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11 Places in the United States That Feel Like Europe

By AFAR Editors

Aug 11, 2021

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Catch a ferry to Catalina Island and pretend you’re in Greece for a weekend.

Photo by Emma Svalstad/Unsplash

Catch a ferry to Catalina Island and pretend you’re in Greece for a weekend.

Consider any of these U.S. destinations as an alternative to classic European holiday destinations.

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On June 18, the European Union added the United States to its list of countries approved for entry after 458 days of barring Americans from entering Europe due to the pandemic.

Even though that means it’s possible to travel to Europe right now, constantly changing COVID restrictions and a wide variety of entry requirements—not to mention the recent surge of the Delta variant of coronavirus—may have you postponing your European vacation until 2022. The good news is that there are some closer-to-home destinations that feel (kinda, sorta) like Europe.

Squint and you could mistake Cape Cod’s charming harbors and villages for Cornwall.

If you love: The artsy and craft-centric coastal region of Cornwall, England
Consider: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Where to stay: Chatham Bars Inn

Miles of gorgeous Atlantic coastline, sweeping sand dunes, delicious seafood, and a thriving arts and crafts community: Cape Cod could easily pass for Cornwall, as long as you’re OK with swapping Cornish pasties for clambakes. Wake up to ocean views at the historic 1914 Chatham Bars Inn and spend the rest of the day enjoying its private quarter-mile long beach, or head into town to admire the small galleries and houses with picket fences. Sorry, Ross Poldark not included.

Wine? Check. Small towns? Check. Beautiful countryside? Check. See, Virginia is almost like Tuscany.

If you love: Off-the-radar Italian villages and rustic vineyards
Consider: Virginia Wine Country
Where to stay: The Goodstone Inn & Restaurant

The architecture may be more colonial than Tuscan, but Virginia’s wine country exudes the same rural appeal as the Italian countryside. A 50-mile drive west of Washington, D.C., Middleburg’s Goodstone Inn & Restaurant is open for secluded stays in its private cottages. Nearby wineries including Greenhill Vineyards, Boxwood Winery, and Stone Tower Winery are also welcoming guests.

The Farmhouse Inn is full of bucolic charm.

If you love: The lavender fields and rolling vineyards of Provence, France
Consider: Sonoma County, California
Where to stay: Farmhouse Inn


You may be familiar with the wineries and dramatic coastline of California’s Sonoma County, but it’s also home to lavender farms that bloom each summer, like Monte-Bellaria di California (near Sebastopol) and Matanzas Creek Winery (in Santa Rosa). After a day outdoors in the fragrant fields, check into Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn. With only 25 rooms with private patios set among flowering gardens and a Michelin-starred restaurant with just 14 tables, this charming resort was practically invented for social distancing.

Surprise, this photo was taken in Minnesota, not Sweden.

If you love: Attractive lakeside villages in Sweden
Consider: Grand Marais, Minnesota
Where to stay: Mayhew Inn

Opened in spring 2018, the hip Mayhew Inn is Grand Marais’s only boutique hotel. With just six artist-designed suites inside the brick building from the 1900s, the hotel has the feel of an Airbnb (unsurprisingly, its rooms are listed there, too). But your stay also comes with a few welcome amenities: free room cleaning, toiletries, and some of its custom coffee. For views of boats bobbing in the Lake Superior harbor, head up to the roof deck.

Colorado is proof that alpine views are as lovely in the U.S. as they are in Switzerland.

If you love: Fresh mountain air and hiking in the Swiss Alps
Consider: Aspen, Colorado
Where to stay: The Little Nell

Set at the base of Aspen Mountain—and literally steps from the Silver Queen Gondola—the Little Nell easily has some of the most covetable real estate in town. It’s also Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond property, which means you’ll be suitably spoiled.

Great surfing and lighthouses are hallmarks of Denmark’s west coast and the eastern tip of Long Island, seen here.

If you love: Denmark’s blustery beaches and surfing towns
Consider: Montauk, New York
Where to stay: Marram

The Danish surfing hot spot Klitmøller—aka “Cold Hawaii”—may be a little too far away for the time being, but Montauk is just a three-hour drive from Manhattan: Bed down at Marram, a 96-room boutique hotel on the water south of Shadmoor State Park. Tackle the waves with world-class surfers via the hotel’s on-site Engstrom Surf school, or opt for something more low key, like a morning meditation or self-guided nature walk.

Local Getaways: A Restorative Beach Retreat in Montauk, New York
Catch a ferry to Catalina Island and pretend you’re in Greece for a weekend.

If you love: The sunny beaches and sea breezes of the Greek Islands
Consider: Catalina Island, California
Where to stay: Hotel Atwater, Pavilion Hotel, or Mt Ada


Matching Greece’s Mediterranean climate, Catalina Island is a short ferry ride from Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach, or San Pedro. The newest accomodations can be found at Hotel Atwater—renovated in 2019—while guests who want to be on the sand should choose the Pavilion Hotel. For those looking for luxury, the six-room Mt Ada used to be the private island home of William Wrigley Jr. (of chewing gum fame) and his wife Ada.

You don’t have to look far to find bratwurst, schnitzel, apple strudel, and other Bavarian cuisine in Vail.

If you love: The fairy-tale castles and mountain peaks of Germany’s Allgäu region
Consider: Vail, Colorado
Where to stay: Sonnenalp Vail

Germany’s Allgäu in southern Bavaria is best known for Neuschwanstein, which is said to be the inspiration behind the castles in both Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty movies. But instead of booking it to a theme park, head to the scenic mountain village of Vail. The chalet-style Sonnenalp Vail at its heart is actually owned and operated by the same family as the Sonnenalp in Germany. You won’t find a castle here, per se, but you will be treated like a princess.

Calistoga Motor Lodge’s spa is open.

If you love: The Czech spa town Karlovy Vary
Consider: Calistoga, California
Where to stay: Calistoga Motor Lodge

The Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary may be a favorite for its thermal baths, but Calistoga, California, has equally impressive hot springs, plus mud baths, wineries, and more. Base your stay at the chic Calistoga Motor Lodge, a reimagined motel with three on-site mineral pools. After a day spent winetasting or biking around town, the lodge’s MoonAcre Spa is the perfect place to unwind. Indulge in traditional treatments like massages and body scrubs or try something more unusual, like a locally inspired mud bath or a salt soak in a clawfoot tub.

The landscape in Alaska isn’t exactly the same as in Norway, but it’s also not that different.

If you love: The dramatic glaciers and fjords of Norway
Consider: Alaska
Where to stay: Alyeska Resort or Tordrillo Mountain Lodge


About an hour’s drive from Anchorage, the château-style Alyeska Resort comprises 300 rooms. Surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks and creaking spruce trees, the hotel has the feel of an off-the-grid oasis without sacrificing any amenities. Among them? A 60-passenger scenic tram, which ascends 2,300 feet in elevation to the top of Mount Alyeska.

Tordrillo, a luxury lodge in the Tordrillo Range, requires a floatplane flight from Anchorage to reach, but once you’re there, activities—including climbing Alaska’s first via ferrata course and skiing in the morning and fishing for salmon at night—abound.

You’ll find densely packed forest and sylvan meadows in the Great Smoky Mountains, too.

If you love: Germany’s Black Forest
Consider: Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Where to stay: Blackberry Mountain

Situated over 5,200 acres across eight miles of the Great Smoky Mountains’ protected ridgetop, Blackberry Mountain—sister property to wine-and-dining destination Blackberry Farm—pitches itself as “your own private national park.” With three on-site restaurants, a spa, fitness classes, and seemingly endless hikes, we’ll take it.

This article was originally published on July 1, 2020; it was updated on August 11, 2021, with current information.

>> Next: How to Recreate Your Canceled Europe Trip at Home

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