18 U.S. Destinations & Cities That Feel Like Europe

Asoka Elon

When we can all vacation again, I know where I’m going.

Maybe you’re craving a Eurotrip but you’re not quite ready to leave the country, or perhaps you’re just looking for a getaway closer to home. Whatever the case, consider these unique US destinations that boast a totally European feel.

1.

New Orleans, Louisiana


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The culture in the Big Easy is completely unique, but everything from the cuisine to the architecture has been influenced by Spanish, French, and Creole culture. The French Quarter is home to Crayola-colored buildings with wrought iron balconies, archways, and lush courtyards. Then there’s Jackson Square, which might remind you of Paris’s famous Place des Vosges. And, of course, NOLA boasts a vibrant nightlife, tons of live jazz music, rowdy oyster bars, and treasure-packed antique stores. It’s a major city that feels entirely different from anywhere else in the country. 

2.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon


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There’s something magical about this canyon of the Columbia River that separates the states of Washington and Oregon. Though it’s only an hour from Portland, you might feel as if you’re in Germany, Slovenia, or maybe even the Isle of Skye as you trek past waterfalls cascading into the canyon. Don’t miss the most famous of the waterfalls, Multnomah Falls, a 620-foot-high double cascade that looks larger than life. There are vineyards, orchards, and lavender farms that cover the rolling hills of farmland anchored by snowy Mt. Hood in the background. 

3.

Santa Barbara, California


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The Pacific ocean meets wine country in Santa Barbara, which is nicknamed the American riviera (and for good season). Visiting this jewel of the west coast is akin to traveling to a seaside town in Portugal, Spain, or France. Not only do you get to reap the benefits of beautiful beaches, a thriving wine region, and gorgeous resorts, but you’ll also find great hiking, farm-to-table restaurants, and great boutique shopping. In other words, Santa Barbara boasts the best of all worlds in one place.

4.

Mackinac Island, Michigan


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Arrive in this vacation town on Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas and you might be convinced you’ve landed in Switzerland, coastal Ireland, or a seaside village in the English countryside. There are charming little boutiques, horse-drawn carriages, fudge shops, and Victorian-style homes with sweeping porches. Best of all, though, there are no cars allowed on the island, so biking remains the main mode of transportation. It’s a rare and peaceful paradise untouched by honking horns and light pollution. 

5.

Boston, Massachusetts


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There’s something remarkably European about Boston, from the cobblestone streets, Georgian-style homes, and quaint alleys of Beacon Hill to the manicured lawns of Boston Public Garden to the old-school Italian pastry shops and trattorias that make up the North End. This New England city oozes a certain old-school charm and quaint nature, giving it a similar feel to London, only you don’t have to cross the Atlantic to get there.

6.

Leavenworth, Washington


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Leavenworth didn’t always look the way it does now. In fact, in the 1960s, the town decided to transform itself into a sort of American Bavaria to attract tourism. They adopted traditions like an Autumn Leaf Festival and Christmas Lighting Festival that still continue today. Between the Cascade Mountain peaks that make up the scenic backdrop, the Alpine-style buildings, and the German-inspired cuisine that’s heavy on sauerkraut and bratwurst, this enclave in the Pacific Northwest feels a whole lot like a German village.

7.

Catalina Island, California


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Looking for a little taste of the French Riviera or the Italian coast right here in the states? Set your sights on Catalina Island. The Mediterranean vibes are probably due to the fact that Catalina Island once belonged to the Spanish Empire. This sun-soaked gem sits just 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles (just an hourlong ferry from Long Beach to Avalon), but it feels worlds away from city life. There are beachfront restaurants and palm trees lining the seaside, yachts docked in the harbor, a botanical garden that houses rare, native plants, and the famous Garden to Sky Hike, which boasts infinite views of sea, mountains, and sky. 

8.

St. Augustine, Florida


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It’s no surprise that walking through St. Augustine feels like taking a step back in time. Founded in 1565 by the Spanish, it’s the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the country. And visitors to St. Augustine will still sense that Spanish influence. There’s the waterfront fortress, Castillo de San Marcos, lots of Spanish Colonial architecture, and beautifully landscaped parks like you might find in Andalusia. And you might just feel like you’ve been transported to Barcelona as you explore the sandy shores and coastline.

9.

Cannon Beach, Oregon


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Cannon Beach and the nearby coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest are teeming with such surreal natural beauty that visiting is almost disorienting. The coast is made up of enormous sea stacks emerging from the Pacific Ocean, state parks full of giant moss-lined spruce trees, and jutting cliffs towering down to the wild ocean. You could go to Ireland to visit the Cliffs of Moher or to the UK to see the Jurassic Coast, or head to Oregon for a similarly awe-inspiring setting. 

10.

Sitka, Alaska


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Framed by snowcapped mountains and set on a picturesque sound dotted with fishing boats, this Alaskan jewel on Baronof Island could easily be confused with a Scandinavian fishing town or a remote Icelandic village. In fact, if one of your bucket list goals is to catch the Northern Lights, you can see them dance around the Sitka sky in the winter months. 

11.

Helen, Georgia


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Set in the North Georgia Mountains just an hour and a half from Atlanta, Helen is a little slice of Bavaria in the American South. The walkable downtown area looks like the setting of a fairytale with its colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and the Chattahoochee River running through it. While you’re there, treat yourself to a lazy river ride and make sure to fill up on some German food (there’s even a Hofbrauhaus). 

12.

Fredericksburg, Texas


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A popular road trip stop in Hill Country, Fredericksburg is an hourlong drive from both Austin and San Antonio. In addition to being the capital of Texas wine country, this city is known for its German influence. It was founded by German immigrants back in the 1800s, and their unique traditions are still intact, most notably in the food. You’ll find lots of German food with a Texas flare (think: bratwurst, schnitzel, strudel, and biergartens galore). There’s even a town square called Marktplatz, which serves as the setting for Fredericksburg’s many concerts, festivals, farmer’s markets, and more.

13.

Solvang, California


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Can’t swing a trip to Copenhagen? No problem. Experience a little bit of Denmark right here in the US in Solvang. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley surrounded by hundreds of sprawling wineries, Solvang was founded by Danish immigrants back in the early 1900s. Around town, you’ll find wooden windmills, authentic Danish bakeries, sausage and beer gardens, pancake houses, and Danish Provincial-style architecture. 

14.

San Francisco, California


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There’s something about San Francisco that is hugely reminiscent of Lisbon, Portugal. Perhaps it’s the hilly streets giving way to glistening seaside vistas or the cable cars running along the steep inclines. Or perhaps it’s because Lisbon has its very own Golden Gate Bridge, which spans across the Tagus River. Both cities boast great neighborhoods to explore, lots of urban outdoor spaces to take advantage of fresh air, amazing seafood, and all-around cosmopolitan vibes. 

15.

Nantucket, Massachusetts


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While Nantucket has a particular New England charm, it also shares plenty of similarities with Europe’s buzziest summer towns (think: the villages along France’s Côte d’Azur or the sandy beach towns in Portugal’s Algarve region). Here, you’ll find beaches galore, yachts floating in the marina, picture-perfect houses along Sconset Bluff Walk, seafood shops serving the fresh local catch, and a mix of luxury resorts and restored bed and breakfasts that feel frozen in time.  

16.

Napa Valley, California


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People travel far and wide to visit the world’s great wine regions like Tuscany, Burgundy, and Piedmont, but you could also just travel to Northern California. Napa Valley has established itself as one of the best wine-growing regions on the map, borrowing from the traditions of France’s Bordeaux region to make some of the finest cabernet sauvignon and merlot wines on earth. The scenery is jaw-dropping: sprawling vineyards surrounded by lush mountains and golden, sun-kissed hills. There are few better places to relax and be pampered, and after a few back-to-back wine tastings, well…you could be anywhere. 

17.

Miami, Florida


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From the sound of the lapping waves on South Beach to the rows of palm trees and the sounds of bumping music from restaurants, bars, and hotel lobbies, Miami could easily stand in for one of Europe’s hip and vibrant Iberian beach towns like Barcelona, Ibiza, or the Algarve. It’s a melting pot of a city that offers just about everything, including stunning year-round weather.

18.

Montpelier, Vermont


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The capital of Vermont, Montpellier has a distinctly European feel to it. That’s probably due to the fact that it was settled by European Americans who named it after a city in France. You can still get a sense for its European ties as you stroll around downtown: historic buildings showcasing European-style architecture, walkable streets, white churches with their spires poking through the changing leaves. Despite the fact it’s a state capital, it still maintains that cozy and quaint New England small town feel. In place of chain restaurants and mega malls, you’ll find maple syrup farms, family-run restaurants, art galleries, and tiny bookstores.

What’s your favorite US destination that feels European? Share in the comments below.

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