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Book Review: Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places by the Editors at Reader’s Digest

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I love to travel, even though I get to do precious little of it anymore. When I was a kid, we would go on epic vacations, though. I remember one in particular where we set off to New England. Each night we would sit in the motel room with the Mobile Travel Guide and plan what we would do the next day. We covered six states in two weeks, and probably missed a bunch, but the things we were able to see and do have stayed with me for the past 35 years. I love travel, and I love road trips in particular. If you do too, this book is a must have. Off the Beaten Path will take you off the beaten path to places that most tourists never find – there are even a few places in this book that the locals may have forgotten all about.

The book is divided by state, alphabetically, and highlights hidden gems throughout the United States, including 200 places that have been added since the last edition. There is also a listing of seasonal events in each state. Ever wonder when the Southwestern Illinois Spring Festival is? Or the Chicago Blues Festival? Page 105 will tell you – May and June, respectively. Planning on traveling to Nebraska in June? If you're close to Weeping Water, you may want to check out the Limestone Independence Days – the donkey polo sounds like something you just have to witness for yourself.

The section for each state starts off with a half-page overview map of the state. Each attraction mentioned is numbered on the map, so if you know where you are going to be, you'll be able to see what's around that you may miss if you only look at the travel brochures or billboards. Each entry has a brief description of the site, including address, phone number, and website. You'll also find out when the site is open, and whether they charge admission (though not how much admission is). Full color pictures abound in the book, showing you exactly what you're missing if you pass up on Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, for instance, which is open daily and is only 60 miles east of Reno, Nevada.

I managed to find two sites off the beaten path that are within an hour of my own home – places I never knew existed. We'll be headed to the Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area near Ironton, Ohio and the Rankin and Parker houses in Ripley this summer. I'm also checking the book out as we plan car trips out of state, when we travel to see my sister in Nashville — not that far from Loretta Lynn's ranch — which is open to tourists from March to October. When we head to Florida to see my Mom, we may have to make a side trip to Blackwater River State Park in Holt (where I actually have been before) or, if it's raining, the Indian Temple Mound Museum in Fort Walton Beach. The Virginia Museum of Transportation? We can hit that next time we go see my in-laws. And when we go to the beach…

See? Off the Beaten Path is full of things to see and do. It's not a book to just pick up and start reading, but it is a book that you'll start thumbing through when you are planning a trip. And once you get started, you may have a hard time stopping. It's not a complete travel guide, but it is an invaluable resource when you're planning a trip, especially if you're tired of going to the same places over and over again.

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About Warren Kelly