Many of us have felt the sting of the pandemic curtailing European vacations this year. At the time of writing, most of Europe is still restricted for non-essential American travel, but if you are craving European flavor and charm, all is not lost. Visit any of these ten alternative cities right in the U.S. that make you feel like you’re in Europe.
- Solvang, California for Denmark – Danish emigrants established Solvang in 1911, bringing their cultural heritage with them in the form of half-timbered buildings, windmills, and Viking reenactments. With replicas of the Little Mermaid statue and the Round Tower, you’ll feel like you’re in Copenhagen.
- Lindsborg, Kansas for Sweden – With only 3,200 residents, Lindsborg is known as ‘Little Sweden’ because Swedish settlers maintained their culture since 1869. Explore the historic buildings of Heritage Square including a livery, windmill, and the Swedish Pavilion, which was transported from Sweden, brick by brick, for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
- Poulsbo, Washington for Norway – Known as ‘Little Norway on the Fjord’ due to its location on Puget Sound, Poulsbo enjoys a rich Scandinavian-influenced culture including Norwegian bakeries and beer halls, Viking and Midsommer festivals, art, architecture, and heavy use of the Norwegian language.
- Yellowstone National Park for Iceland – Iceland is known for its geothermal wonders, but let’s face it, Yellowstone is the Grandaddy of geyser fields with about 500 active ones. Old Faithful is the star, while Steamboat is taller but less predictable, and Grand Prismatic Spring shows off fabulous colors.
- Holland, Michigan for the Netherlands – If you can’t make it to the Netherlands for tulip time (early May), you can still see 5 million blooms in Holland, Michigan. The annual Tulip Time Festival is ranked as one of the best small-town festivals in the U.S. where you can taste typical Dutch foods, visit an authentic windmill, and buy some wooden shoes.
- New Glarus, WI for Switzerland – ‘America’s Little Switzerland’ was founded by Swiss emigrants who carried their culture to their new home. You’ll find a picturesque town with street signs in German, chalet-style buildings, and plenty of Swiss wurst and cheese. Don’t be surprised if you hear yodeling!
- Leavenworth, Washington for Germany – Leavenworth was a logging town that was dying out and cleverly recreated itself as a Bavarian village. Now a million people a year come to Oktoberfest and Christmas celebrations, enjoy the Bavarian restaurants and Bier Wagon, and hear the morning alphorn serenade.
- St Augustine, Florida for Spain – As the oldest settlement in America, St. Augustine dates to 1565 when the Spanish landed there. The cobbled streets and historic structures exemplify the Spanish colonial architecture. Don’t miss the Castillo de San Marcos fortress, built in 1672, and the Lightner Museum, inspired by the Royal Alcazar of Seville.
- Carmel-by-the-Sea, California for Cinque Terre, Italy – If Italy’s famed villages with awe-inspiring views of the sea are what you crave, trade them for the coastal lure of central California and the quaint enclave of Carmel-by-the-Sea. You’ll find the bluffs as windswept and the wine as flavorful, but with a lot fewer visitors, giving you room to unwind.
- Tarpon Springs, FL for Greece – Hellenic culture is strong in Tarpon Springs, with 10 percent of residents claiming Greek heritage. The restaurants and bakeries alone are reason to visit the Greektown Historic District, but Tarpon Springs is also renowned as “the sponge capital of the world,” a legacy of the deep-sea divers who emigrated there. (See lead image.)
Even if a trip is off the table for now, you can find European charm and culture in these U.S. cities that feel like Europe. When you’re ready to travel, ask your travel advisor for help planning your vacation.