Tour All of These Historical Sites That Have Inspired Great American Literature

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grand hotel Mackinac Island, Michigan
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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.

01 of 41

Seattle, Washington

tourist attraction illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

Go in search of the title character of Maria Semple's 2012 hit Where'd You Go, Bernadette ($10.16, 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).

02 of 41

New York, New York

Lush Summer Greens and Central Park's Gapstow Bridge
Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty Images

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,, Holden Caulfield watched the ducks in the lagoon in The Catcher in the Rye ($14.99,, and Stuart Little ($15.99, won a sailboat race in the Conservatory Water pond.

03 of 41

San Francisco, California

view of chinatown street san francisco
Peter Unger / Getty Images

Revel in the atmosphere of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club ($15.30, 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.

04 of 41

Maryland's Eastern Shore

harriet tubman house cambridge maryland
Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images

Bring some books inspired by history—whether it's Who Was Harriet Tubman? ($15.99,, by Yona Zeldis McDonough, for kids; or a novel like Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Water Dancer ($15.99, or Colson Whitehead's 2017 Pulitzer winner The Underground Railroad ($14.94,—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.

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U.S. Route 14

U.S. Highway 14 in western South Dakota
Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images

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,, 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.

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Durango, Colorado

Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado
KaraGrubis / Getty Images

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.

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Ketchum, Idaho

sun valley lodge idaho
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Ernest Hemingway made the legendary Sun Valley Lodge his home base in the fall of 1939, hunting and fishing in Sun Creek Preserve and penning parts of For Whom the Bell Tolls ($19.49,

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New Orleans, Louisiana

building facade hotel monteleone new orleans
Courtesy of Hotel Monteleone

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.

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Louisville, Kentucky

skyline view louisville kentucky
Sean Pavone / Getty Images

In The Great Gatsby ($11.70,, Daisy and Tom Buchanan exchange vows in the cobalt-and-gold ballroom of this gem, now called the Seelbach Hilton; literary lore says it's also where F. Scott Fitzgerald met George Remus, a bootlegger who may have inspired the title character.

10 of 41

Red Cloud, Nebraska

the harling housered cloud nebraska
Courtesy of Visit Red Cloud

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.

11 of 41

Jackson, Mississippi

Willa Cather home illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

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.

12 of 41

Lenox, Massachusetts

The Mount Edith Wharton's House
Mahaux Charles/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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.

13 of 41

Winterset, Iowa

covered bridge illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

Bike or drive the 37 miles between all six covered bridges in and around Madison County; they're the ones photographer Robert Kincaid was shooting when he met Italian war bride Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County ($8,, the novel by Robert James Waller.

14 of 41

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis museum of art
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Picnic under the Free Basket sculpture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, like the teen soul mates in John Green's YA sensation The Fault in Our Stars ($20.54,

15 of 41

Mackinac Island, Michigan

grand hotel mackinac island michigan
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Stroll Flirtation Walk, the world's longest porch, at the Grand Hotel, which is the location of Somewhere in Time ($8.99,, the film version of Richard Matheson's time-traveling Bid Time Return.

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Bennington, Vermont

Bennington College commons
Courtesy of Bennington College

Take a self-guided tour of Bennington College. Class of '86 alum Donna Tartt started writing her blockbuster debut mystery, The Secret History ($17.95,, there, and the setting is eerily similar.

17 of 41

Exeter, New Hampshire

Exeter, New Hampshire
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Roam Exeter is known to readers of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany ($8.99, as Gravesend. It's home to Phillips Exeter Academy, the model for both Irving's Gravesend Academy and the Devon School in John Knowles' A Separate Peace ($14.49,

18 of 41

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Daufuskie Island south carolina
Penny Britt / Getty Images

Climb on horseback with Daufuskie Trail Rides on carless Daufuskie Island, to visit the First African Baptist School, where Pat Conroy taught—it's the basis of his 1972 memoir, The Water Is Wide ($10.99,

19 of 41

Cincinnati, Ohio

paddlewheel boats on ohio river
wsfurlan / Getty Images

In the 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved ($16.13,, by Ohio native Toni Morrison, the Ohio River symbolizes the border between slavery and freedom, death, and life. The Twin Lakes walking paths in Cincinnati's Eden Park follow a sweeping stretch.

20 of 41

Kauai, Hawaii

scenic overlook kauai hawaii
Shobeir Ansari / Getty Images

The family in Kaui Hart Hemmings's novel The Descendants ($17, inherits pristine land on Kauai from their ancestors: the Hawaiian royal family. See the region's splendor on a Kipu Ranch Adventures ATV tour.

21 of 41

Lima, Montana

Upper Red Rock Lake
Scott T. Smith / Getty Images

Louis, the sweet and silent avian protagonist of E. B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan ($7.99,, finds his forever mate in the Red Rock Lakes of Montana, a real nesting ground for trumpeter swans. Spot lovebirds yourself at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

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Stamps, Arkansas

book jacket i know where the cage bird sings
Courtesy of Amazon

As depicted in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ($7.92,, Maya Angelou sought refuge on the banks of Lake June in her hometown of Stamps, Arkansas. Find a bench and some peace in the park that's now named for her.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas skyline at dusk
Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

Burn rubber like gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and DIY the daredevil drive to Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, and back from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ($8.59,

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Fort Pierce and Eatonville, Florida

Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail map sign
effrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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,, and the site of the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts.

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Swansboro and Emerald Isle, North Carolina

Ohio River fishing illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

Kya, the heroine of nature writer Delia Owens' 2018 breakout debut novel (and upcoming film) Where the Crawdads Sing ($11,, 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.

26 of 41

Grand County, Utah

Arches National Park illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

Make Utah your muse, as Edward Abbey did in Arches National Park. His memoir, Desert Solitaire ($7.99,, captures his life as a ranger amid its magnificent rockscapes.

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Delaware County, Oklahoma

natural falls state park waterfall
Courtesy of Travel Oklahoma

Natural Falls State Park, which is also known as Dripping Springs, in Oklahoma, is home to the legendary plant from Wilson Rawls' coming-of-age, three-hankie Where the Red Fern Grows ($6.19,, and the waterfall from the movie version.

28 of 41

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Wyoming

Vedauwoo in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest near Cheyenne, Wyoming
Autumn Parry/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trek Wyoming's Encampment River Trail to see the majestic mountain scenery Annie Proulx captures in her story "Brokeback Mountain" and her memoir, Bird Cloud ($6.49,

29 of 41

Paterson Great Falls National Park, New Jersey

earlier morning view of the famous Great Falls of the Passaic River
Brian Logan / Getty Images

Ron Cherno's Washington ($14.98, calls a meal G.W., Alexander Hamilton, and the Marquis de Lafayette had here in 1778 "the most important picnic in history." Bring your own snacks to this oasis in New Jersey.

30 of 41

Grand Canyon, Arizona

rafters floating down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
Draper White / Getty Images

Float the Colorado River on a rafting trip departing from this Arizona landmark; get a thrilling preview in Kevin Fedarko's The Emerald Mile ($16.99,

31 of 41

Elkins, West Virginia

Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia, USA
Robert Stough / Getty Images

Hike the Falls of Hills Creek to admire the landscape in Monongahela National Forest that fills the work of local poet Louise McNeill, and her memoir, The Milkweed Ladies ($18.95,

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Monroeville, Alabama

old Monroe County Courthouse, site of the Monroe County Heritage Museum,
G.M. Andrews/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Harper Lee's father argued many a case in the Monroeville, Alabama, courthouse; she conjured it in To Kill a Mockingbird ($7.19, Now it's the Old Courthouse Museum, devoted to the seminal book.

33 of 41

Newport, Rhode Island

dining room marble house
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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,, and movies including Amistad, 27 Dresses, and the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version of The Great Gatsby.

34 of 41

Sedan, Oklahoma

downtown sedan oklahoma
Courtesy of Google Maps

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ($9.95, is about a girl desperate to get home to Kansas, but her town is never specified. That didn't stop tiny Sedan, on the Oklahoma border, from building its own yellow-brick road. Pull a Dorothy Gale and follow it!

35 of 41

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois, USA Skyline and Park
Sean Pavone / Getty Images

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, 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.

36 of 41

Savannah, Georgia

cemetery illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

Savannah is famous for John Berendt's true-crime blockbuster Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ($10.89,, 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.

37 of 41

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Main Street Looking Cape Girardeau Looking North / Getty Images

Cape Girardeau was the model for fictional North Carthage in Gillian Flynn's juggernaut Gone Girl ($14.99, Download a map to sites from the book, including the Mississippi River, which Flynn has called "a major character" (and arguably the most trustworthy one).

38 of 41

Bangor, Maine

Stephen King's house in Bangor Maine
Marc Dufresne / Getty Images

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,, the graveyard where Pet Sematary ($14.99, was filmed, and places King has lived, including his current residence.

39 of 41

Anchorage, Alaska

Scenic View Of Lake With A Canoe Against Mountains, Alaska
Martina Birnbaum / EyeEm / Getty Images

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,, 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.

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Hampton, Virginia

galaxy illustration
Illustration by Zoë Barker

Katherine Johnson, one of the barrier-demolishing NASA "human computers" in the book and film Hidden Figures ($7.44,, 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.

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Stanton, North Dakota

knife river indian village
George McDowell / Flickr

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,, River to the Sea, by Scott O'Dell; and narrative history Undaunted Courage ($11.39,, 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.

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