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Best Travel Writing About America 2012

My Favorite 2012 Articles About U.S. Destinations


As we near the end of 2012, I feel compelled, as I did in 2011, to share some of the best travel writing about America - its cities, parks, events, attractions, and festivals - that I have come across over the past year. This is a very subjective list, of course. But I hope that one or several of these articles inspire you to travel to new locations or revisit a place you been before but see it with a new perspective or armed with new knowledge.

You can keep up with my favorite travel article and news finds throughout the year under the category Travel News and Stories.

Note that these articles are presented in no particular order.

The Ferries and the Last Frontier

One of the first articles to catch my eye in 2012 was this four-part World Hum piece about Alaska. Eva Holland travels aboard southeast Alaska's traditional ferries, writing lushly about the landscape and the people she encounters: "This would become a theme in my conversations with ferry passengers and staff. Apparently it was a perennial debate in Alaska: Some people—people, my fellow passengers were eager to point out, who didn’t rely on the ferries; people from the interior with its roads and highways, people who didn’t understand their way of life—thought the service was too expensive, unnecessary, old-fashioned."

Paul Theroux's Quest to Define Hawaii

The famed travel writer Paul Theroux opens his epic piece in Smithsonian Magazine about his home of Hawaii by calling it a "paradise pinned like a bouquet to the middle of the Pacific, fragrant, sniffable and easy of access." As he digs deeply, he finds that the natives of the Aloha State are secretive, insular, territorial, and uncooperative. A long read about Hawaii that is anything but stereotypical.

The Frequent Fliers Who Flew Too Much

One of my favorite business travel stories of 2012 was not about an American destination but American Airlines. Writing for the Los Angeles Times Ken Bensinger follows Steven Rothstein and Jacques Vroom, two men who long ago spent approximately $350,000 for unlimited first-class travel on the airline. The story discusses how AA is working to curb its AAirpass Program.

Chasing a Prairie Tale

Tony Perrottet travels in the footsteps of Gilded Age explorer George Bird Grinnell to the plains of Kansas and Nebraska in this article subtitled, "Buffalo, the Pawnee, and an Old Story on a Trip Across the Plains."

What to See and Do in Seattle

Few writers working today could write about rainy, flannel-wearing, coffee-drinking book culture in a way that is fresh and funny. Of course, Gary Shteyngart succeeds in this feature in the March 2012 issue of Travel and Leisure.

Survival Stories: Hot, Thirsty, and Lost in Death Valley

Reader's Digest provides the platform for this tale about three women who embark on a day trip of Scotty's Castle in Death Valley, California. Three days and 300 miles later, the trio had to be rescued. A vivid tale about the hottest place in America.

The Southern Road

This series, written by Micheline Maynard for Gadling, explores the new American South, which has been shaped in recent years by a number of car companies that have set up shop in Alabama, Tennessee, and elsewhere.

The Freedom Tower and My Divorce

This painful but hopeful essay from Alison Stein in Perceptive Travel speaks to the wistful feelings she has as she watches the Freedom Tower rise from the ruins of Ground Zero in New York City.

The Land of Big Groceries, Big God, and Smooth Traffic

The sub-heading for this article is "What Surprises First-Time Visitors to America." Writing for The Atlantic, Max Fisher discusses the everyday things that Americans take for granted.

A Love Letter to North Carolina's Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

North Carolina barbecue is enshrined in this lovingly crafted article from Monique Truong for The Washington Post. In addition to describing the restaurant's famed barbecue, Truong delivered a sense of place and a compelling family narrative to elevate this piece.
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