grilled cheese

Cheese has come a long way from the orange plastic stuff of school lunches. Throughout the United States, cheesemakers are whipping up flavorful goat cheeses, rich, sharp cheddars, mild bries, and so many more varieties. Whether you like your cheese straight up, on bread, with fruit or chocolate, or in creamy mac and cheese, there’s a cheese for you. And along with these cheesemakers’ creations are artisan cheese shops, cheese trails, festivals, and classes. Here are six destinations cheese lovers won’t want to miss.

Madison, Wisconsin

No list of destinations for cheese lovers would be complete without Wisconsin, and while the whole state could easily be on this list, it’s a big state. To cover the most Wisconsin cheese ground, head to Madison. The state’s capital city is full of specialty cheesemakers, restaurants, and artisan shops selling varieties from throughout the state and beyond. They go great with the many breweries that have popped in recent years as well. Make sure you order a batch of Wisconsin cheese curds at least once during your stay.

Visit: Fromagination, Brennan’s Market, Babcock Hall Dairy Store

cheese tasting

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Crescent City may be known for beignets and hickory coffee (and you should have those when you go) but in recent years, New Orleans has become a foodie paradise. From brewers to bakers to cheesemakers, New Orleans is a delicious weekend getaway. Throughout the city, you’ll find restaurants serving fancy cheese boards, casual cheese tastings, and shops specializing in all things cheese. And if you head just outside the city, you can even visit a farm producing cheese.

Visit: St. James Cheese Company, Belle Ecorce Farms

New York, New York

Photo courtesy of Riverdel

You can’t go very far in New York City without running into cheese. The city is home to every imaginable type, including a Brooklyn shop that specializes in all vegan cheese. Yep, you read that right. The most famous of NYC cheese shops though is probably Murray’s Cheese. Visit them in Grand Central Station or in Greenwich Village, or sign up in advance for one of their many cheese classes.

Visit: Murray’s Cheese, Riverdel Vegan CheeseSaxelby Cheesemongers

San Francisco, California

With so many farms just a stone’s throw from San Francisco, it’s no wonder the city is home to some amazing cheese shops. It’s also the location of one of the Cheesemonger Invitationals, which puts the best cheesemongers from around the country in one room.  Yum! Diehard cheese lovers should sign up in advance for a three-day intensive cheese program at The Cheese School. If that’s too intense, the school also has cheese tastings and pairing classes. Or simply pick up classic San Francisco sourdough and pair it with your favorite cheese from one the city’s many shops.

Visit: Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese CompanyBi-Rite Market

brie cheese

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Cheese and New Mexico probably don’t seem like they go together, but the state is the fourth largest cheese producer in the country with roughly 150 dairies. Head to Santa Fe for a weekend of exploring art (the city is home to both the Museum of International Folk Art and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum) and hiking in the area’s National Park, followed by tasting cheese from some of those many dairies.

Visit: Cheesemongers of Santa Fe, Bountiful Cow Cheese

Vermont

The small state packs a big cheese punch. Vermont is home to more cheesemakers per capita than any other state and those cheesemakers produce more than 150 kinds of cheese. To make the most of this cheese destination, plan on a road trip through the state following the Vermont Cheese Trail. It’ll take you by breathtaking scenery, quaint small towns with cheese tastings, and buying opportunities at every turn. It’s a dream come true for cheese lovers everywhere.

Visit: Vermont Creamery, Maplebrook Farm, Willow Hill Farm