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Novel Destinations

Books transport us to faraway fantasies and magical lands. They can also serve as travel guides to their settings. Here, 14 spring trips inspired by books, movies, and music.

Novel Destinations
Photo by Stephan Hoglund

(page 5 of 5)

Finding Fitzgerald

With the movie The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the mysterious gazillionaire, hitting theaters in May, the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul will likely get a surge of curious visitors. After all, the story really begins here, where its author, the tragically aspirational F. Scott Fitzgerald, grew up, wrote, and partied. But even those who don’t know Jay Gatsby from Josh Groban would enjoy a walk around this leafy enclave, its regal homes just “this side of paradise.”

Where to go

For a walking tour of the author’s neighborhood, download the St. Paul Public Library’s F. Scott Fitzgerald in St. Paul: Homes and Haunts guide (sppl.org) and begin outside 481 Laurel Ave., a lovely red-brick three-story building that was Fitzgerald’s birthplace. At 599 Summit Ave. is the house where his parents later lived and where he finished This Side of Paradise. He famously described it as “a house below the average on a street above the average.” Fitzgerald was a “poor boy in a rich boy’s world,” says Patricia Hampl, who has compiled his stories set in St. Paul. This made him a striver, it seems, a theme in his greatest books. In Winter Dreams, Dexter Green “wanted an association with the glittering things and glittering people—he wanted the glittering things themselves.” Like Fitzgerald, Green couldn’t quite explain why he wanted in and “sometimes he ran up against the mysterious denials and prohibitions in which life indulges.” After the success of This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald left St. Paul and it was assumed that St. Paul had left him. He was the life of the party by then, as both the chronicler and the protagonist of the Lost Generation. Yet he often returned to his native city by proxy, through the characters he led around its streets. He took Sally Carrol to the Winter Carnival in The Ice Palace and, as Basil Duke Lee, he spent A Night at the Fair. He went boating with the beautiful Judy Jones on Black Bear Lake (likely a stand-in for White Bear Lake) in Winter Dreams, a precursor to The Great Gatsby.


The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page


Take a tour of The James J. Hill House (240 Summit Ave., mnhs.org/places/sites/jjhh). Hill shows up in The Great Gatsby when Gatsby’s father says, “If he’d of lived he’d of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He’d of helped build up the country.” Get all the Fitzgerald you can carry at Common Good Books, Garrison Keillor’s bookstore (38 S. Snelling Ave., commongoodbooks.com).


W.A. Frost (374 Selby Ave., wafrost.com). A pharmacy in Fitzgerald’s day—he sipped soda at the counter—the romantic restaurant is known for having one of the most beautiful patios in town.


The glam, pre-Jazz Age Saint Paul Hotel (350 Market St., saintpaulhotel.com).


Sigurd Olson was, in the truest sense, a conservationist— a guide and writer who advocated eloquently for preservation. He did so from his enviable retreat beside Burntside Lake, near Ely, known as Listening Point after his seminal 1958 book of the same name.

➻ Where to go

Olson helped draft the Wilderness Act. By all means (well, canoe) head into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Listening Point is now a foundation, hosting events and visitors by appointment. Guided trips to Listening Point and history tours are available around Burntside Lake (burntsidetours.com).

➻ Where to stay

One of Burntside Lodge’s elegant log cabins, which have been there longer than Olson ever was (2755 Burntside Lodge Rd., Ely; burntside.com)


Ali Selim’s 2005 film, Sweet Land, tells the tender love story of Olaf, a young Norwegian farmer, and Inge, his German mail-order bride. The painterly cinematography is no less romantic, sweeping the amber fields and prairie skies of southwestern Minnesota.

➻ Where to go

Inge first meets Olaf at the Montevideo Depot, now a museum (301 State Rd., montevideomrhc.org). Eat at the film crew’s favorite place, Java River (210 S. First St., javarivercafe.com). Drive the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway (mnrivervalley.com). Scenes were also shot at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Baxter (1421 N. Fourth St.).

➻ Where to stay

The cottage at Moonstone Farm, where several scenes were shot (9060 SW 40th St., moonstonefarm.net).

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