Tour All of These Historical Sites That Have Inspired Great American Literature
We've collected 62 novel (and nonfiction) destinations across all 50 states for you to visit this summer or bookmark for the future. Plot an itinerary, and start packing.
For more than a year, reading was our safest way to "travel." Now that we're turning a new page, consider a rich—and very real—escape. Across the country, there are countless landscapes that have inspired works of literature, and visiting them means you can bring children's classics to life, soak up inspiration at our national parks, and pay (over)due respect to several legendary women.
It's fun for the whole family, too: Read stories, see book illustrations (hello, Very Hungry Caterpillar), and let kids make their own at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Splash with Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins in the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden's spray fountain; it's inside Portland, Oregon's, Grant Park, a quick walk from real-life Klickitat Street. Or hoist yourself up into a New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad car, tricked out like the home of the Alden siblings in the Boxcar Children series, at the Gertrude Chandler Warner Boxcar Children Museum, in Putnam, Connecticut.
There's plenty in modern works, too: Brooklyn's Books Are Magic, co-owned by novelist Emma Straub, hosts events with debut authors like former employee Liv Stratman, whose romantic dark comedy Cheat Day is out now. Look out for co-owner Ann Patchett, the author of The Dutch House, at Parnassus Books in Nashville. Booked Up stocks "fine, rare, and scholarly books" in Archer City, Texas, the town its late owner, native son Larry McMurtry, fictionalized in The Last Picture Show. Beastly Books, in Santa Fe, owned by Game of Thrones overlord George R. R. Martin, stands next door to his indie movie theater, Jean Cocteau Cinema.
To explore more of these iconic sites, check out our itinerary and don't forget to pack a bit of reading for the trip.
Go in search of the title character of Maria Semple's 2012 hit Where'd You Go, Bernadette ($10.16, target.com) at the Seattle landmarks she visits: the Space Needle, the Rem Koolhaas-designed Central Library, and Microsoft's headquarters in nearby Redmond (its visitors' center also has self-guided tours).
New York, New York
Live out a library's worth of book scenes in New York City's Central Park. It's where Holly Golightly rode a horse in Breakfast at Tiffany's ($14.94, barnesandnoble.com), Holden Caulfield watched the ducks in the lagoon in The Catcher in the Rye ($14.99, barnesandnoble.com), and Stuart Little ($15.99, barnesandnoble.com) won a sailboat race in the Conservatory Water pond.
San Francisco, California
Revel in the atmosphere of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club ($15.30, walmart.com) on Waverly Place—a vibrant, flag-festooned alley in San Francisco's Chinatown that provided the name of one of her characters. Known as the Street of Painted Balconies, it's home to Tin How, one of the country's oldest Buddhist temples, and Mister Jiu's, a Michelin–starred Chinese restaurant in an 1880 banquet hall.
Maryland's Eastern Shore
Bring some books inspired by history—whether it's Who Was Harriet Tubman? ($15.99, barnesandnoble.com), by Yona Zeldis McDonough, for kids; or a novel like Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Water Dancer ($15.99, barnesandnoble.com) or Colson Whitehead's 2017 Pulitzer winner The Underground Railroad ($14.94, barnesandnoble.com)—and set off to drive the 223-mile Harriet Tubman Byway. The three-state, self-guided trip starts in Cambridge, Maryland, near where Tubman is thought to have lived as a child, and stops at 45 sites as you head north, including the Corbit-Sharp House, home of Quaker abolitionists, in Odessa, Delaware; and white-steepled Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
U.S. Route 14
Love the Little House series? Drive the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway (otherwise known as U.S. 14), starting at her birthplace in Pepin, Wisconsin, now a museum with a just-like-you-pictured-it repro of the real Little House in the Big Woods ($4.99, walmart.com), which is also referred to as the Wayside Cabin. Forge ahead to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum has preserved four buildings from the family's time there, then head to the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, to go on a covered-wagon ride or even camp in one.
Read the room at this famous lodging: Louis L'Amour spent every August for a decade writing westerns in room 222 of The Strater Hotel, which is an 1887 landmark.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Monteleone is the first stop on the University of New Orleans "Writers' Block" walking tour for lots of good reasons, among them: William Faulkner was a frequent guest, Tennessee Williams immortalized it in The Rose Tattoo, and Truman Capote's mother went into labor with him here.
Red Cloud, Nebraska
Wander through the childhood house of My Ántonia author Willa Cather (complete with rose-printed wallpaper she put up herself), and join a guided tour of the never-plowed, 612-acre Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. Staying overnight? Rent the Cather Second Home Guest House (the place her parents moved into after she grew up) on Airbnb.
Down south, check out Eudora Welty's 1925 Tudor Revival landmark house and its famous gardens, which the legendary southern storyteller and her mother tended, growing more than 30 varieties of her favorite flower, the camellia.
See America's version of Downton Abbey: The Mount, Edith Wharton's Gilded Age mansion (including her personal library of rare books), Italianate formal gardens, and stables.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Exeter, New Hampshire
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
Las Vegas, Nevada
Fort Pierce and Eatonville, Florida
Walk the Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail, in Fort Pierce, Florida, following historical markers past her home, the library and parks she frequented, and the church that held her funeral. Then zip two hours north to her hometown of Eatonville—the first incorporated all-Black city in the U.S., the setting of her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God ($15.49, barnesandnoble.com), and the site of the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts.
Swansboro and Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Kya, the heroine of nature writer Delia Owens' 2018 breakout debut novel (and upcoming film) Where the Crawdads Sing ($11, walmart.com), spends her life boating in the south-coastal marshes of North Carolina. Her town, Barkley Cove, is made up, but the landscape is real. Whoosh through the saltwater grasses on a Marsh Cruises ride, leaving from Swansboro or Emerald Isle.
Grand County, Utah
Delaware County, Oklahoma
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Wyoming
Paterson Great Falls National Park, New Jersey
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Elkins, West Virginia
Newport, Rhode Island
Alva Vanderbilt built her summer estate, Marble House, as "a temple to the arts." Today it's a temple to the Gilded Age—and the moody setting for books like Renée Rosen's new novel the Social Graces ($13.43, walmart.com), and movies including Amistad, 27 Dresses, and the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version of The Great Gatsby.
Chicago has the dubious distinction of being home to America's first-known serial killer, as chronicled by Erik Larson in his 2004 thriller The Devil in the White City ($21.99, walmart.com). A Chicago Hauntings bus tour retraces his old stomping grounds, including the Jackson Park Fairgrounds from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, aka World's Fair.
Savannah is famous for John Berendt's true-crime blockbuster Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ($10.89, target.com), about the murder trial of antiques dealer and preservationist Jim Williams. The expert guides from Savannah Heritage Tours take you to 22 homes he restored, many in the historic city center, as well as eerily beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, where a voodoo priestess casts a spell on the DA who filed the charges in the book.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Calling all Stephen Kingstans: Bangor, Maine, is called Derry in several of the living legend's horror classics. SK Tours of Maine takes you on a three-hour jaunt past the standpipe water tower from It ($17.99, barnesandnoble.com), the graveyard where Pet Sematary ($14.99, barnesandnoble.com) was filmed, and places King has lived, including his current residence.
Ada Blackjack, an Inuit single mom, was the sole survivor of a 1921 Arctic expedition, an experience chronicled in Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic ($19.99, barnesandnoble.com), by Jennifer Niven. You can visit her grave in Anchorage, Alaska. Locals are also pushing to rename Nome's Middle Beach, not far from her birthplace, as Ada Blackjack Golden Beach Park.
Katherine Johnson, one of the barrier-demolishing NASA "human computers" in the book and film Hidden Figures ($7.44, walmart.com), appears in the "When the Computer Wore a Skirt" exhibition at the Hampton History Museum in Virginia. From there, rocket over to her old workplace: the Virginia Air & Space Science Center.
Stanton, North Dakota
Sacagawea was hands-down the most interesting person on the Lewis and Clark expedition. That's why the YA fiction classic Streams to the River ($7.99, target.com), River to the Sea, by Scott O'Dell; and narrative history Undaunted Courage ($11.39, target.com), by Stephen E. Ambrose, both highlight the Shoshone teenager who helped guide the group with her baby on her back. Learn more at the Knife River Indian Villages site, in Stanton, North Dakota; it includes the Awatixa village where she actually lived.