Food tourism, culinary travel, gastronomic adventures – whatever you call it, there have always been those who would travel for food and who make a point of hunting out local specialties in new locales. I’m one and I’m sure a lot of you are as well. But there are more of us all the time – a trend shows no sign of slowing down. Back in 2016, the World Food Travel Association (WFTA), surveys showed that 75 per cent of travellers will travel for food (well, sure – it would be a very short trip if there wasn’t food involved at some point). But 93% of those culinary travellers – the people who travel primarily because of the food – want more than a reservation at a top restaurant. They want food and drink experiences. I’m totally on board with that.
LUXURY IS OK BUT LOCAL IS WHERE IT’S AT
The I’m also on board with the other major shift in foodie travel – more relaxed environments and more exploration of the whole local culinary landscape. I’m sure there will still be people focused on eating (or at least being seen with) Instagram-worthy foods – the idea of eating a rainbow bagel still gives me pause – or collecting matchbooks from Michelin star restaurants. But more of us than ever are focusing on local dishes, local producers, local markets. Since this is my preferred mode or travel AND eating, I can only say YAY!
THE RISE OF MEGA-DESTINATIONS
Remember when I said BIG? I meant it. Are you ready for culinary theme parks? Because they are here, and they are multiplying fast
If the only thing that came to mind when you hear ‘food theme park’ was Hershey Land in PA, think again. FICO Eataly World outside Bologna opened in Nov 2017 and describes itself as ‘the world’s largest agri-food park.’ I have no reason to disbelieve them. After all, it is over 20 acres offering a mini forest full of truffle-hunting dogs, educational “carousels” focusing on the relationship between humans and food, up to 50 culinary workshops and activities a day, plus – obviously – tremendous amounts of food to sample and enjoy. OK, so it’s not quite Disney-sized – but what is? And it’s probably not of great interest to the locals; the people of Bologna are likely well-aware of their local cuisine and culinary history. But the culinary tourist spend is on the rise and this is a major front in the battle for that demographic. Other ‘mega’ destinations clamouring for attention:
- Cité du Vin in Bordeaux is 32,000 square feet of wine making history and culture but that’s not all. There’s also exhibits on the role of wine in art, religion and politics, an overview of wine regions in 17 countries around the world and more. There are permanent as well as rotating exhibitions along with wine tastings, restaurants, boutiques, workshops and bars. Strictly speaking, there was already a wine theme park in France – Hameau Doboeuf. It’s older, of course so you don’t have the electronic ‘guide’ you get at Cité du Vin. But there are displays and movies, train rides and visits to the wine cellars where you can learn about wine making among the vats. For little kids, there is a ‘virtual flyover’ of the Beaujolais and Maconnais districts in the cinema area.
- Wine not your thing? What about beer? In which case, you might enjoy a trip to Bierwelt in Abensberg. Yes, Germany has a beer theme park. But of course – and a beer-themed park with gnomes. Beer gnomes. Animatronic beer gnomes. The stuff of beer-soaked nightmares, if you ask me.
- And of course, there is Hersheypark in Hershey PA. Interesting factoid – Hersheypark was opened in 1906. I believe that makes it the oldest food themed park on the list. And though it has been a long time since I was there, I vaguely recall a wide range of chocolate being available but don’t think the theme of chocolate was really carried throughout on to rides and things. That may have changed – I mean, it was almost 40 years ago when I was there. It’s actually a double dose of food park fun since it is next door to Hershey’s Chocolate World visitor center – full of shops, restaurants and – yes, a chocolate factory tour ride.
TASTY MUSEUMS TO TOUR
Maybe mega destinations sound a bit daunting. I have touched upon the topic of food museums previously at Fabulous Foodie and if the whole theme park thing doesn’t whet your appetite, perhaps a museum is more your style. Why not try some of these?
- Cologne Chocolate Museum
- Gingerbread Museum in Poland
- Idaho Potato Museum
- Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture in Spain
- National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin
- Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum in Santorini
If you are anything like me, you’ll plan whole itineraries around the local foodie landscape. So where do YOU want to go on your next culinary journey?