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European-esque Places in the US

Hi all! I tried to look for this topic and couldn’t find it, but if I missed it please feel free to point me in the right direction…

My sis and I planned a trip to Paris and Amsterdam for the end of November/early December. We are still very torn about it, so I’m trying to find a potential “in-house” Plan B, meaning places in the states that can give you a European vibe. Does anyone have any suggestions for places that kind of mirror European cities? It doesn’t have to be like Paris or Amsterdam - any European city/county resemblance will do.
My sister and I have traveled extensively in Europe so it’s not like our Plan A would be a once in a lifetime trip - it can wait until next year. But I would like to do SOMETHING during that time as I already have my days off work and a faux European experience might do the trick! Thanks for your help!

Posted by
6715 posts

NYC feels the most like Europe to me, in terms of the urban environment and culture. The other two cities l can think of are in Canada - Quebec City and Montreal.

Posted by
3400 posts

I would like to suggest that you give up on the idea of recreating Europe, and just explore some parts of the US where you haven’t been and enjoy them for what they are.

If you are looking for city experiences, what major US cities interest you? Where have you never been?

Posted by
2725 posts

Stockholm reminded me a lot of Boston. Obviously the history is different, but it’s relationship to the sea, and the harbor islands, made me feel very much at home.

Posted by
908 posts

European vibe or faux European looks or European influence in the U.S.? I just saw a magazine article about the Danish town of Solvang, California. Euro influence in the U.S. examples: German Village in Columbus, OH; Mainstrasse in Covington, KY; Little Italy in San Diego or Baltimore, North End in Boston.

Posted by
3178 posts

While there are places in the US that do not feel they are in the US (parts of Louisiana or New Mexico), I can’t think of any that feel European. I will say that a large part of newly built Europe feels like the US.

I agree with lots of Quebec (but not Montreal) from Quebec City downstream on the south side of the St Lawrence. Truly just like being in France.

Posted by
6841 posts

I saw the fake Eiffel tower on tv but have never been but how about Las Vegas? Otherwise no where in the USA feels like Europe.

Posted by
6334 posts

St Augustine FL, but it won't be 'Christmasy' like Paris and Amsterdam at that time of year. The same goes for New Orleans LA.

Posted by
708 posts

Thanks! I have been to Montreal and honestly didn’t get the Paris comparisons. I liked it for what it was but was slightly disappointed that it was not (in my opinion) as Parisian as some people had hyped it up to be…

…which brings me to Carol’s point about enjoying a city for what it is. This might be a good direction to go in as expecting something to be “European” might lead to disappointment and not appreciating a city for what it is. Hmmmm now I am torn. But in answer to your question, in general I’d say I’d like to give states like Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas a go.

Regarding whether I want European influence or vibe, etc… it’s hard to explain. Have you ever been to a place and said “this reminds me of ______”? Which is weird because I was in Rotterdam and got Pittsburgh (my city) vibes and wanted to scream. But anyway, I want that feeling. Not screaming but a “feeling” of similarities.

Posted by
18889 posts

San Francisco.

There were a couple of small towns in New Mexico on the high road to Taos (north of Santa Fe) that felt, somehow, like Spain.

A place that didn't remind me of Europe but was nonetheless very distinctive: Key West. "Different" is what I like best about Europe, so Key West worked for me. For the same reason, any place with a south-of-the border influence would be better than staying at home: Tucson, Phoenix, Santa Fe, etc.

I'll definitely second Montreal and Quebec City. Actually, also Ottawa and Victoria.

Posted by
4697 posts

I'd say New Orleans, or Quebec if you can get to Canada. Leavenworth WA, across the mountains from Seattle, is very self-consciously Alpine (German or Austrian) with lots of kitschy architecture, businesses like "Der Burgerhaus," and beautiful mountain scenery around. I'm sure there are other places like it (or Solvang as another poster suggested) but the cutesieness doesn't work for me. I agree with others that you should consider visiting US places that appeal to you for themselves -- there must be some.

Posted by
6334 posts

in general I’d say I’d like to give states like Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas a go.

All would be interesting to explore if you've never been there, but I'd definitely consider the time of year to visit them. Paris and Amsterdam (and other large cities in Europe and the US) are great any time of year. But those states you name do not conjure up good images of cities that are wonderful to visit in winter. Well, except maybe Yellowstone in WY if you're into outdoor pursuits, it can be wonderful in the winter without the crowds.

Posted by
3768 posts

Leavenworth, Washington was reborn years ago to become a Bavarian village. They have some winter & Christmas festivities and some quaint B&B’s.

Posted by
2804 posts

Monique, I understand what you mean when you’ve been someplace that reminds you of a favorite European city. This happened to me last month. We were in Port Townsend, Wa. We had dinner outdoors at our favorite Wine Bistro & to the left of us is the “Haller Fountain.” I imagined I was in a great cafe in Italy or Greece. ;)
https://cityofpt.us/bc/page/haller-fountain-or-galatea

Posted by
1290 posts

I lived in Solvang, CA. Not worth more than an hour but is charming. The area is full of wineries and beautiful rides along the coast up to Hearst Castle. Never felt like I was in Europe while living there.

Posted by
7919 posts

Not a fan of Solvang, but a little farther north, on Hwy 1 (which reminds me of the Amalfi Coast), in California, is Carmel. It really feels like a charming Cotswold village.
Lots of fun shops, places to eat, little hotels, and has a beautiful beach next to Pebble Beach Golf Course.

A week there is not too long, lots of fun things to do, rent bikes and ride the 17 mi Drive along the coast, the aquarium in nearby Monterey, hiking, drives along the coast to Big Sur…

Posted by
430 posts

If you decide on Hwy 1: about a half hour inland from Cambria there is a wonderful light/art installation in Paso Robles, which is also a wine country destination. Link to Bruce Munro Field of Light at Sensorio which runs through Jan 2, 2022
https://sensoriopaso.com/

Posted by
6715 posts

I have been to Montreal and honestly didn’t get the Paris comparisons.

I don't think anyone here said it's like Paris, just that it feels European. That's the problem with trying to recreate European cities elsewhere. It's not going to be the same. I agree with Carol - enjoy the uniqueness of the US, or go to any ski resort trying to be Bavaria lite. You can say Veil or Whistler even feel like Europe (more so Veil, but it seems like every resort tries to go for that look). Same with Solvang, which has a manufactured feel but is still pleasant.

Personally, I would go to CA - for the great weather and the beauty. There's nothing like CA either.

Posted by
5972 posts

Quebec City (not Montreal) has been mentioned a few times. When I was there, they were filming a movie set in WWII France in the center of the old town, so. . . .

Maybe you need to target ethnic festivals around the country. We have festivals in small towns around here celebrating German, Polish, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian, etc. But nothing that "looks like" a European city.

Posted by
1268 posts

Another vote for Florida, 1st of December is a bit early, but a large amount of European snow birds add to the international vibe and you hear multiple languages

Posted by
8242 posts

"But in answer to your question, in general I’d say I’d like to give states like Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas a go."

If you decide to pursue this....late Nov/Early Dec is very much off season. Too late in the year for Fall activities and too early for snow. Some ski resorts try to open Thanksgiving weekend but otherwise it's a no.

Yellowstone is awesome in the winter BUT winter access doesn't start until Dec 15 and TBH it's often not "good" snow coverage until after Christmas. I'd want to target Jan/Feb for that kind of trip. Otherwise, the roads to the interior of Yellowstone close the 1st Monday of November. Let me know if you want details on a winter trip to Yellowstone. It requires a lot of planning.

Posted by
3136 posts

I’d say that “kitschy” is a perfect description of Solvang; however, Solvang is very close to some of the most beautiful coastal areas that the U.S. has. Santa Barbara would be #1, with its architectural reminders of its Spanish past. You could spend several days there. It has a beautiful mission, gorgeous beaches, attractive small museums, and a good food scene. Close by is the Santa Inez Valley with many excellent wineries. Further north is a group of 5 towns, including Pismo Beach. If you head south, you quickly get to the LA metropolitan area, with attractions too numerous to mention. Actually, the entire central coast, starting south of San Francisco, is very different from most other places in the U.S., and even in the rest of the world.

Posted by
4871 posts

Some great cities down south are Annapolis, MD, Williamsburg, VA, Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, St. Augustine, FL.

Posted by
3768 posts

Hi, I haven’t read through all of the comments, but another one that comes to mind is Newport, Rhode Island for the interiors of the gorgeous summer home mansions. They were heavily influenced by their European purchases & design styles.

I laughed when I saw one of the upholstered benches had a “Please, Do not sit” sign on it, but it was only written in French!

We enjoyed the town, too, for all of the interesting streets, activities, etc.

Posted by
4697 posts

I just thought of another -- Victoria BC for an ersatz British feel, at least around the harbour (as they spell it). Red double-deck buses (but driving on the right), lots of tea offerings, plenty of interesting sights. The climate resembles England's too.

Posted by
656 posts

My parents took me to Frankenmuth, Michigan, more than once when I was a kid. The town is known for being Bavarian influenced; certain buildings are supposed to be Bavarian influenced. I have not been to Germany. When I was last there 20 to 25 years ago there was a local history museum, a mill that was converted into a store but they left the waterwheel and the old machinery in place, and shopping galore, which I never cared for: stores along main street sold fudge and souvenirs and other non-essential stuff; 2 hi-end restaurants with table service that probably require reservations, serve expensive German food. Skip the outlet stores at nearby Birch Run: it's all junk they know won't sell at the standard retail stores, like factory-damaged goods and unpopular and discontinued styles and models.

The Detroit Institute of Art is the 8th-12th biggest art museum in the country, depending on which blog you consult; i have been there multiple times. For an American museum, they have the a good collection old Dutch paintings, old Europezn paintings, medieval objects, and so on.

Posted by
237 posts

Viscaya in Miami is a italianate mansion built in the early 1900’s. Each room is furnished to represent a different century. The Italian gardens are better than most in Italy. It is a spectacular place right on Biscayne Bay. A must see if you are in south Florida.

Another Italian house and Renaissance art museum is in Sarasota Fl— the John Ringling Estate on a beautiful bay front site. The bonus here is a circus museum.

Key West is a funky town that is like visiting another country while in the US. It definitely is not Europe. Just like an earlier poster noted.

Posted by
3525 posts

Okay. For a European feel connected to Spain, I gotta put in a plug for my hometown of San Antonio, so long as you stay as close as possible to downtown and the Riverwalk. It's great at Christmas with the trees filled with lights and the river parade. I'm providing links below. Hopefully any that might be Covid closed now will be open by the time of your trip.

Riverwalk History: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/about/our-history/

Riverwalk Events, scroll down to November - December, or search for the dates you'd be there: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/events/

Downtown and more by exploring this website, following the links and downloading the free guide: https://www.visitsanantonio.com/downtown/

My first job out of college was at the Institute of Texan Cultures: https://www.visitsanantonio.com/location/institute-of-texan-cultures/

Outside downtown I particularly recommend visiting the missions: https://www.visitsanantonio.com/missions/

The reason I say to stay close to downtown is that the farther out you go, the more ordinary San Antonio gets, like many other big cities.

Posted by
134 posts

Monique, we are in the same situation as you are! In winter I prefer to be in large cities for cafes and easy transportation, so in the US that makes me want to see NYC, San Fran or Seattle most. But I'm afraid that if COVID is bad enough that we can't go to Europe that those towns I mentioned will also be shut up tight! Hard to say. Not trying to be political, but some red states may be open when places like NYC are closed. That means Tex and FL in particular. Maybe New Orleans will be open? There's also Hawaii or Mexico as an option.

Posted by
309 posts

Another vote for New Orleans here. I am not sure that it feels like Paris or Amsterdam, but it always feels like another country to me. The culture is so different from the rest of the US. It reminds me of a mix of Europe (France and Spain), Africa and the Caribbean. As much as I love New Orleans, though, I am not planning to visit until their Covid rates come down .... a lot.

Posted by
338 posts

Lots of good recommendations here. Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Carmel in CA, Victoria BC, and Quebec City would be great options, although the latter might be colder than you would like. Santa Fe is also interesting and has a different feel. New Orleans is fun, but not sure I'd want to go there any time soon given the COVID situation.

Posted by
7919 posts

Another European-esque town in California is Sausalito. It reminds me of towns on the Amalfi Coast. It’s beautiful and charming, and right on the Bay at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can get there from SF by ferry, rental bike, bus or, of course, a car.

Posted by
3525 posts

Santa Fe is unique and magical around Christmas time. At 7000 feet, it will be cold and likely will have snow, but that just makes it more special. The fireplaces burning piñon pine scent the air.

It's like being in a different country. Unique culture. Unique architecture. Unique food. Totally different vibe. And, founded in 1610, it's the oldest capital in the United States.

This is a link to the Official Visitors Guide to the city. You can explore online, download a pdf or order a printed copy.

This is a link to the Events Calendar. Using the Filter/Sort option, you can search for your dates to see what's going on at the time you might be there.

If you go you'll learn why New Mexico is the first state to adopt a state question: "Red or green?" And what that means.

And if you want to learn more about New Mexico (which IMHP is far interesting than Montana, Wyoming or either of the Dakotas) the Wikipedia article is pretty good.

Posted by
760 posts

First, I would NOT go to Wyoming, etc. at that time of year. Yellowstone will be mostly closed. It does open again for 'winter' but even then you'd need to go with a group for 'over snow' travel, and in late November it will be essentially closed.

I think New Mexico would be a good idea. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US and has a central plaza designed in 1607. Just north of it is Espanola which was founded in 1598 by the Spanish and was the first capital of New Mexicio. It won't feel like most of Europe but it does feel a bit like some small towns in Spain and is certainly different from most of the US and would be interesting at that time of year.

In California Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga (north end of Napa Valley) is a recreation of a 13th century Tuscan castle and is the 'best' castle I've found in the US. The builder really did a good job and even imported much of the building materials from Italy (not the stone of course, but iron work, etc.). It was damaged in the fires of last summer (2020) so you'd have to check how badly but I think I read it was outbuildings and parts of the winery and not so much the castle itself that was damaged.

Quebec is obviously the most 'European' city in America and really does feel like you are in France.

In both Boston and New York you won't feel like you are in Europe but both have neighborhoods and buildings that are European, not to mention shops and eateries.

Posted by
3209 posts

Mike L forgot the biggest Frankenmuth attraction, Bronner’s Christmas store. Can’t say there’s much of a Bavarian vibe to the town except for the Bavarian Inn restaurant. Yes the food is expensive as much German food is but I didn’t think it was all that great. Vizcaya in Miami/Coconut Grove is nice to visit. I agree that Annapolis and the Naval Academy, Alexandria, St. Augustine, and Savannah are nice cities to walk around.

Jokingly, go to Epcot for faux Europe. Ok, even I’m not that desperate.

Posted by
449 posts

I’ve been around the states a whole bunch. I do business trips by car and get reinvigorated by seeing America close up. The faux-Europe image is sort of bizarre at least to me. Go see some place new in the states…..it’s still fun.

Posted by
237 posts

Look for towns or ethnic neighborhoods. My husbands town, Jamestown, NY, was settled by Swedes and Italians. Germans settled in my home area, the Texas Hill Country. Not European, many places have the influence of various Asian countries. Miami is known for the Cubans and their food. Little ethnic grocery stores are wonderful places to look for a lunch, snack or to get supplies. America is a combination of many of the world cultures. We look for those influences in our travels of all 50 states.

Posted by
913 posts

I know I'm a bit late with my reply, and I must admit I haven't read all the other comments, so excuse me if I overlooked anything:

First off, I'd like to point you to one of Rick Steves' recent podcast/ radio shows. He actually had this topic on one of his shows not too long ago: #641: Finding Europe in America.

I'll also add one place to the list: Go to Tarpon Springs in Florida if you are aching for a bit of Greece. :-)

Posted by
2785 posts

I agree with Carol now retired. Don't try to recreate Europe in the US-that's not fair to places that are great in their own right. Choose places based on what you are interested in. Museums? NYC and Boston. I assume you know about Christmas things in NYC. There are some lovely store windows too. Good places to walk and probably not too cold? Charleston Food? what kind do you like? Some urban areas have restaurants with foreign cuisines.

Posted by
913 posts

You have a good point there. Trying to recreate Europe will result in some sort of Disneyland.

But some of these places were founded by people from the "real" thing, and they just brought their traditions and kept them, or adapted them to their new environment. Like those Greeks, if I remember correctly, they went there because there was sponge fishing like they knew it from home. Or in some places in the Midwest, I have seen windmills that had been built by the original builder of identical windmills in the Netherlands or Northern Germany. Those places didn't seem artificial to me.