Olympic National Park, Washington
If you’ve ever seen the movie Twilight you can imagine some of the scenery that makes up Olympic National Park. Encompassing around one million acres in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, this park has glacier-clad mountain peaks, forests made up of moss-covered trees that stretch into the clouds, temperate rainforests, meadows speckled with colorful wildflowers, and rugged coastline. It’s the kind of landscape you can only dream about until you see it with your very own eyes.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
One of the most unique landscapes in the US, you could easily imagine you’re in the middle of the Sahara when you visit Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. Picture yourself surrounded by towering camel-colored dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. At dusk, they transform into shimmering shades of gold and fiery orange. And at night, this dark sky zone is home to some incredible star gazing. It’s hard to believe this landscape exists in the San Luis Valley surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
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This vacation town on Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas feels frozen in time. You could easily confuse it for a seaside village in the English countryside. There are charming little boutiques, horse drawn carriages, fudge shops, and Victorian-style homes with sweeping porches. Best of all though, there are no cars allowed on island so biking remains the main mode of transportation. It’s a rare and peaceful paradise untouched by honking horns and light pollution.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The culture in the Big Easy is completely unique, but everything from the cuisine to the architecture has been influenced by Spanish, French, and Creole Culture. As you walk through the French Quarter, you’ll see Crayola-colored buildings reminiscent of the Caribbean, Spanish-style wrought iron balconies, archways, and lush courtyards, and picturesque Jackson Square, which might remind you of Paris’s famous Place des Vosges. And there’s the the vibrant nightlife, the sound of jazz music, lively oyster bars, and antique stores. It’s a major city that feels entirely different from anywhere else in the country.
St. Augustine, Florida
It’s no surprise that walking through St. Augustine feels like taking a step back in time. Founded in 1565 by the Spanish, it’s the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the country. And visitors to St. Augustine will still sense that Spanish influence. There’s the waterfront fortress, Castillo de San Marcos, lots of Spanish Colonial architecture, and beautifully landscaped parks like you might find in Andalusia. And you might just feel like you’ve been transported to Barcelona as you explore the sandy shoes and coastline.
Step off the 7 train and into this Queens neighborhood and you might think you’ve traveled to Asia. In fact, Asians make up nearly 70% of the population here, and their cultures thrive. And while Flushing might be known as Queens Chinatown, it’s so much more than that.
The busy streets are lined with pharmacies selling all kinds of ginseng, beauty stores filled with Korean skincare products, busy hot pot restaurants, and tiny hole-in-the-wall dumpling shops. You can walk blocks without hearing English spoken. There are bustling mall food courts where you can find the best Asian delicacies in New York, and possibly all of the US.
Catalina Island, California
Looking for a little taste of the French Riviera or the Italian coast right here in the states? Set your sights on Catalina Island. The Mediterranean vibes are probably due to the fact that Catalina Island once belonged to the Spanish Empire. This sun-soaked gem sits just 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles (just an hour-long ferry from Long Beach to Avalon), but it feels worlds away from city life. There are beachfront restaurants and palm trees lining the seaside, yachts docked in the harbor, a botanic garden that houses rare, native plants, and the famous Garden to Sky Hike, which boasts infinite views of sea, mountains, and sky.
Leavenworth didn’t always look the way it does now. In fact, in the 1960s the town decided to transform itself into a sort of American Bavaria to attract tourism. They adopted traditions like an Autumn Leaf Festival, and Christmas Lighting Festival that still continue today. Between the Cascade mountain peaks that make up the scenic backdrop, the Alpine-style buildings, and the German-inspired cuisine that’s heavy on sauerkraut and bratwurst, this enclave in the Pacific Northwest feels a whole lot like a German village.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
There’s something magical about this canyon of the Columbia River that separates Washington and Oregon. Though it’s only an hour from Portland, it feels like somewhere else entirely. You might feel like you’re in New Zealand when you gaze at the vineyards, orchards, and lavender farms sprawled out over the rolling hills with snowy Mt. Hood in the background. And then, of course, there are the waterfalls staggered throughout the canyon including the most famous, Multnomah Falls, a 620-foot-high double cascade that looks larger than life.
Framed by snowcapped mountains and set on a picturesque sound dotted with fishing boats, This Alaskan jewel on Baronof Island could easily be confused with a Scandinavian fishing town or a remote Icelandic village. In fact, if one of your bucket list goals is to catch the northern lights, you can see them dance around the Sitka sky in the winter months.
Can’t swing a trip to Copenhagen? No problem. Experience a little bit of Denmark right here in the US in Solvang. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley surrounded by hundreds of sprawling wineries, Solvang was founded by Danish immigrants back in the early 1900s. Around town, you’ll find wooden windmills, authentic Danish bakeries, sausage and beer gardens, pancake houses, and Danish Provincial-style architecture.
A popular road trip stop in Hill Country, Fredricksberg is an hour-long drive from both Austin and San Antonio. In addition to being the capital of Texas wine country, this city is known for his German influence. It was founded by German immigrants back in the 1800s, and their unique traditions are still in tact, most notably in the food. You’ll find lots of German food with a Texas flare (think: bratwurst, schnitzel, strudel, and biergartens galore). There’s even a town square called Marktplatz, which serves as the setting for Fredricksberg’s many concerts, festivals, farmer’s markets, and more.
One look at Kauai and you’ll understand exactly why it’s called the Garden Isle. You might confuse the lush, green mountains and wide valleys giving way to waterfalls for Costa Rica, Belize, or even Tahiti. The highlight of the island, is the Nā Pali coast, emerald cliffs towering over the Pacific Ocean that are best explored by helicopter or boat. If it looks like a scene from Jurassic Park, well…that’s because the hit Steven Spielberg film was partially filmed there.
Forget mistaking Moab for another country…you could easily confuse it for another planet. Located in eastern Utah, Moab is the gateway to two of the state’s best national parks: Arches National Park with its massive red rock formations and Canyonlands with its impressive desert landscape. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Moab is a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts. Take your pick from hot air ballooning, hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, and so much more.
Napa Valley, California
People travel far and wide to visit the world’s great wine regions like Tuscany, Burgundy, Piedmont, but you could also just travel to Northern California. Napa Valley has established itself as one of the best wine growing regions on the map, borrowing from the traditions of France’s Bordeaux region to make some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines on earth. The scenery is jaw-dropping: sprawling vineyards surrounded by lush mountains and golden, sun-kissed hills. There are few better places to relax and be pampered, and after a few back-to-back wine tastings, well…you could be anywhere.
Set in the North Georgia Mountains just an hour and a half from Atlanta, Helen is a little slice of Bavaria in the American south. The walkable downtown area looks like the setting of a fairytale with its colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and the Chattahoochee River running through it. While you’re there, treat yourself to a lazy river ride and make sure to fill up on some German food (there’s even a Hofbrauhaus).
From the sound of the lapping waves on South Beach to the smells of fried plantains and hot cubano sandwiches, Latin American influences reverberate all throughout Miami. It’s a melting pot of a city that offers just about everything, including stunning year-round weather. There’s the neighborhood of Little Haiti with its bright Victorian-style homes like those you might find in the Caribbean, a marketplace designed to replicate the one in Port au Prince. And then there’s Little Havana, home to much of Miami’s Cuban population, where you’ll find bright street murals, delicious Cuban food, and live music.
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The capital of Vermont, Montpellier has a distinctly European feel to it. That’s probably due to the fact that it was settled by European Americans who named it after a city in France. You can still get a sense for its European ties as you stroll around downtown: historic buildings showcasing European-style architecture, walkable streets, white churches with their spires poking through the changing leaves, Despite that it’s a state capital, it still maintains that cozy and quaint New England small town feel. In place of chain restaurants and mega malls, you’ll find maple syrup farms, family-run restaurants, art galleries, and tiny bookstores.