Design People & Places

35 Places in America That Look Like Foreign Countries

If you yearn to travel the world but are held back by lack of time or money, or impatience for the inconveniences of trans-Atlantic air travel, don’t pack away that suitcase just yet. There are many spots right here in the United States that boast the look and feel of far-flung destinations. When wanderlust hits, start with these 35 places with foreign flair aplenty, no passport required!

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Boston, Massachusetts

Love all things Italian? Then head to Little Italy in the North End of Boston. A favorite destination of Italian immigrants in the early and mid-1900s, this historic neighborhood still contains plenty of Italian restaurants, bakeries, and shops—as well as Paul Revere’s house.

Related: 35 Strange But True Facts About America

Washington, D.C.

Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the French-born architect and artist appointed by President George Washington to design the capital of our new nation, took his inspiration from the grand cities of Europe. It is his vision that gave us the open squares, great public walks, and wide avenues with dazzling views of important landmarks that today characterize Washington, D.C.

Related: 21 Crazy But True Facts About the White House

San Francisco, California

San Francisco has no shortage of great attractions, but Chinatown is a must-see. The neighborhood, home to one of the largest populations of Chinese outside China, is the oldest Chinatown in the United States. When you pass through Dragon’s Gate on Grant Avenue, you’ll enter teeming streets crammed with Chinese restaurants, bakeries, shops, temples, and herbalists.

Related: 15 Places in America Everyone Should Visit at Least Once

St. Augustine, Florida

The oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers. You can still see the influence of those early settlers in the Spanish Colonial architecture scattered throughout the historic city.

Related: 10 U.S. Towns That Are Older Than America

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The architecture of the City of Brotherly Love reflects centuries of European styles. Early buildings display a strong Georgian and Federal influence, while later structures borrow from the Victorian and Renaissance Revival architectural movements that swept Europe in the 19th century.

Related: 20 Towns That Used to Run America

New Orleans, Louisiana

Known as the Big Easy thanks to its easy-going pace of life, New Orleans was settled by the French in the early 1700s and ceded to Spain in 1762. Its architecture has been heavily influenced by both of those nations, and the culture today is a vibrant mélange of the many different peoples who have called the city home. 

Related: 14 Places in America Where the Usual Laws Don’t Apply

New Ulm, Minnesota via Doug Kerr

Settled largely by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, New Ulm is filled with German-inspired architecture and historic sites, including the August Schell Brewing Company, shown here, which has been pumping out bottled brews since 1860.

Related: 50 Must-Visit Tiny Towns Across America

Santa Barbara, California

Situated along the beautiful coastline of Southern California, Santa Barbara is sometimes referred to as the American Riviera, thanks to its Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean-style architecture. Our Lady of Sorrows Church, built in the 1920s, hews to the city’s architectural roots.

Montpelier, Vermont

The capital of Vermont, Montpelier—inspired by the French city of the same name—is a quintessential New England town, yet with a distinctly European vibe. And of course, the area’s fall foliage thrills leaf peepers each year.

Related: The 20 Friendliest Cities in America

Leavenworth, Washington

Why travel all the way to Europe to experience an Alpine village when you can head to Leavenworth, Washington, instead? Restaurants and breweries are among the many attractions of this Bavarian-style town, where you can also visit the Nutcracker Museum, which displays thousands of the whimsical devices.

Related: 20 Must-Visit Mountain Towns Across America

Solvang, California

If you travel to the little town of Solvang, a mere 35 miles from Santa Barbara, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a quaint fairy-tale village. Founded in the early 1900s by Danish transplants, Solvang is replete with Danish bakeries, restaurants, shops, and fun family activities.

Tarpon Springs, Florida

It may look like a sleepy Greek town, but it’s actually Tarpon Springs, Florida. The city’s population has the largest percentage of Greek Americans in the United States. Sounds like a great place for a gyro and a glass of ouzo!

Vail, Colorado

Another city with a decidedly Alpine feel, Vail sits at the base of Vail Mountain, one of the preeminent ski resorts in the United States. Playground of the wealthy, Vail is not only a popular winter destination, but also offers warm-weather amusements.

Related: 12 Destinations You Should Actually Visit During the Off-Season

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Nicknamed “Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth, Michigan, was founded by German immigrants in 1845. Today, the town’s roots are evident in wood-covered bridges and architecture that harks back to 1800s Bavaria. Not surprisingly, there’s also a terrific Oktoberfest celebration every fall and a World Expo of Beer each May.

Holland, Michigan

Named by homesick Dutch settlers, Holland, Michigan, hosts a tulip festival every May and pays homage to its roots with Dutch-inspired architecture and design. The 250-year-old De Zwaan windmill, shown here, is the only working Dutch windmill in the United States.

Related: 18 Small Towns with Strange Claims to Fame

Helen, Georgia

Americans just can’t get enough of the Bavarian Alps! To make sure visitors get their fix, the zoning laws of the tiny mountain town of Helen, Georgia, require every building—even fast-food joints—to portray typical Bavarian Alpine design.

Pella, Iowa

Founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, Pella, Iowa, incorporates typical Dutch architectural design in many of its iconic buildings, including the Vermeer Mill, shown here, and the Pella Opera House. The town celebrates its Dutch heritage with an annual tulip festival.

New Glarus, Wisconsin

Wikimedia Commons via TheCatalyst31

Named for the town of Glarus in Switzerland, New Glarus was founded by Swiss immigrants in the mid-1800s. Today, its downtown sports distinctive chalet-inspired architecture. After checking out the town, be sure to grab a beer and a tour at the New Glarus Brewing Company.

Lindsborg, Kansas via Chris Murphy

Looking for a bit of Sweden in America’s heartland? Then you’ll love the little town of Lindsborg, which celebrates all things Swedish, including the architecture, history, food, and festivals. No wonder it’s nicknamed “Little Sweden.”

Related: 35 Tiny Towns That Attract Hordes of Tourists Every Year

Venice, California

You could travel to Italy to take in Venice and its famous canals bordered by graceful buildings, or you could head to the oceanfront town of Venice, California, and admire its newer, quirkier canals flanked by beautiful homes. Afterwards, take a walk down the boardwalk and past flamboyant Muscle Beach, where bodybuilders abound.

Related: These Are the Places with the Best Weather in America

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City calls itself the City of Fountains, and for good reason. There are 48 publicly operated fountains in the city, but the most spectacular and famous is the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in the Country Club District. The fountain celebrates four of the world’s great rivers: the Mississippi, the Volga, the Seine, and the Rhine.

Hermann, Missouri

Wikimedia Commons via Davekeiser

No need to travel to Europe to enjoy German-inspired architecture or fine wines. You can sample both in Hermann, Missouri. Founded by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, the city today retains a European vibe that’s only enhanced by the flourishing wineries in the surrounding area.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Wikimedia Commons via Liveon001 ©Travis K. Witt

Founded by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, Fredericksburg, Texas, is even these days often referred to as Fritztown. The town is known for its many German bakeries, restaurants, historic homes, and public buildings, as well as its many wineries.

Related: 20 Weird and Wacky Destinations for a Family Road Trip

Charleston, South Carolina

If you feel like you’ve been carried away to an exotic European locale when you catch sight of Charleston’s cobblestone streets, pastel-colored buildings, and antebellum architecture, you aren’t alone. Tourists flock to this Southern gem to enjoy the scene, the laid-back pace, friendly people, historic monuments, and a full calendar of festivals.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Is a trip to the Sahara Desert on your bucket list? If that’s a bit too far, travel instead to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in south-central Colorado. There, you’ll see the tallest sand dunes in North America, some topping out at 750 feet, and enjoy hiking, sand boarding and sand sledding across this natural wonder.

Related: The 21 Wildest Places in America

Denali National Park, Alaska

While it doesn’t reach the 29,029-foot height of Mount Everest, Denali—formerly called Mount McKinley—is no slouch at 20,310 feet. In fact, Denali, the centerpiece of wild and rugged Denali National Park in Alaska, is the tallest mountain in North America. If you’re a serious mountaineer, climbing it is definitely one of your must-dos.

Related: 20 American Treasures to See Now—Before They Disappear

Key West, Florida

Mix together Spanish, Cuban, Native American, New England, and African influences, drench it all in the balmy sunshine of the Gulf of Mexico, paint it pastel, and you’ll come up with Key West, Florida. This small island is the southernmost point of the United States and is closer to Cuba than Miami.

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Kauai, Hawaii

You could travel outside the United States to marvel at the tropical beauty of the Polynesian islands, or you could forgo a passport and visit Hawaii instead. One of the three points of the Polynesian Triangle, Hawaii is a paradise for snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and simply taking in the many fantastic sights, such as the Wailua River on the island of Kauai.

Related: Island Living: 20 Tropical B&Bs That Are Only an Airplane Away

Napa Valley, California

These may look like French vineyards, but they’re actually in Napa Valley in Northern California. The heart of the California wine industry, Napa Valley is filled with vineyards, wineries, and beautiful scenery, making it the perfect vacation destination for wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Mount Rainier, Washington

While its alpine beauty is redolent of Switzerland, Mount Rainier, in Washington State, is much more conveniently located. Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, is 14,411 feet high.

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, on the rugged central coast of California, is a popular spot for hiking, camping, and beachcombing. Some of the most glorious scenery on the California coast is found along State Route 1, which winds through Big Sur and crosses over the Bixby Bridge, an open-spandrel arch bridge with a distinctly Ancient Roman vibe.

Related: The Best Tiny Beach Towns from East to West

Ouray, Colorado

Nicknamed the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray, Colorado, is a picturesque town nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Once a gold rush town, today it’s a mecca for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Related: 18 Small Towns That Changed America

Miami, Florida

A melting pot of Cuban, Central and South American, Haitian, and American influences, Miami is full of color, tropical heat, and excitement. The Little Havana section of town is known for its annual festival, Cuban restaurants, and street art.

Related: The Best U.S. Cities for a Summer Staycation

Kahalu'u, Oahu, Hawaii

The town of Kahalu’u on the island of Oahu has all of the natural beauty you’d expect in Hawaii. But what you might not expect to see is a replica of the gorgeous 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple of Uji, Japan. Surrounded by equally lovely grounds, the temple welcomes visitors of all faiths to relax, meditate, or simply soak in the peaceful splendor.

Related: 25 Tiny Towns to Visit for a Glimpse at How We Used to Live

Las Vegas, Nevada

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but you’ll feel like you’ve left the United States completely when you visit the Paris Las Vegas Hotel on the famed Vegas Strip. Designed to resemble its namesake city on a smaller scale, the hotel includes a 540-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower and a two-thirds-scale Arc de Triomphe, as well as facades inspired by the Louvre and the Paris Opera House.