As a lover of Europe, I often find myself missing the ancient buildings, glorious architecture and stone streets of the old world. Still, if you look you can find hints of Europe here in the U.S. if you need a fix. Here are some that you may or may not have heard of that I’ve encountered in my travels.
We’ll start with my home state – awash with new development, you might not imagine there are ancient places here but there are, as well as a few new fangled experiences.
People who hail from the northeast are generally proud of their history which includes pilgrims, patriots and first rate universities. Imagine their surprise when they find out that St Augustine, established in 1565, predates the first settlement in Plymouth.
St Augustine, Florida – Taken by Diann Corbett, 05/2012.Explore the old town section of the city with cobblestone streets and old wooden buildings. There are quaint B&Bs, shops and restaurants throughout, mostly located around King St, Aviles Street and St George Street. The city is beautifully set on the intracoastal waterway and the Flagler College buildings also add to the historic charm.
The Medieval Torture Museum is a recent addition yet rivals some of the popular exhibits I’ve seen in Europe and other places in its explanations of the scary ways humans have treated each other in the past. The Pirate Museum is also a great stop.
Epcot Center, Orlando
If you want to experience little replicas of European squares, I can’t imagine a better place in Florida than Disney’s Epcot Center. While it is not rebuilt from authentic ancient materials, it is built with attention to detail. The best time to go if you’re an adult like me is during their International Food & Wine Festival in the fall. If you’re a kid, any time is a good time. I’ve also already written about the recreation of Portofino at Universal Orlando.
The Ancient Spanish Monastery, Miami
This one was a surprise to me when I stumbled upon it. It is the Church of St Bernard de Clairvaux, originally built in 1133 AD at a monastery in northern Spain. It was purchased and transported to the U.S. by William Randolph Hearst in 1925 and rebuilt in Miami in 1953. When you step inside you will feel as though you are in Europe, but a quick step outside on a summer day reminds you that you are still in subtropical Florida!
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami
This is a beautiful estate built in the manner of grand Italian homes by James Deering in 1910. Set on the beautiful Biscayne Bay, Vizcaya is painstakingly decorated with European furnishings. While the architecture and artifacts are amazing, the gardens are equally impressive. You will definitely feel you have been transported to Italy. We love this estate so much we had our engagement photos taken here on a steamy hot day last summer. They turned out to be some of the best photos we’ve ever had taken.
Engagement Photos at Vizcaya:
Helen is a Bavarian style city in the North Georgia Mountains, easily drivable from Atlanta. As you’re driving through the mountains, you suddenly turn a corner and see a German style village. There is a beer garden, bavarian food, shopping and tubing in the river that runs through town. Bakeries prepare European style pastries. Once a year there is a hot air balloon festival and race.
This incredible estate in Asheville, built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1889, rivals the chateaux of the Loire Valley in France. It’s staircases are even reminiscent of the double helix staircases built at the Chateau de Chambord by Leonardo da Vinci. Biltmore has expansive land associated with it for farms, villages, wineries, a hotel and walking. The town of Asheville is equally interesting – set on a hill with mountain views all around, it is also a foodie haven with good beer. It was once temporary home to F. Scott Fitzgerald who reportedly wrote part of the Great Gatsby in the Grove Park Inn while his wife Zelda was receiving treatment in a local psychiatric hospital. She tragically died in a fire there.
The Parthenon, Nashville
There is a full scale replica of the parthenon in Athens, built in Nashville in 1897. In slightly better shape than the original built in 447 BC, it is a great way to see it as it used to be. This parthenon was built for the Centennial Exposition just before the turn of the 20th century. Close your eyes and imagine being on a hill overlooking the Aegean. Of course the city of Nashville offers other sights such as the Grand Old Opry and a historic downtown.
Castello di Amaroso, Napa Valley
Translated as the castle of love, the Castello di Amorosa is a 13th century style Tuscan castle built by winemaker Dario Sattui in 1994. Surrounded by vineyards, hills and mountains it is an impressive fortress. It also has a dungeon and torture chamber, church and loggias. Its tasting areas are reminiscent of wine caves and the wine is good.
The setting for the movie Sideways, Solvang is a small town with Danish architecture. It is located in Santa Barbara wine country. Danish pastries are served in their bakeries and there is also a Danish festival in September. Their Julefest is a yearly holiday event,
This European style ski town set at the base of Vail Mountain has the feeling of Switzerland in its downtown architecture and alpine setting. Vail is made up of both Vail Village and Lionshead Village which link together. Of course skiing is the activity of choice, but there are also fine dining and shopping opportunities as well as other recreation activities here. The city hosts several events during the year worth attending.
Denver Christkindl Market
The annual Denver Christkindl market is one of the most authentic Christmas markets I’ve been to in the United States. The wooden stalls were filled with wares like Russian dolls, beer steins, ornaments and stocking stuffers. There was also a large beer tent serving Bavarian style food and an outdoor skating rink. The market is located in the heart of downtown with its large pedestrian walkways festively lit for the holiday season.
The Venetian Las Vegas
As someone who doesn’t gamble, most of my interest in Las Vegas was in it’s European replicas:
the Venetian and Paris. They did not disappoint. Can’t make it to Venice? The Venetian had a beautiful outdoor area where gondolas could be rented which went inside to an expansive area of shops and restaurants, made to look exactly like Venice though indoors. Resort hallways are impressively frescoed and the experience is top notch.
Paris Las Vegas
Paris Las Vegas had an Eiffel Tower, l’Opera, Louvre and Arc de Triomphe outside and indoor streets and squares with patisseries, restaurants and boutiques. The resorts of Las Vegas have definitely mastered bringing the outside in. Both gave the feeling of Europe, in a slightly more commercialized way. They could keep any non gambling tourist happily busy in a sophisticated, air-conditioned retreat for a day or two.
Leavenworth is a Bavarian style area set in Washington state. The street of German style building is surround by towering mountains that give it an alpine feel. The buildings look authentic and the area offers outdoor recreation, wine tasting as well as German food. They host an Oktoberfest and a Christkindl market over Thanksgiving weekend.
The North End, Boston
The north end in Boston is the Italian section of town, similar to Little Italy in New York. Its winding narrow streets and squares feel old world and its restaurants serve up the most authentic Italian fare this side of the Atlantic. It’s set next to the waterfront, allowing for scenic strolls. As someone who grew up in the Boston area, I remember having my first cappuccino here long before Starbucks existed. They also host Catholic feast days with parades that remind you of small Italian villages – a definite stop if you are visiting the city of Boston. Boston is a historic city with large walkable thoroughfares, green parks, and enjoyable river fronts that can be reminiscent of Paris or London.
Downtown Holiday Market, DC
Held just outside the Smithsonian for over a decade, this Downtown Holiday Market feel European. They sell arts, crafts, clothing, jewelry and specialty items in about 150 booths. Food ranges from German to Empanadas and there is musical entertainment as well.
Washington DC Monuments
The city of Washington DC also feels European when you walk from the national mall to the White House it is similar to the walk in Paris through their national monuments. The Arlington Memorial Bridge has golden statues at the entrance, reminiscent of the The Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris. There are so many pillared buildings you will think you are in Rome or Athens.
New Glarus, WI
Another alpine style city billed as American’s Little Switzerland, the city of New Glarus is based on its sister city Glares in Switzerland. The town offers similar architecture and food offerings as Leavenworth and Helen. Populated by Swiss immigrants from Glares over the past 150 years, the town keeps the old world alive in chalets, music and events.
Michigan’s Bavarian style city, Frakenmuth has the architecture and food of Germany. They also run several events throughout the year, including Oktoberfest and Christmas candle walk. They are also known for their chicken dinners and their Christmastime all year long theme.
Chicago Christkindl Market
Based on the Nuremberg, Germany Christmas market which is considered one of the best, Chicago Christkindl Market has become a city tradition. When seen from an aerial view in the square it is held in. it does resemble European markets. It offers a large selection of vendors and they also produce souvenir mugs for mulled wine just as the markets in Europe do.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!
This post is part of Weekend Wanderlust