Explore Your Favorite American Authors' Homes and Hang Outs
See where writers and poets penned American classics.
If you’ve ever imagined rafting the Mississippi with runaway Huck Finn, or traveling through Indian territory with Half-Pint, from "The Little House on the Prairie," it's time to visit some of the places where your favorite authors penned their stories.
The former homes and haunts of many classic authors, poets and playwrights are open to the public, and you'll often find fun museums and festivals to round out your trip.
Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, Florida
Stroll through Ernest Hemingway’s property in Key West as tour guides entertain you with stories of his African safaris, fishing trips and wartime experiences. The legendary writer's Royal typewriter sits in a room where taxidermied animal heads are mounted on the walls, and descendants of his famous six-toed cats still prowl the gardens. Don’t miss the pool, built for a staggering $20,000 -- that's in 1938 dollars. The author of such classics as A Farewell to Arms blamed his then-wife, Pauline, for spending his last cent on it—and as if to prove it, there's a penny embedded in the cement pool deck. Tip: Stay at NYAH (Not Your Average Hotel), and you can rent a bike for the four-minute ride to Hemingway’s home.
Chemung County, Elmira, N.Y.
Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens, often traveled to Chemung County in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The Chemung Valley Historical Society houses an exhibit about him and the local places he frequented. On the campus of Elmira College, look for the study where Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and other novels; USA Today has called it "America’s #1 Literary Attraction." Tip: Leave time to walk the Twain Trail and visit Woodlawn Cemetery, where the author and his family are buried.
Twain, who vacationed in Bermuda many times, once quipped, “You go to heaven if you want to, I’d rather stay right here in Bermuda.” During this summer’s America’s Cup, the Caroline Bay Marina will host events inspired by Twain’s memory. Opt for a cruise on the luxury yacht Arabella and hear stories spun by a Twain impersonator while you enjoy a 5-star, three-couse dinner.
Robert Frost Stone House Museum, Shaftsbury, Vermont
Wander through Vermont’s woodlands and valleys, and past lakes and meadows, to see the spectacular countryside where poet Robert Frost made his home. Guides with Walking Vermont: Green Mountain Valleys and Inns will lead you along a trail with markers featuring Frost’s poems. You’ll also see his cabin, the Stone House, which was built in 1769 and now serves as a museum. Tip: The cabin is in Shaftsbury, a short drive from Bennington, where you can pay your respects at the Frost family gravesite.
Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans, Louisiana
For years, author Tennessee Williams rented space in Louisiana’s historic French Quarter. He eventually bought an 1835 Greek Revival townhouse and moved into one of its second-story apartments. The house, along with one of his former apartments on Toulouse Street, are stops on the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Walking Tour. This narrated tour also swings by some of the playwright’s favorite hangouts. Tip: The Hilton New Orleans Riverside is within walking distance of the French Quarter. From there, you can hop a streetcar down Saint Charles Street and see some of the cemeteries and Southern mansions that inspired Williams.
Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Cooperstown, in New York's Catskills, may be known for baseball, but it's also the former home of author James Fenimore Cooper,. Cooper is best known for his Leatherstocking Tales featuring frontiersman Natty Bumpo, nicknamed Hawkeye, as well as his romantic novel, The Last of the Mohicans. This region inspired many of Fenimore’s stories, with Lake Otsego appearing as "Glimmerglass" 'in his fiction. The museum, which houses American, folk and American Indian art, sits on the 150 acres that Cooper once farmed. Tip: Play 18 rounds at the Leatherstocking Golf Course, at Ostesaga Resort Hotel, or drop in for a meal at the Hawkeye Grill.
Custer State Park, Custer, S.D.
Charles Badger Clark, author of such poems as a “A Cowboy’s Prayer” and “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” (which Bob Dylan once recorded), lived in Custer State park for the latter part of his life. This colorful character, the state’s first poet laureate, built a log cabin he called The Badger Hole. You can visit the cabin, which remains much as it was during his lifetime. Then follow Badger Creek Historic Trail to experience the simple, independent way the poet choose to live. his life Tip: Drive to the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre to see Clark’s papers and materials about him.
The Old Manse, Concord, Massachusetts
Ralph Waldo Emerson penned his first draft of "Nature" in Concord’s Old Manse, an historic mansion where American Transcendentalism was born. Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne lived at the Manse at times, and other writers, including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott, did some of their best work there. Guided or walk-in tours are offered year-round. Visit during Home Sweet Home, an open house on May 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can hear stories about the writers who occupied the Manse, walk through the scenic 6-acre property, and create a work of art or journal with supplies provided by the Manse Trustees. Bring a picnic, and let the kids attend story hour and play games on the lawn. Tip: A new Welcome Center is planned for this National Historic Landmark, built in 1770. While an opening date has not been announced, the center is expected to include more indoor tours, interactive programs, and new exhibits and scheduled events.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, Mansfield, Missouri
Each year, over 30,000 visitors visit historic Rocky Ridge Farm, where Wilder penned her popular Little House series. Her handwritten manuscripts are featured in its museum, along with souvenirs from her travels, her Pa’s old fiddle, examples of her needlework and many other items and keepsakes. Tip: Wilder Day, which includes the museum’s fourth annual Fiddle Contest, is scheduled for Sept. 16, 2017. Visitors can hear Pa’s fiddle being played and tour the seldom-seem second story. See the website for details.
Home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, De Smet, S.D.
Visit Wilder's homestead in South Dakota to see how settlers lived in the 1880s. Visitors can ride in covered wagons, make corn cob dolls and rope, sew on a treadle sewing machine and more. An annual outdoor summer pageant, "The Long Winter," depicts the family's struggle to survive the harsh winter of 1880-1881. Tip: 2017, marks Wilder's 150th birthday celebration. See the website for the pageant schedule and a list of special activities and events.