Travel Tips

Literary Tours: Great American Writers

Locations in this article:  Baltimore, MD

louisa may alcottGreat literature is supposed to spark our imagination, but it can also inspire many of us to travel. In fact, many of us can’t help but want to take a pilgrimage to the settings of our favorite novels or poems. You may have read the works of legendary American authors Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe. But now you can do more than just visit the places where their famous works are set; you can also take a tour of the places where they were written. The following are just some of the many places you can visit to perhaps get a closer, more inside view of the life of some great American writers.

Hemingway’s Key West

Visit Ernest Hemingway’s former home and office in Key West, designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1968, some seven years after he died. Everything is exactly how he left it, right down to the furniture he used and the art he collected. Even the stray cats that hang around the property are descendants of the cats who lived there during Hemingway’s stay. Entry costs $11 for adults, and $6 for children (kids ages five and under are free). Entry fees include free tours that depart regularly (guides do accept and appreciate tips, though). The Hemingway house is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Poe House

The Edgar Allen Poe house is located in Baltimore, Maryland. Poe only lived there for two or three years, but presumably penned “Tales from the Folio Club,” “The Visionary,” and “Morella” there. Also on display at the house are a telescope reputedly used by Poe, his sextant, and his traveling desk, used during his days at the University of Virginia. The Poe House is open from noon to 3:45 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, April to July, on Saturdays from August to September, and on Wednesdays through Saturdays, October through December. The house is closed from January to March for seasonal repairs.

Mark Twain House

See Mark Twain’s whimsical and uniquely decorated 19-room mansion in Hartford, Connecticut; you can even browse through his personal library. The Mark Twain House and Museum are open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Sunday 12 – 5:30 p.m. They are closed Tuesdays from January through March, and on January 1, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and December 24 and 25 and 4th of July. The tour is about two hours long and costs $13 for adults (17-64), $11 for senior citizens (65 and over), $8 for children ages 6-16, and free for children under 6.

The Emerson House

Take a tour through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house in Concord, Massachusetts, where he lived from 1835 until his death in 1882. The house tour is the only way to enter Emerson’s home, where you can see some of his personal effects as well as the ornate furnishings of the interior. The Emerson House is open from mid-April to October, Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The house is closed from November to mid-April. Guided tours cost $7 per adult and $5 per student or senior. Be sure to call and schedule a group tour if you’re going to be traveling with 10 or more people. For more information, call 978-369-2236.

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

Come see the house in which Louisa May Alcott wrote and set Little Women. Alcott’s Orchard House is located in Concord, Massachusetts. You can tour Louisa’s kitchen, study, bedroom, parlor room, and dining room, all similar to the rooms in the Little Women house (75% of the furnishings in the house were originally Alcott’s). The Orchard House is open on Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., April 1 to October 31; on Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., November 1 through March 31; and is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January 1-15.

The house is shown by guided tour only, and reservations are required for groups of ten or more. All tickets for the day tours go on sale at the beginning of the day and are sold on a “first come” basis, so try to get there early. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for students and seniors over 62, $5 for youths ages 6-17; there’s also a family rate of $20, which includes up to two adults and four youths.; 978-369-4118.

Previously by Sharon Brooke Uy:

By Sharon Brooke Uy for