Do you want to take a trip abroad, but it’s just not possible at this time? That’s ok! You can have that international feel just by staying here in the United States. What makes the United States so beautiful is its diversity – the landscapes, the cultures, the differences from one city to next. And what I love is it’s possible to get a taste of different countries when it’s not possible to travel to them.
Let’s travel to 5 places where you can feel like you are in Europe without picking up your passport.
1. Instead of Greece, let’s go to Tarpon Springs, FL
Located only 9 miles from Tampa, Tarpon Springs, FL is like being dropped into any Greek island. Settled in the early 20th century by Greek divers who were lured in by the lucrative sponge industry, the city has the highest number of Greek-Americans in the United States. Walk along the sponge docks of Dodecanese Blvd., and you will have no problem finding any number of Greek restaurants, souvenir shops, pastry shops, and markets. The Greektown Historic District was listed by the National Park Service as a Traditional Cultural Property on its National Register of Historic Places.
2. Instead of Spain, let’s go to St. Augustine, FL
While in Florida, consider also visiting St. Augustine, the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the US. Founded by the Spanish in 1565, it’s probably most widely known as the spot where Ponce de Leon arrived on the continent in 1513. The spot where he landed is the supposed location of the Fountain of Youth. St. Augustine still boasts its Spanish heritage from the architecture to dining and cultural programs. You can’t leave without trying some seafood paella or visiting the 17th-century fortress, Castillo de San Marcos.
3. Instead of Denmark, let’s go to Solvang, CA
Wine lovers will recognize Solvang from the movie “Sideways.” This charming town in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara wine country will capture your heart. Originally settled by a group of Danes who wanted to establish a community away from the harsh Midwest winters, you will feel like you have stepped into Old-World Copenhagen. The architecture reflects Danish style, and you will even be able to see a copy of the Little Mermaid Statue. Of course, a visit to the wineries is a must, as is a stop or two in one of the many bakeries.
4. Instead of France, let’s go to New Orleans, LA
We all know Louisiana once belonged to the French. Even the sale of it to the United States in the 1800s did not diminish the French influences. For a feel of the French history and old world style, visit the French Quarter designed by French engineer, Adrien de Pauger, for a feel of the European style architecture. Visit the Saint Louis Cathedral, also a work of de Pauger. It has gone through many renovations and rebuilds, but you can still see the French influence. Of course, no visit to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Café du Monde for its world-famous beignets. The bonus of this city is that you can also enjoy the Spanish and Creole influences.
5. Instead of Germany, let’s go to Leavenworth, WA
Many cities in the US boast a strong German heritage, but Leavenworth is where you want to be if you are looking for a good, authentic Oktoberfest (and who isn’t?). The town actually does not have German roots, but instead began as a timber, fur and gold town in the 19th century that relied heavily on the railroad. However, when the railroad diverted away, locals struggled to find a way to survive. In the mid-20th century, city leaders decided to go full Bavarian, from its architecture to its celebrations. Leavenworth’s signature event is Oktoberfest that attracts over 10,000 visitors a year to this town of 2,000. Visit the breweries, do the chicken dance, and have a nice dose of gemutlichkeit.