There’s a familiar crispness in the air, causing us all to fantasize about fall activities. That could mean admiring the changing leaves at national parks or making perfectly spiced campfire cooking desserts. If you’re a fan of artisanal alcoholic beverages, autumn also calls for savoring a velvety cabernet sauvignon or full-bodied ale, preferably with a view.
Whether you’re practically a sommelier or cicerone or just enjoy tasty drinks, you can sample outstanding flavors in exciting new places when you plan a beer or wine-themed road trip. Imagine wine tasting as you watch the sunset over endless rows of vines. Or picture touring the most innovative independent breweries in the country before making new friends over a tall one. You can also learn more about the craft behind making award-winning beer and wine at many locations.
By planning a road trip, you’ll get to hit multiple hot spots and fully experience what these regions have to offer. Never planned a beer or wine-focused road trip before? We’ve got you covered. We’re sharing tips for planning an epic trip specifically tailored for our van life friends, along with a few inspiring itineraries to get you started.
With so many possibilities, you need to determine what kind of trip you’re looking for. First off: beer or wine? Of course, you can mix and match, but pro road trip planners know to pick a theme and stick to it.
Second: do you want to go to the established hub for your beverage of choice or seek out the burgeoning scenes? Going to the hub, like California Wine Country, brings you to the best of the best and provides a dreamy, sought-after experience. On the other hand, hidden gems and newer scenes tend to be cheaper to visit and less crowded. You might also be treated to the weird and wonderful experimental creations that can only come from smaller operations.
Third: are you willing to go anywhere in the U.S., or do you have a specific region in mind? If you’re a van lifer, you’ll need to factor in your current location as a starting point. If you aren’t a member of #vanlife but want to try it out, most major cities provide camper van rental options. Fly into the closest major city and hit the road from there.
Research and Plan
Once you’ve settled on a region, it’s time to iron out the details. This includes the cities and towns you’ll visit and the wineries or breweries you’ll imbibe at. Some cities make this extra simple by providing guides to all the establishments in the area or all-inclusive tours.
You’ll also want to plan where you’ll camp each night. You can opt for dry camping on BLM land or in national parks or stay with full hookups at RV parks and resorts. But the best option for this type of trip may be one you haven’t heard of yet–Harvest Hosts.
This company matches RV campers with amazing places to stay overnight. Their 3,500+ options across the country focus on farms, wineries, breweries, distilleries, museums, and other attractions. Along with beer and wine tastings, you can tap into the autumn mood by picking your own produce at an orchard.
Harvest Hosts provides intimate experiences with local businesses and friendly hosts. And the best part? There are no camping fees. You’ll just need a Harvest Hosts membership, which is only $99 a year. They also ask that you support the business you’re staying at, whether that means sipping drinks in the place they were made, buying museum tickets, or purchasing artisanal goods to give as gifts. Let’s be real–you were going to do that anyway.
The one caveat is that you’re only allowed to stay at each location for 24 hours unless the host invites you to stay longer. If you’re on a quick-moving road trip, this shouldn’t be a problem. You can also find multiple Harvest Host locations in the same general area if you want to stick around for longer.
This shouldn’t have to be said, but since this road trip involves both drinking and driving, make sure not to actually pair these activities. That’s another reason staying at a Harvest Host location is great–you can walk back to your van after a few glasses to cook dinner or relax. If you’re staying at a campground or RV park further from the action and plan to have multiple drinks, leave your van at the campsite and arrange for a ride there and back. There’s no excuse for driving under the influence and, with a bit of foresight, you can easily indulge safely and worry-free.
Road Trip Ideas for Wine Lovers
Get ready to sip some of the best wines the United States has to offer in postcard-pretty scenery with these road trip itineraries.
California Wine Country is world-famous for a reason. Besides being the birthplace of award-winning wines, this area is known for its Michelin star restaurants and sunny rolling hills. You’ll hit both of the major hotspots in the area, Sonoma and Napa, for luxurious yet rustic wine tasting experiences. Then head to the bottom of the state to Temecula, a lesser-known but equally fertile wine-producing region. There you can take your pick of nearly 50 wineries, learn about sustainable farming practices, and even take a hot air balloon ride!
If you’re on the eastern side of the country, we recommend this tour of wine, food, nature, and history. You’ll start in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where over 100 different wines are made. Many of these varieties of vino find their way into the best restaurants in New York City. Then turn your sights on the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania, where you can relax at several vineyards and wineries along with natural attractions like Brandywine Creek. Lastly, visit Charlottesville, Virginia, also known as the “birthplace of American wine.” There, you’ll find delicious drinks with a side of history–oh, and a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range.
This verdant region of the U.S. has a lot to offer when it comes to wine. Start in Walla Walla, Washington, which boasts over 150 wineries along with historic architecture and breathtaking fall colors. Then venture down to Oregon to taste the state’s beloved pinot noir. The Willamette Valley is where this beauty is made, but you can also taste it less than an hour away in Portland. If you want to mix it up, Portland is also known for its thriving microbrewery scene.
Road Trip Ideas for Beer Enthusiasts
Beer lovers have no shortage of options when it comes to drinking destinations across the U.S. From established regions to exciting new scenes, we’re sharing some of the best itineraries below.
Imagine live music on outdoor patios with a cold one in hand. That’s what you’ll get on this road trip itinerary starting in Nashville, Tennessee. This city is best known for its music culture, but Nashville also boasts a booming brewery scene. Keep the fun going on the 27 stops of Lexington, Kentucky’s “Brewgrass Trail.” Then end your journey in Asheville, North Carolina, which earned the nickname “Beer City, USA” for having one of the country’s highest ratios of breweries to people.
Back in the Golden State, you’ll find an impressive array of brews made by independent companies. If you can’t choose between beer and wine, merge this itinerary with the California wine-tasting trip above. Start in Santa Rosa, a charming city in Sonoma County. Be sure to try the Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder IPA, which held the title of best beer in the world for eight consecutive years. Then mosey down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego. This city is known as the beer capital of the USA with tons of taprooms to explore, either solo or on one of the many brewery-hopping tours.
Start your journey in the port city of Boston, Massachusetts. Check out the trendy craft breweries in the city, then sample award-winning beers in the small towns just north of Boston. On the drive from Massachusetts to Vermont, you’ll be treated to an epic display of orange, red, and yellow leaves. Burlington, Vermont has a fast-growing culture of artisanal beer-making with local ingredients (like maple syrup) and experimental flavors (like PB&J porter). We think this is the perfect fall itinerary.
Wherever you choose to road trip this season, consider doing so in a camper van from Rec Van. We carry top-of-the-line adventure vans with all the comforts of home fit into innovative, compact designs. Browse our website to find your match today.