There’s something about Europe that inspires travelers. Whether it’s the idea of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris or visiting ancient ruins in Rome or skiing in the Alps, Europe evokes a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to taking a holiday. Whether it’s the culture, the architecture, the history, or just some Old World charm, Europe’s a top destination for many people.
The big problem? Getting to Europe can be quite expensive! You’ll definitely need to buy a plane ticket, or you’ll be looking at taking a long trip across the Atlantic on a boat. While a cruise can be an adventure on its own, who wants to spend so much of their precious vacation time on a boat when they could be sipping a coffee in a cute Parisian bistro? And then, once you get to Europe, you’ll need to pay for accommodations and food and everything else.
If the thought of traveling to Europe entices you, but also makes you feel flat broke, there is a solution. There are plenty of places around the good ol' USA that have that peculiar European flair. There’s an eclectic mix of big cities and quaint countryside towns, and all of them boast an atmosphere that will make you feel like you’ve traveled overseas without ever leaving North America.
Louisiana was, at one point in its history, ruled by the French crown. That changed during the Napoleonic era of the 1800s. France decided to sell its Louisiana territory, and the United States was willing to pay. Although it’s been nearly 200 years since this happened, you can still see and feel the vestiges of French influence everywhere in the state’s largest city.
The French Quarter of the Big Easy will make you feel you’ve been transported right across the ocean, maybe to somewhere on the French Riviera. The city’s rich history and unique culture make it more than worth the trip.
Oktoberfest is perhaps one of Germany’s best-known cultural exports. All across North America, towns with German influence and heritage will stage their own celebration of sausage, sauerkraut, and stout during the month of October.
You may think you need to travel all the way to Munich or Berlin to get a true experience, but Leavenworth, Washington, gives you a great alternative on the west coast. The snow-capped peaks and timber-framed houses will make you wonder if you haven’t managed to land in Bavaria.
Once you’re finished with the bratwurst and washed it down with some brews, check out the museum dedicated to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic The Nutcracker.
Charleston, South Carolina, is well known among North American tourists. It’s often ranked as one of the most scenic cities in the South, if not in all of the United States. But the very things that make it such a beautiful Southern locale to visit also loan themselves to European flair.
Think rainbow-colored row houses lining cobblestoned streets and Gothic-inspired church steeples sweeping the blue sky. Palm trees wave sumptuously in the breeze along the streets. We couldn’t blame you if you closed your eyes and imagined, for a moment, you were strolling through the wide boulevards Marseille or Seville.
If you’d prefer to go a bit further north and visit the cobblestone streets and bridges of Amsterdam, you’ll find a Dutch-inspired destination much closer to home. Holland, Michigan, is named after the homeland of many of the immigrants who settled there in the 1800s.
The Dutch influence is still everywhere today, and the descendants of those settlers continue to celebrate their heritage. Holland is home to the oldest working Dutch windmill in the US, De Zwaan. The annual Tulip Time Festival attracts around 1 million visitors every year. Pack your wooden shoes and schedule a trip to Holland, Michigan, for a European vacation in your own backyard.
Baltimore is known as the City of Neighborhoods, and, given the city’s lengthy colonial history, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of those neighborhoods have a distinctly European flavor. A great example of this is Little Italy.
The first settlers arrived here in the 1660s, bringing with them their culture and traditions. In the 1700s, the city became a granary for Britain’s Caribbean colonies. At the end of the century, it played a key role in USA's Independence. Despite the Great Fire of 1904, which destroyed 70 blocks of downtown, many of Baltimore’s historical buildings are still intact.
Florida is usually held up as one of the greatest examples of US culture, but the Sunshine State has a much longer history. Before it was property of the USA, it was actually a territory belonging to Spain. If you look closely, you can still spot the remnants of this lengthy heritage, especially in places like St. Augustine.
St. Augustine was founded in the mid-1500s as an outpost of the Spanish New World empire, which makes it as old as some famed European cities themselves. The Castillo de San Marcos, a stone fort, speaks to this history, as do the colonial homes and churches lining brick streets.
Although Boston might be remembered as the home of the infamous Boston Tea Party, the city itself hasn’t forgotten how it started. There are still buildings and streets that harken back to days of yore, when this East Coast metropolis was a colonial outpost for the Britain empire.
Boston’s long history makes it one of the best places for historians to visit. Whether you want to learn more about one of America’s oldest cities, the Revolution, or the colonial period, Boston is a great place. Visit some of the museums, then stroll through the streets and admire row houses and other vestiges of bygone eras.
Most Nordic people in America settled in places that were similar to their homelands. As a result, many people in the Midwest claim history from Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Places like Minnesota reminded them of the landscapes they’d left behind in Europe.
Of course, they didn’t come all this way just to put up with snow! Some settlers from Denmark kept moving farther west, eventually establishing the town of Solvang in California. Stop by one of the authentic bakeries or hop a ride in a horse-drawn carriage between the colorful storefronts. Visit in September to take part in the town’s famed “Danish Days” celebration.
Washington, DC, may be the capital of the United States of America, but you can’t overlook the European influence in the city. Clearly, when the founders of the Republic set up shop, they set out with the goal of creating a capital to rival all the capitals across Europe. It was designed by a Frenchman, something to keep in mind as you stroll the city’s wide, Parisian boulevards.
Being the center of government, DC is also home to a number of foreign nationals who stay a while, and many who make the capital home. Their influence is seen in the bar and restaurant scene, as well as around the many embassies and offices.
Wisconsin is famed for its cheese and dairy industry. Switzerland is also famous for cheese, which makes these 2 places a great match. The town of New Glarus shares the same name as the canton (state) of Switzerland, and it certainly capitalizes on their love of cheese and chocolate.
If you’ve been craving some Swiss chocolate or some authentic fondue, you’re in luck. You can visit a Swiss bakery or any of the Swiss restaurants around town. If you’re interested in more, check out the Swiss Historical Village and Museum or the Swiss Center of America. Afterwards, kick back with a pint from New Glarus’s own craft brewery.
Frankenmuth, Michigan, is most famous for Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. This year-round establishment is said to be the largest holiday store anywhere in the world. It could likely rival some of Europe’s biggest Christmas markets, such as the annual one in Vienna, Austria.
But there’s more to Frankenmuth’s flair than a single store. The town is actually known as “Little Bavaria,” which is fitting. The downtown area looks like something out of a fairytale, with stores located in cute, Germany-inspired buildings. The restaurants serve up culinary culture that would match what's found in Germany, and unlike almost anywhere else in the United States. You don’t need to fly to Munich to get a taste of Bavaria.
Kansas might be the last place you expect to deliver European charm, but schedule a stopover in the town of Lindsborg, and you’ll quickly revise your opinion. Swing by the Sweden-style Pavilion from the 1904 World’s Fair, or see if you can spot the larger-than-life Dalarna horses scattered through the streets.
Every other October, the town celebrates the Svensk Hyllningsfest (Sweden Heritage Celebration), which takes you into Sweden with dancing, cooking lessons, art, and of course a parade! The next festival takes place in October 2019, so you have plenty of time to plan and prepare for your visit to America’s own Little Sweden.
If you head to Portland, Oregon, you probably won’t see too many centuries-old buildings or European-inspired heritage houses. That’s because the city was only founded in the 1800s. By the early 20th century, however, it had become a seedy port town, much like its counterparts in Europe.
Culturally, Portland has much more in common with the Old World these days. It has the largest collection microbreweries in the US, and the foodie scene here rivals the culinary heavyweights of Europe. Concern for the environment and other, more liberal outlooks make Portland feel more like a cultural capital that could be found in Europe, as opposed to many other parts of America.
When you think of Texas, you probably think of a larger-than-life attitude. Everything’s bigger in Texas, and steak and cowboys are staples of the US way. You can still find a slice of Europe in the Lone Star state, however. All you have to do is visit Fredericksburg.
The whole town has a walking-through-Germany feel, which recalls its 1846 founding by settlers from Germany and identifiable architecture and fonts dot the landscape here.
If you listen closely, you’ll hear a Texas-German language, particularly in the idioms and in place names. Oh, and of course there are biergartens around for the truly authentic experience.
Helen, Georgia, probably isn’t high up on your list of places to visit if you want a little slice of Europe. Until the 1960s, this small town outside of Atlanta scarcely had any European influence at all.
That changed when business owners and city planners came together to turn Helen into a miniature Alpine village. Today, this Bavarian-inspired paradise is an excellent stop for those who want to get some more Munich into their lives, but need to stay Stateside. And, since the town is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you may actually find some alpine activities to amuse you during your stay.
Philadelphia is another one of America’s oldest cities. It’s also one of the most important. It is, after all, where the Constitution was signed and the Founding Fathers held the first government. But Philly’s long and rich history also gives it a sort of Europe flavor. Certain parts of the city still boast influence from Europe, such as the houses along Elfreth’s Alley or Fairmount Park.
Murals, outdoor sculptures, and other commitments to the arts also bolster Philadelphia’s international flair. Add a few markets to the mix, and you might mistake the streets of the City of Brotherly Love for Rome or Barcelona.
Ohio isn’t usually associated with that peculiar Old World feel, but the village of Gallipolis will challenge your perceptions. It was founded by a group of aristocrats from France in 1790. They had fled after the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. They were known as the 'French500' , and they had been promised a land like the Garden of Eden.
They didn’t actually get a Garden of Eden, but they did make Gallipolis home. Take a stroll through the downtown core, and you’ll likely see France reflected in both architecture and the pace of life. It may not be Paris, but it’s a great place to stop in for a coffee and croissant.
The state of Minnesota is known for its lakes and forests, something that makes it quite similar to the homelands of Scandinavia. In fact, many locals are the descendants of settlers from Scandinavia. That’s part of the reason New Ulm stands out. In a state with lots of international heritage, the Germany-USA population stands out, with about 50 percent of New Ulm.
The town reflects Germany through hosting cultural celebrations, including offering unique options at the local brewery that taste just like Germany. Founded by an immigrant (we bet you can guess where he was originally from), it’s now one America’s oldest breweries.
Other attractions include the Hermann Monument, a genuine Turner Hall, and the Brown County Historical Museum.
At first glance, there isn’t much that makes Montpelier, Vermont, feel much like Europe. But the deep connection with France has certainly influenced the city’s history, culture, and even its name. It’s named after the city of Montpellier, France. The Vermont city was founded after the US Revolution, a time of friendship between France and the US, so there was a general enthusiasm for all things francais.
Montpelier is also situated a scant 2 hours from Montreal, Canada, a major city with a distinct flair from Europe. Montpelier seems to have drawn some inspiration from its northern neighbor. Farmers markets, quaint shops, and a handful of buildings with internationally influenced architecture will help you feel like you’ve escaped deep into the beautiful countryside somewhere in France.
Ask most people about Venice, California, and they’ll tell you all about Venice Beach. While the beach is no doubt one of the most famous attractions the Golden State city has to offer, there’s more to see and do here.
Venice’s name is purposeful as well. A millionaire founded it in 1905, intending it to become the “Venice of America.” Canals, small rowboats, bridges, and waterways certainly lend themselves to the illusion. If you can’t visit the Venice across the pond, this California paradise will make a great substitute. And, of course, you can visit the beach when you’re finished exploring the streets inspired by Europe.
Sources: Huffington Post, Livability.com, Travel+Leisure, Cities Journal