18 Best Travel Locations In The U.S. That Feel Just Like Europe

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18 Best Places To Visit In The U.S. That Feel Like Europe
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The spread of coronavirus has led to a pause in travel for much of the world, and as America continues to see spikes in the virus, almost all travel to destinations around the world, including Europe, are on hold for those with an American passport.

Of course, six months into this global pandemic, people are itching to get out of their homes and on the road. But during a time when Europe is not a possibility, how do we balance our need for picturesque settings and classic architecture with the laws of the land and staying safe?

18 Best Places to Visit in the USA

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We can easily find something that has the same feel of Europe, but within the borders of the U.S. There are quite a few American cities that look a lot like Europe, believe it or not.

1. Boston, Massachusetts instead of Italy or England

The North End of Boston is the Italian neighborhood of the city, with cobblestone streets that smell like garlic and bread. The North End is home to more than 70 restaurants, most of which are Italian.

During the pandemic, Boston has allowed North End restaurants to set up patios on the street to give it an even more Italian feel. Quattro, Mare Oyster Bar, Aqua Pazza, Bricco, Trattoria il Panino, Assaggio Bricco Salumeria, and Panetteria and Dolci are some of the best!

Boston is also a great spot to visit if you are harkening for a trip to England. Fans of Outlander will even remember that it’s where Claire and Frank decided to move when they wanted a fresh start. 

Boston, in general, is a very "British City" because of its architecture, history, location, and rituals. Places like Beacon Hill and Newbury Street feel like they were taken right out of England and placed in the U.S.

“There are so many old streets that are lined with ancient brick buildings that just radiate the energy of England. The city has really celebrated its history and it has added so much into making this city one of the best in the country,” says Danielle Hu, founder of The Wanderlover. “Another reason why Boston feels a lot like England: it rains a lot!”

Where to stay: Loews Boston Hotel or Boston Harbor Hotel

2. Solvang, California instead of Denmark

Along the Central Coast, Solvang is a super-cute Danish village complete with gingerbread architecture, twirling windmills, and very friendly people. Tasting rooms, hip boutiques, and farm-to-fork restaurants, like Root 246, now liven a mix of bakeries, chocolatiers, and souvenir shops.

Founded in 1911 by Danish Americans from the Midwest, Solvang (Danish for “sunny fields”) also boasts an outstanding theater program, with performances in a 700-seat outdoor theater.

Solvang is one of California's true gems, a completely Danish city nestled in the warm Santa Ynez Valley somewhere between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

“You'd never expect such a sight — full of Danish architecture, huge spinning windmills, and the cutest European architecture — smack dab in the middle of California, but you really have to see it to believe it,” comments Kimmie Conner, travel blogger and photographer at Adventures & Sunsets. “Solvang is full of Danish pastry shops, distinctly European pubs with European beer, and small shopping villages that feel like you teleported to the Danish countryside.”

Where to stayHotel Corque or The Landsby

3. Napa, California instead of Tuscany, Italy

Located in Northern California, Napa Valley has long been considered a bucket list spot for wine connoisseurs.

With its acres of vineyards and beautiful golden sunsets, Napa will make travelers feel like they are in Italy’s own wine country of Tuscany. Napa is even home to the Castello Di Amorosa, a 13th-century style castle that looks as if it was plucked out of the Italian countryside.

Reminiscent of the rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany, Napa Valley offers incredible scenery and plenty of sunshine for those who wish to have a European experience. Similar to the Italian wine country, there are plenty of spots for wine lovers to enjoy, including vineyards and tasting rooms.

Food lovers will be transported to the food culture of Italy thanks to Napa’s award-winning restaurants. Active visitors can also take advantage of Napa’s bike riding, just as it's done in the countryside of Tuscany. 

Where to stayArcher Hotel Napa or Andaz Napa

4. Lake Arrowhead, California instead of Interlaken, Switzerland

This is a sweet and quaint chalet-style village, deep in a forest overlooking an alpine lake. No, it isn't Geneva, Switzerland — it's Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Nestled in the mountains of San Bernardino county, Lake Arrowhead bears a resemblance to the Swiss mountain and lake town of Interlaken. In fact, the official site says, "Lake Arrowhead Village is nestled in the beauty of the woods, having the charm of Swiss chalets, while offering a variety of modern amenities."

During the winter time, this town will make you feel as though you’re skiing in the Swiss Alps or relaxing in Lake Brienz in the summertime. 

Where to stayLake Arrowhead Resort & Spa or Saddleback Inn

5. Tarpon Springs, Florida instead of Greece

Skip the international flight and be transported to Greece in the historic riverfront town of Tarpon Springs.

Tarpon Springs is in Pinellas County, Florida, and despite being in the sunshine state (as Florida is known), it actually looks like a Greek island, complete with blue and white architecture, street names, even the boats in the harbor.

With the largest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S., Tarpon Springs has been preserved by generations of Greeks. Authentic Greek restaurants, including Mama's Greek Cuisine, Hellas and Mykonos, smell too good to resist. Stop in for grilled octopus, dolmades or a gyro.

It’s not just the food that has remained authentic; the destination hosts events rich in tradition of the Greek Orthodox faith including the Epiphany Celebration. In addition, visitors to the Historic District can stroll along brick streets while browsing in art galleries, antiques stores, and specialty shops housed in buildings dating back to the late 1800s.

Where to stayHampton Inn Tarpon Springs or Tarpon Shores Inn

6. Frankenmuth, Michigan instead of Bavaria

Frankenmuth is known as Michigan's “Little Bavaria,” but there's nothing little about the Bavarian similarities!

In Michigan’s Little Bavaria, you can't miss the expertly decorated Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. There, expect to be greeted "when driving into town from the South, or the world’s largest Christmas store with more than 50,000 gifts, trims, and décor," said Kathy Dehoney-Evitts, president of Louisville-based Dehoney Travel. There's even a Silent Night Memorial Chapel.

The Frankenmuth Brewery offers a beer sampling flight before you head over to Bronner's Christmas Lane, featuring more than 100,000 lights along this half-mile that glow when the sun goes down.

Where to stayBavarian Inn Lodge or Drury Inn and Suites

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7. Fredericksburg, Texas instead of Germany

Behind the elegant shops and fine dining, you can feel the authentic German soul and see reminders of German heritage in the historic buildings along Main Street, the German cuisine at local restaurants, and the welcoming spirit of Bavarian people that maintains its Bavarian-American ambiance. 

There's an exciting German history story behind Fredericksburg, Texas, which actually dates back to its founding in 1846. It was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.

Fredericksburg is also notable as the home of Texas German, a dialect of the German language specific to Texas. How cool is that?

Where to stayInn on Barons Creek or Hoffman Haus

8. Olympic National Park, Washington instead of Switzerland

Switzerland has picture-post card summer scenery of woods and low hills reflected in blue lakes. But the Olympic National park, in the Northeast region of the state of Washington, offers the same snow capped mountain, shimmering lakes, forests and pastoral farms.

Lake Crescent Lodge, on the shores of Lake Crescent and nestled among giant fir and hemlock trees, with views of surrounding snow covered mountains, is reminiscence of the simple elegance hotels of Switzerland. This charming 100-year-old hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features historic architecture: big sun porches and stone fireplaces.

The Olympic National Park offers trails (like Switzerland) through lush valleys and trails lined with 500-year-old trees and abundant wildlife. From Lake Crescent Lodge, guests can hike up Storm King Mountain or visit the nearby Hurricane Ridge. Nearby Hurricane Ridge (summit elevation is 5,240 feet) has a number of hiking trails, from ridge top traverses to steep trails, that descend to subalpine lakes and valleys.

Where to stay: Lake Crescent Lodge

9. Leavenworth, Washington instead of Germany

It's the perfect place to visit if you were hoping to head to Europe. You'll get the same feel as a trip to Bavaria, but instead of the Bavarian Alps, you'll have the opportunity to hike the Cascades.

Instead of frosting in a German beer hall, you can do it in one of the many beer halls in Leavenworth. If you keep your eyes closed before you fully wake, you'll be serenaded by the daily morning alp horn greeting. It'll feel just like a trip to Germany without leaving the U.S.

With a population of only 2010 people, the city of Leavenworth was built in the traditional Bavarian-style, inspired by the German countryside vibe.

“It wasn’t always like this. It used to be yet another American town until the town leaders decided to attract more crowds and redesign some of the places downtown in the 1960s,” reveals Torben Lonne, profressional travel blogger and founder of DiveIn.

"Today, Leavenworth has a unique charm that makes you feel as if you are in Germany, especially during Oktoberfest, one of the biggest celebrations in Europe. The town is full of authentic German restaurants that serve different types of beer and old-fashioned German würste.”

Where to stayBavarian Lodge or Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort

10. Irish Hills in San Luis Obispo, California instead of Northern Ireland

The Irish Hills are a low mountain range along the outer California Coast Ranges in western San Luis Obispo County, California.

The beautiful rolling, green Irish Hills in San Luis Obispo get their name from their resemblance to the hills of Northern Ireland. It's are home to a variety of trails including Froom Creek Trail, which is an old mining road, and Morro View Trail, which looks out onto Morro Bay.  

There are so many trails here that this would also be a great location for lovers of adventure and wellness.

Where to staySan Luis Creek Lodge or Madonna Inn

11. Holland, Michigan instead of the Netherlands

If you want to feel like you have traveled outside the U.S. without even needing a passport then a visit to Holland, Michigan is a must. 

“As someone who loves visiting the Netherlands, I was surprised to see its likeness to the beautiful Dutch countryside,” comments Bianca Malata, a travel writer. “Influenced by the Dutch heritage and culture, the small town is extremely picturesque and will certainly surprise many with its unique charm and atmosphere.”

The Windmill Island Gardens and the Nelis’ Dutch Village are among the most popular sights across the city. Of course, one of the best times to visit Holland is in Spring because you can witness the six million tulips being planted yearly for the tulip time festival!

Where to stayCityFlatsHotel Holland or Teerman Lofts

12. New Orleans, Louisiana instead of France

New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the best cities in the United States to visit. “This city was first founded by the French,” says Phillip Weiss, a travel blogger focused on digital nomad lifestyle. Because of this, much of the old architecture is built with French stylings. The French culture has also made an impact on the foods and attractions in the city.

Even if you aren’t jazzed about France, you can still benefit from visiting New Orleans. Adds Weiss, “After the French founded the city, it was turned over to the Spanish. Like with the French influence, much of the architecture and food in the city has a bit of Spanish flair.”

So, by visiting New Orleans, you can actually experience both French and Spanish culture, without having to go overseas.

Where to stayThe Higgins Hotel New Orleans or Royal Sonesta New Orleans

13. Pensacola, Florida instead of Spain

This U.S. destination feels like a trip to Europe (without the jetlag). With architecture spanning from Spanish Colonial buildings to Creole townhouses, walking through Pensacola feels like stepping into old-time Spain and France.

Add in the powdery-white sand beaches and emerald waters that Pensacola is renowned for, and the city will give you the sense that you've been transported to a Meditteranean island. 

Pensacola is known as the City of Five Flags because of its history. The city has been claimed by/or a part of five nations, including: Great Britain, France, Spain, the Confederacy and the U.S. Today, these five civilizations have created a city rich in more than 450 years of culture and heritage. 

Where to stayHampton Inn Pensacola Airport or Red Roof Inn Pensacola

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14. Santa Fe, New Mexico instead of Spain

Spanish explorers and then Spanish colonial settlers were traveling to and establishing “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis” (or what is known as modern day Santa Fe, New Mexico) back in 1610. This Spanish/European influence meshed with local Native American culture to become one of the most unique cities in the U.S. that has retained a strong sense of place and is one of a kind destination.

A trip to Santa Fe to take in this blend of Spanish influence will deliver for the culturally curious who are not currently able to use their passports to travel to Spain. Visit sites that reveal the history of the Spanish colonial times in the Southwest, United States, starting in the historic Santa Fe Plaza area, where you can still see how Santa Fe was laid out around a central Plaza similar to cities in Spain. 

You can visit the Palace of the Governors building, which is known as the oldest, continuously operating government building in the U.S., and was the official location of the Spanish government in 1600 and 1700s.

One block away, don't miss the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Asis, a major anchor of the plaza area and iconic Catholic site. Nearby, find the “Oldest Church” in the U.S., the San Miguel Mission, which is also a true Adobe structure.

Where to stayLa Fonda on the Plaza or Old Santa Fe Inn

15. Temecula Valley, California instead of Tuscany, Italy

Are you in Italy or are you in southern California? It may be kind of hard to tell when you visit this beautiful region.

Dine al fresco with scenic views of surrounding mountains and expansive vineyards, spectacular sunsets, horseback riding on vineyard trails, hot air ballooning over vineyards and citrus groves, hiking trails, horse drawn carriage rides to wineries, and overnight accommodations among the vines at inns, villas, casitas, cabanas, resorts and hotels.

Temecula is a romantic place to escape, relax, and feel a million miles away. Yet, it's in the center of southern California, just 60 minutes north of San Diego, Palm Springs, and Orange County, and 90 minutes from Los Angeles. 

Where to staySouth Coast Winery Resort and Spa or Carter Estate Winery

16. Santa Barbara, California instead of Barcelona

Santa Barbara's climates and beaches mirror Barcelona, but there's so many more similarities to be seen for those craving a Spanish getaway while staying stateside.

Spanish Colonial influence can be seen around every corner in Santa Barbara. Spanish settlers gave the city its distinct architectural style in the form of Old Mission Santa Barbara and what is now the Country Courthouse, a style that was carried forward by local visionaries after a massive earthquake destroyed much of the area’s infrastructure in 1925.

Today, Santa Barbara relives Latin heritage during Old Spanish Fiesta Days. Santa Barbara is chock-full of vivid art installations, historic landmarks and incredible architecture. The town’s Spanish heritage shines through the white-washed Adobe buildings, red tile roofs, and hacienda-style design.

Where to stayHotel Californian or Santa Barbara Inn

17. Alexandria, Virginia instead of Paris

Take a stroll on a brick-lined streets and find chef-driven restaurants, cobblestone alleyways, surprising architectural details, independently owned boutiques and galleries, and the Old Town Farmers’ Market outside on Saturdays.

The gaslit lamps and narrow streets are enough to make you feel like you could be in Paris. Alexandria is packed with vibrant and diverse architectural styles and gardens reminiscent of Paris.

Just like the Seine River Cruise, visitors can find a varied collection of cruises on the Potomac River, connecting to Washington, D.C. to the north, Mount Vernon to the south, and everywhere in between.

With Potomac Riverboat Company, you can cruise to see the monuments, visit the National Mall, catch a baseball game, see the Cherry Blossoms in the springtime, and more!

Where to stayKimpton Lorien or Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria

18. Cape Cod, Massachusetts instead of England

Centuries ago, pilgrims from England made their way to the then-colonies via the Cape Cod area, meaning there was a lot of English influence to be found then, and now.

Frequently compared to England's southwestern peninsula, Cape Cod's coastal dunes and artsy community offers an ideal European getaway without leaving the U.S. With local shops, art galleries and plenty of food and beverage options, Cape Cod is a must-see.

For accommodations, consider the Aiden by Best Western at Cape Point, situated minutes away from famed beaches, Cape Cod parks and golf courses, and a ferry trip away from Martha's Vineyard.

Where to stayAiden by Best Western or Sea Street Inn

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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