the mix, and who’s not ready to hit the pavement?