Whether it’s the intoxicating smell of old books or the millions of stories just waiting to be discovered, take a bookworm to a library and you’ll likely be stuck there for a long time. With thousands and thousands of books to discover — from Pulitzer Prize winners to cheeky little books that inspired rom-coms — a trip to the local library is the best free entertainment in town. But no matter how much you love your city’s library, there’s no greater feeling than exploring an historic building filled with ancient volumes while on vacay. Heck, these 15 stunning libraries across America are so fantastic, you’ll probably want to call up your book club to start planning your cross country literary road trip as soon as you finish scrolling.
1. Morgan Library, NYC: What began as the private collection of financier Pierpont Morgan is now on display to the public, and absolutely breathtaking to behold. From its Italian Renaissance-style palazzo to its rich collection of rare books and manuscripts — including a Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455 — there’s no wonder tourists across the globe anxiously await a visit to this breathtaking literary arena. (Photo via @TheMorganLibrary)
2. Billings Public Library, Billings, MT: A public library that serves Billings and Yellowstone County, this book collection was recently moved into a brand new, light-filled, 66,000 square foot building. Grand and geometric in design, this heritage classic is an amazing place to spend a day with bookish friends.
3. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, CT: Yale University has produced thousands of real and fictional book nerds (we’re looking at you, Rory Gilmore), and the hype is definitely justified. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft and constructed out of marble, granite, bronze and glass, the stunning architecture is just one half of what makes this library fantastic. From Room 26’s Cabinet of Curiosities to Arthurian romances, if you’re not careful, you might just end up staying in the library for good. (Photo via @BeineckeLibrary)
4. George Peabody Library, Baltimore, MD: Part of the Sheridan Libraries Special Collections at John Hopkins University, this brilliant collection is a research library at its core. But that hasn’t stopped book lovers far and wide from making it the premiere wedding venue in Baltimore — because, you know, who wouldn’t want to get married in the space that inspired the library in Beauty and the Beast?
5. Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA: Take one look at the crazy abstract architecture of the Central Library of the SPL and you’ll be instantly amazed. With rigid and futuristic forms, it’s a wonder to behold — and with millions of items available to borrow for free, it’s definitely worth the trip to the West Coast. (Photo via @rainorshineguides)
6. Armstrong Browning Library, Waco, TX: Since the ground broke on this exciting project on May 7th, 1948, this beautiful library has transformed into something of a local legend. Stained glass windows, rich dark wood trimmings and all the sensations of an old-timey library make this popular wedding venue too mesmerizing for words.
7. Library of Congress, Washington DC: Home to more than 162 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves, it’s no surprise that the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. From the first known book printed in North America to manuscripts from 23 presidents, you’ll never know what you’ll find at this American gem. (Photo via @LibraryCongress)
8. Hearst Castle Gothic Library, San Simeon, CA: In 1947, George Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan created what is known today as Hearst Castle. Chock full of amazing finds that rival a museum, it’s a private collection that’s definitely worth the price of the tour.
9. Boston Public Library, Boston, MA: With approximately 23 million items housed in this historic building, the BPL is the second largest library in the US, behind the Library of Congress. If you’re looking for books on art history and American history, this is definitely the place to hit up. (Photo via @BPLBoston)
10. Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, Philadelphia, PA: On-site at the University of Pennsylvania, this historic masterpiece of a library is a national gem. Built of fiery red brick and stocked with thousands of rare titles (seriously, you have to check out the Perkins Rare Book Collection) this transformative building is a definite must on any book lover’s list.
11. New York Public Library, NYC: A list of influential libraries in America wouldn’t be complete without the stunning NYPL. Featuring 88 neighborhood branches and four scholarly research centers, it’s the nation’s largest public library system — although most tourists opt for a tour through the iconic Manhattan location. (Photo via @NYPL)
12. Geisel Library, San Diego, CA: The literary hub at the University of California, San Diego, this academic library is much more than a researcher’s dream. Named after Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, its wacky design, brilliant collection and whovillian charm could make a literary junkie out of anyone.
13. Los Angeles Central Library, Los Angeles, CA: A local landmark and popular tourist locale, this historic treasure in downtown LA is not to be missed. Explore the vast collection yourself or hop on a free daily docent tour to learn the history of the building and impressive book collection. (Photo via @losangeleslibrary)
14. Suzzallo Library, Seattle, WA: The Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus is an architectural and historical treasure just begging to be explored, bookworms. Enter the famous Reading Room, better known as the Harry Potter room, with its tall gothic windows, stained glass, hanging lights and long tables reminiscent of the Hogwarts Great Hall. Prepare to be amazed, and looking for a good excuse (AKA a good book) to stay all day.
15. Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, Chicago, IL: One of six libraries at the University of Chicago, the Mansueto Library is by far the most iconic. Built under a giant glass dome, their book-lending project is massive. On average, they lend out an incredible 20,000 volumes a day. (Photo via @UChicago)
How many libraries on this list have you visited? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.
(Featured image via Getty)