Even though most of Europe is now open, all the pandemic-related travel restrictions for U.S. citizens are keeping many from visiting. Since Europeans had an early and significant part in shaping America, there are plenty of traces left here that still feel European. The six cities and towns below offer a familiar American vacation with a distinct European twist.
New Orleans, Louisiana (France/Spain)
The Big Easy has a distinct mix of French and Spanish cultures. The term “Cajun” comes from “Acadian,” referring to the group of settlers that relocated from northern France in the 17th century. New Orleans is full of Cajun culture- from food to celebrations. Beignets, Etouffee, Jambalaya, and Po'Boys are all dishes that combine French and Spanish influences. Mardi Gras and Bastille Day are two French Roman Catholic celebrations that take place in the colorful old streets of the French Quarter. Ironically, the heavily used wrought iron in the area is a Spanish architectural style. The unique culture of New Orleans is a big reason tourists love to come here.
Leavenworth, Washington (Germany)
If you want to immerse yourself in alpine peaks and bratwurst, this charming Bavarian-style town is the place for you. Two hours east of Seattle, this area was first hunted and fished by several Native American tribes, then taken over by settlers looking for fur, gold, and timber. After the natural resources were stripped and the railway was rerouted, the area stopped growing until the 1960s, when town leaders got the idea to create a Bavarian style village. But the makeover extended further than just turning the buildings into the typical German style architecture. The town's creators also added a series of festivals and events aimed to bring in tourists. Today people come to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest, the Autumn Leaf Festival, and the Christmas Lighting Festival to get the feel of a festive Alpine town.
It’s probably not hard to guess what country influences the town of Holland, Michigan. Other than its name, there are other clues too, such as the local college mascot (the Fighting Duchmen) and the popular Tulip Time Festival held every spring, which features 200,000 tulips planted throughout town. The town is very proud of its Dutch heritage. If you want to revel in all things Dutch, you you'll have a lot of opportunities. You can visit a local tulip farm with a working windmill, see how traditional wooden shoes are made, buy Stroopwafels, and visit Nelis’ Dutch Village theme park. You’ll also find plenty of Dutch-themed food, from fried liverwurst and baulkenbrie (giant cinnamon rolls) at the Wooden Shoe to the Hungry Dutchman Cafe’s Saucijzenbroodjes (pigs in a blanket) or breakfast and lunch at the Dutch-themed Windmill Restaurant.
Boston, Massachusetts (England)
Originally built and occupied by the first English colonists in America, Boston is frequently compared to London and other British cities. In design and feel, Boston is probably closer to London than neighboring cities.The early American architect, Charles Bulfinch, who designed the grand Massachusetts State House and Faneuil Hall, was heavily influenced by the English architect Christopher Wren. Along with British-inspired city and state buildings, you’ll also get a London feeling from the red-brick Georgian and Victorian houses that line the cobblestoned streets in neighborhoods like Beacon Hill and the area around Dock Square. There is plenty of English style food in Boston, such as bangers & mash or stuffed Yorkshire pudding at well-established Boston pubs like Cornwall’s or the Elephant & Castle. You can also have afternoon tea at the Four Season's Bristol Lounge.
Lindsborg, Kansas (Sweden)
This tiny town in the middle of Kansas (about an hour north of Wichita) was settled in 1869 by a group of immigrants from the Värmland province of Sweden, and continues to celebrate its heritage. Every other October (it's this year!) since 1941, the town has put on Svensk Hyllingsfest to honor its Swedish ancestry with parades, arts and crafts, and Swedish dancing. The name Lindsborg literally translates from Swedish as “Linden Castle,” referring to the linden tree from which Sweden’s iconic Dala horses are traditionally made. There aren't actual linden trees in Lindsborg, but there are many Dala horses, a Swedish symbol of hospitality and welcome,that decorage the streets and town square. You can also find them in souvenir shops as ornaments, earrings, and gummy candy. If you visit, don't miss Hemslöjd, a Dala-making factory on Main Street and Anderson Butik, another shop of Swedish souvenirs and gifts. For Swedish food, you'll find two bakeries: White’s Foodliner and Pastries by Rachel. There's also the Crown and Rye for brunch or the Ol Stuga Bar. For a complete Swedish experience, stay overnight at Drom Sott (Sweet Dreams Inn) and have a Swedish breakfast the next morning.
Santa Barbara, California (Spain)
The city's tagline is “The American Riviera,” and it’s obvious that Santa Barbara has a strong Spanish heritage. The city got its name well before the first English pilgrims arrived on the other coast at Plymouth Rock. Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno found a safe harbor during a storm on Saint Barbara’s feast day as he sailed from Mexico in 1602. 167 years later, two Mexican missionaries came back to Santa Barbara and left traces of their efforts to establish Christian missions in places like the Old Mission and El Presidio fort (now a historic park). Later, after the downtown was destroyed by an earthquake in 1924, city planners used the red-tiled roofs and whitewashed adobe walls of the original structures as inspiration to remake Santa Barbara in Spanish Colonial Revival style. For fun in the city, you can take the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour through historic downtown to explore some of the Spanish-inspired architecture. Some of the other notable Spanish influences are the Old Spanish Days Fiesta in August, and the “Street in Spain” surrounding the historic El Paseo Mexican Restaurant, built in 1922. For good views of the coast, stay in the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, which offers private hacienda-style accommodations, cliffside pools, and waterfront dining.