What will you do on your summer vacation? Whether you’re a traveler on a budget, a history buff or an art aficionado, these new travel guides offer exciting options for seeing the U.S.A.

THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to planning a trip, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming, even when working with a limited budget. To the rescue: The 100 Best Affordable Vacations, the latest in National Geographic’s 100 Best Vacations series. Jane Wooldridge and Larry Bleiberg have created a list that will prove tempting to any would-be traveler. Trips range from eating excursions along the “Barbecue Trail” to cave tours to camping by the sea. The authors include suggestions for the occasional splurge, plus details about everything from cow culture to Nashville’s reputation as Music City. The authors note that readers may be “craving . . . a vacation that replaces the worry-worn space in your soul with possibilities,” and they offer 100 ways to do just that.

BEAR WITNESS TO HISTORY
The Civil War remains a pivotal chapter in American history, with hundreds of battles and 600,000 lives lost. Small wonder, then, that the Civil War Preservation Trust found it difficult to narrow down the choices in The Civil War 150: An Essential To-Do List for the 150th Anniversary (Lyons Press, $14.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9780762772070). Suggestions include handling artifacts (“Hold a Minie Ball in Your Hand”), researching ancestors and, of course, visiting battlefields. Each entry provides context and fascinating detail. There are photos and maps on nearly every page, and 14 thoughtful essays offer insight into the war’s history and impact. The book’s structure ensures it can be used as a travel guide as well as an educational tool (each page offers a brief, well-written history lesson). The Civil War 150 is sure to get readers thinking—and doing.

STATE OF THE ART
Sumptuous photographs, intuitive itineraries and expert commentary make The Art Lovers’ Guide: New York (Skira Rizzoli, $19.95, 240 pages, ISBN 9780847836277) a traveler’s delight. Readers can use the guide to find all the works in New York City by a particular artist or explore a style or movement. As Morgan Falconer writes in the introduction, “We tour the city’s galleries almost as if the walls have melted away and we are able to gather all the art together at once.” The book’s five sections (including Egyptian & Near Eastern Art, Asia and The Middle Ages) offer in-depth examinations of artists, individual works and museum exhibits, while “Artists in Focus” essays provide additional tidbits on the likes of Picasso, Pollock and Warhol. Falconer’s knowledge of—and passion for—art is impressive, and this volume will make for exciting art-centric adventures in NYC.

AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH
Travel guides to off-the-beaten-path destinations, quietly hip restaurants and little-known but must-see sights are popular for a reason: It’s appealing to feel in-the-know in an unknown place. Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities (Cicada, $30, 272 pages, ISBN 9780956205322) taps into that vein and adds its own twist: recommendations from (and terrific artwork by) graphic designers. The reasoning, according to editor Ziggy Hanaor, is that graphic artists “will often seek out the unexpected and inspirational elements in their environments.” Graphic USA is a visual treat, and its recommendations are spot-on, from Julian’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, to Miller Park baseball stadium in Milwaukee. Each designer gives voice and feeling to the various locales; for example, Laura Feraco describes the grandeur of the mountain ranges in Anchorage, Alaska, and combines topographic maps with line drawings of fish. Graphic USA is a great addition to a fashionable travel bag—and to any design aficionado’s bookshelf.

DISCOVER THE GOLDEN STATE
Fans of the Lonely Planet Discover guides—a series launched in 2010 to offer a compact summary of a destination’s highlights—will welcome two new additions: Discover San Francisco ($19.95, 304 pages, ISBN 9781742202624) and Discover California ($24.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9781742202747). The always fun, always funky city of San Francisco is divided into seven regions with a “Top 25 Experiences” list for each region. Readers may plan by date, time frame (day trip, two-week tour) or theme (Mission murals, seafaring adventures). The “If You Like” feature is back, too: Those who like City Hall can check out “other history-making San Francisco institutions,” for example. The California guide takes a broader view, offering similarly detailed must-see, -do, -taste and -try information for L.A., San Francisco, the Bay Area, Wine Country, the Deserts and the Coast. Would-be visitors will find whatever they need for a short jaunt or an extended vacation, and will be interested to know that “actually, some people do walk in L.A.” (The guide, of course, reveals where.)

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