Robert Reid

of Reid on Travel

As National Geographic Travel's Offbeat Observer, Robert Reid investigates the whys and hows of how we experience the world and encourages people to follow his lead by "traveling like travel writers."

What does this mean? Reid often uses his own hobbies and interests to build trip itineraries, research articles, and provide a framework for video storytelling. He's been to Mountie boot camp, followed Billy Joel's lyrics (literally), counted Siberian mustaches, and used a Monopoly board as a map to explore Atlantic City. While Lonely Planet's U.S. Travel Editor, Reid appeared regularly on television to discuss travel trends, and now lives--with messier hair--in Portland, Oregon.

Follow Robert on Twitter @reidontravel.

John Steinbeck’s typewriter has left a well-known mark all over this pocket of California, where agriculture meets clear beaches and layered mountains, not to mention one of the world’s great coastal drives. What’s less known is that Steinbeck isn’t the only writer to capture it. For the last leg of this year’s Digital Nomad road…

California’s Treasure Island

“It looks like a zombie apocalypse out here.” More than one local says this of San Francisco’s Treasure Island, an often ignored artificial isle built on dredged sand. And at first sight of the mysterious island, reached halfway across the Bay Bridge, I have to agree. Around me, on wide empty streets, I see paint…

It’s got the wine, the hills, the history—and the world’s biggest laser, too. It even has an element named for it (livermorium). What Livermore, California, doesn’t have going for it, perhaps, is its name. Just the mere mention of other wine stars of the Golden State—Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles—linger on your tongue like a chocolaty,…

A Case for Corvallis, Oregon

“Make yourself at home,” says Carson, a 20-something wearing a purple bandana as a scarf at Troubadour, a music shop in downtown Corvallis. “There’s a bathroom by the banjos.” I’m at an ag school (Oregon State University) a dozen miles off the interstate. There are no museums or monuments of note to see and no…

Cows don’t have hangovers, but some have rough mornings. Riding a horse across a valley dotted with junipers doused in a morning drizzle, I see one poking along with two dozen porcupine quills sticking out of its face—leftovers from an overnight tangle with a wrong local. “That’s going to be a chore, getting all those…

Biking Portland’s Icons

“The coffee isn’t delicious because of anything I do.” Liam Kenna runs a small tasting station that freckles a stark warehouse space with glazed concrete floors, an artful exhibit of historic coffeemaking tools, and a table of beakers to measure coffee pours with lablike precision. “My job as a barista is just not to mess…

Going West

“People came west to get away from the government. Now they have no place else to go, so they think of new ways of doing things.” That’s Bud Clark, the colorful ex-mayor of Portland, Oregon, talking to me recently over a Reuben sandwich at his tavern, the Goose Hollow Inn. When you go west, in…

“I’ll be up there as quick as I can get my pants on.” The morning rain has stopped and I’m standing outside a cute century-old red-plank train depot by a grain elevator in Midland, South Dakota. I’ve called one of the three seven- digit numbers listed on the depot’s handmade sign, and in five minutes…

Finding Space in the Black Hills

I’m in a wide-open field of grass. Hundreds of bugs the size of a pencil lead mark scramble across my shirt and arms. Pretty much what I asked for. “This is what the prairie used to be,” a silver-haired ranger had promised, pointing to the northeast corner of South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park—away from…

Meet Wyoming’s Bighorn

“Everything’s better in the mountains. Chicken soup, coffee with the grounds in it. It’s just better up here.” Scott Schroder has spots of gray in his big red beard, and wet pants. That’s only because he decided against waders and is walking in jeans through the knee-deep South Fork of the Tongue River. He’s leading…

The geologist hands me a homemade brownie wrapped in a clear baggie, then points across my lap and out the window. “This glacial environment makes up one of the nicer outwash plains we have. See that line of cobbles? Then a dip, and another line of cobbles? That’s where one of the braided streams went through…

I came to Estes Park, Colorado, to see purple mountain majesties, blue hollows, and flaming red alpenglow. Maybe get some taffy and a T-shirt. My guide is a marked-up copy of Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, a remarkable travelogue spun from letters the British writer wrote during her trip to Colorado…

“We bike and drink beer. And that’s pretty much it.” A barista in Fort Collins, Colorado, is describing local life here as she readies a hand-pour cup of an Ethiopian bean she calls “delicate, like a flower” (with a wink). We’re at Bean Cycle, a downtown café/printing press on a block of late 19th-century buildings…

Lyrically, “America the Beautiful” covers “sea to shining sea,” but at its heart it’s about where prairies and mountains meet. Katharine Lee Bates, a schoolteacher-poet from Massachusetts, wrote it in 1895, after a trip up Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, where she looked east over the plains and soon found herself reaching for a pen.…

One of the great things about visiting Europe is getting around by train. Even short hops get you to places with new cultures, languages, cuisines, even types of chocolate. Truth is, you can do that in the U.S., particularly along the Northeast Corridor. I’ve long wanted to do this—connect the dots by train or bus…

Across the Anacostia River from Capitol Hill, the 12-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens has pockets of wetlands that predate city construction. And visiting it feels like a lost surprise. Built in the late 1800s by a Civil War vet who lost an arm at Spotsylvania, the park’s claim to fame, such as it is, are a series of man-made ponds filled with lilies and lotus blooms from Asia, Africa, and the Amazon.

This is part of Capitol Hill’s backstreet charm. Not Capitol Hill, that mound that holds up the U.S. Capitol for flurries of tourists and Congress folks. But what lies beyond, Capitol Hill the neighborhood: a leafy network of setback townhouses on little lawns filling the diagonal blocks of D.C.’s original layout. It’s closer to the National Mall than, say, Georgetown or Dupont Circle, yet it’s a sleepy secret to most visitors.

Philadelphia may not have Central Park, Millennium Park, Golden Gate Park, or the National Mall. But, quietly, it is home to the largest landscaped park in the United States. Fairmount Park, and its associated 60-some parks, fill 9,200 acres of green space in the City of Brotherly Love. That’s over 10 times the size of Central Park (843 acres). It took form in the 1840s but is linked to a 17th-century pastoral vision William Penn had for “Liberty Lands” in the present-day northwest of the city.

It’s fun to watch Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, debate who’s weirder. Both cities—bastions of progressive ideas in (mostly) conservative states—have “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Portland Weird” stickers to drive the point home. But no matter how much they try, they can’t out-weird a city that hardly notices its quirks.

That’s Philadelphia, the original American weird. A different type of weird.

The man with graying dreadlocks raking outside a New York mansion is hip-hop pioneer Kool DJ Herc. He hasn’t switched careers, but is an artist-in-residence helping out at the Andrew Freedman Home, a one-time “country club” retirement home that’s now a workspace for graffiti artists, a 1920s-styled bed-and-breakfast, and space for homegrown art and theater.…

Outsiders who associate New York by stacks of New Yorker magazines, Woody Allen films, or even Broadway shows can be excused for overlooking what a big sports town it is. And, unlike many cities in the U.S., it’s baseball first here. After all, the Yankees (aka “Manchester United of the U.S.A.”) have won 27 championships. Beyond those Bronx Bombers though, you can see a game in the Big Apple for much less than pro football, basketball, or hockey tickets. And there’s a game most days of the summer.

This is a battery at Peddocks Islands’ Fort Andrews, opened at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898. And it’s one of the more adventurous ways to spend a day in the Boston Harbor Islands, called the “fair emeralds on a sapphire plain” in the 1882 King’s Handbook of Boston Harbor by MF Sweetser. Most of the 110,000 who visited via ferry last year just go for sea, sand, and forts. Others to camp.

How to Bike to Walden Pond

“It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar,” writes Henry David Thoreau in one of the less-quoted parts of Walden Pond. But is it, I wonder, worth it to go to the place that inspired those, and other more everlasting, words? One can “live deliberately” close to home, but can one do the same on the road far from it? I’m in Boston to find out.

The great thing about the Northeast Corridor of the United States is how easy it is getting around without a car. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. rank amongst the most ped-friendly cities in the country. And I’m seeing them all by Amtrak. Who says a road trip can’t be by train? Over the…