Do you remember the first book that captured your heart? See those stories come to life when you share your beloved childhood tales with your own kids. But why just tell them the stories when you can show them the places that inspired the books? Travel to Mason, Texas, and see the home ofOld Yeller, or fly to Prince Edward Island, Canada, home of hard-headed Anne Shirley ofAnne of Green Gablesfame.
By Air: Prince Edward Island, Canada
With her curly red hair and charming ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, you can’t help but fall in love with Anne Shirley. Traveling to Prince Edward Island is not only a step into the storybook world of Lucy M. Montgomery’sAnne of Green Gables, it’s also a step back in time to a place where buggy rides and long walks with friends still set the pace. Your first stop should be Green Gables Heritage Place, where you can tour the farm that inspired the House at Green Gables. Family activities throughout the day will allow you to immerse yourself in Anne’s childhood. Become a part of the story at Avonlea, an amusement park that recreates many details from the book. Costumed actors fill the streets and perform impromptu scenes from the novels while visitors ride in wagons, view the animals and take part in sack races. Also nearby is the Anne of Green Gables Museum, where you can have a peaceful picnic by Anne’s Lake of Shining Waters.
Where to Eat
Allow yourself to indulge in a special treat at Dalvay-by-the-Sea, which true fans will recognize as the White Sands Hotel from the Anne of Green Gables movie series. High tea is available each afternoon, complete with tiers of tea sandwiches and scones served with Devonshire cream and lemon curd. Cavendish Boardwalk, near Green Gables Heritage Place, presents a variety of dining options, but you’ll definitely want to make a stop at COWS ice cream emporium. Unique ice cream recipes such as Gooey Mooey and Wowie Cowie are made with the same secret recipe from the time of Anne of Green Gables.
Where to Stay
Spend your night just steps from Anne’s back door at the Kindred Spirits Country Inn and Cottages. The inn is a charming Victorian home decorated with delicate antiques, but families will love the space and convenience of the private cottages. You’ll soak in the yesteryear ambience surrounded by pastoral countryside, where you can stroll to the sea beside the Lake of Shining Waters or even catch a game of golf along the rolling hills. Kids will love the heated swimming pool and game-room activities during the day, but it will be the nightly campfire, complete with s’mores and sing-alongs, that will likely fuel your favorite memories.
By Car: Mason, Texas
What to Do
The spirit of the “best doggone dog in the West” is alive in the Hill Country town of Mason, Texas, where author Fred Gipson lived and pennedOld Yellerin 1956. Since 1999, the city that inspired the classic tale has staged “Old Yeller Day” each October, which includes a pet parade, a look-alike contest and a host of old-fashioned picnic games like sack and spoon races. The spirit of Old Yeller can be found throughout the small town. The love of a boy and his dog is immortalized in bronze outside the Mason County M. Beven Eckert Memorial Library, while the Fred Gipson Exhibition Hall houses cases ofOld Yellermemorabilia. No visit to Mason would be complete without a twilight visit to the Eckert James River Cave, the bat cave made famous in the book, where you’ll see thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats emerge at dusk.
Where to Eat
Tucked into a cozy corner of the Mason County town square is Santos Taqueria, a gathering for locals and visitors alike. Visitors regularly drive for more than an hour to enjoy the authentic Mexican dishes in a casual small-town atmosphere. Gorditas (with your choice of different fillings), chalupas, taquitos and quesadillas are prepared daily from scratch, just like Grandma used to make them. Enjoy your dinner while relaxing on the outdoor patio overlooking the original Old West buildings of Mason, many of which date back to 1880.
Where to Stay
Checking into the Bar None River Ranch will feel like stepping into the setting ofOld Yeller. Guests have exclusive use of the ranch, which includes a luxurious four-bedroom lodge that sleeps 12 and sits next to the James River. True fans of the book will recognize the James River, one of the largest springs in the Hill Country, as the place where Old Yeller was attacked by the pack of wild hogs. You aren’t likely to meet any wild hogs during your stay, but there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife encounters. The Eckert James River Cave is just a short walk from your lodge, while wildlife stands dot the ranch, allowing you to view the wandering deer and wild turkey. Perhaps the best feature is the sprawling wraparound porch where you can admire the gorgeous sunsets and fields of wildflowers or just imagine life on the farm with a big yellow dog.