North Carolina cuisine is as varied as the state's diverse landscapes and local cultures. From farm fresh vegetables and fruits to just-caught seafood and traditional smoked barbecue, the flavors of North Carolina reflect a rich agricultural and coastal heritage that is represented in time-honored and innovative new styles of cuisine.
In addition to delicious dining options, several North Carolina cities offer culinary food tours for an interesting and tasty way to explore and enjoy local cuisine. Most of these food tours are walking tours, which combine historical tidbits and stories with culinary information and tasting samples along the way. It is a good idea to schedule a food tour early in your visit as an introduction to your destination and to have time to return to one or more of your favorite tour stops later. Also, depending on the tour, you may receive discount coupons to use during your visit for dining or shopping.
For a food experience in the country, many North Carolina farms welcome visitors for special events, tours, and overnight stays. Because working farms are busy places, it is always a good idea to call ahead to confirm visiting information before making your final plans.
Asheville Culinary Tours
- Asheville Food Tours - Home to many independently owned restaurants that feature menu items made from fresh local ingredients, Asheville is an exceptional destination for delicious food. Asheville Food Tours offers two regularly scheduled walking food tours: one in downtown Asheville and another in Biltmore Village. These popular tasting tours explore Asheville's cuisine with visits to unique restaurants, chocolate shops, microbreweries, and gourmet markets. During the tour, guests hear facts and stories about Asheville's architecture, history and culture as well. At the end of the tours, each participant receives a Discount Passport to merchants. Each tour lasts about two and one-half hours and advance purchase is required. Private tours may be arranged. For more information about these food tours, visit the Asheville Food Tours Website.
Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill Area Culinary Tours
- Triangle Food Tour - Featuring several walking, food-tasting tours, Triangle Food Tour offers behind the scenes culinary insights combined with local history and culture. Leisurely three-hour tasting tour experiences include stops at six to eight venues, mostly restaurants. Regularly scheduled tours take place in Downtown Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Durham and Cary. In addition, a weekday morning Downtown Raleigh Comfort Food tour may be scheduled two weeks in advance for groups of ten people. Tour tickets must be purchased at least 24 hours in advance of the tour date. Tours, which are limited to 10 people maximum, typically fill up two to three weeks in advance. Special events, including Dine with Chef prix fixe meals personally prepared and hosted by local chefs, are offered in addition to regular tours. For more information about scheduled tours and special events, visit the Triangle Food Tour Website.
- Taste Carolina - In The Triangle area of North Carolina, Taste Carolina offers walking food tours in Downtown Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill / Carrboro and Hillsborough. Each tour visits to six to eight locally owned restaurants, markets, bars, and specialty food shops, featuring both savory and sweet samplings. In addition to receiving tasting samples, tour-goers are given the opportunity to talk with chefs and artisans, and to learn about local history and architecture along the way. All walking tours cover two to three miles and usually last between three and three and one-half hours. Advance reservations and ticket purchase are required. In addition to the regularly scheduled walking tours held year round on most Saturdays, Taste Carolina offers private weekday and weekend walking or bus tours. Private tour themes included afternoon or evening dining tours, barbecue tours, land-based brews cruises, chocolate tours and more. For more information about scheduled or private tours, visit the Taste Carolina Website.
Greensboro and Winston-Salem Culinary Tours
- Taste Carolina - In addition to food tours in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area, Taste Carolina offers guided food tours in Greensboro and Winston-Salem. The Greensboro walking tour explores about three miles of the revitalized downtown area, alive today with theaters, galleries and an eclectic array of innovative restaurants and unique food shops.
The downtown Winston-Salem walking tour explores the unique character and contemporary Southern cuisine of this thriving city. Advance reservations and ticket purchase are required. For more information about these and other Taste Carolina tours, visit the Taste Carolina Website.
Wilmington Culinary Tours
- Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro - Led by accomplished chef and food writer Liz Biro, several culinary walking tours explore the vibrant Wilmington culinary scene. Tour options include a downtown Wilmington food, cocktail and wine tastings at seven downtown restaurants, a farmers market tour and hands-on cooking class, and a drinks downtown tour featuring cocktails, fine wines and North Carolina craft beers.
Other tours, planned to begin soon, included a shopping tour for foodies and a brunch stroll. Private, group and customized bus and walking tours may be arranged as well. Reservations are required for all tours. For more information, visit the Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro Website.
North Carolina Agritourism
- Visit a Farm - Many of North Carolina's farms offer experiences for visitors including seasonal pick-your-own produce opportunities, special events and harvest celebrations, farm dining and picnics, working farm tours and more. In addition, several farms across the state offer overnight bed-and-breakfast or cabin accommodations. To learn more about North Carolina agritourism options, visit:
- NC Tourism Information about where to stay on a farm
- NC Tourism Information about interesting and fun farm experiences
- North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Agritourism
- Annual Farm Tours - Held during one weekend each year, these annual self-guided farm tours offer a wonderful way for friends and family members of all ages to explore North Carolina's agricultural heritage. It is a good idea to pack a cooler (or two) in your car because you are sure to come home with plenty of farm fresh bounty:
- The Family Farm Tour - Western North Carolina - End of June, featuring over 40 farms at last count
- Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Farm Tours - Upstate, Piedmont and Eastern Triangle Farm Tours
- Charlotte Area Farm Tour - farms located in clusters around the Charlotte region - September, featuring over 30 farms
North Carolina Culinary Trails
- Self-Guided Driving Tours - There are several self-guided food trails across the Southeast U.S., including two in North Carolina offering culinary adventure options for those who prefer to explore on their own. If you are planning a road trip, this is a fun way to taste and learn about regional cuisine along the way. Visit Southern Food Trails for Tasty Culinary Road Trips to find information about the North Carolina Barbecue Society Historic Barbecue Trail, which travels from Eastern North Carolina to the Tennessee border, and the Pure Carolina Culinary Trail, which is part of the Charlotte Regional Trail System.