Literary Travel in the US

Literary Travel in the US

Summer is the perfect time to visit the settings and inspirations of your favorite books By: Molly Montgomery
Key West is a top destination for literary travel, since visitors can stop at The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. // © Mindy Poder
Key West is a top destination for literary travel, since visitors can stop at The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. // © Mindy Poder

Avid bookworms may have already heard about the new American Writers Museum, which is slated to open in Chicago in 2015, according to the Huffington Post. The museum will hold a permanent exhibit on the history of American literature and will also display special collections on different topics such as Banned Books or the Immigrant Experience. Other exciting features in the museum’s plan include the Scribbler’s Cafe, where visitors will be able to enjoy meals mentioned in their favorite novels, a Poetry Pavilion, a Children’s Center and a Garden of Reflection.

Once it opens, it will surely draw many literature-loving tourists. In the meantime, here are some other, perhaps unexpected, destinations, where lovers of both travel and literature can satisfy their cravings:

Hemingway’s Key West

Key West, Fla., home to Ernest Hemingway, is the perfect spot for a literary vacation this summer. Take a tour of his home and see where Hemingway lived and wrote between 1931 and 1940. Visitors can even pet the living descendants of Hemingway’s own six-toed cat Snowball (who also have six toes). 

Every year, Key West holds the Annual Hemingway Days festival. This year’s festival, which will take place from July 16-21, will feature readings, a short story competition, Hemingway look-alike contests and an odd salute to Hemingway’s love for bull-fighting called “Running the Bulls,” in which contestants race fake bulls. The final day, July 21, will mark the celebration of Hemingway’s 114th birthday. For literary accommodations, check out the Suite Dreams Inn, a quaint boutique hotel whose largest suite is named after Hemingway, or try the Crowne Plaza Key West, located in the historic La Concha hotel, where Hemingway himself stayed.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

The 33rd Annual Hemingway Days

Literary San Francisco

Another literary hotspot is located in a well-known visitor destination: San Francisco. Home to several significant authors, including frontier explorer Mark Twain, realist John Steinbeck and Beat generation poet Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco has a rich literary culture, past and present. 

Be sure to visit the city’s most beloved literary landmark, the City Lights bookstore, located in the famous North Beach district, where Beat writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady met up to read and exchange ideas. 

There are several literature themed walking tours offered in San Francisco, including a self-guided Beatnik Walk and the self-proclaimed longest-running book-themed tour in the nation, run by Dashiell Hammett enthusiast Don Herron, who, for $20, takes visitors to all the San Francisco sites found in the mystery-writer’s books. Visitors will be most familiar with Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon, which was adapted into the classic film starring Humphrey Bogart in 1941. The tour meets near the San Francisco main library at noon, and upcoming tour dates are available on the tour’s website. Other literary locales to see in the city include cafe and bar Vesuvio, another Beat haunt, and Caffe Trieste, where Francis Ford Coppola wrote most of the screenplay of The Godfather. 

The Hammett Tour

A Beatnik Walk Through North Beach

Steinbeck in Salinas

The pleasant agricultural town of Salinas in central California, which is home to John Steinbeck, is best known for his novel The Grapes of Wrath. There are tours once a month of the Steinbeck house, the author’s childhood home, now converted into a restaurant open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch. 

Also found in Salinas is the National Steinbeck Center, where visitors can learn more about Steinbeck’s life and the region’s history. Visitors can hop on over to the neighboring city, Monterey, and visit Cannery Row, the inspiration for John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. Formerly a street filled with sardine canneries, it is now a renovated shopping center that still retains its historical charm.

The Steinbeck House

The National Steinbeck Center

Book-Lovers’ Boston

A literary itinerary not to be missed is a trip to Massachusetts, the birthplace of American literature. 

Boston, known for its historical sites, offers visitors a plate of bookish delights. The easiest way to discover the famous sites is to take the Literary Landmarks tour, a walking tour that highlights spots once frequented by great writers including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens and many more. The tour departs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays from the corner of School and Washington Streets, between May and October, and is only $12 for adults. 

If visitors want to venture out further, the town of Concord, only a short drive from Boston, features even more literary destinations including the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Concord museum, which contains the study of Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as other artifacts from notable authors and historical figures. Visitors to Concord can also relax outdoors at the Walden Pond State Reservation where Henry David Thoreau once wrote and lived. 

Concord Museum

Literary Landmarks Tour

The Longfellow House


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