I was swapping ideas one night with a friend about where we would go for an inspirational weekend of no-costs-barred fun, if we could. Winter was dragging. The college kids at the school where he taught were starting to plan their spring break and we were way too old for that. “Someplace where writers would go,” I said. “Someplace strange, but great.” I didn’t want a beach trip or some international adventure. I just wanted to be inspired and see something new.
My friend had just told me about the day he’d spent in France when he had accidentally found himself touring Gertrude Stein’s famous apartment, which had been the epicenter of the literary salon scene in 1920s Paris. In turn, I told him about the day in Key West, some 15 years ago, that I’d stood in front of the home where Ernest Hemingway had lived and written for over a decade, counting the notorious cats that roamed the property. “And did you know you can stay the night in a Frank Lloyd Wright house?” I said, getting excited about the ridiculous idea of a full-fledged tour of other such places. “They’re full of period décor and everything.” That was in Pennsylvania, near Wright’s beloved Falling Water home. “It’s a seven-hour drive from my house. I just Google mapped it,” I said.
Though the conversation ended, I kept thinking about it—these unassuming vacation locales. I now share a sample of literary-inspired vacation destinations with you. If you’re interested in a spring break that’s fresh and different, here are a few inspired locales to check out.
The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT
Tour the home dreamed up by writer Mark Twain. Visit the onsite museum, review volumes in the research library, or attend one of the many events hosted at the home. It doesn’t get more American than this.
The Archives at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, TX
The University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center boasts an archive library and literary museum to die for. Spoiler alert: the library has in its possession Virginia Woolf’s suicide note and has just acquired Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s archives, among many other priceless literary ephemera and texts.
The Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, FL
Learn about the Nobel Prize-winning writer’s life and work at the famed Hemingway House on Florida’s most popular key. After you tour the home and grounds, you can walk to dine and drink at one of Key West’s many bars. Check out the Hog’s Breath Saloon, where there’s live music every night.
John Steinbeck’s Writing Cottage in Pacific Grove, CA
Yes, you read that right. Through Air BnB, you can stay the night in the cottage once owned by writer John Steinbeck. The house’s current owners advertise simply: “‘I bought a small house and garden in Pacific Grove…’ (John Steinbeck: A Life in Letters). American author John Steinbeck wrote these words to a friend about this charming house he called home in the 1940s.” A one-night stay, at just $195, is surprisingly affordable.
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, IN
Come sit in American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s writing chair. Touch his typewriter. No, really. You can do that at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis. There, you’ll also find his private library, his sketch archives, and even his many literary rejection letters, among other things. If you time this trip right, you can attend the Butler University Visiting Writer Series, which hosts legendary and legend-in-the-making writers year-round. It was there that I listened to readings and lectures given by bell hooks, Seamus Heaney, and others. Visiting this spring are writers Louise Glück, NoViolet Bulawayo, Lois Lowry, and more!