Recommendations required for good place to write.
June 6, 2010 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for beautiful/interesting but not world-famous places to write for a week in the US?

Some time in the next few months I plan to take a week off and go somewhere to write. I'm looking for somewhere that's beautiful or interesting in some way, but my focus will be on writing more than tourism. That said, if I was in a town somewhere that had a museum or gallery or anything similar, I could go for a few hours in the afternoon to break the day.

I've been to the States many times, but almost exclusively to San Fran and New York, and I'd like to go somewhere that tourists from Europe generally don't bother going to. Random places that come to mind are Nevada, Wisconsin or Wyoming. (The west is probably in my mind from Red Dead Redemption.)

I don't need a writers' workshop or a retreat specifically for writers, though I would also consider that if you know a good one. And indeed, it doesn't have to be the US, though that's my first choice. I'm aiming for an all-in cost of flights, accommodation, car-rental (if necessary) and food for about USD2,000, so five-star is out. And motels are fine.

Any recommendations much appreciated.
posted by StephenF to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
There are some really lovely places here in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. The weather will be beautiful during the next few months in particular, the neighborhoods are walkable, and it is replete with places stocked with comfy chairs and good food and drink to retreat to and write. Public transportation is pretty good here, but if you get yourself a rental car, you can take the occasional day trip to some really gorgeous or bizarre locations. I am a bit biased (I totally love living here) but, still, I think it would fit the bill for you nicely.
posted by lriG rorriM at 5:27 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Asheville, North Carolina, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here are a few reasons to visit:
  • Tour America’s largest home and most visited winery at Biltmore Estate.
  • Drive along ridgetops of the North Carolina mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in America.
  • Explore the vibrant, inviting downtown Asheville with hundreds of local shops and beautiful art deco architecture.
  • Enjoy romantic accommodations, including elegant bed and breakfast inns, luxury hotels, vacation rentals and secluded log cabins.
  • Shop for fine arts and crafts in 100+ galleries and visit a cornucopia of artist studios. Asheville has been named by AmericanStyle magazine as the No. 2 small-city arts destinations.
  • Find serenity on a mountaintop or by a waterfall via hiking trails or scenic drives.
  • Savor innovative cuisine and unique flavors at a multitude of locally-owned restaurants.

posted by netbros at 5:32 PM on June 6, 2010

You might be interested in the eastern Sierra Nevada—that is, the high, dry, somewhat less touristy side. I used to live there and can offer specific recommendations if you like. Towns to look at include Bishop, Lone Pine, and Lee Vining. The area is a massive patchwork of state parks, national parks, and wilderness areas, if you like exploring, as well as lots of glaciated peaks and sagebrush flats to gaze out upon as you compose the great American novel.
posted by cirripede at 5:32 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Madison, WI is wonderful, especially if you're going before the middle October. The farmers' market on Saturdays is a great place to spark your creativity.

I went to camp in Washington, Maine, and to this day, it's the most beautiful place I've been.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:37 PM on June 6, 2010

The eastern Sierras as indeed quite lovely but let me warn you that Bishop will be bitchin hot over the summer.
posted by special-k at 5:38 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Asheville came to mind for me. I find that beaches and water inspire me so I'd suggest Cape Cod or the Hamptons on Long Island, NY. It sounds like you're thinking more along the lines of mountains so maybe consider the Adirondacks or ski country in Vermont - before it starts snowing, it's great for hiking and biking.
posted by kat518 at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2010

There is no shortage of beautiful places in the US. Every single state has plenty of beauty to offer.

Since you're interested in Wyoming, Jackson Hole is kinda famous and touristy but I've always wanted to go. This place looks charming. It's near downtown, Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons National Park. Sounds extremely interesting to me.

Montana might be another option. How about Crazy Mountain Hideaway Cabin?

Nestled in the Crazy Mountains in the Yellowstone County miles from the nearest neighbor, the Crazy Mountain Hideaway Cabin (Cabin 1) and the RanchCabin (Cabin 2) are the ideal getaways for stressed-out people looking to refresh their creativity or for the artist or writer looking to find the isolation that nurtures the creative spirit.

Big Sur, California would be absolutely beautiful.
posted by Fairchild at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2010

Look at some state parks -- in my own state, Illinois, Wildlife Prairie State Park and Starved Rock State Park come to mind ... they're very, very different in "feel" and activities, but both are very nice. They'll generally be cheaper accommodations and/or have cheaper hotels nearby than national parks, and they're big on the natural beauty! Every state has some really exceptional state parks. You could probably work your way through all 50 states that way. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:58 PM on June 6, 2010

Random places that come to mind are Nevada, Wisconsin or Wyoming.

I was shocked at the number of European tourists I ran into in Nevada and Wyoming.

I recommend Seattle and Vancouver.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:36 PM on June 6, 2010

I live in a tiny town in Wyoming, so I may be biased, but there are some really lovely (and cheap!) places to stay out here. The food is nothing to write home about, but you would definitely get a different picture of the US than you do in San Francisco or New York. Cody has a great set of museums, and of course Yellowstone National Park is nearby, as well as the Shoshone National Forest. There are hot springs in Thermopolis, WY (about an hour and a half south of Cody). Other nice areas in the state (that I've been to and that aren't too expensive--which kind of rules out Jackson) are Buffalo, Sheridan, and Dubois. In any of these, you could get a fairly cheap motel room, often with a kitchenette, and be near some beautiful places. Again, if you are not a meat and potatoes person, options for eating out can be limited. Feel free to memail me if you'd like more information!
posted by newrambler at 6:41 PM on June 6, 2010

Santa Fe, New Mexico would meet most of your requirements, and it seems like a particularly wonderful place for writing. I recommend Villas De Santa Fe for a longer term stay: rooms are around $100-$120, feature full kitchens and living/dining rooms, and are centrally located.
posted by halogen at 6:46 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

For me, the challenge is always affordable accommodation with food very nearby - there's no doubt that Wellspring House in Massachusetts is beautiful, but I don't want to have to worry about shopping and cooking while writing, and the place rolls up the carpet very early.

If you are coming in the fall, I will recommend Joshua Tree, California, and the beautiful Mojave Desert. I used to stay at the Harmony Motel, who are used to writers coming round. I would call and ask before coming - although they generally do not rent out to parties/proms and the like, in this economy they may not have much choice and the last thing you want is to be stuck next to a room that is partying when you are trying to write. If they are full, they can absolutely recommend someone else who may have room. They also used to give a discount for extended stays - that used to be on the web site, now it just says "call".

I liked the Harmony because it was close to JT but not in it, close to 29 Palms but not in it (and uphill from a grocery store); it was a drive to get anywhere so I couldn't be tempted to wander off; I could spend days wandering the park or just driving around (there is so much to see around there that's different and unusual and beautiful, like Pioneertown or Desert Hot Springs); they have a kitchen so I could pick up food for dinner without always eating out (not that there's much in terms of choice there).

You fly into Palm Springs and rent a car - you could also fly into LA if that was cheaper.

In terms of Seattle and Vancouver - I used to go to JT when i lived in Seattle, as a point of reference. I would recommend Portland over Seattle/Vancouver myself. But there is just so much distraction in all of those places. In the Portland area, there is Breitenbush Hot Springs, which I used to be a fan of in terms of getting away, but it was too isolated even for me. However it may be right up your alley.

I am personally dying to go to New Orleans for a week and write. It's on the list.
posted by micawber at 6:57 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to throw out some names for you to research...

My top two:
Moab, Utah
Sisters, Oregon

Nashville or Bloomington, Indiana (not the big Nashville)
Lander, Wyoming
Duluth, Minnesota
Stillwater, MN
Ashland, Wisconsin
Traverse City, Michigan (gallery at the regional university)
Missoula, Montana

Or lots and lots of other places. Pretty much any state will have some sort of beautiful hideaway. Any more information on where you'd like to be?
posted by BlooPen at 7:08 PM on June 6, 2010

I'm with netbros. I've spent a little over a week in that area, and it's become my Platonic Ideal of a Getaway. You can rent for under $600 a week. Gorgeous views, quiet if you're in the right place, and you can eat at a number of barbeque places. FWIW, I stayed in Montreat and Sparta

Don't forget to check sites like AirBNB for good deals!
posted by knile at 7:12 PM on June 6, 2010

I suggest the Traverse City/Leelanau area of Michigan. The weather during the summer is often painfully nice, the settings are beautiful, and there are all sorts of random things you can do. You can go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and get sand everywhere, you can go swimming in Lake Michigan, you can eat delicious cherries in Traverse City, look through art galleries in Leland, or go listen to one of the hundreds of concerts and recitals at Interlochen.

You'll need a car to get around, but it's really a good quiet place and really once of my favorite places ever (and not likely to be a European Tourist hotbed). I've recommended it a number of times before on and hope that more people can see how awesome of a place it is. The biggest problem for you will be getting there, however. You'll probably have to drive from Detroit (4.5 hours) or Chicago (5.5 hours) or pay a premium to fly into Traverse City.
posted by that girl at 7:15 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just did exactly what you're talking about doing in Venice California. I stayed in this Bed and Breakfast and had a great time. I especially liked the ocean and the Venice Canals.

If you don't take my suggestion, I do recommend you at least check out AirBnB when you do decide where you're going. It's certainly a site I'll visit before planning any future vacation.
posted by dobbs at 7:15 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Bloomington, Indiana! It's a nice town, lots of places to sit and write, good cultural stuff, and the Indiana University campus is just gorgeous.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:22 PM on June 6, 2010

Seconding that girl on the northwest of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. It was also a haunt/inspiration for Ernest Hemingway, if that has any bearing on your opinion.
posted by dhens at 7:47 PM on June 6, 2010

How about Ithaca, NY? Absolutely gorgeous right now, the Cornell campus has some interesting things to see and there's lots of good coffee (Gimme Coffee!).
posted by peacheater at 7:55 PM on June 6, 2010

In the interest of showing rather than telling (I was rushed earlier, sorry there were no links):

State Street in downtown Madison - super convenient, great place for people watching, and lots of places to hang out (outside or in) and write.

Olbrich Gardens. Lovely outdoor setting, lovely indoor tropical garden for only $1 admission, very peaceful and right across the street from a great big lake and a lovely green park.

The UW Arboretum. Miles of walking and biking trails, places to sit and think or watch nature, quiet and peaceful and inspiring.

Within driving distance for a day trip:

House on the Rock. All the weird you could ever need for inspiration, plus great people watching.

The Forevertron. Speaking of weird... this just has to be seen to be believed.

Devil's Lake State Park. Hiking, picnic tables, scuba diving, easy nature trails. You name it.

Cave of the Mounds, for when you're feeling like going underground.

Ok, now I'm going to bed. Good luck finding your great retreat!
posted by lriG rorriM at 7:59 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ogden Valley, Utah. During the Summer it's off season for skiing, so the resorts there have some pretty reasonable rates. There is hiking and watersports if you get bored, and the scenery is always amazing. The weather usually stays around the high 90's but the breezes are cool and there is little humidity. There are no museums, however, and honestly nothing as far as crowds. It's really a great place to relax and unwind.

I live in Ogden, and we usually spend our free time in Ogden Canyon fishing and camping. Ogden itself is a nice town, it has a few galleries and some shopping. We get some tourists here in the Winter for the skiing, but most of the people who visit in the Summer are outdoorsy types. We have a Farmer's Market in the Summer, and a small historic district. It's honestly a great little city to live in, so I imagine it could be nice for a visit.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:02 PM on June 6, 2010

RE: that girl and Traverse City, you can fly into Muskegon or Grand Rapids and have a much shorter drive than Chicago or Detroit.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:15 AM on June 7, 2010

Savannah, Georgia has those exquisitely beautiful 19th century homes.
posted by Deor at 9:16 AM on June 7, 2010

Moab is a good suggestion, but it's going to be overrun with tourists this time of year. Same goes for Traverse City (TC becomes yuppie hell in the summertime, imo).

I recommend a small town on or close to the Western Coast in Northern Cali or Oregon.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:15 AM on June 7, 2010

Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada is a great geatway for artistic endeavors. It is a bit of a bedroom community/getaway spot for cultural creatives and Vancouver is just a ferry ride away.

This hipster motel in Marfa, Texas is on my short list of places to go be creative. Marfa in general is a great place for creative solitude.
posted by cross_impact at 1:50 PM on June 7, 2010

I'll second Marfa, TX. In the same area are Alpine, Marathon and Ft. Davis, TX. All beautiful places. I've stayed at the Antelope Lodge in Alpine which is resonable, clean, comfortable and charming. There's also the Holland Hotel in Alpine where Jack Kerouac stayed. Then spluge for a night at the Thunderbird in Marfa that cross_impact mentions or the Gage in Marathon. It's isolated and quiet out there. Part of the magic is the drive to this isolated area.

Durango or Silverton, CO could be good too.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:49 PM on June 7, 2010

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