Nine US Cities with International Flair

In this year without international travel, we can explore our own backyard with nine distinctive cities that will make you feel like you’ve gone to Europe.

Leavenworth, Washington

Are you missing the Alps, the Romantic Road and other charms of Bavaria? While you can’t visit now, you can enjoy a Bavarian experience in the Cascades Mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington. Architecture, shops and attractions include the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum with more than 6000 nutcrackers, the snack-filled Gingerbread Factory and numerous German restaurants and breweries to chase away winter chill with dishes like Bavarian potato soup from München Haus or sauerbraten from King Ludwig’s.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Founded 175 years ago, Fredericksburg, Texas blends German heritage with Texas Hill Country hospitality. The town’s deep German roots are evident in its many shops, eateries and biergartens. For a timeline of Fredericksburg’s German history, visit the octagonal Vereins Kirche and Pioneer Museum where you can see the town’s distinctive Sunday houses used by settlers when shopping or attending church on weekends. Refuel with duck schnitzel or a wurst platter at Otto’s German Bistro and cold steins of German-style beer at Old World-fashioned Alstadt Brewery. A must-visit is Opa’s Smoked Meats where you can put together a picnic of sausages made from traditional German recipes.

Vail, Colorado

Skiers at Vail, Colorado will note the resort’s resemblance to both Zermatt, Switzerland and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Designed to replicate a Swiss ski village, Vail is replete with Zermatt-inspired decorative balconies and detailed woodwork while stenciled and farmhouse-style buildings seem transported from Bavaria. Alpine cultures meld with German Gluehwein and Swiss fondue at the beautiful Almresi restaurant where apfelstrudel and Austrian kaiserschmarrn are must-order desserts.

Skiers at Vail, Colorado will note the resort’s resemblance to both Zermatt, Switzerland and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany | WhereTraveler
The Arrabelle, Vail (Courtesy Exclusive Resorts)

New Orleans, Louisiana

Colonized by French settlers in the early 1700s and ceded to Spain through the 1762 Treaty of Paris, The Big Easy is a mash-up of Spanish and French cultures. The city’s architecture and culture are distinctively its own, but you’ll certainly note the French Quarter’s use of wrought-iron balconies and winding streets like those you’d find abroad and Treme’s vibrantly colored houses that add a seaside flair. Cuisine choices are often European, inflected with NOLA’s Creole and Cajun flavors. Park yourself at the ever-popular Café du Monde by the French Market for a de rigueur beignet and chicory coffee. Nearby Antoine’s and Arnaud’s offer time-tested menus of French and local dishes.

Colonized by French settlers in the early 1700s and ceded to Spain through the 1762 Treaty of Paris, The Big Easy is a mash-up of Spanish and French cultures | WhereTraveler
Treme-Lafitte, New Orleans (©Meryl Pearlstein)

St. Augustine, Florida

Founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the US | WhereTraveler
King Street, St. Augustine (Courtesy FloridasHistoricCoast.com)

Founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the US. The city’s Spanish history is in evidence throughout. Castillo de San Marcos fort was built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is purportedly where conquistador Ponce de León completed his search for healing waters. Walking along Avilés and St. George streets is a cultural foray into four centuries of St. Augustine history. The Historic District encompasses Spanish Renaissance-designed Flagler College, coquina stone buildings and Columbia restaurant with its beautiful tiles and Spanish fountains. Reserve to enjoy a meal of tapas and the acclaimed “1905” salad.

St. Augustine' Spanish history is in evidence throughout the city | WhereTraveler
Villa Zorayda Museum, St. Augustine (Courtesy FloridasHistoricCoast.com)

Solvang, California

Along California’s Central Coast, Solvang is seriously Danish with windmills and gingerbread and half-timber architecture. Settled first by the Spanish, Solvang was founded in 1911 by Danish-Americans as a place to keep their traditions alive. For cultural immersion, walk the streets lined with Danish bakeries and restaurants that feel very Scandinavian. Stop at Olsen’s for butter cookies and Copenhagen Sausage Garden for a sausage sampler. A visit to the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art explores the city’s Danish heritage.

Along California’s Central Coast, Solvang is seriously Danish with windmills and gingerbread and half-timber architecture | WhereTraveler
Solvang Windmill Shops (Courtesy Solvangusa.com)

New Glarus, Wisconsin

Settled in 1845 by Swiss immigrants, New Glarus is known as “America’s Little Switzerland.” Alpine-style architecture and Old World traditions are front and center at places like Emmi Roth Käse Cheese Factory where you can observe Swiss cheesemaking firsthand. As you stroll around admiring the chalet-style buildings, you might just hear yodeling and alphorns. Is this Switzerland? If it’s cold, and you’ve had a piece of Swiss cheese, maybe. But, then again, Wisconsin is the state of Cheeseheads.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

It’s not very big, but this one-square-mile town is the epitome of a European village. The fairytale architecture of Carmel-by-the-Sea, like something from the British Isles, forms one of the most famous artist colonies in the world. You’ll be charmed by the stone-paved alleyways and curlicue-roofed shops which hint at the town’s origins as an artist haven. Forty-one secret passageways, courtyards and gardens pass by 21 original fairytale cottages, built in 1924 by Hugh Comstock, in a style now synonymous with Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The fairytale architecture of Carmel-by-the-Sea, like something from the British Isles, forms one of the most famous artist colonies in the world | WhereTraveler
Cottage of Sweets, Carmel-by-the-Sea (Courtesy CarmelCalifornia.com)

Pella, Iowa

Dutch settlers seeking religious freedom in 1847 founded Pella, Iowa, named after a biblical city of refuge. Dutch design is visible throughout in structures like Vermeer Mill, the tallest working grain windmill in the US, in Pella Historical Village and Molengracht Plaza with a canal-like waterway and working drawbridge surrounded by beautiful, Dutch-inspired architecture. A focal point with a carillon clock, The Klokkenspel has moving figurines that portray important pieces of Pella’s history. Want more Dutch whimsy? Sunken Gardens Park features a decorative windmill and a pond shaped like a wooden shoe. If you’re hungry, Jaarsma Bakery sells Dutch Letters, S-shaped treats filled with almond paste and dusted with sugar. Popular Dutch street foods like poffertjes (tiny pancakes), frites and sauce, Int’veld’s bologna on a stick, and oliebollen (cinnamon-raisin dumplings) can be had at Dutch Fix.