As you travel around this summer, you might want to think about including some bookish stops along your path. There are some unique, wonderful independent bookstores and libraries (think air-conditioned!) and some fun literary landmarks (think free) everywhere. I know I’m an official book nerd, but sometimes a learning experience thrown in the mix of a trip to the beach or weekend trip isn’t a bad idea. Again, free or mostly free and air-conditioned is definitely a plus!
San Antonio: We have some cool places right in our backyard that fill these criteria. I love my local branch of the San Antonio Public Library, but a trip to the downtown Central Main Branch is a treat for sure! We love the art there, riding the escalator, and making our way down to the Book Cellar to see what unique things SAPL has for sale there. My teen loves the teen-only area and my 11-year-old likes to explore. The Twig, located at the Pearl, is well-known and well-stocked. If you want to wander off the beaten path, Nine Lives Books or Unlimited Thought Bookstore might be interesting to explore.
Austin: UT’s Harry Ransom Center is still closed due to COVID, but it houses one of the Gutenberg Bibles. This would be great to introduce school-age kids to the history of the printing press. I’m hoping to take my kids when it re-opens. Austin Central Library has won numerous design awards and has a butterfly garden and café. BookPeople, a large independent bookstore, is interesting to browse and has a great children’s section. Located in downtown Austin, it also houses CoffeePeople. I’ve gotten lost here on more than one occasion.
Houston: Julia Ideson Library, part of the Houston Public Library system, is truly a beauty located off the iconic downtown McKinney Avenue. Built in the 1920s, it has a beautiful Reading Room with outside patio areas. There are columns and grand staircases for photo spots and places to stretch your legs. Parts of this library are used for various events, so areas may be closed.
Galveston: The Galveston Bookshop, located on the historic Strand, is easy to get to and has shops and restaurants nearby. The shop has comics, books, LPs, and a resident cat. How can any kid resist? Go in and see what Gus is up to. My family visited a year ago and plans on heading there again when in Galveston this summer.
Dallas: Interabang Bookstore is near downtown Dallas on Lover’s Lane. It has storytime and craft time on Saturdays, but any time is a good time to browse. Half Price Books is headquartered in Dallas, and the flagship store is here. If you have serious time, this HP Books is great and in an air-conditioned building. You can find a great book, puzzle, gift, etc., that Half Price is known for.
Fort Worth: The Dock Bookshop, the largest African American-owned bookstore in Texas, is not only large in size but also in the depth of variety of books. The shop hosts many events and national author visits. It’s 4,000 square feet and also sells book-related items, music, coffee, vinyls, and other items.
McAllen: If your travels take you south to South Padre Island, go see what a renovated Walmart looks like when it’s transformed into a library! The McAllen Public Library is a sight to see with its conveyor belts, QR codes and scanners, and murals throughout. This seems a welcome break from the sun and sand. Awarded the most beautiful library in Texas, I’m sure it gets plenty of book-nerd visitors. I know I’ve added it to my travel list.
Abilene: This central Texas town is the Storybook Capital of America. Download the map to locate sculptures around town. The sculpture garden entrance is free, and it is lit at night. Although I haven’t been to the sculpture garden, I’ve seen sculptures in my drives around town and hope to make it to the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival one year.
El Paso: If you are heading west and El Paso is on your path, Literarity Book Shop is serious book-nerds stuff: rare books, autographed copies, and the unusual. It does have children’s books with cool nooks and crannies to explore. Another option is the iconic San Jacinto Plaza. It has an important legacy as a meeting space and, more uniquely, where alligators were displayed. There is a fiberglass statue to pay homage to that and it is included in a children’s book titled Buenas Noches El Paso. The prolific author Pat Mora is from El Paso and has written bilingual books like The Desert is My Mother/El desierto es mi madre. This would be a great place to stop and introduce kids to these books!
Wherever you might travel throughout the state, you might run into a chance to run into a bookstore, library, or an author book spot and get a little more insight into our great state of Texas. Take that chance and stop the car. Your family might enjoy it, and you will definitely get a different taste of our state. It might be a small town like Mason with a statue of Old Yeller or an indie bookstore like Deep Vellum in the art and music district of Deep Ellum in Dallas. If you have run into any bookish spot along your travels that you want to share, please comment!