With travel between the U.S. and Europe largely on pause due to COVID-19, and travelers searching for less congested locales, we’ve uncovered some destinations that deliver big European style on a smaller scale. Try:
Napa, California instead of Tuscany, Italy
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the rolling, ochre-colored hills dotted with vineyards in the Napa Valley for the Tuscan countryside. Napa produces wines that rival any found in Tuscany, and has a vibrant arts community to experience.
Newport, Rhode Island instead of Nice, France
Nice is known for its spectacular natural coastline, impressive architecture, Italian-French dining and (of course) seafood. There aren’t too many places that can compete in the U.S., but Newport ticks all the boxes. Newport has the “Cliff Walk,” a meander along the coast that takes you on a tour of breathtaking nature and fancy architecture and some of the best seafood on the eastern seaboard.
New Glarus, Wisconsin instead of Switzerland
Located just 20 miles south of Madison, the village of New Glarus will transport you to Switzerland in spirit, if not in fact. Founded in 1845 by a small group of Swiss settlers, New Glarus today features Swiss architecture, a much beloved brewery, sausage prepared like in the old country, all wrapped in a small-town package.
Boston, Massachusetts instead of Dublin or London, U.K.
We couldn’t resist throwing in at least one big city – and Boston edges out Philly or Washington D.C. by a hair. True Anglophiles will feel right at home amid the British architecture and countless Irish pubs, but history buffs especially will love the old world feel of cobbled streets and colonial history around every corner.
St. Augustine, Florida instead of Spain
St. Augustine is arguably the oldest town in the United States, and is legendarily one of the spots Ponce de Leon may have searched for the Fountain of Youth. What we have in St. Augustine now is impressive Spanish Renaissance architecture, a colonial city center history for miles (don’t forget to visit the Castillo de San Marcos).
New Ulm, Minnesota instead of Germany
There are quite a few towns across the states that will give you an Oktoberfest vibe, but New Ulm might be the most authentic. The little town was founded in 1854 by German immigrants, and has a population that is still more than 50% German American. You can visit a real life Glockenspiel in the “polka capital of the world,” or visit a true Bavarian-style brewery while you take in the scenery.
Santa Barbara, California instead of Spain
Santa Barbara’s small town feel, colonial Spanish architecture/adobe buildings, mediterranean climate and relaxed boardwalk all contribute to the town’s Spanish feel. Spain’s settlers have left an indelible historical legacy on Santa Barbara, and no visit to Santa Barbara can be complete without a visit to the Mission de Santa Barbara which has been called the “mother of all Missions.” Santa Barbara offers a lively festival culture all year long, so look for this to be one of the first thighs locals bring back when it is safe to do so.
Montpelier, Vermont instead of France
The capital of Vermont is a lot like a charming French hamlet? True Francophiles might scoff at the very idea. But keep an open mind! Nestled into the rolling hills of Vermont and named after Montpellier in the south of France, Montpelier is chock full of quaint shops, quirky locals and French architecture. It’s a lovely place to visit to decompress and relax for a weekend.
Solvang, California instead of Denmark
Los Angelenos have been visiting kitschy Solvang for decades. Founded in 1911 by a group of intrepid Danes that were trying to escape Midwestern winters, the little town just 2 hours by car north of Los Angeles offers a bustling tourist trade and offers Danish architecture including windmills, dining and shops. Danish Days is a popular event, held the third week of every September and featuring traditional dancing, music, and handicrafts.