The magic of US tourist trails from sea to shining sea

US tourist trails all have a focus

US tourist trails have something for everyone. Some people are traipsing through lovely landscapes as others explore history from the days of Native Americans to the present. Avid birders use binoculars to spot colorful feathered friends in flight while canoers and kayakers dip paddles into the water. At the end of the day, many of these visitors to Panama City, Florida, belly up to an oyster bar to enjoy freshly shucked bivalves that have been prepared in a variety of ways.

These seemingly disparate activities and attractions have one thing in common: They’re all taking place along designated US tourist trails that focus upon a single thing to do, see or eat.

Countless trails around the country are available to people with a particular interest. From food to fashions, covered bridges to Kentucky bourbon, they offer something-for-everyone variety. No matter how esoteric someone’s passion, there may be a walking driving, biking, paddling, or another trail somewhere that focuses on it.

The world’s an oyster in Panama City and Orange Beach along the Gulf of Mexico

Consider Panama City, a community of about 37,000 residents perched along Florida’s northwestern coast. For a smallish municipality, that town provides a surprising choice of routes that both locals and visitors may explore.

The Oyster Trail alone has enough appeal to bring some travelers to town. A dozen restaurants, ranging from a 10-stool oyster bar to a casual grill to a fine-dining establishment, serve the fresh-from-the-sea food raw, baked, fried, and prepared in other ways. Whether visiting Panama City for the bivalves or birds, hiking or history, you might find a trail with an appeal.

Restaurants along a different oyster trail, which runs through Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, bring their own personal touch to their recipes. In addition to traditional preparations, some serve them barbequed, fire-roasted, Alfredo style, and in ceviche.

Mouth-watering Cajun cuisine to natural foods in the Shenandoah Valley

Celebrated Louisiana’s rich gastronomic culture along the Cajun Bayou Food Trail. The restaurant trail serves local favorites like gumbo, jambalaya, and pecan pralines. Some family-run eateries follow recipes that have been passed down for generations.

A variety of different kinds greets visitors to the Fields of Gold Farm Trail in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. People may stroll through a farmers’ market or pick their own fruit at an orchard. They may also tour a working spread, and enjoy a locally grown meal at a garden-to-table restaurant.

Fruit is fine no matter how it’s served — Pacific Coast to the Atlantic along US tourist trails

[xyz-ihs snippet="Lead-Ad-2"]Fresh-picked apples, pears, grapes, and cherries are sold at more than two dozen stands located along the colorfully named Hood River County Fruit Loop in Oregon. The 35-mile trail passes forests, farmlands, and orchards. Vendors also offer flowers, pies, jam, and local artisan gifts.

Berries are used in different ways on a route that leads through Surry County, North Carolina. For instance, the colorfully named Surry Sonker Trail connects a bakery, general store, winery, and other places which serve that dessert.

It’s believed that the sweet treat was created in the early 1800s by homemakers seeking to stretch the use of fruit or use it before it rotted. Recipes include fruit sweetened with sugar, molasses, and other ingredients blended into the unshaped dough so, like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.

Whet your whistle along the Coca-Cola or Bourbon Trails

Where there’s food there often are beverages. Travelers visit the birthplace of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Travelers who take this US tourist trail may visit a distillery that traces its ancestry back to the 18th century. At another distillery, a tasting takes place while standing in the largest bourbon barrel in the world.

Those who like the word “soft” before their drink may prefer to set their sights on the Coca-Cola Trail. Places related to that world-famous beverage are described in a book of the same name. The book can serve as a guide to museums, historic bottling plants, and other destinations around the country.

The Coca-Cola story began in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the secret concoction was first bottled in 1894. Other stops can include the Dawson & Stevens Diner in Grayling, Michigan, which doubles as a Coca-Cola museum, and a former bottling plant in Los Angeles that was built in the shape of an ocean liner.

Trails attract visitors in Maine, Ohio, and Oregon

Not surprisingly, state tourism offices promote the concept of the trail as a way to attract visitors. For example, Maine has a series of driving trails. A tour leads to 34 outdoor sculptures strung out along 273 miles of its coastline. The Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail includes canoe routes that the author followed during trips to that state in the mid-1800s. And, a Freedom Trail in Portland leads to sites associated with the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement of that time.

Not to be outdone, Ohio tourist trails make their way through the countryside. They focus on interests as diverse as shopping and steam trains, Italian food, and ice cream.

Given the love of nature by many residents of Oregon, it's not surprising that trails abound. Within Oregon's borders are paths for hiking and biking, seeing wildlife and wildflowers, and dozens of other routes. The most famous section stretches through the state. The Oregon Trail traces a path along the historic wagon route that began in Missouri. The trail hosted an estimated 400,000 settlers, farmers, miners, ranchers, and others followed in their quest for a new life.

Other pages of history are turned during drives to see “quilt blocks” that adorn the sides of dozens of barns in Oregon’s Tualatin Valley. Some designs on those eight-by-eight-foot wooden slabs resemble traditional quilt patterns. Others display crops or animals or relate to the farm family’s history.

From seafood to sweets, berries to beverages, it’s likely that somewhere in the country there may be one or more driving, walking or other trails focused upon an interest of yours.

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