There is a European destination for every travel palette. The honeymooners are in Positano, the art lovers are at Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the hikers are in Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the skiers are in the Dolomites. While there is a shoulder season and a high season for every European hot spot, there is honestly no bad time to go to Europe — because even in the rain, the beating sun or the bitter cold, there is a sight to be wowed by. But while this all sounds glorious, sometimes a Euro-trip just isn’t in the cards.
Maybe you can’t swing a European jaunt because of the price tag, or maybe it’s not a budgeting concern and you just don’t love to fly. Or perhaps you don’t have the time to cross the Atlantic because most of your vacation days are reserved for the eight weddings you’re attending this year. Whatever the reason, if Europe isn’t in the cards right now, you can satisfy your craving for a breathtaking European getaway right here in the U.S.
For anyone who is staying stateside this year, we’ve broken down the best European destinations, and then found amazing U.S. alternatives. The truth is, there might be a romantic European escape within driving distance of your house. So why not focus on seeing the enviable travel destinations right in your own backyard? These 11 domestic destinations have a distinctly European feel:
Instead of Tuscany, Italy: Napa, California
The winding roads, lush hills, and of course, famed vineyards of Tuscany are within reach without a flight to Italy. Napa has the same magnificent vistas, and equally good vino. If you’re looking to stay in the middle of a vineyard in a Italian-esque villa, Napa Valley Lodge is one of the most charming properties in Napa County. And it’s just a short walk to Hope and Grace Wines and Bouchon Bakery.
Instead of Cyprus: Mount Desert Island, Maine
The second largest island on the east coast (right after Long Island) is Mount Desert Island, where you’ll find the city of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Cyprus is south of Greece, and the third largest island in the Mediterranean. The lush hills make for great hiking, but the views of the Mediterranean Sea along the coast are just as spectacular. Similarly, Mount Desert Island in Maine offers great hiking and unreal coastal views. Cyprus has a wealth of history, so choose historic Maine accommodations like The Inn on Mount Desert, which is located in the historic corridor of Bar Harbor.
Instead of Madrid, Spain: St. Augustine, Florida
Along the northeast coast of Florida, you’ll find St. Augustine, a city known for its Spanish colonial architecture. St. Augustine was settled in the 1500s by Spanish explorers, and to this day, their customs are still thriving. For a hearty dosage of beautiful Spanish culture, make sure you sample the seafood paella at Casa Maya and visit Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century fortress.
Instead of the French Alps: Mount Hood, Oregon
Built in 1938, the historic and elegant Timberline Lodge transports you directly to a stunning French Alps town. With the backdrop of Mount Hood and year-round snow, you can have an alpine holiday that feels effortlessly European. You can even enjoy “European Alps-inspired après ski fondue” at Ram’s Head Restaurant.
Instead of Nice, France: Newport, Rhode Island
Nice, France is all about their remarkable coastline, gorgeous architecture along the water, French-Italian cuisine, and fresh-caught seafood. Few destinations in the U.S. check all of those boxes, but Newport, Rhode Island absolutely does. Newport is known for their Cliff Walk which takes you along the Atlantic Ocean on a tour of their exquisite beach-front mansions. Not only are both the historic architecture and the coast breathtaking, but Rhode Island is known for its seafood and authentic Italian fare. Get your moules (mussels) fix at Scales & Shells in Newport.
Instead of Switzerland: New Glarus, Wisconsin
New Glarus boasts Swiss-style architecture and culture, and the small villages amidst farmlands is reminiscent of Glarus, Switzerland. Considered “America’s Little Switzerland,” you can get an authentic Swiss dinner at the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant, where they’re serving up fondue and beef bourguignon. In true Swiss fashion, chocolate is plentiful as are Swiss-American pastries, which can be found at New Glarus Bakery.
Instead of Cinque Terre, Italy: Big Sur, California
The coast of Cinque Terre is one of the most sought-after in Europe. Cinque Terre, as its name suggests, is made up of five small villages, and you can hike between them taking in the jaw-dropping coastal views along the way. Big Sur offers the same awe-inspiring views of the coast, and the cliffs are as towering and jagged as Cinque Terre’s. However, unlike Cinque Terre, which brings in mobs of tourists every summer, Big Sur is remarkably peaceful and quiet.
Instead of Germany: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Germany is known for its holiday markets — Christkindlesmarkt, as some are called. Frankenmuth replicates this feeling, except the holiday season lasts all-year around at Bronner’s Christmas Market. Experiencing Frankenmuth in the snow feels like walking through Nuremberg in the winter. For an authentic German experience, stay at Bavarian Inn Lodge.
Instead of Rome: New York City
From St. Peter’s Basilica to the Colosseum, the capital city of Italy is an amalgamation of historic ruins, powerful art, and of course, classic Italian eats. New York City is a somewhat obvious substitute, because the art scene is equally inspiring, and the Italian food is legendary in its own right. For an art tour of New York City akin with one you could find at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Vatican Museums in Rome, start at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses 5,000 years of art. For modern art, visit the Met Breuer, and finish your tour at the Guggenheim, where the building itself is just as fantastical as the art housed in the museum. And when you tour Little Italy in search of authentic Italian food, take a leaf out of President Obama’s book and visit Emilio’s Ballato.
Instead of the British Countryside: The Bay Area, California
The British countryside is as sophisticated as it is timeless, and to find a similar feel, you’ll want a chateau designed to mirror that level of sophistication. Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa was inspired by the countryside home of Marquis de Lafayette, with the backdrop of historic oak trees, rolling hills, and romantic courtyards. And it doesn’t get more European than enjoying locally sourced charcuterie in their fountain courtyard. Much like the quaint country towns of Hampshire and Essex aren’t far from London, Lafayette is only 20 miles from San Francisco, which makes it easy to spend a day taking in the city sights.
Instead of Sweden: Lindsborg, Kansas
In the heart of Lindsborg you’ll find The Swedish Pavilion, which was originally built for the 1904 world’s fair. From small cultural accents like Swedish art hanging throughout Lindsborg, to hosting a celebration of Swedish heritage every October, the homage to Sweden is ever-present in this Kansas town. You can find traditional Swedish souvenirs, like wooden Dala horses, at Hemslojd and a hearty Swedish meal at The Swedish Crown.