USA Travel


Looking for European charm in the USA? Recent events have upended every facet of our lives, including travel. Luckily, those currently living in the US don’t need a valid passport or money for a plane ticket to get a glimpse of European places. As regular readers are already aware, there are numerous cities in the US that have a European feel. So if you’re ready for a European experience but your wallet says you’ll be lucky to afford to leave the house, here are 18 American places that seem European.

1.  Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of the country’s most beautiful historic places. Step back into colonial days in a place reminiscent of England or Ireland. It is one of the country’s oldest cities.    

Stroll the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill, the famous home of the descendants of the English settlers complete with old, red-brick homes. The streets are gas-lit and there are historical buildings on almost every corner. You can even visit the harbor where the Boston Tea Party took place and learn how this historic protest helped ignite the American Revolution. Go hike the popular red-bricked 2.5-mile Freedom Trail and see 16 historic landmarks in only a couple of hours including Faneuil Hall, the site of the nation’s first official town meeting and “the home of free speech”.  

2.  Charleston, South Carolina

This picturesque port city includes brightly colored, elegant historic architecture, cobblestone streets, towering palm trees, delicious local cuisine, bougainvillea, and an excess of European charm. This southern city has the feel of southern France or Spain. Homes here go back to a time before the infamous Civil War.

The harbor here is also historic. Indeed, it was back in 1861 off the coast of famous Fort Sumter that the very first shots of the US Civil War were once fired. Don’t miss the 13 colorful buildings of Rainbow Row either. They date back to the 1700s.  

3.  Leavenworth, Washington

It’s no accident that Leavenworth resembles a Bavarian village. Nestled at the base of the Cascades Mountains, this place was specifically designed to evoke Germany in order to attract tourists in the 1960s. It comes complete with Alpine-style buildings, Bavarian-like food halls (stocked with German beer and brats), and the unusual Nutcracker Museum. It’s also a great place for skiing, snowboarding, and hiking. The best time to visit, of course, is in October so you can join in on the fun of Oktoberfest.

4.  New Glarus, Wisconsin

Image courtesy of New Glarus/Facebook

Also known as “Little Switzerland,” is aptly named after the village of New Glarus located in Switzerland. Swiss immigrants founded this place in 1845. It has an authentic Swiss look and offers visitors delicious Swiss chocolate and Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate in its numerous shops, Swiss bakeries, and restaurants. Other highlights include a great brewery, a Swiss Historical Village and Museum, and a genuine Swiss Bernese mountain chalet called the Chalet of the Golden Fleece Museum.

5.  Montpelier, Vermont

This is yet another American city named for its European counterpart. Also known as “the tiniest of all state capitals”, it was founded back in 1781. The entire city reflects this relationship; thus it has the feel of New England effectively blended with lively vibrant French culture. Nestled in the beautiful foothills of the rugged Green Mountains, it offers visitors quaint boutiques and French-derivated architecture. Finally, it’s located less than two hours from Montreal in Canada.

6.  New Orleans, Louisiana

Louisiana was once under French rule. This is most apparent in the port city of New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Visit the famous French Quarter in this city founded by the French in 1718 and it will make you feel as if you are actually on the French Riviera, and the old buildings here have a rather distinctive European look. The authentic beignets add even more to that feeling. 

7.  New Ulm, Minnesota

If you’re still hungry for additional German influence, take a vacation in the city of New Ulm. The U.S. Census reported that more than 65 percent of the local population are German-American. Many of the original settlers came from Scandinavia as well. Be sure to see the Hermann Monument, the Turner Hall, and sample some German-style beer brewed at the popular local brewery. You will love it!

8.  Pella, Iowa

Picturesque Pella is often referred to as “America’s Dutch Treasure,” because it was significantly influenced by the Dutch immigrants who first settled there back in 1847. Indeed, this city is rife with Dutch culture. Be sure to visit the popular Molengracht Plaza, which reportedly includes a Dutch-style canal. The city also features charming, unique shops, and even the USA’s tallest working grain windmill. If you enjoy flowers, then be sure to visit during the annual spring festival known as Tulip Time.

9.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is one of the nation’s oldest cities and has a European flair. Cobblestoned Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the city, will make you feel like you’re in England. Most of the narrowed, shuttered buildings once housed the city’s merchants and artisans and remain privately owned. City Hall is quite reminiscent of France. The many markets and old buildings make strolling through the city easy and you will feel as if you are in some other place. 

10.  Washington, D.C.

The US capital has a European influence that is difficult to ignore. After all, it was actually designed by French-American military engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who intended to create a Parisian city. The number of gardens and wide boulevards are evocative of Paris, France. Mind you, it certainly doesn’t hurt that European diplomats are frequently found here too. Visit the Mall and see the big attractions–the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.

11.  Skagit Valley, Washington

The Netherlands isn’t the only place with Instagram-worthy flora. Skagit Valley has some stunning blooms all its own. In fact, the place is famous for its tulips and daffodils too. If you are not able to get to the well-known Keukenhof Gardens in lovely Lisse, then by all means be sure to go see Skagit Valley in the spring. If you’re visiting Seattle, you can see Skagit Valley on a day trip.

12.  German Village, Ohio

Columbus is like any other city, for the most part. Yet one little neighborhood makes Columbus seem like one of the most European places in the country. German Village has the charms and feel of Germany itself. It has cobblestone streets, and traditional Bavarian restaurants, such as Schmidt’s Sausage Haus. It’s the perfect place to forget about the city, dine on German food, and even purchase German crafts.

13.  Napa Valley, California

Like Tuscany, Italy, Napa Valley has charming rural towns, acres of vineyards, and tasting rooms serving hearty wines. There are over 500 wineries here, frequently built similarly to wineries in the Italian countryside. The Andretti Winery was founded by Italian race car champion Mario Andretti. It features a Tuscany-like stone courtyard, a villa-reminiscent tasting room, and fountains. Dine on micro-regional Italian dishes at Bottega Napa Valley in Yountville too.

14.  Christkindlmarket, Illinois

Image courtesy of Nomadic Niko

Regular readers know all about German Christmas markets. If you can’t get to a European Christmas market, head for Chicago. The Christkindlmarket there is huge and has attractive wooden huts that offer visitors gingerbread, mulled wine, pretzels, and more. This one was even modeled to resemble the one they have in Nuremberg. Just like in Germany, you can even go ice skating.

15.  Newport, Rhode Island

Are you dreaming of Southern France? Gorgeous sunsets and pricey yachts are not only reserved for the rich and famous who live in Southern France. Newport has a wonderful waterfront path, beautiful boats of all sizes, and numerous places where you can get all the fresh seafood you want much like its more famous European counterpart.   

16.  Ketchikan, Alaska

Norway is not the only place to find great glacial valleys. Additionally, Ketchikan, like Norway, also has places that are excellent for kayaking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. Oh, and let’s face it unless you live in Alaska, you know Ketchikan and the surrounding areas look like somewhere else just as much as Norway does.     

17.  Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia

Veteran visitors confirm that this state park has “all the highland charms of Scotland.” Located in the southern part of the state, it bears a distinct resemblance to the Scottish Highlands. It features misty valleys, rocky cliffs, rolling hills, and plenty of greenery. Okay, okay, maybe this state park might not have those cute hairy coos, they do have their own cute wild ponies.

18.  Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

If you’re longing for the noteworthy, rugged shores of Italy’s Cinque Terre, visit Carmel-by-the-Sea. This charming seaside village is backdropped by the Pacific Ocean and looming mountains and has many Cypress trees. This postcard-perfect place is almost a fairy tale town and hikers enjoy the trails in this area as well. It is also a popular “romantic refuge” for couples looking for an intimate beach escape.