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Get a Taste of California With the Best Culinary Tours
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Get a Taste of California With the Best Culinary Tours

Culinary tourism has become a new way to travel. Try it for yourself by adding these top food tours in California to your next itinerary.

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5 min read

May 26, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products mentioned in this article.

San Francisco evokes images of clam chowder and freshly baked sourdough bread; Monterey brings up thoughts of fresh seafood; Los Angeles is known for Dagwood sandwiches, elegant sushi, and traditional street food; and San Diego is famous for fresh-off-the-grill, authentic Mexican cuisine. With so many comestible traditions around every curve, culinary tourism has become a way of life and a new way of travel. Adventurers now visit certain cities simply to experience a single restaurant or a specific food, whether it is one town over or halfway across the country.

Why You Need To Go on a Golden State Culinary Tour Right Now

California is known for its cutlery diverse cuisine, and every new bite can take you to a whole new world.

The goal of culinary tourism is multifaceted, as the industry aims to educate, inspire, and encourage travelers to explore the local area and facilitate learning about the local food trends, techniques, history, and traditions. Taking part in culinary tourism allows travelers to immerse themselves in every destination in order to better understand the neighborhood, city, and region as a whole. Culinary tourism can include everything from touring local farms to learning how to cook local cuisine, sampling regional dishes, to seeing how local artisans craft their products.

Another reason why food tours are extremely popular in the Golden State is that they introduce visitors to culturally diverse cuisines. As you walk down the streets of major cities, each one of your senses will have a new culinary experience. You will smell, see, taste, touch, and even hear new food, and with every new and unfamiliar dish, you will be introduced to a whole new world of delicacies from around the world.

The History of Culinary Tourism in California

Food tours are basically regular walking tours but a lot yummier.

Culinary tourism has become increasingly popular since its prominent inception in 2001. While this form of tourism activity existed long before the 21st century, Erik Wolf popularized the activity with a white paper he presented to the International Culinary Tourism Association. The paper was met with much success and was later turned into a book that described the growing interest in food tours and their ability to potentially boost business for local restaurants. This interest continues today, as noted in a 2015 study published by Venngage, which estimated that about 88 percent of travelers consider gastronomy a defining element when deciding on travel destinations.

The trend is further illustrated in the 2016 Food Travel Monitor report conducted by the World Food Travel Association, which found that 95 percent of Americans are interested in having a unique food experience when they travel. This enthusiasm is spurred on by television stars, such as Andrew Zimmern and the late Anthony Bourdain, who inspire viewers to have authentic experiences where they are able to build a deeper connection to the destination and the people who call it home.

A few decades ago, travelers seemingly wanted to experience the best of the best, which often led them to resorts and tourist areas; nowadays, however, travelers seek out experiences that are unique to the region and that will allow them to see what life there is truly like. If you want to experience food tourism for yourself, here are the top culinary tours in California that you should add to your next itinerary.

The California Culinary Tours You Need to Take Right Now

Prepare yourself for a trip to dessert heaven as you take the Original San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour.

1. The Original San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour

Taste chocolate from around San Francisco during a three-hour guided tour that starts along the Embarcadero and concludes at Union Square. Indulge in sweet treats while learning about the health benefits of chocolate and how it is created.

2. The Original Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour

Savor bites and sips of the region’s best establishments on a three-and-a-half-hour tour around Downtown Santa Barbara. This excursion supports local businesses and offers a taste of delicious goods ranging from sweet to savory.

3. Carmel Small-Group Food and Wine Walking Tour

Fresh pasta, local olive oil, and decadent chocolate are a few of the culinary delights highlighted on this intimate three-hour tour in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Learn more about the area’s history and culinary culture as you indulge in the mouthwatering, international dishes the city offers

In Sacramento, you can be assured that you’ll be tasting the best artisanal cheese ever.

4. Sacramento Downtown Historical Tour

Tantalize your taste buds with locally sourced ingredients in the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. Spend three hours sampling artisanal cheese, fresh corn tortillas with roasted poblano peppers, kale and apple salad, and mangos accompanied by dark chocolate.

5. Hollywood Sites & Bites Food Tour

See Hollywood like never before on this four-hour walking and driving tour. With stops at hidden gems as well as at popular eateries and landmarks, this tour is sure to leave you with a better understanding of the Los Angeles dining scene — no wonder why culinary tourism activities are extremely popular in the city.

Mexican and Cuban food highlight the culture of San Francisco’s Mission District.

6. San Francisco Mission 18th Street Tour

Discover the wonder of the Mission District with a two-and-a-half-hour tour of the neighborhood’s top eateries. Savor a scoop from Bi-Rite Creamery, take a bite out of a banh mi, taste the tacos that hold the essence of the Mission, and sample the delicate difference of single-origin chocolate.

7. Secret Food Tour of Venice Beach, Los Angeles

Tour around Venice Beach in this three-hour excursion featuring trivia, stories, and locally loved bites. Offerings include tacos, poke, a crostini, and the perfect solution when you can’t decide between churros and donuts.

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8. North Park San Diego Food Tour

Check out one of the coolest and oldest neighborhoods in San Diego during a four-hour guided walking tour showcasing unusual local favorites. From handmade pretzels and artisanal cheeses to hot wings and deep-dish pizza, this tour offers a taste of the city unlike any other. It is true that food and travel are inseparable when it comes to San Diego.

9. Oakland Temescal Tastes

Eat your way through one of the most diverse culinary destinations in the country on this inclusive tour highlighting ethnic cuisines from Mexico, Ethiopia, Korea, and many others. The three-hour tour also offers a glimpse into Oakland’s rich culture and varied background.

10. Napa Dinner Tour

Walk around Downtown Napa and experience some of the best culinary creations in the region. Arrive hungry, as this tour includes a four-course dinner fit for a king. With stops at two of the restaurants recommended by the Michelin Guide, this tour is not like any other you have experienced.

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