Those who think food-focused vacation dining has to cost as much or more than their accommodation expenses may want to reconsider how they approach culinary travel. Here are a handful of my favorite ways to enjoy full-flavored travel experiences.
Charity: Fundraising efforts frequently provide ways to enjoy phenomenal local food for less. One example is the annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked event in Florida, which raises money for a number of causes, including transitional support services for disabled veterans. Ticket holders get to enjoy gourmet food samples from the area's top restaurants, as well as beverage pours from a wide variety of wine and spirit vendors. While a great value in its own right, further savings can be enjoyed by taking advantage of package perks with the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. As the event's host hotel, the resort offers discounted suites with full kitchens, living rooms, multiple bathrooms and walk-out balconies. Half-priced event tickets also come with the lower-priced room rates.
Cuisine: Cities with serious foodie scenes often host annual events to entice visitors and locals alike to check out a variety of restaurant venues. In the state of New York for instance, Taste of Buffalo provides a penny-pinching traveler with a variety of options for full-flavored foodie fun. The event prices sample experiences in a way that mirrors many amusement park rides, with different restaurant offerings being available for a set number of tickets, typically between two and eight. Individual tickets are 50 cents each, and must be purchased in $5 sheets. Not a bad for a city-wide event, and the affordable starting price point allows vacationers to customize their participation according their budgets.
Meatless meals also make for relatively affordable road trip dining, as vegetarian and vegan entrees are regularly available for a few bucks less per menu item than their carnivorous counterparts. Some of my favorites include the vegetarian spring rolls and bruschetta flatbread at Patrick's in Sarasota, Florida and the veg-friendly risotto at Silver in Park City, Utah.
Culture: The Arts Garage in Delray Beach boasts a variety of performance artists ranging from jazz musicians and keyboardists to full-blown theater casts. Since tickets typically range from $25-$35, and guests are encouraged to bring their own wine, snacks and picnic dinners to enjoy at an intimate candlelit table, it's a venue that makes dinner and a show extremely affordable. It also allows visitors to customize their experience with local foods from the city's Saturday outdoor green market if they so choose. Sailmainecoast.com provides booking opportunities with the Maine Windjammer Association, which offers multi-day cruises starting at $230, including the cost of meals. With sailing being such a large part of Maine's cultural heritage, and the homemade meals celebrating such local delicacies as wild blueberry pie, hand-cranked ice cream, warm cinnamon rolls and steamed mussels, this is a culinary value that's tough to beat.
Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of TrekHound.com, a website for independent travelers. She also founded TheLessonMachine.com, a website for teachers.