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The best books to read in every state in America

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
January 12, 2022
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A book for every state and what it can teach us about travel.

As soon as coronavirus arrived in New York City last winter, my brain became a tangle of anxious thoughts, pounding down on my already overtaxed amygdala. I had one salvation: a three-by-two map of America hanging in my living room. While most of my friends set their sights on the Balis and Bermudas of the world, my only travel goal has long been to visit every state in America. Ostensibly, this map’s point was to be the canvas for a smattering of pins until I created a multi-hued distribution upon all 50 sates. In actuality, the point was to accomplish something, to wrangle up America into a palm of pastel thumbtacks, to live a life full of stories.

Stories from a life of zigzagging our great terrain this past year, it turned out, would not be in the cards as travel restrictions and lockdowns made all too clear from the outset of this mess. But as I squinted once again at the pin-less sweep of real estate on my wall somewhere between Minnesota and Oregon early last spring, I realized I could still get to work on these travels, if I got a little creative.

Thus, my 50 states book project was born, where I embarked on a challenge to read a tome set in every state in the union. I still met people and places and things and disasters and triumphs, but I didn’t rent a car, or hop on a plane, or even scour the internet high and low for Clorox wipes to sanitize my hotel room. Instead, I let William Least Heat-Moon, Bill Bryson, and Paul Theroux lead me on road trips, I hung out with that guy who walked across America, Peter Jenkins, I chased redbirds in Kentucky with Sharon Creech, listened to crawdads singing in North Carolina, and I went on one hell of a bender with Hunter S. Thompson in Vegas. I spent a grand total of $233.96 buying used books on Amazon—less than an average one-night hotel stay in Chicago, mind you. 

I read classic texts and obscure novels, fiction and nonfiction, humorous and heartbreaking, and it completely changed the way I think about travel. For one thing, given the titles I read, I can now unequivocally say the best adventures are the outdoors ones. My nationwide literary adventure had me walking around my own little nook of a park, Sutton Place Park in Midtown Manhattan, like I was a Thoreauvian naturalist (I’m not sure how he’d feel about the giant neon Pepsi Cola sign across the East River). In lockdowns, these books gave me inspiration to find meaning in the toughest of days knowing that This Too Shall Pass, and the road awaited me. It even helped me feel a little less pissed when my well-intentioned best friend would send me gorgeous mountain-y snapshots from her quarantine castle in the Hudson Valley. After all, I had just gotten back from a whirlwind stint in Iowa.

Perhaps counterintuitively, surveying a book from every state in America blurred the lines of my much-loved pushpin map. Alaska was Alabama was Kentucky was Kansas. On page 18 of my Michigan selection, The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers, I came across this passage: “The great American anarchist Edward Abbey is probably not a terrific role model for mature relatedness—by all reports, he had prickly relationships with other people and, like Henry David Thoreau, needed the solitude he so extolled. But in Desert Solitaire Abbey addressed that need to confront our position vis-à-vis the nonhuman world…” In a quick swoop of the pen, my Michigan author had referenced my Maine essayist and my Utah wordsmith. We’re all independent, yet linked. Separate, yet dependent. Alone in the woods, yet with your friends on the forest floor. Alaska is Alabama is Kentucky is Kansas.


Alabama Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Cep does a deep dive into Harper Lee’s true-crime book about reverend Willie Maxwell, an alleged serial murderer that never was finished and published. Her portrait of To Kill a Mockingbird’s scribe, Harper Lee, is just as fascinating as the unreal story of Maxwell.

Alaska Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

There’s hardly a stretch of 10 pages in this book without creased corners and underlining, in this enthralling account of a renegade college grad who abandons the conventions of traditional life on Alaska’s harsh frontiers.

Arizona Arizona Then and Now: People and Places by Karl Mondon

By the time I got to my Arizona selection, my eyes had glazed over from so. much. text. Thankfully, this assortment of archival photos from the Jeremy Rowe Collection juxtaposed with modern-day photography from Mondon was exactly what I needed. Nothing will beat the heavenly Grand Canyon, but the main street photos of towns like Bisbee and Winslow really made me nostalgic for wandering a new teeny town’s downtown for the first time.

Arkansas Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks by Jared M. Phillips

Hippies of the Haight-Ashbury variety + backwoods hillbillies = “Hipbillies.” A fascinating perspective on this Southern counterculture from the 1960s and ‘70s, I was intrigued to learn about these back-to-the-landers’ incredible impact on the future of the Ozarks.

California The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Head to San Francisco in this award-winning gem from Tan that also brings you along to China in stories of immigrant Americans, the lives and pain they left behind, and the chapters they’ve built anew.

Colorado The Voyeur's Motel by Gay Talese

A journalist uncovers a heck of a world after receiving an anonymous letter from a peeping Tom who owns a hotel in Aurora and spies on unknowing guests. It’s creepy, it’s can’t-put-down, and it will definitely have you look around extra carefully after you check into a hotel room.

Honorable mention: Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson by Juan Thompson

Connecticut The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Well, guess I need to see the 2004 movie starring Nicole Kidman now. Because, wow, what a book: When Joanna arrives in Fairfield County with her husband and kiddos from New York City an American horror classic ensues, from the same author as Rosemary’s Baby.

Delaware And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer by Ann Rule

This book has something for every kind of reader, true crime, politics, superb research, psychological nuances...the list goes on and on. You’ll stay up way past your bedtime finishing this one.

Florida Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Woman decamps from her busy life and heads to Captiva Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. Woman picks up various seashells and uses them as metaphors to reflect on life: work, relationships, struggles, joys. Turns out said woman is married to a Nazi (see: New Jersey), which ruins this poetic, rhythmic philosophical missive for me.

Georgia Between Georgia

Torn between two families, a husband and a best friend love interest, the tension is palpable in this Southern Drama with a capital D. As one reader referenced in the Amazon reviews, the saying "We don't hide crazy in this family. We sit it down on the front porch and give it a cocktail” was just made for this book.

Hawaii The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

You know a book is that good, when the George Clooney movie version doesn’t even hold a candle to it. There’s a wife in a coma and her extramarital affair, a husband forced to reckon with raising his two daughters alone and being heir to a ton of primo real estate, and so much more that will leave you unable to think about anything else for a couple of days.

Idaho Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

I’ll be the first to admit I picked this book up for the eye-catching floral design on the cover, but I couldn’t put it down for the pathos bleeding through every page. When a mother kills her child, so much more crumbles and is lost, but the beauty here is in all that is found, practically, philosophically, and otherwise.

Illinois Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond

When I was an editor at Men’s Journal in 2016, I sat in the cubicle next to Mr. Diamond (remember these things called offices) and this book encpatures so much of who he is: wise, writerly, idiosyncratic, and a touch grumpy. Enjoy the ride as he commences a quest for the filmmaker behind Home Alone, Sixteen Candles, and National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Indiana The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I’m still crying, but to be fair, how could you not be crying after reading this novel about two kids who love like there are thousands of tomorrows despite the terminal cancer diagnoses with which they’re both reckoning. 

Iowa The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson 

1950s-era Iowa is brought to life in this oft humorous memoir from the beloved travel writer. It really made this New York City kid feel like she was missing out on a quintessential childhood experience by never having attended a county fair.

Kansas In Cold Blood by Truman Capote 

A true crime classic that revolves around the brutal slaying of four family members in a small town in Western Kansas and the detective work that ensues. The  book was praised for utilizing novelistic techniques to describe the characters and their feelings, a trailblazer for the nonfiction genre.

Kentucky Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech

Lockdowns have had me returning to tween books (don’t judge me), and I don’t regret the walk down memory lane in the least, especially in the company of the protagonist Zinny. The industrious youngster sets out into the woods and grapples with grief, blossoming love interests, and frustrating family dynamics along the way. Don’t we all?

Louisiana Magic City by Yusef Komunyakaa

Step inside 1950s Louisiana  in Komunyakaa’s hometown of rural Bogalusa in this harrowing collection of poems. Within, the talented poet tackles racism, sexuality, and economic inequalities with a swift, vivid hand.

Maine The Maine Woods by Henry Thoreau

What I would give to escape this city jungle and take a walk in the Maine woods right about now. Thankfully, Thoreau’s quintessential naturalist account of three trips into the rugged woods with philosophical musings intertwined with the detailed physical descriptions of all that Thoreau witnesses. Pretty foreboding for the mid1800s: “the mission of men there seems to be, like so many busy demons, to drive the forest out of the country.”

Maryland Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Admittedly, I picked up this book because there was a tantalizing slice of pie on the cover. But I’m glad I did: Follow along for all that unfolds as one grieving Baltimore family learn about long-hidden truths and struggles to cope.

Massachusetts Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom

I mean, what can I say about Tuesdays with Morrie? In this blockbuster memoir-cum-biography, a journalist visits his beloved former college professor at home as he dies of ALS. A five-star book (albeit, with some four-star writing).  A beautiful biography of a life well lived, and a workaholic writer who’s outlook is changed because of his inspiring teacher’s example.

Michigan The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers

It was easy to fall in love with Kuipers’ elegant prose in a story about an estranged father and his three sons and what happens when said absent dad tries to make amends after buying 100 acres of hunting property in middle-of-nowhere Michigan. It’s a memoir I know I’ll be recommending for years to come.

Minnesota Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

I had picked this book up because I was supposed to gather with a crowd of hundreds to see Erdrich speak at the 92nd Street Y this past month. Needless to say, that blessed packed auditorium never came to fruition, but I’m glad I still devoured this spooky, powerful account of a pregnant woman in a world where expecting mothers are held captive in hospitals.

Honorable mentions: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Mississippi The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

I did it. I read a full Faulkner book. And while I probably would have understood more about this Deep South family and Dilsey, their black servant, had I read the SparkNotes, if only for the occasional heart-stopping quote like “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

Missouri The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States by Walter Johnson

This Missouri native and now Harvard professor captures the oft overlooked history of St. Louis, tracing the city from Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition to modern times, with moving examples in each chapter. It’s a tough look at racism in our country from centuries past to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, but a look well worth taking.

Montana A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

So far, I’ve lost one friend to Big Sky Country since lockdowns commenced, and I can now totally appreciate why. Penned by a retired English professor who commenced his fiction career at 70, this novella and accompanying short stories will have you eager to fly-cast and play cribbage amidst a backdrop of trout streams, drunkards, and whores (maybe not the whores).

Nebraska The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

Venture to the 1898 Omaha World's Fair – filled with sinners and saints – as one ventriloquist stumbles upon a new love. The book has burlesque  dancers, snake oil salesmen, and plenty of wild west drama and romance. In these strange times, what more could you want?

Nevada Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Like The Plot Against America (see: New Jersey) I didn’t think this stream of conscious book would be for me, so I was amazed that I polished it off in three evening reading sessions. Vegas is wild, life is wild, and it’s all gravy baby in this fast-paced (psychedelic) trip.

New Hampshire Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

If this doesn’t make you want to traipse around New Hampshire (minus an accidental murder and an unfortunate sheriff), I don’t know what will. The inventive novel takes detours to Iowa, Vermont, and more, as you get to know three generations of men and a rotating cast of women and feel particularly drawn to say goodbye to your smartphone for a while and retreat to 1950s Coos County, New Hampshire.

New Jersey The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth 

In this lengthy novel, Roth reimagines a world in which Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh is President, creating fantasized historical fiction that has striking parallels to today’s dystopian America. The book focuses on Philip’s upbringing in Newark in the 1940s in a tight-knit Jewish community, with a brother desperate to leave and a cousin returning home from World War II missing a leg. Overall, this book a nice reminder for me that reading beyond your typical wheelhouse pays dividends. Check out the miniseries on HBO Max after you’re done. 

Honorable mention: Shore Stories: An Anthology Of The Jersey Shore by Richard Youmans (Editor)

New Mexico House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

After I told a friend in California about my little project, I was touched when this book arrived in my mailbox a few days later. This Pulitzer Prize novel by esteemed Kiowa journalist moved me in all the right ways during such a time of turmoil with the unforgettable Abel, a Native American man who returns to his reservation after fighting in World War II.

New York The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

In a time when it was easy to forget New York City’s boisterous splendor, it was comfort food to cavort around famed landmarks and reconvene with old Phoebs, Holden, and even pimply Ackley. As for “those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South,” I’m pleased to report they appear to be COVID-free and frolicking about even as hell and temperatures freeze over.

Honorable mentions: A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin; Here Is New York by E.B. White; Manhattan’45 by Jan Morris; An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena; The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto

North Carolina Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

A haunting murder story with unforgettable characters, a moving love story, and evocative descriptions of nature’s wonders, all set in the marshlands of the Old North State.

North Dakota The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown by Blaire Briody

Part culture analysis, part travelogue, this book about the oil biz delivers on the premise of its title — especially on the wild front.

Ohio Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

From page one to the end, try putting this book down as it simply yet poignantly captures the realities of growing up in a family riddled with addiction and drama. P.S. If you watched the stekkar new Netflix flick, you’ll definitely appreciate reading the original memoir.

Oklahoma A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal

Dubbed “a love letter to a classic American city,” this love story in a Tulsa that straddles the line between dusty and sparkling is unlike any other you’ve ever read.

Oregon Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed 

Okay, so it also covers California and Washington, but since the author lives in Portland, we’ll give this unique, achingly beautiful memoir to her stomping grounds. Chronicling one woman’s quest to hike the PCT in the cradle of grief, this memoir will change your outlook on everything from nature to family. P.S. Reese Witherspoon stars in the 2014 movie adaptation.

Pennsylvania Rabbit, Run by John Updike

This was the first Updike book I read, but it won’t be the last. I think one Goodreads reviewer nailed it: “Have you ever seen something noted because it is a representation of a specific thing? For example, a building might be marked with a plaque as a perfect representation of a type of architecture. Well, this book should be marked with a plaque as a perfect prose example of America in the late 50s/early 60s.” It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t progressive in its treatment of women, but man was it enthralling.

Rhode Island The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

Get to know Anthony, Joy, and Lu, three strangers whose lives become intertwined on Little Rhody’s picturesque Block Island. They may call it a summer beach read, but I call it cozy quarantine perfection.

South Carolina The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Set in Georgia and South Carolina, its a low-country love story that will leave you feeling Hallmark movie good. Also, the descriptions of towering trees, Sullivan’s Island, and Charleston restaurants, will help you indulge the armchair traveling spirit we all need right now.

South Dakota Deadwood by Pete Dexter

When the going gets tough, the tough head to Deadwood...at least in the 1870s if you’re Wild Bill Hickok or Calamity Jane. Expect searing grit. Booze, sex, betrayal, and murder in an action-packed work of fiction you won’t soon forget.

Tennessee Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

A searing fictional narrative that grapples with the effects of climate change and draws you into the world of a young woman living on a farm in an isolated sliver of Tennessee. If you’re a lover of the mystical monarch butterflies, this is definitely for you.

Texas God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright

Diverse chapters covering everything from hurricanes and guns to music and Texan heroes, get a taste of this big, beautiful, and oft contradictory state. (Which, by the way, is so much more than Austin)

Utah Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey

This best-seller reminded me of the understated, almost eerie grandeur of Utah (I once took a SUP yoga class in thermal waters within the Homestead Crater, a 10,000-year-old crater, about a half-hour outside of Park City, if that’s not enough trendy activities rolled int one) — and had me itching to return. Through Abbey’s elegiac prose, sourced from journals and reflections of his time spent as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, you’ll yearn for the day when you can visit all of the natural wonders he describes for yourself, and with new eyes.

Vermont Stranger in the Kingdom by Frank Mosher

It’s a real treat to get lost in fictional Kingdom County, Vermont, in this tale that centers around a small town, a murder, and life in New England. Dealing with difficult themes like racism, Mosher manages to weave in humor and moral lessons without being preachy.

Virginia The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark

What happens when a married couple who are partners in law in a small Virginia town encounter a mysterious death of their most eccentric clients will leave you surprised at each twist and turn. One of my first quarantine reads last spring, it’s a veritable page-turner and welcome distraction from the relentless news cycle.

Washington Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

(Spoiler alert!) The last line of this courtroom drama regarding a case of a drowned fisherman on remote San Piedro Island was well worth slogging through the entire book for me: “Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” 

West Virginia Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life by Chuck Kinder

This Goodreads review just about summed it up: “At turns uproariously funny and break-my-goddamn-heart sad, Last Mountain Dancer started off good and ended even better, set in a world where Hank Williams occupies the same spiritual space as the ubiquitous Jaaaaaysus.” Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the day when I get to visit these country roads for myself.

Wisconsin Population: 485 — Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry

I’ve visited my fair share small towns in Wisconsin like outdoorsy Door County’s fly-speck gem, Sister Bay, and Elkhorn to see the Dave Matthews Band play the much-hyped amphitheater that is Alpine Valley, but I’ve never ventured to one quite like Perry’s hometown of New Auburn, rendered beautifully in this unforgettable memoir.

Wyoming Wrapped and Strapped by Lorelei James

I like Harlequin romance novels, so shoot me. Hippie vegetarian meets hunky cattle farmer in a raunchy stint at the ole Split Rock Ranch and Resort in this “Blacktop Cowboys” series mass market paperback hit. Now I definitely want to visit Wyoming for the, um, scenery.


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Inspiration

Romantic Montana vacations for couples

Imagine being snuggled up in a cozy cabin somewhere far away from reality. The fire is glowing as snow-capped mountains sit in the background. Hiking trails and ski slopes abound. This mental picture is why we’re convinced there might be no better place for a romantic getaway this Valentine’s Day than Montana, dubbed “The Last Best Place” for a reason. The western part of the state particularly makes it obvious why it earned the right to that nickname. The global health crisis has meant weddings across the country (and the world) have been downsized, postponed, or canceled altogether. But celebrating love seems more important than ever as we collectively hit the year anniversary of socially distancing from friends, family, and lovers. While the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, Montana offers couples the perfect place to turn up the romance and disconnect from the noise this February in a safe and snowy setting. The first step in setting up the sexiest, socially-distant Valentine’s escape in Montana is finding the right place to stay. Calowahcan Cabin Ronan, Montana Set against the Mission Mountain range is an idyllic couples retreat in the form of a 500 square foot cabin. The cabin and its signature slanted roof sits on 10 acres of prairie only minutes from untamed Montana wilderness. The scenery is the selling point, but Calowahcan’s giant ceramic bathtub is a surefire way to set the mood. Unwind with your lover by lighting a bonfire on the patio, wildflowers and mountain peaks standing in the distance. Calowahcan is the right accommodation for couples seeking rest and respite; those who want to hit the hiking trails but, ultimately, are happy to settle in for an evening surrounded by snowy peaks on the horizon. Classic Whitefish A-Frame Whitefish, Montana This A-frame cabin in picturesque Whitefish is what Montana getaway dreams are made of. A cosy bed sits in the loft space overlooking Whitefish Lake, with twinkly lights illuminating the patio. The bonfire pit out back is well suited for warming up over s’mores making. Exploring the town is made simple thanks to the cabin being ideally located only a 10-minute drive from breweries and restaurants. Having a Valentine’s weekend spent in Whitefish is especially well-suited for skiers and snowboarders, as the town is home to one of the state’s most esteemed ski resorts. Meadowlark Treehouse Columbia Falls, Montana What is more romantic than cuddling up to your loved one under twinkly lights hanging from a three-story treehouse? Not much, honestly. A simple scroll of Meadowlark’s Instagram account will have you drooling over the interior of the cabin in equal measure to the beauty right out the front door. The treehouse comes full of blankets, board games, and books to keep you occupied, as well as a fire pit if you fancy lighting a fire. Reclusive Moose Cabins West Glacier National Park, Montana On the edge of West Glacier, near crystal clear lakes and purple mountains, are a set of small log cabins with the necessary amenities for a lovers’ retreat. Fireplace? Check. Kitchen fully equipped for you to cook up a Valentine’s Day dinner? Check. Comfortable bed for post-hike cuddles? Check. As a cutesy touch, each cabin is named after Montana wildlife, which you very well might encounter if you venture back in the warmer months of the year. Being based in West Glacier for Valentine’s Day means you’re surrounded by staggering scenery, including nearby Lake McDonald, and astonishing quiet-- the makings of a truly intimate vacation. Kalispell Grand Kalispell, Montana If cabins and treehouses aren’t really your thing, the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel’s lodging might be perfectly suited for you. Located in the heart of the downtown area, the Kalispell Grand used to host luxury travelers for a whopping $2 per night. Nowadays, the price point has changed and the amenities have no doubt been upgraded, but the Kalispell Grand still holds onto its old-time, Montana charm thanks to details like the lobby’s solid oak staircase and moose head taxidermy. It’s in a premier location, within walking distance of local establishments like Norm’s Soda Fountain, Colter Coffee, and Kalispell Brewery. Kalispell as a town is an ideal base for a romantic Montana getaway because it’s near marvelous Flathead Lake, a short drive from Whitefish ski slopes, and not far from Glacier National Park. Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast Stevensville, Montana Right along the Bitterroot River is a large red house with a wrap-around porch. The house’s four bedrooms were turned into a bed and breakfast over a decade ago and has become the “home away from home” for fly-fishing enthusiasts, business travelers, and lovers alike. Fresh coffee is brought to the door of your room every morning at 7:30, giving you time to slowly rise before a home-cooked farm to table breakfast is served in the sunroom. Each room is uniquely decorated with Montana touches-- think bear paw prints on the comforters and antlers on the wall. You and your valentine are steps away from outdoor recreation of all sorts, but can rest easy knowing you’ll be in great hands once you retire for the evening. Kimpton Armory Hotel Bozeman, Montana Another less rustic choice is the Kimpton Armory Hotel located in one of Montana’s most aesthetic towns. It is a hotel made for modern lovers. Everything about the Kimpton is sleek: its on-site dining, its interior design, its common areas. The Kimpton’s rooftop is a great place for a nightcap before you slip back into the warmth of your contemporary bedroom. Once you’ve booked your stay, you’ll need to find COVID-appropriate activities to enjoy with your Valentine. A February visit comes with the bonus of fewer crowds, and it also means you have a bevy of winter time activities to choose from. Catch fresh air and stunning views by taking part in any (or all) of these pandemic-approved, outdoor activities. *Please note: at time of publishing, face masks are required across Montana in all public indoor spaces. Dogsled Dog sledding isn’t just an Alaskan bucket list item-- Montana has incredible dog sledding rails and operators, particularly in the Western part of the state. An energetic team of dogs will lead you through the stillness of the beauty that surrounds you as they run down snowy trails. Most operators offer half-day adventures, but some have a multi-night option that allows you to extend your sledding experience. Fun fact: the reality-TV famed Kardashian family were keen to book a dog sledding excursion, but refused to pay and, ultimately, missed out on this incredible winter activity. Skiing and snowboarding Montana has some of the best slopes for skiing and snowboarding and, thanks to its geographical location, it also receives a dependable amount of fresh snow. Although equipment rental and lift tickets make for an expensive day out, the rush of gliding downhill is worth every penny. Whitefish Mountain, Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, and Showdown are some of the state’s finest ski and snowboarding resorts. For a more affordable option, Maverick Mountain has virtually no lift ticket fees and extends over 450 family-owned acres. Horseback trail rides It might seem counterintuitive to go horseback riding in the cold, but it’s magic. Big, fat flakes falling around you as you sit back and take in the views. In order to book a horseback trail ride, you’ll need to find an outfitter or guide near you to lend you a horse and lead you along the trail. Your accommodation might be able to recommend a local ranch with guides for you to hire, like the renowned Artemis Acres. You can also find operating and COVID-compliant trail rides online via the Visit Montana directory. Hiking A super traditional (and budget-friendly) way to spend any day in Montana (rain, shine, or snow) is hitting the hiking trails that undoubtedly surround you. Hiking doesn’t require prior booking, loads of gear, or heaps of money. Due to the nature of Montana’s winter weather conditions, you’re also likely to have paths all to yourselves-- a total bonus during a pandemic. Snowshoeing If you’re up to burn more calories and try something a little different, snowshoeing is a great alternative to hiking. You’ll need to rent some snowshoes, but that’s easily done in most Montana towns with outdoor recreation retailers. Your body will work harder, but there are fewer things as luxurious as a post-snowshoe bubble bath back at your cabin or hotel. Make sure you know what trails are conducive to snowshoeing before you head out! You can do this by asking your equipment rental company what paths they recommend. Soaking in a natural hot spring West Montana has a wealth of natural hot springs for you and your Valentine to warm up in. Some of the most famed are Quinn’s Hot Springs in Plains, Chico Hot Springs in Pray, and Elkhorn Hot Springs in Polaris. Many of the hot springs locations offer premium lodging and fine dining options including private cabins to stay in and locally-sourced, wild game. Currently, many hot springs require advanced booking; make sure you plan accordingly. Snowmobiling Snowmobiling is a surefire way to ramp up the excitement in your Valentine celebrations. It’s a great adrenaline rush for those looking to tear up fresh powder. Lucky for you and your date, Western Montana in the winter time was made for adventure junkies to slide over frozen lakes and zoom along groomed trails.

Inspiration

19 Romantic Staycation Ideas for Valentine's Day Weekend

As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, hotels and destinations around the U.S. have been doing their best to reopen safely, initiating strict health and safety protocols and updates like contactless check-in to help restore confidence in travel among visitors and keep employees safe. Valentine’s Day is happening during a long weekend this year, making it a great time to escape with your beloved to a remote cabin in the woods or try a romantic staycation closer to home. According to a recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo, U.S. travelers are booking Valentine’s Day weekend vacations 48% more than they did last year, prioritizing trips to remote cabins and rural destinations over busy cities. Searches have increased the most for rentals in the Adirondack Mountains and Windham in New York, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Banner Elk in North Carolina, Captiva Island and Anna Maria Island in Florida, Aspen and Colorado Springs in Colorado, Big Sky in Montana and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, with travelers requesting whirlpools, Wi-Fi and pet-friendly perks as top amenities. For those willing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow the rules in the places they visit, there are plenty of affordable romantic packages to be had. Here’s a look at 19 of our favorites, all available for under $220 a night. Maine In South Berwick, The Stage House Inn’s romance package includes a $100 credit at its onsite restaurant Dufour, a bottle of prosecco and homemade truffles to enjoy during your stay. Rates from $199 a night when you book by calling (207) 704-0516 and stay between February 11 and March 13, 2021. Rhode Island Hotel Viking in Newport wants you to celebrate the good times with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and breakfast for two at One Bellevue Restaurant. Rates start at $199 a night when you book through this link. Virginia Just 20 minutes from Washington, D.C, Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria’s Valentine’s Day package comes with locally made treats like a cocoa mask kit for two and two Bailey’s chocolate mousse cheesecakes from the Alexandria Makers Market. Rates start at $179 a night and include late 2 p.m. check-out. Northern Virginia is also a great place for day trips to local wineries, with most sporting socially distanced seating with heaters and fire pits for you and your beloved to cozy up next to as you sip locally made wine. Stop by Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg, Cave Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Mount Jackson, Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, Potomac Point Winery & Vineyard in Stafford, Montifalco Vineyard in Ruckersville, Valley Road Vineyards in Afton or King Family Vineyard in Crozet — all within a 2.5-hour drive of Washington D.C. North Carolina Calling all Nicholas Sparks fans: Get ready to geek out in Beaufort — where two of his novels, A Walk to Remember and The Choice were set — with Beaufort Hotel’s A Ride to Remember package. In addition to a one-night stay, you’ll get a special keepsake and two tickets to the Ride to Remember guided bike tour of Beaufort. Use promo code PRIDE to unlock rates from $169 a night. Florida Celebrate Valentine’s Day all month long at Plunge Beach Resort, located in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea about 45 minutes north of Miami. As part of the romance package, you’ll get a free bottle of Champagne and a $30 breakfast credit to use at one of the resort’s onsite restaurants, with rates from $179 a night in February. Tennessee Bode’s Valentine’s Day promotion includes a 14% discount and a complimentary bottle of prosecco when you book a night at either of its two Tennessee properties now thru February 15, 2021. Rates start at $171 a night at Bode Nashville and $111 a night at Bode Chattanooga with promo code BEMINE. Texas In Austin, Lone Star Court’s retro-style Valentine package comes with complimentary Wi-Fi and parking, a bottle of bubbly and a special kit so you can create your own s’mores by one of the onsite fire pits. Rates from $144 per night. With rates from $149 a night, Hyatt Regency Houston’s romance package treats guests to a bottle of Champagne and chocolates upon arrival, complimentary parking and late 2 p.m. check-out. Call (713) 654-1234 or choose the romance package offer when booking this deal online. Le Meridien Houston Downtown’s Better Together package is bookable for Friday and Saturday stays only, making it the perfect excuse to plan a romantic night in. You’ll get a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, late check-out, VIP access to the rooftop bar, Z on 23, and two house cocktails, with rates from $204 per night. The Westin Stonebriar in Frisco, about a 30-minute drive from Dallas, treats guests to sparkling wine and gourmet chocolates, late check-out and a romantic four-course dinner for two at its restaurant, Herd & Hearth, as part of its Retreat to Romance package. Rates from $209 per night for stays February 12-14, 2021. About 90 minutes from Dallas, head to East Texas for a romantic and socially distanced stroll at the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, home to 14 acres and 35,000 rose bushes sporting over 500 varieties of roses. Afterward, drive 40 minutes south to Jacksonville for a romantic retreat at Hotel Ritual and Wellness Center, with rates from $150 a night and all-inclusive amenities like complimentary cocktails, daily gourmet breakfast, spa pools (treatments are extra), sauna access and free snacks, coffee and tea all day long. New Mexico Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a complimentary bottle of bubbly at El Rey Court in Santa Fe when you stay between February 11-15, 2021. Use promo code HEART to unlock rates from $150 per night. Missouri St. Louis is the place to be Valentine’s Day weekend, with a socially distanced jazz extravaganza at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups on February 13 (tickets from $20) and a special Valentine’s dinner at Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn February 11–13. Spend a romantic — and potentially haunted — night at the Inn, with rates from $150 a night Sunday thru Thursday and from $205 a night Friday and Saturday. Wisconsin If a romantic cabin in the woods is more your style, the following are all located within a 90-minute drive of Madison, with a two-night minimum stay required. In Platteville, Walnut Ridge is home to two luxury log cabins, each with a perfectly placed whirlpool spa by the fire and rates from $150 to $170 per night. Rustic Ridge Log Cabins in Merrimac offers five upscale and spacious log cabins with Wi-Fi, fireplaces and in some, Jacuzzis so the two of you can spend some much-needed alone time in Wisconsin wilderness. Seasonal rates from $219 a night thru March 2, then from $199 a night thru May 4. In Oxford, escape to A Secret Cottage for a romantic stay in the country with a private lake, whirlpool tub, fireplace, spacious front porch, fully stocked kitchen and a skylight upstairs so you can snuggle under the stars. Rates on Friday, Saturday and holidays start at $155 a night, while they’re from $150 a night for Sunday through Thursday stays. Nebraska You really can’t get more romantic than celebrating Valentine’s Day in an actual town called Valentine. If you’re up for a drive, Heartland Elk Ranch — located about five hours from Omaha in the north-central part of the state — is home to four beautifully furnished cabins close to hiking trails and stocked fishing ponds, as well as a herd of 50-75 elk that roams the area freely. Enjoy views of the Niobrara National Scenic River, with rates from $155 a night Monday thru Thursday and from $165 a night Friday thru Sunday and on holidays. In Omaha, celebrate your love at the same hotel John and Jackie Kennedy once visited for their 5th year anniversary, the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, formerly known as the Blackstone Hotel. Its Love is All Around Us package gives guests a special amenity, valet parking, two tickets to redeem for free wine or tea at the Fontenelle Room and a complimentary yoga class in the Gold Coast Ballroom if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Inspiration

10 beautiful livestreams to brighten your day

Enter the live stream. These videos provide a real time glimpse into a destination. And while they may not be a perfect cure for wanderlust, they do provide an instant portal to somewhere new and exciting – all without costing a penny or requiring a quarantine period! Ahead, ten live streams to enjoy while you daydream about packing your bags for real. Jackson Hole, Wyoming Visit skiers paradise from the comfort of home. Watch as visitors snap pictures under one of Jackson Town Square’s famed elk antler arches and pop in and out of shops like Jackson Trading Company. Ready to explore even more of the region? See Jackson Hole has over 50 streams featuring an elk refuge, ski slopes, an alpine slide, and more. Deerfield Beach, Florida Tranquility is transmitted via WiFi thanks to this stream of Deerfield Beach. While the view rotates among scenes of the beach, boardwalk, and skyline, the vibe captured is mostly sunny and always soothing. Listening to ocean sounds as birds call in the distance is so peaceful, it doesn’t take much imagination to convince yourself you’re actually in Florida. It is a bit like having a mini vacation in your pocket at all times. Brooks Falls, Alaska Need a boost of excitement? Try the Brooks Falls stream. You’ll be gasping at your screen as brown bears in Katmai National Park swipe their next meal out of the water. And with some bears consuming upwards of 30 fish per day, the action is endless. This stream isn’t always live, but even in the off-season, it plays highlights from past broadcasts that are well worth the watch. For your best chance to catch the action as it happens, tune in during the summer months when bears hunt from the large groups of salmon heading upstream. Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii Don’t let the sound of waves breaking on the shore fool you; this isn’t your grandma’s sound machine! The Pipeline Cam shows adrenaline-seeking surfers hanging ten on some of O’ahu’s best – and gnarliest – waves (some towering up to 30 feet!) The Pipeline’s Ehukai Beach also hosts some of the world’s most prestigious surfing competitions including the Billabong Pipe Masters. New York City It may be awhile before you get your hands on your next Levain chocolate chip walnut cookie or feel fully comfortable exploring the city by subway, but that doesn’t have to mean foregoing the excitement of New York City completely. This broadcast from St. George Tower captures The Big Apple’s iconic skyline between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Need even more NYC? This Times Square stream delivers the hustle and bustle straight to your screen – no dodging of those photo-loving mascots required. Duluth, Minnesota You don’t need to be a maritime enthusiast to appreciate this live stream, but stick around long enough and you just might become one. There’s something inexplicably magical about watching massive freighters – often loaded with coal and iron ore – pass through the Duluth Ship Canal as they traverse Lake Superior, serenading spectators with their horns as they go. (And shocking online viewers out of a midday slump!) Redondo Beach, California Next time you’re California dreamin,’ start streaming the City of Redondo Beach Pier camera. The view of the Pacific and lucky beachgoers will no doubt add a bit of sunshine to your day. For a different view of the town, check out the City of Redondo Beach Harbor Camera which often captures a glimpse of recreationists hitting the water by paddle board, kayak and boat. Las Vegas, Nevada Nowhere in the United States delivers on that promise of excitement (and excellent people watching!) quite like the Las Vegas Strip. This camera swivels up and down the street from its perch at the American Eagle storefront providing a birds-eye-view of the action. You’ll catch glimpses of Vegas hotels including Excalibur with its colorful medieval facade, New York-New York and its on-site roller coaster, and Paris Las Vegas with its replica Eiffel Tower. Leavenworth, Washington With panoramic mountains and charming Bavarian-inspired architecture, Leavenworth not only looks like it is in Europe, it looks straight out of a storybook! During the day, shoppers fill the streets, and in the winter, sledders fly down the hill at Front Street Park. Tune in between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day to catch a glimpse of the town all lit up for the holidays – the scene is almost as breathtaking as those mountain views. Yellowstone Gone are the days of loading up the minivan, hitting the road, paying an entrance fee, and hoping you make it to a viewing area at just the right time to see Old Faithful erupt. Now all it takes is a few clicks. Watch Old Faithful and a dozen other geysers in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin area in real time on the National Park Service website. The site also provides a handy estimate of when Old Faithful is set to erupt next so you never miss the excitement. Another perk? The park’s yummy sulfur smell can’t be transferred over WiFi... yet!

Inspiration

Get Inspired by National Plan for Vacation Day

Raise your hand if you lost or rolled over PTO days in 2020. Even in non-pandemic years, Americans are notorious for wasting millions of vacation days annually. In 2020, workers left an average of 33% of their paid time off on the table according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. Over the last year, many Americans and travelers worldwide had to cancel trips and put their vacation plans on pause. Losing much-needed travel inspiration not only takes a toll on mental health, but keeps people tethered to their desks for longer periods of time with no vacation in sight. This year, hope for trip planning is on the horizon with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Tuesday, January 26 is National Plan for Vacation Day, a day celebrated annually to encourage Americans to plan their time off. It helps highlight the importance of taking time off to travel both for personal health and wellbeing and for our nation’s economic health. Visit Colorado Springs is joining the initiative to encourage hopeful travelers across the nation to plan out their PTO days. “Visit Colorado Springs is proud to be celebrating National Plan for Vacation Day,” said Doug Price, President & CEO of Visit COS. “Each year, we hold a staff event to encourage our team to plan their vacation days. This year it’s even more special – we could all use travel inspiration after staying put much of the last year.” Travel is predicted to return at steadier rates in the second half of 2021, so it’s a great time for people to get inspired by travel once again and start planning for much-needed time off. Even for those taking staycations or smaller road trips, planning days into the calendar at the beginning of the year makes it much more likely the trip will actually happen. Now’s the time to browse Instagram and Pinterest, start reading your favorite travel blogs again and let trip planning begin! We've partnered with Colorado Springs to describe why Here are some ideas for those looking to explore the Pikes Peak Region in 2021. Fly in and out of the Colorado Springs Airport. COS is known for its convenience and neighborhood feel with fewer crowds, short walks and easy parking. Starting March 11, 2021, Southwest Airlines joins the lineup of airlines servicing COS. Conquer Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain with all-new experiences in 2021. Hike, bike, drive or take The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway up to the 14,115 ft. summit. The Cog Railway is reopening for visitors in May 2021. Grab a donut at the new Summit Visitor Center atop the peak, opening in early summer.Visit the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, ranked #1 Best New Attraction in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. The USOPM is one of the most accessible and interactive museums in the world. Take the family to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and enjoy the hippos and penguins at the new Water’s Edge: Africa exhibit. Don’t forget to head to the giraffe habitat to feed them a tasty snack. Find adventure in our wide-open spaces on one of the region’s many trails and parks. There are so many miles of trails to explore in the area that it’s easy to spread out and avoid crowds while enjoying time outdoors. Book a stay at new downtown hotel, Kinship Landing. Kinship Landing is a friendly, boutique hotel in downtown Colorado Springs that brings travelers and locals together around city and outdoor exploration. No matter what destination is on the horizon for your next trip, planning is key. Instead of letting your 2021 vacation days go to waste, challenge yourself to plan out a staycation, road trip or vacation that will give you the R&R you deserve after a tough year. This piece was written in partnership with Visit Colorado Springs