The U.S. is made up of people whose ancestors came to the country and founded communities that gave them a taste of home, whether by name, culture, or both. Luckily for us, many of these towns and cities formed decades or centuries ago are still around, showcasing the architecture, foods and heritage from countries throughout Europe. Whether you want to feel like you’re in Scandinavia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, or just feel a European flair, the U.S. has a place you can visit without crossing an ocean.
Solvang is just off the Pacific Coast less than an hour northwest of Los Angeles, and just 40 minutes from Santa Barbara. It was founded by a group of Danish immigrants in the early 1900s and still retains the Danish architecture and culture. You can find statues of The Little Mermaid like the one found in Copenhagen, and of beloved author Hans Christian Andersen. When you’re done looking at the windmills and charming buildings, have some ebelskiver (Danish pancakes) and then perhaps head to one of the wineries nearby.
As one of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston has the architecture and feel that English and other European settlers brought when it was founded in the 1600s. Today you can still see it when visiting some of Boston’s landmarks like Faneuil Hall, Boston Common or the Freedom Trail. Or walk down the narrow, cobblestone Acorn Street lined with charming buildings that will make you feel like you left the country.
As the name suggests, the town of Holland has stayed close to its Dutch roots with buildings, festivals and attractions reflecting its founders. Visit the Windmill Island Gardens featuring costumed guides, gardens, a carousel, and the only operational Dutch windmill, DeZwaan, that actually mills wheat into flour that you can buy. To complete the Dutch experience, there’s a combination wooden shoe and Delft porcelain factory, Holland Museum and more. Holland also has an annual Tulip Time Festival in May and Dutch Winter Fest. If you visit in the summer, the shores of Lake Michigan are just a short drive away!
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a melting-pot of a city that was founded by French colonists as the territorial capital of French Louisiana and later became a Spanish colony. It became part of the U.S. in the early 1800s and remains one of its most unique cities because of its music, food, language and culture. Go to the picturesque parts of New Orleans, like the French Quarter or the Garden District to see the legacy of the French founders. Then stop for beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde and listen to some live music!
Sitting in a mountain valley at the foot of the Cascade Range, visiting Leavenworth might transport you to the Alpine regions of Bavaria or Austria. This town is styled like a Bavarian Village, complete with beer gardens, restaurants, buildings and houses like you would see in Germany or Austria. There are also annual events like Oktoberfest, Maifest and a Christmas market.
St. Augustine, Florida
Claiming to be the oldest city in the U.S., St. Augustine retains some of the architecture of the Spanish explorers who settled here in 1565. It was even the capital of Spanish Florida for 200 years! Today you can visit the Castillo de San Marcos, which protected the city when it was built in the 1600s. For more history, go to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park or the Lightner Museum. It’s also fascinating to just walk around the city and look at the historic buildings while enjoying the waterside location.
As one of the oldest cities in the country and the site of some key moments in U.S. history, Philadelphia definitely has a European flair. Founded by English settlers in the late 1600s, the city has many historic buildings and sites that intermingle with the modern parts of Philadelphia. Visit Independence Hall or Carpenters’ Hall for some of the Georgian architecture dotting the city, or walk down Elfreth’s Alley, which touts itself as the oldest residential street in the U.S.
If you want to feel like you’re in Bavaria without getting on a plane, Frankenmuth is for you. This Michigan town southeast of Saginaw has Bavarian architecture and its German roots are on display at the Frankenmuth Historical Museum. You can eat at one of several restaurants serving German food or visit the local brewery. Also, look out for the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival held every summer.
Originally founded in the early 1900s as a resort town called Venice of America, Venice is modeled after its namesake city in Italy. Today, you can still find the canals in the residential Venice Canal Historic District, but the gondoliers and many of the Venetian-style buildings are gone. Most people visit Venice Beach and its boardwalk, and for the art scene.
Its mountain location may already remind you of the Alps, but Vail’s buildings and charm are loosely modeled on Zermatt, Switzerland. There are the usual skiing and snowboarding here in the winter at the Vail Ski Resort, and hiking, fishing and golfing in summer. Plus, it’s nestled deep in the mountains, but just 2 hours from Denver on Interstate 70 W.