If international travel is postponed on your wish list for a beat longer, there are U.S. towns, neighborhoods and cities galore that channel the best of European architecture, cuisine and overall good vibes. You don’t need a passport or a visa to feel transported with these destinations!
Leavenworth, WA (Bavaria)
In the 60s, Leavenworth was nearly a ghost town after a brief stint as a logging community. Two businessmen were inspired by Solvang, California (a Danish-themed town) and decided to create a full-fledged Bavarian village, tucked into the eastern slope of the Cascades. It revitalized the town and now, over a million tourists visit every year for their numerous festivals from the wildly popular Oktoberfest to Bavarian Icefest. Even the few chain businesses that are located here are decked out in the style of historic Bavarian villages and every step in town is charming and postcard worthy. We recommend visiting its many distilleries and breweries, stopping by the quirky Nutcracker Museum for its unique 7,000+ collection and making a reservation at Andreas Keller restaurant for authentic Bavarian fare such as Käsespätzle and Schnitzel.
Where to stay: Kimpton hotels in Seattle. Leavenworth is an easy day or weekend trip away clocking in at a 2-hour drive.
Venice Beach, CA (Italy)
From its eccentric beachfront teeming with skateboarders and street musicians to its winding canals that pay homage to their Italian counterparts, Venice is a one-of-a-kind destination. Originally its own city before it merged with LA in the 1920s, Venice continues to draw in creatives and curious tourists alike. Stroll Abbot Kinney for restaurants, galleries, boutiques and bookmark Artists and Fleas on Saturdays for a healthy dose of arts, goods and shopping. Off 25th street, you’ll be able to walk across winding sidewalks and 9 foot bridges to marvel at the waterfront homes there. The water comes from Marina del Rey! Of course, no visit is complete without Casablanca, a 40-year-old establishment that serves Mexican meets Cali Coastal items and is known for its homemade flour tortillas.
Where to stay: Kimpton hotels in Los Angeles
Santa Barbara, CA (Spain)
Before it became U.S. territory, Spaniards established multiple missions along the coast, a handful of which still stand today. The city itself has undergone several transformations with notable chapters during the California Gold Rush and Victorian period. Its distinct neighborhoods and nearby towns include Goleta, Monetcito and Summerland. Many buildings and homes don Spanish Colonial style architecture and visitors flock here to explore beaches, mountains and vineyards in one fell swoop. Known as the “Queen of the Missions,” Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded in the late 1700s and features art and artifacts from that era along with majestic twin bell towers. Casa del Herrero is another worthwhile visit operating as a 1920s museum. Its 11 acres represent Spanish revival architecture and features Moorish-style gardens and an impressive collection of 15th/16th century art.
Where to stay: Kimpton hotels in Santa Barbara and Goleta
Tips to Travel like You’re Abroad
- Break it down – Italy has its midday riposos or siestas, Sweden honors daily fika moments (a break to share coffee/tea and a bite with a friend or colleague) – the list goes on. To take a page from their book, carve out an hour or so each day to truly rest and recharge. We’re talking no itinerary, except maybe a cup of coffee and a flaky pastry. It’ll feel like a much needed reboot because sometimes, we need vacays from our vacays
- Walk everywhere – unless you’re going on a day trip that is! You miss so much flying by in a car and you’re guaranteed to stumble across a hidden gem – it could be a local boutique you wouldn’t have spotted online or a charming hole-in-the-wall restaurant where you least expect it
- Pack light – use a large backpack or small duffel to maximize your mobility and find a local laundromat if you need to refresh. Of course, always leave a little extra room for souvenirs
- Travel off peak – this is an amazing way to stretch your budget and avoid the crowds – a win win. If you’re a solo traveler, go to family friendly places (like amusement parks) outside of school vacation hours. If you’re not one for beaches, fall is a great time to visit coastal towns as they wind down for the season