Reading is admittedly a solitary activity, but even the most die-hard, introverted book-enthusiast loves to chat about their latest read with a pal or two. Thankfully, there are a few festivals where you can get all your literary kicks, rub elbows with your favorite authors, and geek out about your most beloved books with like-minded festival goers. From the biggest book event in the country to Santa Fe’s very first, here are three literary festivals to consider including in your travel plans this spring.
1. The L.A. Times Festival of Books
When: April 23–24
Where: Los Angeles, California
For the last two years during the COVID pandemic, the largest book event in the United States—a staple of the Los Angeles literary community since 1996—took its festivities online. This year, the L.A Times Festival of Books is going all out with a lineup that features more than 500 writers, chefs, musicians, and artists at the festival’s traditional stomping grounds on the University of Southern California’s 226-acre campus. Some notable names on the docket include novelist Jonathan Franzen, Moonlight actress and musician Janelle Monae, X-Files actor David Duchovny, and the first American National Youth Poet Laureate and Westchester native, Amanda Gorman, who wowed audiences across the country with her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” which she read at President Biden’s 2021 inauguration. Some activities that guests can look forward to include expert panels, live music, celebrity author interviews, Spanish-language programming, and poetry readings. Admission to the festival is always free, but expect to pay $14 for parking if you want to leave your ride on USC’s campus.
2. Santa Fe Literary Festival
When: May 20–23
Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Cost: All-access VIP festival passes start at $1,700, day passes start at $200
With its scenic high desert and mountain landscapes, Santa Fe has attracted all sorts of creative types over the years, including artists like Georgia O’Keefe and writers like Cormac McCarthy, who sought quiet solitude and inspiration. Now, the City Different is celebrating its storied literary traditions with its first ever Santa Fe Literary Festival. The four-day-long celebration offers 30 different events over four days, which include things like morning meditations, author talks, afternoon teas, and cocktail hours. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the festival, however, is the caliber of authors who will be attending. Some big names on the roster include Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street), Colson Whitehead (The Nickel Boys), and even Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, who maintains a residence in the city—and once tried to build a castle in his backyard. Though SFLF’s main events will take place at the Santa Fe Convention Center, festival goers will also be able to experience northern New Mexico with small group excursions that explore the region’s rich cultural history and enchanting landscape.
3. Bay Area Book Festival
When: May 7–8
Where: Berkeley, California
Cost: General admission starts at $15
After two years of being totally virtual, the Bay Area Book Festival is back with a jam-packed, in-person weekend. Some highlights of the 70 events that will be available this year—the festival’s eighth—include sessions that examine the literary legacy of the Black Panthers, discussions about iconic historical mysteries of the 20th century, and workshops that give readers (and writers) advice on how to start their own local literary communities. Speakers featured this year include poet Hanif Abdurraqib, Booker Prize–winner Douglas Stuart (Young Mungo), and Mega author Kim Stanley Robinson.
And don’t fret about not having anything to do in the downtime between speakers; one of the festival’s biggest draws is its free outdoor programming peppered throughout downtown Berkeley, where you can browse the 150 literary exhibitions and enjoy performances, all within walking distance. Plus, with kid-friendly events scheduled throughout the weekend, the whole family will certainly be entertained. If you can’t make it to the Bay Area, grab a virtual wristband and livestream some of the festival’s events from wherever you are in the world.
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Mae Hamilton Mae Hamilton is an assistant editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.