We know you want to get out of the house and do something adventurous this summer. How about pairing your love of books with a cross-country road trip? Better yet, what if we made it easy on you and told you that there’s amazing bookstores and bookish stops along just one route?
There are plenty of long, long roads to choose from in the U.S., but today let’s focus on the bookish gems you could uncover if you embarked on a cross-country journey using one of America’s longest interstate highways, which will take you from Seattle to Boston: The I-90.
At first glance, it may not look like the most exciting journey. This road will take you through some remote, rural parts of the country, and only a handful of larger cities. But look a little closer. There are so many nooks and crannies hiding bookstores and beautiful things if you stop and get out of the car to see them. Mind you, this is not an exhaustive list of all the bookish stops you may find along this route, but rather a highlights reel to get you inspired. You may notice a few stops that are detours: we kept suggested detours at under one hour (one way) to keep you close to your route. After all, this trip takes 45 hours one way without stops. We want to keep you on track!
Let’s say you begin your journey in Seattle. Here is your itinerary for incredible bookstores to see, bookish destinations to check out, and even bookish restaurants to eat at!
Open Books: A Poem Emporium
Start your journey just a little north of where I-90 truly begins, in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. If you ever wanted to find a poetry haven, this little red building is it. Open Books carries new, rare, and out-of-print poetry books, chapbooks, and journals.
Ada’s Technical Books and Café
Next, stop into Ada’s Technical Books and Café for breakfast or lunch, and then enjoy their specialized collection of STEM forward, technically minded books for both adults and children alike.
The Elliott Bay Book Company
Make your way to Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where the Elliott Bay Book Company sits and houses over 150,000 books for you to choose from. This iconic Seattle bookstore runs events on an almost daily basis, so you’re bound to stumble upon a launch party or another delightfully bookish event.
Central Public Library
The downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library is an architectural glass and steel gem. Start from the top to see the stunning diamond-shaped windows from the inside and work your way down. We suggest visiting the reading room on the 10th floor, the collection of old magazines and newspapers on the 6th floor, the red floor on 4th, and the indoor garden, FriendShop gift shop, and Chocolati café on the third floor.
Stretch your legs in Spokane and visit its largest independent bookstore. Auntie’s Bookstore looks like it sounds, with the décor and atmosphere of someone’s well loved home, stocked full of books for you to choose from, which includes a large selection of regional authors.
Atticus Coffee & Gifts
Owned by YA author Kris Dinnison, this coffee and gift shop is a favorite among local writers and poets to use as a creative space. YA authors Trent Reedy and Stephanie Oakes and poets Daniel Butterworth and Jonathon Johnson all frequently write here. Pop in, grab a coffee, and check out the books, gifts, and local art that you may just end up taking home with you.
Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
The Well~Read Moose
This delightfully named bookstore in Coeur d’Alene boasts a wide selection of books, as well as gifts and coffee to fuel you up for the trip through Idaho.
Shakespeare and Co
A little under three hours past Coeur d’Alene, we encourage you to stop in Missoula to visit Shakespeare & Co to check out their selection and bookish swag.
Elk River Books
A short 30 minutes east of Bozeman is this charming bookstore owned by poet Marc Beaudin and journalist Andrea Peacock, and it carries quite the selection of local writers’ offerings. Time your visit right, and you may be able to hear a reading or a concert in their upstairs gallery.
While you’re in Livingston, eat your fill of Pinky’s Cafe’s scrumptious breakfast comfort food, as a lot of the local artists and writers like to do.
This House of Books
A little under two hours from Livingston and you’ll arrive in Billings, which houses a bookstore named as a tribute to Montana author Ivan Doig’s novel This House of Sky. Visit the tea bar for a refreshment as you browse.
Swing on by the little town of Buffalo on your way through Wyoming and see where the TV series based off of Craig Johnson’s Longmire mystery series was filmed. Every summer, the town hosts Longmire Days to celebrate the Netflix show and Johnson’s beloved series, allowing attendees to meet the actors, enjoy a parade, and even take part on a book writing seminar.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Three hours from Buffalo will put you in Rapid City, South Dakota, and in the vicinity of Mitzi’s Books. This bookstore will make you think you’ve stepped into someone’s house to browse their personal book collection. Quite a cozy stop along the way!
De Smet, South Dakota
If you drive an hour north from I-90 when you hit Alexandria, you’ll find yourself in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family homestead, where her father filed a homestead claim in 1880 and the town of De Smet began to take shape. By the Shores of the Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and Little Town on the Prairie took place here, and Laura also married Almanzo Wilder, whose family had a homestead nearby. While you’re here, check out the one room schoolhouse, go on a covered wagon ride, learn how to twist hay, and more activities related to how Laura lived out on the prairie.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Drive back down to Sioux Falls for some truly stunning waterfalls at Falls Park and, naturally, a bookstore stop. True to its name, you can find a wide variety of knickknacks at Zandbroz Variety on top of a pretty sweet book haul.
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
Head north from Worthington on I-90 for about an hour until you reach Walnut Grove, where the Ingalls family lived for the duration of the novel On the Banks of Plum Creek. You can see the dugout site where they lived along Plum Creek for yourself, and check out the museum’s collections, which are housed in a number of buildings that include an 1898 depot, a chapel, a schoolhouse, and more.
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Pearl Street Books
Stop in La Crosse to visit Pearl Street Books, which has a nice mixture of new, used, and older/rarer books spread across two floors inside a historic downtown building.
A Room of One’s Own
In a little over two hours you’ll reach Madison, where you can find feminist bookstore A Room of One’s Own, named after Virginia Woolf’s essay of the same name. While they carry a wide selection, they focus on highlighting women, nonbinary, and LGBTQ+ authors.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center
Nestled right next to Madison is a nonprofit nature center named after author and conservationist Aldo Leopold, who wrote A Sand County Almanac. Take a walk along the trails to soak in some nature and sun before hopping back in the car.
Ray Bradbury Experience Museum
Ray Bradbury was born and raised in Waukegan, a mere 15 minutes from your I-90 route. Take a walk through Ray Bradbury Park, drive past his childhood home, then visit the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum, an interactive museum with sections and exhibits based on his sci-fi novels.
Women and Children First (Andersonville)
You’ve made it to Chicago! Your first stop is feminist bookstore Women and Children First in the northern Andersonville neighborhood of the city. It’s one of the largest women-owned feminist bookstores in the country, and regularly holds author events.
Myopic Books (Wicker Park)
Make a pitstop in the Wicker Park neighborhood to enter the world of Myopic Books, a tri-level used bookstore with an incredible and unusual selection of books. If you’re lucky, you might catch a poetry reading on the second floor.
Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery (West Loop)
Chicago’s only Black woman–owned bookstore resides in the West Loop and provides not only a great selection of books to satisfy your bookish needs, but also some really cool local art.
This research library is a gorgeous gem nestled downtown and free to visit. Time your trip right and you just may catch the annual Newberry Library Book Fair held in July this year, where they sell tens of thousands of books for a steal. The Newberry was also featured in Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife novel and film.
The Poetry Foundation’s headquarters are in downtown Chicago, and free to visit. Take a gander at their 30,000 volume poetry library and peek into the exhibition galleries for the latest art installation.
American Writers Museum (Loop)
Enjoy Chicago’s love letter to American writers in the form of the American Writers Museum, which utilizes permanent interactive exhibits and temporary exhibits celebrating a wide variety of American writers. Be sure to check out the Word Waterfall and the gift shop!
Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum (Oak Park)
Detour half an hour west to Oak Park, Illinois, and tour the house where Hemingway was born and lived for the first six years of his life. The house was built in 1890 and restored to its former glory in 1992.
Lorraine Hansberry House (West Woodlawn)
Although you can’t go inside, you can drive past the house that playwright Lorraine Hansberry lived. Her father bought the building in 1937 to challenge Chicago’s racially discriminatory housing practices that would have normally prevented the family from purchasing there, and Lorraine and her family endured violent threats for the move, inspiring her to write her famous play A Raisin in the Sun.
South Bend, Indiana
Brain Lair Bookstore
Make a pitstop in South Bend to visit Brain Lair, a Black-owned bookstore in northern Indiana right along your route. Tucked away in a cozy house, you’ll feel right at home as you wander and browse.
Nevermore Used Bookstore
In a little under three hours you’ll find yourself in Toledo, where you must stop by the Poe-themed Nevermore Used Bookstore offering a wide selection of used books.
If you detour an hour south of Toledo, you’ll stumble upon University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of original artwork from children’s book illustrators (we’re talking over 13,000 pieces). Some of the artwork you may see here is from Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, Rafael López, Rosemary Wells, LeUyen Pham, and more.
Head back to your route and stay awhile in Cleveland, where you’ll find the gorgeous Loganberry Books. Befitted inside with arched bookshelves and old timey vintage bookstore vibes, it’s no wonder you can find anything here from leather-bound antique books to new releases. Check out the Lit Arts room for a reading or special event.
The Langston Hughes Branch
Langston Hughes attended Central High School in Cleveland, and The Langston Hughes branch of the Cleveland Public Library has a dedicated space to the poet where you can view a collection of original documents written by Hughes, as well as an autographed copy of his 1920 high school yearbook. Don’t leave the city without checking it out.
Pressed Books & Coffee
You’re only in Pennsylvania for a hot second (okay, more like an hour) but do yourself a favor and make a quick pitstop at Erie’s coolest bookstore to grab a cup of coffee, a snack, and a look see at their wares.
Buffalo, New York
Talking Leaves Bookstore
Buffalo and Erie County Public Library
Your next stop is Buffalo’s public library. Visit their Rare Book Room to see Shakespeare’s First Folio as well as collections of anti-slavery and significant scientific discovery documents. When you’re done there, head to the Mark Twain Room to see pages from the original handwritten manuscript for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as special edition versions of the novel and other Twain collectibles.
Silo City Reading Series
Bet you didn’t have listening to a poetry reading inside an old grain silo on your bucket list, did you? Silo City has given the city of Buffalo readings from renowned poets and writers for the last 40 years through the Just Buffalo Literary Center, and this is a Must Experience. Can’t make one? Check out their video archives.
Chittenango, New York
All Things Oz Museum
Just a wee bit south of I-90 and east of Syracuse is a little museum run by the Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation. Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, and All Things Oz is packed with over 15,000 pieces and displays between 1200 and 1500 for exhibit at any given time, which includes original props and costumes from the Wizard of Oz films and musicals and other rare collectibles.
Cooperstown, New York
Fenimore Art Museum
An hour and a half later and just a bit south of your route puts you in Cooperstown. The building housing the Fenimore Art Museum stands on the grounds of author James Fenimore Cooper’s early 19th century farmhouse, and now houses a vast collection of Native American art, American folk art, and a collection of James Fenimore Cooper’s personal effects and possessions.
Austerlitz, New York
Edna St. Vincent Millay Society
Right near the border of New York and Massachusetts lies Steepletop, where renowned poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived until her death in 1950. The house retains all of her furniture and books, and the surrounding gardens were designed and planted by Millay herself.
Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden
Get out of the car and stretch your legs at the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. You just might get to meet the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, the Lorax, Horton, and more.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Travel a quick 30 minutes north of Springfield and immerse yourself in the wonderful, colorful world of not just Eric Carle’s illustrations, but a vast collection of picture book illustrations from all over the world.
Emily Dickinson Museum
See where poet Emily Dickinson lived her whole life by visiting the Emily Dickinson Museum, which is really just the homestead where she was born and raised (and where her poetry was discovered). The “museum” also includes the Evergreens homestead next door, where her brother and his family lived.
Welcome to Boston: Your final city on this cross country road trip. Your first bookstore will be Trident Booksellers, where you can grab brunch in addition to browsing their extensive book collection and catching a literary event (or even a fun trivia night!).
Need a drink after traveling over 3,000 miles? Walk a mere .2 miles from Trident Booksellers and stop by Bukowski Tavern for a pint, named after the famous American poet.
Boston Public Library (Copley Square)
Reserve the rest of afternoon to wander Boston’s gorgeous central public library, built in 1895 and featuring jaw-dropping architecture both inside and out. Look up to view the painted ceilings, peruse the galleries of rare books and art, sit awhile in the Bates Reading Room, and relax in the courtyard garden. The library also offers free tours seven days a week.
Your next bookshop is three stories of literary goodness, and one of the country’s oldest and largest independent bookstores. Brattle Bookshop‘s first two floors have your standard bookish fare, but the third floor is dedicated to rare and antique books. Be sure to check out the outside sale lot!
Old Corner Bookstore
Although the building now houses a Chipotle, the Old Corner Bookstore building is worth a drop by simply for its unreal literary history. It sits on top of Anne Hutchinson’s 17th century home, which went on to become a number of booksellers and publishing houses including Ticknor and Fields, which published the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Thoreau. The first American editions of Charles Dickens novels were also published out of this building.
Omni Parker House Hotel
Secure a room for your final destination at the Omni Parker House, where Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Saturday Club used to meet. Edith Wharton also used this hotel as a meeting location in her novel The Age of Innocence.
A bookish road trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of the oldest independent libraries in the U.S. This membership library boasts a long history of notable author members that include the usual suspects: Emerson, Alcott, Hawthorne, Fuller, and more. The first floor is open to the public to tour, and they routinely have exhibits and art on display.
Take a stroll through the Beacon Hill neighborhood, where a wealth of writers used to live. Begin your walk on Pickney Street, where Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Peabody, Thoreau, and Louise Imogen Guiney used to live. Turn onto Mt. Vernon Street to where Henry James and Robert Frost lived, then on to Willow Street where Sylvia Plath resided.
The Thirsty Scholar
Here we are, at the end of this epic journey. Celebrate with some food and drink at The Thirsty Scholar up in Somerville, then check out their book and magazine selection at the little library tucked away inside.
We hope you enjoyed this trip. As mentioned before, this is by no means all of the bookish things you could see or do along such a route, but hopefully this inspires you to make the journey. Happy bookish travels!