The lazy days of summer are the perfect time to hit the road for new adventures. And for a bookish type, what better journey to plan than a drive to one of the great literary landmarks across the United States?
From memorial libraries to author hangouts to well-preserved homes, there are a myriad of fascinating stops to explore. Here are a few of our favorites:
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
The only dedicated museum to the glamorous Jazz Age couple, this restored home in Montgomery, Alabama was the site of the longest residence for the Fitzgeralds, and the spot where Scott wrote Tender is the Night and Zelda penned Save Me the Waltz. Full of copies of F. Scott and Zelda’s letters to one another (plus a few snarky ones Scott sent to Hemingway), photographs and Zelda’s paintings, the Fitzgerald Museum stands as a testament to their doomed but passionate relationship. Bonus: you can even book a stay upstairs in a quaint Airbnb decorated with pillows stitched with Zelda’s quotes.
Gothic author, illustrator and playwright Edward Gorey turned his 200-year-old Cape Cod home Elephant House into a cabinet of curiosities. Gorey collected everything from cheese graters to elephants, so you’ll find plenty of ephemera in the cottage along with his overflowing library and a fabulous gift shop. If you look closely, you might even discover 26 children who met their untimely ends based on his classic alphabet book The Gashlycrumb Tinies hidden away around the abode.
Jack Kerouac and the Beats
Massachusetts native Jack Kerouac never resided in San Francisco, but his spirit permeates the City by the Bay, from the one-way Jack Kerouac Alley in Chinatown to the historic Vesuvio Café, still in operation today. Fans of Kerouac can also check out The Beat Museum and browse the racks at City Lights Bookstore, founded by fellow Beat Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Be sure to check out HPB Berkeley while you’re there!
Hemingway lived everywhere from Paris, France to his final resting place in Ketchum, Idaho, but it is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida where he left his most enduring legacy. Filled with souvenirs of his African safaris and populated with descendants of his six-toed cats, the home is a bucket list stop for any A Farewell to Arms fan. Other writers such as Robert Frost and Tennessee Williams have also called Key West home, so take a writerly walking tour while you’re there.
Mabel Dodge Luhan
Art patroness, hostess and writer Mabel Dodge Luhan was famed for her literary and artistic salons. Held at her home in Taos, New Mexico, they were attended by everyone from Georgia O’Keeffe to Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence. Today, visitors can explore what was intended to be a “physical and spiritual oasis” with a stay in rooms named after O’Keeffe, Willa Cather or Ansel Adams. The house also hosts a series of creative workshops for the ultimate zen getaway.
McMurtry is famed for capturing the charm and character of rural Texas in his beloved novels, and his shop Booked Up has made the author’s tiny hometown of Archer City a destination for readers and writers alike. The site of a huge book auction attended by our “Buy Guy” in 2013, the bookstore is a must-see for McMurtry fans, who should also check out the town’s revamped Royal Theater (the inspiration for The Last Picture Show).
Built by Miller’s best friend Emil Wight, the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur debuted as a non-profit cultural resource center in 1981. Tucked amongst the redwoods, patrons can attend everything from book signings to writing workshops to performances by bands like Modest Mouse—plus a large collection of the author’s writings are for sale under a ceiling of suspended books.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
The bucolic estate of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, Steepletop was where the Pulitzer Prize winner lived and wrote for the last 25 years of her life. Visitors can view the gardens designed by Millay, explore the house or wander through the woods on her “Poet’s Trail” up to her final resting place. If you can’t make the trip to the Hudson Valley, you can donate to help keep the site alive going for the next generation of readers.
Although the man otherwise known as Samuel Clemens has made his mark on a number of U.S. cities—most significantly New York, where he co-founded the Players Club—it is the town of Hartford that holds his most significant landmark. Formally restored in time for its 100th anniversary in 1974, the picturesque Gothic mansion that serves as the author’s museum was the site of Twain’s happiest and most productive years. Named by National Geographic as one of the “Ten Best Historic Homes in the World,” the 25-room mansion’s Louis Comfort Tiffany fixtures and Candace Wheeler wallpaper make it a destination for bookworms and design fans alike. Next door is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s former home, giving cultured tourists two reasons to travel to Connecticut.
Tennessee Williams considered New Orleans his “spiritual home.” The playwright resided in so many buildings across the city; a yearly literary festival was founded in his name. Take a casual stroll through the French Quarter to see them all, and check out the ultra-charming Faulkner House Books (William Faulkner’s former home) tucked away in Pirate’s Alley while you’re there. Finish the day with a cocktail or two at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, where the likes of Truman Capote and John Grisham liked to drink. You can book one of the hotel’s six author suites for the full bookish experience.