Book a Trip: 5 bookstores worth the drive

indie bookstores pepper the upper Midwest, creating perfect travel opportunities for people who love reading

Have you ever planned your vacation around the bookstores you could visit on the way? Does your souvenir collection include bookmarks from all the places you’ve been? Do you pack your suitcase with more books than clothes? If you said “yes” to any of these questions, this list is for you. There are so many independent bookstores ready to draw you into the cityscape or countryside in search of a good read all within a one- or two-day drive of the Chippewa Valley. 

1. FAIR ISLE • Washington Island

If you’re searching for adventure, Fair Isle Books on Washington Island is the place to look. This quaint little shop can only be accessed by boat. The 30-minute ferry ride to the island is an Instagram-worthy scene to capture your current reading situation. At Fair Isle, all books are hand-selected by the owner, and there is a generous collection of local reads about Washington Island and Door County’s rich history. Be sure to find a unique souvenir to take back to the mainland as all non-book items are fair trade.

2. Red Balloon Bookshop • St. Paul

Set your imagination free at Red Balloon . Located on historic Grand Avenue in St. Paul, this shop is a must on any road trip to the Twin Cities. It gets its name from the beautiful Albert Lamorisse film, which perfectly embodies the friendly atmosphere inside. The shop will make you feel like a kid again with everything from board books for infants to doorstop-sized young adult novels. Plan your visit during story time and you just might run into your favorite childhood character.

3. Mystery to Me Books • Madison

There’s something about vacation and mysteries that go hand-in-hand. If you’re looking for a case to solve, plan a stop at Mystery to Me Books, located just blocks from Camp Randall Stadium. Whether you’re looking for the latest Lee Child novel or a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, you’ll find your next book here. Don’t worry if mystery isn’t your genre of choice – they keep many popular titles in stock and have a darling little children’s section for budding bibliophiles.

4. Reader’s Loft Bookstore • Green Bay

Any trip to Titletown should include a visit to Reader’s Loft. It’s tucked away on the southeast side of Green Bay, and you’ll instantly feel relaxed when you walk in the door. The cozy atmosphere is made even cozier when greeted by Sophie and Greta, the shop cats. Plan your Green Bay getaway soon and you may catch Untitled Town Book and Author Festival, with familiar guests such as Nickolas Butler and Michael Perry.

5. Pearl Street Books • La Crosse

At the heart of downtown La Crosse, this store is every book lover’s dream. There are so many books, they are literally stacked to the ceiling. With Jules’ Coffee House right next door and a cozy reading area upstairs, you may never leave. Pearl Street boasts an inventory of thousands and the ability to acquire almost anything you may be looking for, so let yourself get lost in the stacks, floor boards creaking beneath your feet, the smell of fresh brewed coffee wafting through the air…