Want to feel like you’re a world away without the long flight and jet lag? Check out these places to visit in the U.S. that look and feel remarkably similar to their European counterparts.
We’d all love to jet off on international adventures, but sometimes a lack of funds and time can get in the way of our globetrotting dreams. Fortunately, there’s a solution, and it doesn’t have to come in the form of a staycation. There are plenty of beautiful places to visit in the U.S. that look and feel just like European locales, thanks to early settlers who came to America infusing a heavy dose of culture into their designs, food and celebrations.
1. You want to go to Greece
The place to visit: Tarpon Springs, Florida
Greek divers and crew members immigrated here for the flourishing sponge industry, which mimics that of their homeland. They dive deep down for the beautiful and useful sponges, which they distribute worldwide (and at all the local tourist shops). You can take a boat out to watch the magic happen, or you can watch from ashore as the divers bring their sponge finds to the docks and beaches. Today more than 10% of Tarpon Springs’ population is Greek, which is a higher percentage than in any other U.S. city. And more than 7% still speak Greek at home. From garlic lamb to Horiatiki (Greek salad), baklava and loukoumades, you can try delicacies at any number of Greek restaurants here.
2. You want to go to the Netherlands
The place to visit: Pella, Iowa
Nicknamed America’s Dutch Treasure, Pella was founded by Hollanders in 1847 as a city of refuge. Its population of 10,000 swells by 150,000 every May during the Tulip Time Festival, where eager tourists come to view the hundreds of thousands of tulips blooming throughout the town. But that’s not the only reason to visit. There’s the Frisian Farms Cheese House, which specializes in artisan Gouda. There’s the Klokkenspel, which has eight four-feet mechanical figures that perform to the music of 147 bells. It’s something you might see in the Netherlands, but not typically in the United States. The Vermeer Mill, another popular attraction, is a working mill from the 1850s and the tallest one in the nation. Next to the mill is a historical village comprised of 21 buildings displaying life in Pella from the pioneer days until the early 20th century, complete with a miniature Dutch village with more than 100 buildings replicating hamlets in Holland.
3. You want to go to Switzerland
The place to visit: New Glarus, Wisconsin
In the heart of Wisconsin, you’ll find Little Switzerland. In New Glarus, you can check out the Chalet of the Golden Fleece Museum, which is an authentic copy of a Swiss Bernese mountain chalet. Inside are Swiss dolls, wood carvings, paintings and more. At the popular New Glarus Brewing Company, you can take a free self-guided tour, purchase a flight of three beers, and grab some local brews to take home. Don’t forget to walk through the Swiss Historical Village, 14 buildings that offer a look into pioneer life in the Swiss colony of New Glarus. Post-walk, dine on fondue and bratwurst like the Swiss do.
4. You want to go to Sweden
The place to visit: Lindsborg, Kansas
Little Sweden was founded by Swedish immigrants in the late 1800s. In their community library you’ll find Swedish books, the signs around town are in Swedish, and the college team is The Swedes. There’s a biannual Svensk Hyllningsfest, a celebration of Swedish heritage, which draws even more Swedes. When you visit, you’ll wonder if you’re in Kansas anymore. Start by taking a picnic lunch to Coronado Heights, the name of their castle. The McPherson County Old Mill Museum also can’t be missed. It houses actual working mills, and you can see how Swedes milled their flour long ago. Dine at the Swedish Crown Restaurant, and take home some Swedish groceries from Scott’s Hometown Foods.
5. You want to go to Denmark
The place to visit: Solvang, California
Stroll the streets here and you’ll instantly feel like you’re in Denmark. You’ll wander past five windmills, the Little Mermaid Fountain, a giant red clog, and a round tower, all created in Danish style. While you wander, you can stop in at five authentic Danish bakeries to try pastries. If you get thirsty, you can stop at 20 wine and beer tasting rooms to try Danish specialties along with liquor from other parts of the world. Learn more about Solvang and Denmark’s heritage by exploring one of many museums, including the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and the Wildling Museum. If you get tired of walking, you can take a trolley tour, ride a horse, or cycle through the country roads.
6. You want to go to Spain
The place to visit: St. Augustine, Florida
Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S. and still retains its Spanish colonial architecture. Most notable is the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress. It took 23 years to build, and many historic events have taken place within it, including the unjust imprisonment of Seminole tribe leader Chief Osceola in 1837. Fort Matanzas is also an important visit, as it was a watchtower fort built by the Spanish. Take a break from your explorations by stopping in at one of many Spanish bakeries, cafés and restaurants — or simply relaxing at the beach.
7. You want to go to Germany
The place to visit (option A): New Ulm, Minnesota
With a large German population, New Ulm was founded in 1854 by the German Land Company of Chicago. Home to the August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm entices visitors with all things German, from brats to beers. You can visit the Hermann Monument, a historical site inspired by the Hermannsdenkmal, near Detmold, Germany, and a reminder of many locals’ Germanic ancestry. In addition, check out the glockenspiel, one of the only freestanding carillon clock towers in the world. New Ulm is considered the polka capital of the nation, and locals do their polka dancing at George’s Ballroom.
8. You want to go to Germany
The place to visit (option B): Leavenworth, Washington
Nestled within the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is the place to visit when you want to step back into history. The Bavarian town has a Nutcracker museum containing more than 6,000 nutcrackers, some dating to the archaic period and others from Roman times. Kids will enjoy the nutcracker hunt (similar to a scavenger hunt). While Leavenworth may look and feel like Bavaria, the soil here lends to award-winning wines, and there are plenty of wine walks and wine-tasting tours at the many local wineries. Leavenworth also offers many options for Bavarian food, from Andreas Keller, which specializes in Schweinshaxe, German potato salad and sausages, to Baren Haus, which makes authentic homemade German entrées.