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Just Desserts

For some travelers, appetizers and entrees are just detours on the road to dessert.

Memorable meals are an intrinsic part of great travel experiences, and there’s no more memorable way to finish a meal than by indulging in a great dessert, especially if you finish with a sweet local specialty.

From renowned favorites such as bananas Foster in Louisiana and Key lime pie in Florida to hidden treasures like Smith Island Cake in Maryland and kuchen in South Dakota, here are 10 signature desserts your group must try as it travels to states around the country.

Grape Pie

New York

With more than 120 wineries, New York’s Finger Lakes region has abundant grapes. That might explain why the grape pie, a dessert rarely heard of in other parts of the country, has become a signature of the region. Made with Concord grapes that have been cooked with a sweetened syrup and then covered with a pastry crust, these pies are served cold, often in pie tins as small as the palm of your hand. The town of Naples has numerous places for groups to taste homemade grape pie, including Arbor Hill Grapery and Monica’s Pies.

Smith Island Cake


After enjoying a great crab entree on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, travelers can finish the meal with slices of Smith Island Cake, which was named the official state dessert in 2008. Originally created at a bakery in a village on Smith Island in the bay, this cake intersperses six to 12 layers of yellow cake with matching layers of chocolate icing. Groups can learn about the cake at the Smith Island Cultural Center, watch it being prepared at the Smith Island Baking Company and sample it themselves at the Bayside Restaurant.

Mississippi Mud Pie


Ask a dozen residents of Mississippi what constitutes a Mississippi Mud Pie, and you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. Some make it with a chocolate crumb crust; others make it with a pastry crust. Some fill it with chocolate pudding; others fill it with brownie batter. It can be topped with whipped cream or ice cream. But no matter how the baker prepares it, this dessert is a decadent chocolate affair. Groups traveling the Mississippi Delta region can find classic examples to try at several restaurants in Indianola, including The Crown and Taste of Gourmet.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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