Exploring a little bit of Europe in the U.S.
Most of us had travel plans for 2020, but few of us managed to turn those plans into reality thanks to the pandemic. We at LuggageHero want to go everywhere, but we especially love Europe. For one thing, it’s our home. But also we love the continent for its varied culture, beautiful nature and inspiring architecture, whether centuries old or cutting-edge new. If Europe was on your bucket list this year but you had to cancel your plans, you’ll be happy to know that you can enjoy a bit of Europe without ever leaving the U.S. Here are some ideas of Europe-inspired places to visit in the United States.
The following cities offer a little bit of Europe in the US for those of us who did not manage to achieve our travel goals in 2020.
1. Helen, Georgia (Germany)
For those of you who wanted to visit Germany this year, we have Helen, Georgia. The city has been described as having « the charm of Bavaria, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. » Helen, located along the Chattahoochee River, has only 510 residents but is popular among day trippers and river tube floaters. With its German architecture and shops, it feels like visiting a European resort.
If you visit Helen in the fall, you’ll be able to enjoy Oktoberfest. Other events, at least during normal times, include « Southern Worthersee, » a Volkswagen and Audi event that pays honor to the Worthersee Tour in Austria.
If being in nature is what you love, you can visit Unicoi State Park, a 1,050-acre, or 425,000-hectare state park. It’s particularly beautiful to see in October, when the colorful leaves start falling off the trees, creating a magical carpet.
2. Solvang, California (Denmark)
If Denmark was your dream destination this summer, then Solvang is the perfect city for you. Solvang, in Santa Barbara County, is in the Santa Ynez Valley. With a population of around 5,500, it will remind you of the many small towns located all over Denmark, especially in Jutland.
Why Solvang is the perfect town to visit is simple – it was actually formed by Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish community far from the Midwestern winters. You can find a taste of Denmark in California by checking out the many local bakeries and restaurants all over the town. The architecture is also traditionally Danish, including a copy of the Little Mermaid Statue located in Copenhagen. In the center of the town, you can find a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower and enjoy the view of the city.
3. St. Augustine, Florida (Spain)
For those of you who missed out on the hot summer nights in Spain, St. Augustine is the perfect option. Located on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida, St. Augustine will make you feel like you took a trip to Spain. It was founded in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, an explorer from Spain, making it the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the U.S.
If you’re coming with family, you can have some fun by visiting the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum or enjoy the company of dolphins at the Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Other attractions include Castillo de San Marcos, a stone masonry fortress along Matanzas Bay on the city’s western edge, and the grand Hotel Ponce de Léon at Flagler College. If being on the water is more your style, you can try a boat charter around the waterways of St. Augustine or get your adrenaline pumping with Extreme Water Adventures.
4. Holland, Michigan (The Netherlands)
Looking for some Dutch charm? Holland is situated near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on Lake Macatawa. The city is home to Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, institutions of the Reformed Church in America.
The city is well-known for its Dutch heritage and offers various events such as the Tulip Time Festival in May. Various Dutch-themed attractions take place along the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline. For a real Dutch treat, you can visit De Zwaan, an original 250-year-old Dutch windmill located on Windmill Island, a municipal park. The windmill’s height is 125 feet (38 m) with 40-foot (12 m) sails.
If you want to deviate from Europe, you can even experience a little bit of Latin America by checking out the annual Fiesta, organized by Latin Americans United for Progress, usually on the Saturday closest to May 5 (Cinco de Mayo).
5. New Glarus, Wisconsin (Switzerland)
New Glarus is described as « America’s little Switzerland » due to its rolling hills covered with small towns, farms and woodland pastures, much like the alpine farmlands. New Glarus was first settled by a group of 108 Swiss pioneers in 1845. However, the Swiss community in the town is still alive, as following generations and a steady stream of new Swiss immigrants have kept the heritage intact, including the Swiss language, folk traditions and music.
If you are looking for some unique cuisine, New Glarus is known for many traditional Swiss meals, including specialties that are rarely seen outside of Switzerland. Among many other attractions, you can visit the New Glarus Brewing Company and enjoy some great beer and check out the Swiss historical village. If you are into nature, check out the Sugar River State Trail, filled with beautiful scenery.
6. Boston, Massachusetts (England)
We all know about Boston – it’s the capital and most populous city of Massachusetts as well as all of New England. There you can enjoy a piece of England, as Boston was founded by British settlers in 1630. If you’re not able to visit because of COVID19, you can check out Virtual Boston.
To feel like you’re in England, wander through beautiful Beacon Hill, with its cobblestone streets lined with brick sidewalks and gas lanterns. The Boston Public Garden is pure Victorian and the perfect park to visit if you want to be reminded of the U.K., with its manicured gardens, duck-filled ponds and statues. If you like London’s Hyde Park, the Boston Common is the place to go, with plenty of open green space to enjoy a picnic.
7. Tarpon Springs, Florida (Greece)
Tarpon Springs is the perfect place to visit if Greece was on your list, as it has the highest percentage of Greek Americans than any other city in the U.S. With 51 miles of waterfront, Tarpon Springs offers a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy. Also known for its sponge industry, Tarpon Springs has been named « the sponge capital of the world. »
In the historic district, you can find many art galleries, antiques stores and specialty shops housed in buildings dating from the late 1800s. If you’re interested in learning about culture, then the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts and Cultural Center is for you, as it offers theater, art and historical exhibits, concerts, and other quality programs to explore.
There are numerous restaurants where you can enjoy Greek cuisine and fresh seafood. After a big lunch, you can explore Dodecanese Avenue in the Greektown Historic District of Tarpon Springs, which is both part of the traditional Greek community and the city’s primary tourist destination.
8. Washington, DC (France)
Formally the District of Columbia and also known as D.C. or Washington, it is the capital city of the United States of America. You may not have thought that the capital city of the U.S. can remind you of Europe, but Washington has many parallels with France.
Washington was designed primarily by Frenchman Pierre Charles L’Enfant. He set out to build a Paris-like city with grand, tree-lined boulevards and plentiful gardens and monuments. Today’s Washington maintains L’Enfant’s influence, and not just in the magnificent National Mall or spectacular domes and obelisks. Wide streets, a low skyline, ubiquitous green space, and walkable streets lend an Old World feel. The culture is also influenced by the many European diplomatic workers stationed here.
There are so many things to do here, from shopping to museum hopping. Many of the museums here are part of the Smithsonian Institution and are free. Just outside the city is the linear Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which encompasses a historic canal that was built to transport coal from mining towns into D.C.
If you’ve decided to visit a little bit of Europe in the U.S. and need luggage storage to travel hands-free, check us out in Washington DC and Boston, (As well as in 39 other cities in the U.S. and Europe.)