You certainly do not have to board an international flight to get a taste of Europe!
While the global pandemic is still wreaking havoc over our lives, new restrictions in Europe are putting our winter travel plans into a questionable spot once again! After an optimistic spring and summer season we all experienced, where everything was re-opening, and we had our bags packed, all set to travel across the continent, the Omicron variant just flew in and ruined the plans.
For travelers in the United States who are vexed and sad about the lack of choices to fly abroad and live their dream, exploring Europe like a local, we have a surprise for you!
Leisure’s top travel guides are bringing for you the top 7 places in the US, just a drive away from your home that will offer you that distinct experience for which you wanted to escape to Europe.
Yes, you can now travel to Europe without actually traveling to the continent. All thanks to these 7 locations’ rich architecture, old-world delicacies, and the quaint city squares Europe is known for, you can explore and find yourself in “Europe.”
Of course, while the global pandemic still remains a bit of a concern for everyone around the planet, we must remember to check and go through the latest domestic travel guidelines before visiting.
From East Coast to West Coast, here are the seven US cities with that European charm, definitely worth visiting this season as per top travel guides.
Perhaps the oldest city of our country, St. Augustine, Florida, was colonized during the mid-1500s by Spanish explorers and colonizers. Their influence, however, still remains and lives on as we breathe today in the 21st century.
The true reflection of Spanish influence can be seen in the city’s architecture. Among other treasures in St. Augustine, you will be mesmerized by the imposing Castillo de San Marcos, a stone masonry fortress along the Matanzas Bay on the western edge of the city. Another major attraction in St. Augustine is the grand Hotel Ponce de Leon, Flagler College. Constructed in 1888, the structure of this masterpiece, with Moorish influence, is still worshiped among artists and architects. The structure truly reflects the Spanish Colonial Revival designs with its symmetrical cupolas, grand rotundas lined with different murals, and the ever-so-charming, Tiffany stained glass windows.
Another exciting location you must definitely visit when in St. Augustine is the Lightner Museum. The museum is a marvel in the Spanish Renaissance Revival scene, housing American Gilded Age antiques in this beautiful 19th-century building - Hotel Alcazar.
A pint-sized enclave, Carmel-by-the-sea along the Central Coast of California offers the same windswept, quaint and beachy magic that Cinque Terre in Italy offers. It has cute little cottages and an enchanting collection of wineries, independent boutiques, and cafes.
The location is almost a replica of Italy’s famous string of seaside villages, where you will find cute little homes painted in shades of reds, terra-cotta, oranges, pastel pinks. Once the candy-colored walls have caught your attention, you will be mesmerized by the vineyards dangling precariously off the jagged cliffs or the fishing boats floating around in almost painting-like turquoise waters. The spot is one of the most heavily visited locations in Europe. You will find the same allure in California. Visit Carmel-by-the-sea to fulfill your Italian architectural hunger.
Deep beneath the cascading mountains of Washington State, you will come across the dainty Leavenworth town. Leavenworth is our country’s Bavaria. Their massive civic initiative from the 1960s has boosted Leavenworth’s economy and opened the gates for German architecture, culture as well as art to enter this bewitching little mountain town. Today, all the tourists and visitors coming to Leavenworth are treated to its Alpine-style architecture, an adorably cute nutcracker museum, and a variety of food halls, including Ludwig’s, Rhein Haus, and also München Haus, serving the best of German flavors and brattiness.
But wait, our top travel guides suggest that there is more to Leavenworth than what meets the eye. There are plenty of options to go skiing, biking, and bird watching. Another great reason to visit this pseudo-German town, the Oktoberfest celebrations! Earlier canceled for the year 2020 and converted to a much more muted street fair this year, one of the top festivals around the world is going to be back with a bang next year! The festival will be jointly hosted by Leavenworth Town and Wenatchee jointly.
Located in the midst of thatched-roofed stores peddling wooden footwear, cuckoo clocks, and multiple windmills spinning in all the wind to this dainty little town, Solvang is a true reflection of Aarhus, Denmark. In Solvang, you will find various bakeries serving spherical Danish pancakes, known as aebleskiver, along with the reenactments of the Viking ages in the courtyards of beer gardens in town. Everything you could dream of doing in Aarhus, Denmark, you will find in Solvang, California!
Solvang is just a 45-minutes drive from Santa Barbara but is truly reflective of Scandinavian culture out and out, from every single angle! Its replication of Copenhagen’s cutesy, little mermaid sculpture, the Danish specialty half-timbered provincial buildings, and its very own Round Tower is what makes the location special! In fact, the highlight of your trip here, as per our top travel guides, would be viewing the reproduction of Copenhagen’s scaled, identical yet larger Rundetårn.
However, one thing that will bring you back to get a feeling that you are still in the US - sunshine and the salt-kissed air of California!
Are you craving a vacation to the French Riviera this year? With the laid-back elegance and its pebbly shores, you will be engulfed in the beauty of Newport, Rhode Island. In Newport, you will find the Gilded Age Mansions and ramshackle lobster shacks perfectly coexisting together harmoniously. This is pretty similar to what one witnesses in Nice, France. The coastal walkways in Nice have inspired the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Cézanne. But it is Newport’s cliff walks stretching over 3 miles that captivates our heart! What also mesmerizes us in Newport is the Breakers, that is Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s Beaux-Arts Villa, built in 1892 by the famous architect Richard Morris Hunt.
The city of Newport is also famous for the sailing scenes that make it a hit with tourists during the holiday season. The best part comes directly from our top travel guides - it is just a 3-hour drive away from New York and about a 90-minute drive from Boston. Newport is home to multiple luxurious hotels, including the Wayfinder and the Chanler at Cliff Walk.
Anyone who has wandered around the Seine and felt this feeling of déjà vu while strolling alongside Potomac will understand exactly what we are trying to say! Washington D.C.’s street grid is made of pretty small, irregularly shaped blocks, which more closely resembles the layout of Paris. This observation comes directly from a keen analysis by the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
The reason why the two cities resemble each other so much is purely militarian. Both Paris and Washington D.C. were designed in a way that if in the future they encounter an attack, the army in both the cities will be able to move through the streets easily, on the defensive. However, it is not just the layout of the city that has a sharp resemblance to the layout of Paris; it is also the city life! Life in the city here in Washington bears amazingly rich resemblance to the culture in Paris, along with its charming sidewalk cafes where one can find multiple diners just having conversations al fresco; the boulevards; the bridges lined along with cherry blossoms and lovers rambling about, blooming together!
It is in the capital of our country that you will find the beauty of Paris in France when you can really not go to Paris!
Just don’t let the “new” of New Britain fool you in any way! New Britain is a breath of fresh air with an old-world charm, located right between New York and Boston. This is truly a portal into the old world. New Britain was once a great magnet for Polish immigrants during the 20th century. It is also why we are able to see Polish heritage and pride here in the town even today!
Along Broad Street in this town, you will find the heart and soul of the town’s Polish community, where you will find the cultural and culinary legacy of Polish culture on full display. There is also a Polmart, a grand housing building consisting of grocery stores, bakeries, and the US Post Office, written in Polish, of course as its signage!
As per our top travel guides, you should definitely look out for the Roly Poly bakery, where you can get a whiff and taste of stuffed cabbage, pierogies, and freshly-baked bread. You should also visit the Sacred Heart Parish while you are there, which is an imposing stone church, perhaps the oldest one existing today with its roots tied to the Polish-American parishes from New England.
Who says you cannot enjoy Europe while in America? Our top travel guides beg to differ! Visit these beautiful locations. Once you are there, it’s as if you were teleported straight to the European continent! Bookmark this article for when you make plans to travel to these locations, or share it with someone who might be interested! Give them the gift of “Paris” this year.
Happy vacationing to you!