Top US destinations with European style
July 08, 2020
Last Update: 2020-07-08 02:32:02
Last summer, over four million Americans traveled to Europe between July and August. This summer, Americans hoping to hop across the pond may want to consider what European-style alternatives already exist in their backyard.
Although the EU and other European countries opened their borders to an extensive list of foreign travelers on July 1st, American residents will not be allowed admittance until the United States controls the spread of COVID-19. The EU will regularly update this list, but with multiple states seeing a dangerous surge in new cases, America isn't likely to meet the epidemiological standards necessary for reconsideration in the coming weeks.
Luckily, the United States boasts one of the most dynamic backyards in the world. Whether it’s a city shaped by European imperialism or a landscape that bears a remarkable resemblance to the Old Continent, visiting one of these US destinations will make you feel like you’re thousands of miles away from home, even if you’re only traveling for a few hours.
Leavenworth's Bavarian village has the Cascade Mountains as an Alps-style backdrop ©Connie Coleman/Getty Images
1. Leavenworth, Washington – similar to Bavaria, Germany
The beer is Bavarian. The timber-framed buildings are Bavarian. Even the seasonal celebrations, like Oktoberfest, are Bavarian. The only thing not Bavarian about Leavenworth, Washington, is its location – though the snow-capped Cascade Range surrounding the town does look strikingly similar to Bavaria's German Alps.
The mimicry is intentional. In the 1960s, after facing years of economic turmoil, Leavenworth decided to reinvent itself as a tourist magnet. Taking a cue from the natural scenery, the community worked together to model itself after the mountain villages found outside of Munich. Their plan worked. Today, Leavenworth draws millions of visitors looking for a kitschy slice of German life and a home base for exploring the Wenatchee National Forest.
Coastline on Hwy 1 near Big Sur ©Kan Khampanya /500px
2. California's Pacific Coast Highway – similar to Croatia's Dalmatian Coast
From the redwood forests near Mendocino to the sun-kissed sands below Los Angeles, California's Pacific Coast Highway – also known as Highway 1 – snakes its way through tiny beach towns and along dramatic cliffs matched only by the drive from Dubrovnik to Split along Croatia's Dalmatian coastline.
This rite-of-passage road trip unfolds like a fairytale. Big Sur's rugged shores and hiking trails give way to San Simeon, where Hearst Castle rises like a mirage from the ocean's summertime fog. Also known as La Cuesta Encantada ("The Enchanted Hill"), this Mediterranean Revival mansion is the definition of Iberian grandeur. For more Spanish-style architecture, head south to Old Mission Santa Barbara, an 18th-century relic that conjures images of the ancient Roman Empire. Exciting though these architectural sites may be, don't forget to keep your eyes on the road – the best views on the PCH are the ones outside your windshield.
The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt ©bodhichita/Shutterstock
3. Newport, Rhode Island – similar to the French Riviera
Rhode Island's ritziest summer escape boasts enough Gilded Age glamour to give Louis XIV a run for his money. In the 1850s, American business tycoons started constructing palatial 'summer cottages' in Newport, inspired by the Beaux-Arts mansions, Italian Renaissance villas, and Elizabethan manor houses their wealthy owners undoubtedly ogled while traipsing around Europe. Today, Bellevue Avenue – the street where the elite built their vacation homes – feels like the American answer to Versailles.
Old-World opulence isn't Newport's only jaw-dropping feature, either. This New England destination has a waterfront cliff walk reminiscent of the French Riviera and a fleet of modern yachts large enough to make Cannes feel quaint. It's no wonder the rich and famous never left this seaside port town – you'd have to fly to France to get anywhere half as fancy.
Flagler College's Spanish Renaissance architecture ©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
4. St Augustine, Florida – similar to Spain
St Augustine holds the distinction of being America's oldest continuously occupied city established by Europeans. Founded by Spanish settlers in 1565, this seaside city still bears the stamp of its imperial parent. Be it the Spanish Renaissance architecture by Gilded Age railroad tycoon Henry Flagler, the Spanish colonial buildings dating back to the 1700s, or Castillo San Marcos – a 17th-century fort overlooking the ocean – much of St Augustine looks just like the historic center of a Mediterranean metropole. For those interested in traveling through time, the Colonial Quarter offers an immersive look at life in the former Spanish colony, replete with Disney World-worthy reenactments.
Lap swimmer at Ouray Hot Springs ©Chip Kalback/Lonely Planet
5. Ouray, Colorado – similar to Switzerland
At 8000ft above sea level, if Ouray’s outdoor offerings don't take your breath away, the elevation certainly will – which is exactly why locals call it the Switzerland of America. The San Juan Mountains flanking the river valley scrape the sky just like the Matterhorn, the mineral-rich geothermal waters at Ouray Hot Springs are as therapeutic as those surrounding St Moritz, and with seasonal activities like hiking and ice climbing, the only iconically Swiss thing missing is a girl named Heidi herding sheep along the hillside.
Vineyards and wineries in Sonoma give you a taste of Europe ©Sherri R. Camp/Shutterstock
6. Sonoma County, California – similar to Tuscany, Italy
In Tuscany, the way to a traveler's heart is through their taste buds. The Italian countryside's supply of wineries, sustainable farms, and agritourism outposts have welcomed foodies to the area's rolling green hills for centuries, leaving visitors buzzed not only on booze but also its beauty.
While Northern California's wine industry is only a couple hundred years old, Sonoma County adapted the best of Tuscany for their similarly bucolic backdrop. With over 400 wineries and a growing roster of family-run farms that offer tours, classes, and vacation stays, Americans only need to drive an hour north of San Francisco for Italian flavor with Californian flair. Be sure to check out the area's first premium winery – Buena Vista – a California Historic Landmark founded in 1857.
A two-man band playing on a corner in the French Quarter. ©Kris Davidson/Lonely Planet
7. New Orleans, Louisiana – similar to France and Spain
Between the late 17th century and the early 19th century, French and Spanish imperialists traded control of Louisiana's most famous port town, leaving an indelible mark on the city's cultural heritage. Between biting into beignets in the French Quarter's open-air, European-style market and lusting over the Spanish-inspired iron-lace balconies that adorn the city's iconic homes, New Orleans might first feel like a copy of the countries that first colonized the area. On closer inspection, it isn't so simple to label the Big Easy. From epicurean curiosities like jambalaya to musical stylings like jazz, New Orleans is a cultural melting pot with so many Black, Cajun, Creole, and Native American influences that the city's lively spirit feels like a country unto itself.