5

U.S. Cities Book Lovers Should Visit at Least Once

When we’re transported to faraway places by our favorite authors, it’s easy to overlook the fact that they, too, once called someplace home. When we recall that critical detail, it only deepens our curiosity about where were these places are how to visit them. From Ernest Hemingway to Mark Twain, explore five U.S. cities and towns where famous writers resided, along with the best ways to experience them.

5

Glen Ellen, California

Historic building at the Winery Ruins of Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, California.
Credit: Ryan C Slimak/ Shutterstock

In 1905, author Jack London and his wife Charmian moved to this bucolic California Wine Country town, and London lived here until he passed away in 1916 at the age of 40. London was best known for adventure tales like White Fang and Call of the Wild, and his legacy remains rich in Glen Ellen. Experience some of that legacy with stops at the Jack London Lodge and Saloon, Jack London Village, and the Jack London State Historic Park (which welcomes more than 90,000 visitors each year from around the globe). After soaking up literary history, be sure to check out the town’s many other appeals — croissants and coffee at Les Pascals, Southern France-inspired fare at Fig Cafe, New American eats at Glen Ellen Star, and plenty of acclaimed wineries (namely Benzinger and Lasseter). Make a weekend of it with a stay at one of the area’s beloved B&Bs and inns such as Gaige House, which features Japanese-inspired rooms with zen gardens and deep soaking granite tubs.

4

Hartford, Connecticut

Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Hartford, Connecticut.
Credit: Stan Tess/ Alamy Stock Photo

Several of America’s most venerated writers lived in Hartford — perhaps none more famous than Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain. At the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, visitors can embark on an interactive tour through the Victorian Gothic cottage that covers details of Stowe’s life and work, including the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and topics it continues to touch upon today. Directly across the lawn, discover the Mark Twain House & Museum, where the Missouri-born author and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. Encounter nods to other poets and writers throughout town: The 2.4-mile Wallace Stevens Walk is marked with 13 granite stones, each showcasing a stanza from the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” while visitors can also tour the home of Noah Webster, author of the first American dictionary. Beyond the literary world, Hartford highlights include the state’s first food hall (Parkville Market), elevated Peruvian cuisine at Cora Cora, and luxe overnight accommodations at the Delamar.

3

Salinas, California

The birthplace of writer John Steinbeck, shown from an exterior view during the day.
Credit: Kilmer Media/ Alamy Stock Photo

Home to John Steinbeck before he left for Stanford in 1919, Salinas held a special place in the author’s heart, serving as the inspiration for East of Eden (a title that was almost swapped out for more literal takes on Steinbeck’s town: My Valley or The Salinas Valley). Several of Steinbeck’s other stories also reference his hometown and the people and places throughout Monterey County. Experience them for yourself starting with a stop at the National Steinbeck Center. A multi-sensory tour features big-screen clips from film adaptations of the author’s novels, along with sights of the green camper he drove across America in his personal research for Travels with Charley. Afterwards, walk two blocks west to the Steinbeck House, which showcases the Queen Anne Victorian home where he grew up with his two sisters and wrote several stories. From there, explore some of the area’s other draws, including the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, the magical coastline of Big Sur, and charming Carmel-By-the-Sea — home to bustling restaurants and cafes, including upscale dining at Le Soufflé and Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel.

2

Concord, Massachusetts

A general view of the Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott in Massachusetts.
Credit: Paul Marotta/ Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

When Amos Bronson Alcott bought 12 acres of land with a manor house in 1857, little did he know it would serve as the setting for his daughter Louisa’s tour de force Little Women, which she wrote just a decade later at the “shelf desk” he had built for her. Translated into more than 50 foreign languages, the book has inspired people from far and wide to visit Concord, with the family home — which closely mirrors the one described in Alcott’s story — welcoming more than 100,000 visitors per year. Beyond the author’s home, visitors can explore Concord’s storied past, from the site where the American Revolutionary War began with “the shot heard around the world” to the places associated with the town’s other literary legends, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau (and, of course, his beloved Walden Pond).

1

Key West, Florida

Ernest Hemingway's house and museum in Key West, Florida.
Credit: Colin Walton/ Alamy Stock Photo

With watersports, beautiful beaches, and tropical party vibes around the clock, you probably don’t need another reason to visit Key West — but if you did, Ernest Hemingway’s rich history here would be it. The author called the island home in the 1930s, and it’s where he wrote a number of celebrated works (which are almost as famous as the six-toed cats that reside at his former estate, descendants of a special feline Hemingway once received as a gift). Literary lovers can take advantage of the Hemingway Home and Museum’s new studio session (giving writers a chance to write where Hemingway did), along with curated Hemingway experiences like the “Hemingway Affair” menu at the Kimpton Lighthouse Hotel across the street. When you’re not exploring the museum or its immediate surroundings, find hints of the author elsewhere on the island, from Sloppy Joe's Bar (home to the annual Hemingway Look-Alike contest) and Captain Tony's (once one of Hemingway's favorite bars).

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