There are drunken late night taco runs, and then there are taco trails. And while we’re more than happy to stumble into Taco Bell at 3am for two cheesy chili burritos and a Baja Blast, there’s something about a well-curated taco trail that just hits different. 

It’s no secret that Americans are obsessed with tacos. We eat an average of 4.5 billion tacos per year, express our taco love in Tinder bios, and pay big bucks to stay at taco-themed resorts in luxury destinations

The only taco fact that remains under wraps? There are hundreds of authentic, hole-in-the-wall taco trails, tours, passports and check-in challenges scattered across small towns in the US just waiting to be explored. 

From opportunities to binge on breakfast tacos in the birthplace of Tex-Mex to curated tours of Michelin-rated taco joints in Napa Valley, California, destinations across the country are offering unique experiences for visitors to sample local culture, explore new communities, and eat really, really good tacos. 

What is Experience Tourism?

Experience tourism, AKA Check-in Challenges, trails or passports, is destination marketing around gamified experiences that drive destination awareness and reward visitors with stamps, badges and real life prizes for visiting local businesses and attractions. These experiences are typically free, always fun, and reward tourists and locals to explore your destination’s best offerings.

Why Gamification is the Key to Destination Marketing

When it comes to travel, consumers are using their phones more than ever before. To keep up with trends and stand out among competitors, destinations should turn to gamification— a type of travel marketing that uses gaming methods to virtually engage travelers—to achieve their goals and see measurable results.

While gamification in the tourism industry certainly isn’t new, we predict that destination marketing organizations (DMOs) will continue to focus on capturing travelers with a deep investment in trails in 2023 and beyond.

The Benefits of Experience Tourism for Destinations

While there are countless benefits of experience tourism for destinations, one thing is clear: good check-in challenges and tourism trails attract visitors.

Well-crafted check-in challenges activate and mobilize both locals and tourists to visit your destination and its best attractions. They educate your market by offering unique opportunities to uncover all of the hidden gems your destination has to offer. Check-in challenges are inherently viral, and as participants engage with your destination, they take photos and videos, share and tag places, and drive massive organic growth. Challenges provide insights in the form of feedback from participants, comments on places, and first-party data. And last, but certainly not least, experience tourism offers up real results. Curated tours and experiences create a network offerings visitors to flock to, directly benefiting the economy of the destination and its surrounding communities.

9 of the Best Taco Trails in the US

Here, we feature nine destinations that successfully leverage Challenge marketing to attract new visitors, gamify travel, activate untapped markets, and see results with valuable insights and economic impact with their tasty taco trails. 

1. Conrad Taco Trail

Home to over 40 local, family-owned restaurants and taquerias, Concord, California, is the go-to spot for authentic Mexican food across California’s East Bay. From cochinita pibil to spicy shrimp tacos, the restaurants on the Conrad Taco Trail offer a perfect mix of regional classics and “Californian Mexican,” which features healthier spins on favorite, authentic dishes. 

How the Trail Works:

Visitors download the Concord Taco Trail app and use it at any of the 40 participating restaurants and taquerias. Trail participants who check-in at 10 locations can redeem a Taco Trail bucket hat. Participants who check-in at all 40 locations and earn an official “Trail Master” certificate.

Why We Like It: 

Variety is the spice of life, and we love that this trail honors both its traditional roots and current California culinary trends. 

2. Greenville Taco Trail

Greenville, South Carolina

Welcome to Greenville, SC! This eleven-stop trail rewards visitors just for eating- you guessed it- local tacos. Participants are encouraged to grab their amigos, hit the trail, and discover all that the Greenville Taco Trail has to offer. Vegetarians are encouraged to head to Papi’s Tacos for the bean and cactus taco, a local fave. And according to Greenville, experimental eaters will love Automatic Taco’s Nashville hot chicken taco that combines Mexican flavor with authentic southern heat. 

How the Trail Works:

Visitors download and print their paper passports, visit each spot on the list, and collect codes along the way. Four taco trail visits earn participants a sticker. Eight taco trail visits scores participants a tumbler. Eleven taco trail visits earns them a ballcap. And anyone who finishes the entire trail and takes their completed passport to the Visit Greenville Visitor Center before April 15, 2023, will be entered to win 2 tickets to the Tacos n’ Tequila Fiesta.

3. KCK Taco Trail 

Move over, Los Angeles. Beat it, San Antonio. Forbes recently announced that Kansas City, Kansas, is the nation’s official taco capital. To experience the best this taco-loving city has to offer, travelers can hop onto the Kansas City, Kansas, Taco Trail where they can embark on a true culinary adventure. The trail includes over 50 local taquerias featuring street tacos, Tex-Mex and more. 

How the Trail Works:

Participants can download the KCK Taco Trail app and use it at any of the 50 participating restaurants and taquerias. 

Why We Like It: 

Historically, Kansas City, Kansas isn’t known for its taco tourism, but this trail totally reinvented this up-and-coming midwestern city. KCK is now one of the leading destinations for tacos and a shimmering success story of destination trail marketing. 

4. Rio Grande Valley Taco Trail

Rio Grande Valley, Texas

When you’re in the birthplace of Tex-Mex, you eat tacos. The Rio Grande Valley Taco Trail guides visitors to the best this region on the border has to offer. At Ms. G’s Tacos N’ More, visitors can dig into popular machacado con huevo (beef and eggs) Texas breakfast tacos. El Pocito’s exterior may be deceiving, but swing around to the alley out back and find a packed kitchen filled with flat top-cooked gorditas and corn tortillas.

How the Trail Works: 

For a list of participating restaurants, visitors can follow the self-guided Rio Grande Valley Taco Trail

5. Yelp’s Top 100 Taco Spots

User-generated reviews led Yelp to 100 of the top rated Mexican restaurants in the US. And thanks to Yelp’s Top 100 Taco Trail, taco lovers nationwide can visit every single one of them. From coast to coast, this massive trail contains the very best taco trucks, taquerias, and cantinas that America has to offer. 

How the Trail Works: 

To find and follow Yelp’s Top 100 Taco Spots trail, visitors can follow the self-guided Yelp Taco Trail

Why We Like It: 

Taco trails are the best way for serious taco lovers to find good tacos near them. With 100 stops, Yelp’s Top 100 Taco Spots helps taco lovers across the entire country access good, authentic eats.

6. Joliet Taco Trail

Joliet, Illinois

On the Joliet Taco Trail, participants can visit eight local taquerias along the historic Route 66 and discover why Joliet is famous for its Mexican restaurants. From Supermercado Joliet’s iconic build-your-own taco bar to Puerto Escondido’s refreshing micheladas, there’s something for everyone on this midwestern taco trail. 

How the Trail Works: 

Visitors can download the Joliet Taco Trail app and use it at any of the eight participating restaurants and taquerias. 

7. Mesquite Taco Trail

In Mesquite, Texas, more tacos means more pleasure. With some of the best offerings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Mesquite’s trail is uniquely budget-friendly and focuses primarily on authentic tacos that won’t break the bank. There are eight restaurants in the main trail, but over 25 additional stops for the seriously taco-obsessed. 

How the Trail Works: 

For a list of participating restaurants, visitors can follow the self-guided Mesquite Taco Trail

Why We Like It: 

One thing the Mesquite Taco Trail does well is leverage what makes them unique. Unlike other trails in this list, Mesquite markets itself as budget-friendly, AKA: affordable for many. Not only does that make this trail more accessible than most, but it gives them an edge on niche marketing.

8. Napa Valley Taco Trail

Napa Valley, California

Napa, California may be famous for its winning-wineries and michelin-star masterpieces, but did you know that it’s also home to some bomb neighborhood food trucks and strip-mall taquerias? With 14 spots on the list, participants are encouraged to hit them all. And don’t worry, there are also a couple of Michelin-rated taco joints – it is Napa Valley, after all.

How the Trail Works: 

For a list of participating restaurants, visitors can follow the self-guided Napa Valley Taco Trail

9. Team Springdale Taco Tour

Since 2014, authentic tacos have linked diverse communities in Springdale thanks to the Springdale Taco Tour. Trail founders and Springdale, Arkansas residents Jonathan and Amber Perrodin are the co-creators of Team Springdale, which aims to unify a diverse community and create a sense of celebration over all that is uniquely Springdale. 

How the Trail Works: 

To join Team Springdale’s Taco Tour, visitors can head to the Springdale Taco Tour page and follow the Taco Trail.  Participants can choose any authentic taqueria from the list,, take a photo and tag #SpringdaleTacoTour on social media for a chance to win prizes.

Why We Like It: 

We dig that this taco trail was created by local taco lovers, for local taco lovers. It proves the value of mappable, marketable trails and is a grassroots success story for destinations nationwide.

Launch your Taco Trail with Seeker

Seeker Check-in Challenges empower destinations to create and manage gamified experiences like beer crawls, wine passports, taco trails and more. Featuring mobile-friendly, location aware maps, powerful customizations and a user experience that delights, Seeker Challenges are an effective way to attract new visitors, grow destination awareness and activate locals to explore their hometowns with fresh eyes.

Ready to launch? Contact us to see a demo or get started for free today.

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