It’s not too late to plan a getaway while school’s out. Arm yourself with these books and consult your favorite characters for itinerary inspiration, nuggets of little-known history and much more. Vacationers, meet your literary guides.
Destination: La Paz, Mexico
Guidebook: The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck’s landmark 1947 novella, which takes cues from an ancient Mexican parable, centers on Kino, a local pearl diver who boards a canoe and doggedly mines deep-sea treasures in the hopes of averting a family disaster. The book takes place in La Paz, a town north of Cabo on the Baja California peninsula.
La Paz sees an average of 340 rain-free days a year and is practically synonymous with its popular malecón, or boardwalk, where fiery sunset views are framed by whimsical aquatic sculptures. Other highlights include the renovated Museo de la Ballena (Malecón and 16 de Septiembre, Centro; 011-52-612-129-6987; admission, $6*), whose multimedia displays are an ode to the whales that you can spot from the boardwalk during their annual migration (March to October). Bismarck-cito (Paseo Álvaro Obregón; 011-52-612-128-9900; dinner for two, $60), a sprawling open-air waterfront mainstay, invites folks to enjoy lazy lunches of whitefish ceviche, sourced from the Sea of Cortez, and platters of oysters. (Click here for more tips on Cabo’s food scene.) For a fun day trip, you can sail with Cabo Expeditions (1-844-855-9257; adults, $200 a person; children 8 and under, $137 a person) to the UNESCO-protected Isla Espíritu Santo, uninhabited save for sea lions.
Destination: Orlando, Florida
Guidebook: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Follow in the footsteps of Jody, Rawlings’s precocious protagonist in her renowned coming-of-age classic, and embark on a hike that’s named for the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. The Yearling Trail, a six-mile loop in Ocala National Forest, passes through a canopy of dogwoods and hickories, a crumbling cemetery and the remains of a homestead. It’s within driving distance of Orlando and works well as a day trip.
Families with young children may want to opt for a gentler walk through Leu Gardens (1920 N. Forest Ave.; 407-246-2620; adults, $10; children 4–17, $5; children 3 and under, free), a 50-acre botanical oasis minutes from downtown Orlando. Attractions consist of a bamboo grove, a butterfly garden and alfresco story time. Don’t miss the Lego exhibit (on display until April 22, 2018), where artists have used nearly 450,000 bricks to create supersize versions of wildlife, including a hummingbird and family of grazing deer. (There are plenty of other outdoor adventures in the area as well.)
Destination: Savannah, Georgia
Guidebook: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
Part travelogue and part true-crime story, Berendt’s first book spent 216 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list when it was published, in 1994. It casts Georgia’s oldest city, with its horse-drawn carriages and antebellum trimmings, as a character in its own right. Much of the suspense unfurls at the Mercer House, the scene of an alleged murder. The former residence is now the Mercer Williams House Museum (429 Bull St., Monterey Square; 912-236-6352; tours, $12.50 a person) and now offers daily tours. Another photogenic Regency-style architectural landmark worth visiting is The Owens Thomas House (124 Abercorn St.; 912-790-8800; tours, $20 a person), whose previous visitors include the Marquis de Lafayette, a French military officer who fought in the American Revolution and is rumored to have addressed crowds from one of the many balconies.
But Savannah isn’t all mossy cemeteries and haunted mansions: On Saturdays, Forsyth Park, a lush expanse in the center of town, serves as a backdrop for the lively Forsyth Farmers’ Market, where vendors hawk everything from small-batch coffee and locally sourced pecans to artisanal truffles crafted by confectioner Adam Turoni. (If you go to Savannah, Hilton Head Island, a half hour’s drive away in South Carolina, makes for a great home base.)
- *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: February 2018