School is out and so is the sun! Summer is finally here, and it’s time to start plotting a travel itinerary for your coveted vacation time. If you’re a bookworm eager to tackle your summer reading list, why not also visit the places that inspired your favorite literary works? From New Orleans to Chicago, we’re highlighting the top vacation destinations for traveling booklovers. Pack your essentials because once you visit these literary cities, you may never want to leave.
Here are our top eight U.S.-based summer destinations for booklovers.
1. Key West, FL
Craving a tropical getaway this summer? Located in the heart of Old Town Key West, Ernest Hemingway’s former home and the feline legacy he left behind reside on a lush property close to the southern coast of the island. If you visit during mid July, you may stumble across hundreds of Hemingways roaming the streets for the Hemingway Days Festival. The celebration includes a commemoration of the author with poetry readings, a look-alike contest, and a unique take on Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls.
If you’re not a Hemingway fan, check out the other homes of writers that have lived the island life, including Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, and Shel Silverstein.
2. Salem, MA
While Salem’s cultural identity is rooted in the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the city has transformed into an epicenter of New Age phenomena. Once the Puritan capital of the northeast, Salem has been the subject of classic literary works including Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
While visiting the city, take a tour of The House of Seven Gables to see the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the setting for his famous novel. Be sure to also check out the Hawthorne Hotel, named after Hawthorne himself, and buy a souvenir at Salem’s Harry Potter-themed wand shop.
3. San Francisco, CA
Compiled of eclectic neighborhoods along the bay, San Francisco is an ideal city for a literary walking tour. Start your visit in North Beach, the outpost for members of the Beat Generation and grab an espresso at Caffe Trieste, a popular writing spot for Beat-figures like Gregory Corso and Alan Watts. Continue your tour with a stroll through the Jack Kerouac Alley before venturing into City Lights Books, the bookshop that published Allen Ginsberg’s “HOWL”.
Right next door to City Lights is Vesuvio’s, a local bar frequented by Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. If you make your way to Ocean Beach, you’ll witness the Pacific Coast landscape that inspired Jack London to write Martin Eden and the Robert Frost poem “Once by the Pacific”.
4. Concord, MA
Just outside of Boston lies the “birthplace of American transcendentalism.” Begin your visit with a tour of The Orchard House, the family home of Louisa May Alcott and the setting that inspired Little Women. Have a picnic by Walden Pond, take a stroll down the “Transcendentalist Trail,” or visit Thoreau’s carefully preserved cabin on the lake.
At some point, be sure to read Susan Cheever’s American Bloomsburg, which highlights the literary world of Concord in the nineteenth century and the interconnected lives of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller. Before you leave, pay a visit to the “Author’s Ridge” in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where some of the most famous Concordian authors lay to rest.
5. New Orleans, LA
From Truman Capote to Eudora Welty, writers have flocked to New Orleans for centuries not only for the jazz and gumbo but also to gain inspiration for their latest literary endeavors. Hop on a streetcar (preferably one named “Desire”) and visit the homes of Tennessee Williams and Anne Rice. While roaming the French Quarter, pop into Faulkner House Books, formerly the home of William Faulkner himself.
If you want to extend your visit overnight, try booking a room at the Hotel Monteleone, one of only three literary landmark hotels in the country, and have a drink at its famed Carousel Bar.
6. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore may seem like an unlikely destination for literature lovers, but there’s a reason it’s known as “Charm City.” The most notable literary figure that hails from Baltimore is Edgar Allan Poe. Take a tour of Poe’s home, visit his grave, and grab a bite at the Annabel Lee Tavern, a themed bar named after his last poem.
Poe isn’t the only literary icon that has spent time writing and living in Baltimore. You can visit the homes of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H.L. Mencken, and John H.B. Latrobe. Perhaps you’ll even bump into Madison Smartt Bell or Alice McDermott, who still reside in Baltimore teaching a few lucky students attending the local universities.
7. New York City, NY
The birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance and The New York Intellectuals, there’s no denying that the Big Apple has a literary culture that runs vast and deep. The city is a mecca for literary enthusiasts with a seemingly endless list of things to do. You can take a Literary Walk through Central Park, visit the Poe Cottage, or visit the Central Park Carousel like Holden Caulfield. Stop by the Round Table Room at the The Algonquin Hotel, which hosted members of the Vicious Cycle including Dorothy Parker and Simone de Beauvoir. The Plaza is another landmark hotel and favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s famous for hosting Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball and is the setting for the popular children’s’ book series Eloise.
Before you depart, be sure to grab a drink at The White Horse Tavern, a popular watering hole for Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac who was kicked out on numerous occasions.
8. Chicago, IL
The Windy City is another urban hub for bibliophiles. Philip Roth and Kurt Vonnegut both got their starts within a few years of each other at the University of Chicago. There are quite a few house tours you can take in Chicago, including Hemingway’s first home, the Carl Sandburg House, and Lorraine Hansberry’s House.
If you’re a history buff, check out the Devil in the White City Tour to learn the history of 1893 World’s Fair serial killer H. H. Holmes. Take a stroll through Nelson Algren’s favorite Neighborhood, Wicker Park, or venture to Oz Park dedicated to Frank L. Baum. There’s a lot to see in the Second City, so be sure to reference Chicago’s Literary Hall of Fame for special events and a map of literary Chicago.
Wherever your travels may take you, be sure to slap on the sunscreen, bring home a souvenir, and savor the flavors of summer!