Imagine strolling along winding, cobbled streets, marvelling at storybook architecture, and devouring bratwurst and schnitzel — but instead of Paris or Munich, the backdrop is California or Colorado. Even if you’re staying stateside this year, it’s possible to enjoy quintessentially European experiences in a handful of places across the US.
Until you can hop on an international flight and jet off across the Atlantic, choose these Euro-style American alternatives for a microadventure that’s filled with plenty of European flair — no passport required.
As with any travel plans this year, be sure to check for the most up-to-date information related to COVID in the destinations you’re visiting prior to booking.
1. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
With its Portuguese-tiled staircases, quaint seaside cottages, and cozy French bistros, this enchanting town exudes an air of several European destinations all at once. Not to mention, Carmel-by-the-Sea is located along the insanely scenic Monterey Peninsula and surrounded by jaw-dropping stretches of coastline.
One of the reasons this enclave boasts a bona fide European vibe is due to stringent regulations that keep chain stores and restaurants out of the area. So, if you love one-of-a-kind artisan shops and boutiques, you’ll love Carmel-by-the-Sea.
To top it all off, Point Lobos State Reserve — a natural area with beautiful walking paths and unbelievable views at every turn — is only a ten-minute drive away.
2. Leavenworth, Washington
Travel two hours outside of Seattle and you’ll find the impossibly picturesque town of Leavenworth, a Bavarian village nestled among Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Complete with timber-framed houses, the city’s German-style makeover came about as an initiative in the 1960s to boost tourism and bolster the economy — and it seems to be working to this day.
Much like you would in Munich or Nuremberg, you can spend your time in Leavenworth filling up on hearty homemade spaetzle, sipping on German pilsners at outdoor biergartens, or perusing one-of-a-kind shops like the Nussknacker Haus and The Gingerbread Factory.
This postcard-perfect town also hosts one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the US (which is cancelled for 2020 but slated to make a comeback next year).
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
Nearly every facet of New Orleans — from the food to the music, the architecture and the language — is a reflection of the city’s Spanish and French roots. Even the pace of life here is distinctly European — it’s a place where people deliberately take their time and linger over lengthy meals.
And while you’ll certainly notice that unmistakable Southern charm, the city’s cast-iron balconies, historically-preserved buildings, and laid-back way of life will have you thinking you’ve landed smack-dab in the middle of Western Europe.
4. Solvang, California
Picture this: a Little Mermaid statue, towering windmills, and half-timber houses with gabled roofs. It may sound like we’re talking about Copenhagen, but we’re actually describing Solvang, a tranquil town located roughly an hour’s drive from Santa Barbara.
This look-a-like town exudes Scandi charm, but it also boasts California’s relentless sunshine and salty seaside air. Even better, it’s located in the heart of Santa Ynez wine country — so once you’ve had your fill of Danish pastries, you can head straight for a vineyard to round out your visit.
5. Vail, Colorado
You don’t have to travel abroad to get a taste of the Alps — head to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains for an après ski holiday that feels a whole lot like a dreamy European escape.
Vail is a fantastic destination no matter what time of year you’re visiting: hit world-class ski slopes in the winter, or tackle one of the city’s spectacular hiking trails in the summer. The main town centre looks like a fairytale village come to life, peppered with chalet-style hotels, restaurants, and shops.
When you’re feeling peckish, make for the nearest restaurant for a taste of classic European favourites, from cheese fondue to Swiss potato pancakes and soft, buttery pretzels.
While Norway’s fjords are off-limits, this American destination serves as an equally scenic alternative, with its dramatic landscapes, colossal glaciers, and vast swathes of wilderness.
Explore the state’s epic national parks, set off in search of wildlife, or go off-grid on a long-distance hiking trail — it’s easy to plan a nature-focused getaway filled with loads of blissful solitude.
See Also: 6 Refreshing Approaches to Local Travel