When international travel is out of the question – for any number of reasons – there are places right here in the United States that can make you feel like you’ve traveled overseas.
After all, the US is a melting pot of world cultures that began when the Spanish, French, and British first colonized the continent hundreds of years ago. Today, certain cities, small towns, and even city blocks across the country are proud of the cultural heritage and history that they represent, and it’s so cool to be able to experience that culture without crossing oceans.
In this post, we’ve highlighted eleven places to help you get a taste of world travel without leaving the United States. There are places in the US that look and feel like Germany, Tokyo, Tuscany, England, Spain, and more! Keep reading to see where you might be headed next!
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11 Places That Feel Like You’ve Traveled Overseas
1. Leavenworth, Washington
by Jackie Nourse
Leavenworth is a Bavarian village found smack in the middle of Washington state. Nestled against the eastern slopes of the towering, majestic Cascade Mountains, this little town looks and feels like it belongs in Southern Germany, yet it’s just a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle.
Because of its location in Central Washington, it is a gateway to ski areas, hiking, wineries, and orchards, but to find the real magic of Leavenworth, you needn’t look outside of town. Leavenworth offers the best you can get of Bavarian cuisine, beer, culture, and of course, Oktoberfest, without hopping an ocean.
Every building downtown, even the McDonald’s and Starbucks (which you would miss if you weren’t looking for them – imagine that!) has Bavarian-style architecture. With the backdrop of the Cascades, you’ll be pinching yourself to make sure you didn’t accidentally wake up in Bavaria.
Leavenworth is great to visit any time of year because of the outdoor activities that surround it, but my favorite time to go is, of course, during Oktoberfest. For three weekends every fall, Leavenworth hosts an incredible Oktoberfest, complete with multiple beer tents, Bavarian bands and cultural demonstrations, an art fair, pretzels, bratwurst, pickles and so much more. I’ve donned my Dirndl and attended a few times. I’ve been to the real Oktoberfest in Munich eight times and I can tell you – the one in Leavenworth is fabulous if you happen to be in the PNW instead of Europe.
- Have dinner at Andreas Keller – a downstairs restaurant right downtown. Order the Sahne Schnitzel and a Dunkel. Thank me later.
- Take yourself on a brewery tour – there are (at the time of publishing) three breweries in Leavenworth. Hey… when in Bavaria…
- Buy your tickets online in advance if you plan to go to Oktoberfest (it is COVID-cancelled for 2021 but should pick back up in 2022).
If weather permits, I recommend camping at Alpine View RV Park, which is a short walk along the river from downtown. There are plenty of Airbnb and VRBO options and hotels as well. Keep in mind they will book up well in advance of Oktoberfest and are more expensive at that time of year.
Interested in travel to Germany? You might like…
- 10 Reasons to Go to Oktoberfest Munich
- Oktoberfest, Munich – A Beginner’s Guide (podcast)
- An American in Germany – Transitioning Abroad with Stephanie Urban (podcast)
2. Solvang, California
by Kristin from The Sustainable Explorer
Solvang, California is the Danish Capital of America. The small town located in the Santa Ynez Valley was established in 1911 by three Danish immigrants with the hopes of it becoming a Danish colony for incoming immigrants from their home country.
The small town boasts Danish-style buildings that look like something out of a fairytale. It is almost like being in a real-life Disneyland. Dark brown accents decorate the ivory buildings and make you feel like you are walking through the streets of Denmark.
You can’t go down any street in Solvang without seeing at least a few bakeries, many still owned and operated by Danes themselves — so you know you’re getting the real deal when it comes to these delicious pastries. My favorite is the Danish Mill Bakery. I stop there every time I’m in town for a blueberry danish and aebleskivers (like a donut hole).
One of the best things about Solvang is that it is budget-friendly. The whole town is walkable and parking is free. Just winding your way through the town is an experience in itself, but there are also a few, affordable, donation-based museums. Each museum offers a wealth of information about different aspects of Danish culture.
After a few imported European beers at the Copenhagen Sausage Garden, complete your visit with a stay at one of the Danish-style hotels. A few within walking distance from the town center include Royal Copenhagen Inn, Svendsgaard’s Lodge, and Solvang Inn and Cottages.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana
by Brittany from She Goes With Purpose
One city in the US that immediately makes you feel like you’ve traveled overseas is New Orleans. For nearly a century, France and Spain passed control of New Orleans back and forth before the United States eventually acquired it from France in 1803. Both countries left their mark on the city – especially the French – and now visitors get to reap the benefits!
Despite decades of Spanish rule, the customs and language of steadfast and stubborn French descendants survived centuries, and French culture is forever ingrained in the fabric of the city. To get a taste of the unique Crescent City French culture, just look around. You’ll see streets and businesses named after French places, royalty, and Catholic saints. The famous rivalry between France and Spain is most apparent in the eclectic mix of French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Creole (a mix of the first two) architecture throughout the city.
Listen for the famous French saying “laissez les bon temps rouer” (let the good times roll) to be belted out by someone in the crowd on Bourbon Street. Taste your way through the city’s French cuisine from fancy to fast-paced at places like Antoine’s Restaurant and Cafe Du Monde.
Finally, take a guided tour of the famous St Louis Cemetery No 1 – the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, which was built in 1789. The ornate above-ground tombs at this cemetery is a French tradition reminiscent of Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
To experience New Orleans for yourself, fly into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, and take a $2 bus from the airport to the French Quarter. From there everything is walkable or the streetcar can get you to most places outside the Quarter. I suggest staying at HI New Orleans Hostel on Canal Street or Hotel Royal, an affordable boutique hotel tucked away in a quiet corner.
Interested in travel to France? You might like…
- Paris City Guide for Budget-Minded Travelers
- Southern France on a Budget: Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon
- One Month Study Abroad in France: I Can Speak French Now!
- Things To Do In Paris in December
4. Espanola Way in Miami, Florida
by Claire from Stoked to Travel
Espanola Way in Miami offers an authentic and vibrant Hispanic experience in the heart of South Beach. It is without a doubt one of the best neighborhoods to visit in Miami.
Reminiscent of a Mediterranean village, this palm-lined, cobblestoned street is accessible only to pedestrians and transports you to a quaint Spanish village with pale pink stucco buildings, terracotta roofs, and colorful Bougainvillea climbing the walls.
The street itself dates back to the early 1920s when it was built for local artists and was completely revitalized in 2017. It reopened to great excitement – people were thrilled to see this historic Hispanic corner of Miami come back to life.
Take a seat at a terraza outside one of the many restaurants and cafes, and enjoy the colorful atmosphere under the twinkling lights. Espanola Way is unsurprisingly the home of the best tapas, paella, and Mediterranean seafood in Miami. Experience the atmosphere while saving money by visiting Espanola Way later in the evening for just a glass of sangria, rather than a full-blown meal. Enjoy energetic flamenco and salsa performances in the street each evening and romantic live music in some of the late-night bars.
You can stay overnight on Espanola Way at the charming El Paseo Hotel, a fantastic low-key alternative to the bigger hotels on South Beach. The closest airport is Miami International Airport (MIA) and you can take a cab in just 20-30 minutes.
5. Smith Island, Maryland
by Jordan of Global Debauchery
If you heard of an island that is only accessible by boat and still speaks with a relic, Elizabethan accent, where in the world would you guess it was located? Would you guess there’s one right here in the United States, just a couple of hours outside our nation’s capital? Smith Island, Maryland sits in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay on the Maryland-Virginia border.
With only 200 year-round residents, the island has been isolated for so long that it’s maintained its own unique culture and way of life, dating back to the 1600s. It’s one of the oldest English-speaking settlements in the entire region.
Smith Island began as a farming community but ultimately survived on fishing, oystering, and crabbing. The Smith Island Cake – Maryland’s state dessert – was developed specifically for long days during the autumn oyster harvest, using 8–15 layers of fudge frosting, instead of buttercream, to hold longer. It’s a must-try when visiting.
Other things you must try on Smith Island are kayaking the waterways of the Martin National Wildlife Refuge, biking from Ewell to Rhodes Point, or boating to Tylerton and touring around. Have a crab boil on a private beach, or try your hand at fishing for a day with the locals.
You won’t find any ATMs on the island, so be sure to bring plenty of cash for activities and food. Most of all, though, just enjoy your time in this truly special place from a bygone era.
Interested in travel to England? You might like…
- 5 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Trip to London
- London City Guide for Budget-Minded Travelers
- 4 Budget-Friendly Day Trips From London
6. Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
by Francesca of Homeroom Travel
Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is one of my favorite foreign-feeling places in the United States. Located near Downtown Los Angeles, this hidden area transports you right to Tokyo.
All the decor and shops that line the area around Little Tokyo make it feel like you are visiting Japan and walking around the real Tokyo. The main area of Little Tokyo is the Japanese Village Plaza. This area has a ton of cute shops to wander through and delicious Japanese restaurants. Make sure to grab mochi at Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop.
The Japanese American National Museum is also worth a visit. This museum is dedicated to the history and culture of Japanese Americans and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC. They frequently put on special events throughout the year, so keep an eye on their calendar. One year, they held an international tea festival where you could try all sorts of Japanese teas. Definitely, something to keep on your radar if you like to learn about Japanese culture.
To get here, fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). A car makes it a bit easier to get around, but it is possible to get to Little Tokyo by bus or metro to save some money. The most convenient area to stay in when visiting Little Tokyo is in Downtown Los Angeles. The Westin Bonaventure or the Millennium Biltmore are both great budget hotel options.
7. Boise, Idaho
by Deb from The Visa Project
The capital city of Idaho is a great (maybe surprising) place to visit to feel like you’ve traveled to Europe because of its rich connection to the Basque people. Boise is home to the largest concentration of Basque people outside of their European homeland, and people still emigrate there today.
With this comes the opportunity to have a total Basque immersion experience in America. We are talking about festivals, museums, language, food and a whole lot more.
To start, head to the Basque Block in downtown Boise – a long, walkable street, where all the action takes place. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center is a must-stop for anyone interested in learning the history of Basque migration to the United States. Then there is the Basque Center with its bar, card room, Basque music, and dance lessons.
Next, head to Bar Gernika, a Basque pub/eatery that dishes out different types of Basque cuisines like solomo sandwiches and cidra. Finally, stop by the Basque Market, a combination of an eatery, grocery store, and cooking school.
To save money, you can camp at Macks Creek Park, only 20 miles northeast of Boise, rather than staying at a hotel.
Interested in travel to Spain? You might like…
- American Expat Life in Spain and Italy (podcast)
- 3 Easy and Affordable Destinations for Beginner Travelers
- 7 Countries, 13 Cities, 6 Weeks, 1 Eurail Pass
8. Chinatown in San Francisco
by Patricia from Ze Wandering Frogs
No need to introduce San Francisco. With its beautiful architecture, stunning landscape, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean, it is California’s favorite city. One essential aspect of San Francisco is its diversity, thanks to the many different cultural neighborhoods around the city.
Chinatown is probably one of the most remarkable of those neighborhoods. The San Francisco Chinatown is the oldest in North America, with the first Chinese immigrants arriving in SF around 1850. It’s also one of the largest in the US. Stepping into Chinatown in San Francisco is almost like stepping into a bustling city in mainland China.
Passing the Dragon Gate near Union Square onto the famous Grant Avenue with its Chinese architecture, red lanterns, and the pagoda is a must-do. Walk by the Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral – the first Asian Church in America. Explore Waverly Place and the Tin How Temple, the oldest Taoist temple in the US founded in 1852.
In February, Chinatown hosts a traditional parade to celebrate the Lunar New Year, so plan your trip for then to experience it. Although many menus might be written in Chinese only, make sure to try some yummy dim sum places or roasted duck from one of the many small restaurants and food stalls.
To visit Chinatown and San Francisco in general, fly into San Francisco International Airport. Nearby San Jose and Oakland airports are also great alternatives.
Brittany suggests staying at the HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel. It is one of the most affordable options in a very expensive city.
9. Temecula, California
by Maria from San Diego Explorer
Conveniently located about one hour from San Diego and Los Angeles, Temecula feels like a quick trip to Tuscany, Italy. The rolling hills, crested with tall cedar trees and lined with never-ending rows of grapevines, could fool anyone into thinking they took a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Europe.
Temecula is home to over 40 boutique wineries and wine tasting is one of the top things to do in the region. You can choose to go on your own or join an organized tour. Depending on your group size, it might be cheaper to join a tour than renting a car and exploring on your own.
Add a trip to Temecula Old Town to your itinerary for a charming fusion of Western towns, modern eateries, and fun shops. And if you want to splurge, do a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Champagne or go horseback riding in the backcountry. Groupon often has great deals for these activities.
Temecula offers a wide range of accommodations to suit most budgets. From stunning winery hotels to quirky vacation rentals (including vintage airstreams or a farm stay), the options are many. For the best prices, you should consider booking mid-week stays during the offseason.
10. Naples, Florida
by Lori from Naples Florida Travel Guide
If you’re looking to visit a US destination with a unique European feel, you can’t miss Naples, Florida for a taste of Italy. Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Naples was fashioned by settlers in the 1880s to be a smaller version of Naples, Italy.
Over 100 years later, the city has evolved with a distinctly Italianate feel. There’s classic Italian architecture and landscaping in and around Old Town, especially in the Port Royal area, along with amazing Italian restaurants which have kept the vibe going strong for decades.
There is an amazing number of unique things to do in Naples, Florida, and many are free! Lounge on some of Florida’s highest-rated beaches with soft white sand, warm water, and incredible shelling. Or explore the local landscape and calm waters around Naples – they’re perfect for saltwater fishing and stand-up paddleboarding.
Before you leave Naples, be sure and stroll the Naples Pier to watch a fiery sunset over the Gulf. These are the best ways to experience the European beauty of Naples on a budget.
Naples can easily be reached by flying into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), which is located just 30 minutes north of the city, or fly into Miami and drive to Naples in just 2 hours.
Interested in travel to Italy? You might like…
- First Time Travel Planning Help, Featuring Italy
- Venice City Guide for Budget-Minded Travelers
- Where to Eat in Rome According to Locals
11. Boston, Massachusetts
by Tegan + Alex from Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Boston may have been the birthplace of the American Revolution, but its history, architecture, and green spaces are still quite reminiscent of its British colonial past.
The Federalist, Georgian, and Victorian-style buildings, together with quaint cobblestoned streets and period churches, are very similar to buildings found in London. The two cities have an “old meets new” aesthetic with the Shard and Gherkin towers rising above the banks of the Thames River in London and the Prudential and John Hancock towers rising above the Charles River in Boston. Plus, the Boston Common (the oldest city park in the United States!) was designed with the British “green” in mind.
For those wanting a taste of the UK, Boston has many popular and fun Irish and English pubs. The Black Rose is a favorite for nightly live music and Guinness flowing on tap.
Budget-minded travelers will love Boston’s free attractions, many of which are tied to British-American relations. You absolutely cannot miss the Boston Freedom Trail, a walking path that includes the site of the Boston Massacre and the Battle of Bunker Hill. As well as Faneuil Hall Marketplace (pictured above), Paul Revere’s House, and the North End, Boston’s oldest neighborhood and the best place outside of Italy for Italian food.
You can also explore many of Boston’s historic neighborhoods, such as Beacon Hill, the South End, and Back Bay, for a taste of historic architecture. The Boston Public Library, with its beautiful interior courtyard and old-school study vibes, is an excellent locals’ secret, and also free.
Boston Logan International Airport is located about 15 minutes from the center of town by train, and those wanting to explore more of New England can do so via bus or Amtrak from Boston’s South Station.
Lodging can be very expensive in Boston. The HI Boston Hostel puts you right between Chinatown and the Theater District for a fraction of the price of nearby hotels. Those traveling on a budget will likely find the best options on Airbnb and should consider more residential neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain or Brookline, as they are still located close to the city center, but are a bit more affordable.
Click here to save $55 on your first Airbnb stay.
What other neighborhoods, off-the-beaten-path towns, or cities in the United States make you feel like you’ve crossed the globe to get there? Share in the comments!