Can’t Get to Europe? These U.S. Destinations Will Make You Feel Like You’re There
With much of Europe off limits amid the current pandemic, Americans will have to wait longer to travel to and throughout the continent. However, they can find resemblances to some European countries a little closer to home. Here are locations across the U.S. that make you feel like you’ve set foot in a European destination with no passport required.
Tarpon Springs, Florida
More than one in 10 residents in this Gulf Coast city claim Greek ancestry, with Greek immigrants arriving in the late 19th century. They also gave Tarpon Springs the moniker, “The Sponge Capital of the World,” in that divers would apply the Greek Islands tradition of diving for sponges to Floridian waters. Nowadays, Greek heritage can be seen with locals in coffee shops along Athens Street. Along Dodecanese Boulevard, shop at Getaguru Handmade Soap Company and dine at Mykonos and Hellas Greek Restaurant.
Founded in the mid-19th century, this city on the shores of Lake Michigan makes you feel like you’ve set foot in the Netherlands. Experience a Dutch wonderland at the Windmill Island Gardens, with a windmill that grinds West Michigan sourced wheat into flour, while Nelis' Dutch Village shows the traditional making of wooden shoes. Every May, take in its Tulip Time Festival; later on in the year, do your holiday shopping at Kerstmarkt.
Another Dutch destination, this Iowa location is all heritage museums, Dutch architecture, and the Vermeer Windmill, the tallest working grain windmill in the U.S. Then there’s Klokkenspel, a carillon clock going off on odd hours and with historic figurines coming in and out. And cuisine options are plenty, from Dutch bakeries’ Jaarsma Bakery and Vander Ploeg Bakery to Dutch Fix, serving up Dutch street food.
Referred to as the “Danish capital of America,” this village in Santa Ynez Valley gets quite festive with its Solvang Julefest, a holiday event; Solvang Grape Stomp, a wine harvesting celebration; and Solvang Danish Days, a full-blown heritage festival. Regularly, you can see a copy of Denmark’s famous Little Mermaid sculpture and Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, whose exterior resembles an 18th-century Danish farmhouse. But be sure to try Danish pastries at bakeries including Aebleskiver Café and Birkholm's Bakery & Cafe.
St. Augustine, Florida
As the nation’s oldest city, this former Spanish settlement is still noted through Colonial-style architecture and historic venues. Avile Street is the oldest street in the U.S. and is now an arts district with galleries and restaurants and historic venues. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, an old Spanish fortification built to protect their claim on the Atlantic trade route, is now overseen by the National Park Service.
New Britain, Connecticut
Nicknamed “Little Poland,” this Hartford County city’s section of Broad Street continues the legacy built by Polish immigrants coming to work in factories over two centuries ago. It’s known for its annual Little Poland Festival, which holds cultural and family-friendly activities. Do some shopping in Polmart, a store with all things Polish, or for pierogis and stuffed cabbage at Roly Poly Bakery. Or order a meal at the highly recommended Staropolska Restaurant.
With the most concentrated population of Basques living in the U.S., the “Basque Block” is a downtown section along Grove Street reflecting this legacy dating back two centuries. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center tells the history behind these emigrants from this northern Spain. The Basque Market carries Txakoli, Basque and Spanish wines and is known for weekly preparing giant paellas on the street. Go pintxo hopping at Txikiteo and Bar Gernika Basque Pub and Eatery.
New Glarus, Wisconsin
Referred to as “America’s Little Switzerland,” this Wisconsin village showcases its Alpine-style architecture and a Cow Parade of statues depicting these dairy-producing animals. Established in 1845 by Swiss immigrants, New Glarus holds a Harvest Fest in October, where daily routines and responsibilities of the past – cheese making, blacksmithing, yarn spinning, you name it – are re-created. And at Emmi Roth Käse Cheese Factory, a Swiss-owned cheesemaker, take a self-guided tour.
New Braunfels, Texas
Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels arrived in what’s now the Texas Hill Country to motivate the founding of this 19th-century German colony. His royal presence lives on in murals depicting him and other key figures in The New Braunfels Historic Outdoor Art Museum. Head to Krause’s Cafe for its Biergarten and German fare, and the Gruene Historic District is where German farmers lived but now has a hopping’ dance hall, general store, and restaurant. Every November, Wurstfest serves up a German food-focused celebration.
In the 1960s, officials decided to make this Deadwood-looking town into a Bavarian village to attract visitors. Today, its architecture is full of beamed houses with other German features ranging from restaurants (try the Bavarian Bistro and Bar) to German named gift shops (with European ornaments at Kris Kringl).
This Georgia town is tucked into the Blue Ridge mountains, and has been designed to look and feel like an Alpine village in Bavaria. You'll spend the day visiting charming shops and walking on cobblestone streets. Roadtrippers will enjoy having access to the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway that highlights the beauty of the Blue Ridge and starts in Helen.
Known as “Little Sweden, USA,” this city in Kansas’s Smoky Valley was settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1860s and Lindsborg still celebrates its Scandinavian roots through Swedish traditions year-round. Their event calendar includes St. Lucia Festival in December; Våffeldagen, which celebrates Swedish waffles in March; and Svensk Hyllningsfest, a biennial celebration. Spot sculptures of the Swedish Dala Horse around town and purchase a hand painted one from Hemslöjd.
Napa Valley, California
Giving a Tuscan landscape vibe, this wine-producing destination boasts wineries whose architectural features make you feel like you’re in Italy or another similar European countryside. To start, the Castello di Amorosa gives off the feeling of exploring a hill town in Tuscany or Umbria, with its 13th-century-style winery. Napa Valley is also noted for producing another associated Italian export -- oil olive -- and sample the bounty produced at Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company.
While bounced between the Spanish and influenced by indigenous peoples and African Americans, New Orleans was first founded and settled by the French. Their imprint lingers within nearby Cajun country, with those speaking “Louisiana French,” and in NOLA’s French Quarter, the city’s most famous neighborhood. Here, dine on fine French and Creole cuisine at Arnaud’s, Galatoire's, and Antoine’s Restaurant.
Founded by Scottish merchants in 1749, this city outside of Washington, D.C. gives off a Colonial English vibe within its Old Town District. Captain’s Row is a cobblestone streetscape, while the brick-lined King Street has many shopping ops. The Old Town Farmers’ Market has been in existence since before the American Revolution; George Washington sent produce grown at nearby Mount Vernon to be sold there.
Pinterest predicts trends for 2021
Pinterest recently released its seventh annual Pinterest Predicts report, providing a look into what people around the world have been searching for in 2020 and what it could mean for trends in travel, health and wellbeing, beauty, home décor, special events, parenting, fashion, food and beverage, finance and hobbies in 2021. As Pinterest’s Head of Content and Editorial Partnerships Aya Kanai and Head of Core Research Larkin Brown explained, the “not-yet-trending” report and its coordinating boards are based on the kinds of visual content being pinned by more than 400 million Pinterest users, called Pinners, to over five billion boards. With at least 240 billion pins saved worldwide, a whopping 95% of people say they’ve used Pinterest as a source of inspiration and motivation to help get them through these uncertain times as well as a place to plan future trips. Here’s what Pinterest predicts for travel in 2021 and a look at some of its other soon-to-be trends. People will continue to plan future travels Just because we can’t travel as freely right now doesn’t mean it will be like this forever. Now is the time to plan the epic vacations we’ll take later, and Pinterest users agree, with the report showing a 50% increase in searches for luxury vacation ideas, a 55% rise in searches for romantic honeymoon destinations, a 35% uptick in searches for mountain travel and seven times as many searches as usual for dream vacations. A 100% rise in searches for forest resorts also indicates people will prefer trips to less-crowded places as we head into 2021. Road trips to the great outdoors will remain popular As the report says, “Nomadding is the new jetsetting,” with trips to more isolated and natural settings continuing to be a trend in 2021. With socially distant outdoor activities like hiking, RV camping and stargazing becoming more popular this year, we can look forward to seeing more national park road trips and cabin-in-the-woods rentals next year, especially with a growing interest in #vanlife and digital nomad adventures as companies and schools continue to allow remote working and learning. Pinterest also saw a 165% increase in searches for stargazing and wild flower fields, while other search terms including motorcycle tents, nomad aesthetic and RV accessories saw an increase of 100%, 80% and 40%, respectively. Cars will be used for more than just driving Pinterest reports double the amount of searches for the search term car date night, an 190% increase in searches for drive-in cinema, and an 115% hike in searches for car man cave, showing that people are turning to their vehicles for other things besides driving. A 60% rise in searches for car survival kits and a 100% increase in searches for dog car seats shows people are also interested in road trips with the whole family in tow, including their fur babies. Recipes will be based on international favorites Searches for tomatillo enchilada sauce, Cajun chicken pasta and hot honey recipes rose by 75%, 55% and 155%, respectively, while Pinterest saw double the usual amount of searches for jalapeño pepper jelly and a 70% increase in searches for Poke bowl sauce, meaning Pinners are taking the time to try spicier flavors and cook a wide range of international dishes. They’re also attempting fancier gourmet meals featuring expert-looking plating and garnishes as well as experimenting with specially made charcuterie boards for breakfast, dessert and brunch. Hobbies will be inspired by international activities If you can’t travel the world, why not bring the world to you? Pinterest reports an increase in searches for global-inspired hobbies like ancient Egyptian architecture and Jyotish astrology and arts and crafts projects like Irish quilting patterns, Japanese carpentry, and Persian calligraphy art. There’s also been a rise in searches for crochet basics, aesthetic embroidery, bottle painting, leatherworking, glass etching, candle making and other hands-on activities. Comfort and coziness will reign supreme In terms of fashion, a new trend called “athflow,” meant to combine “athleisure” and elegance, has been making an appearance in Pinterest searches, with people seeking flowy pants, oversized outfits and jumpsuits that can be worn everywhere from the office to the yoga mat. Trends in coziness include shawls, puffy jackets, quilted clothing, slouchy socks and other “cocoon” wear, while customized, personalized clothing remains a hot topic for Generation Z Pinners. People will keep it simple or own their own style There seem to be two distinct camps when it comes to beauty trends on Pinterest: those who are taking advantage of these pandemic times to tone down their make-up and aim for a more natural, healthy glow and those who go all out with bold and colorful make-up, statement-making eyebrows, complicated braids and emoji-inspired nail designs. Other Pinterest Predictions According to Pinterest’s report, fancy wallpaper for your cell phone and laptop will be a top trend as people lean toward more individualized stylings to match their décor. Because of the pandemic, event planning will stick to the basics, with low-key wedding ideas and desert elopements continuing to be big in 2021. Other trends—using Pinterest to grow your business, teach your kids from home, learn about mindfulness as a family and choose alternate pets like lizards, snails, chameleons, frogs and tortoises—saw a rise in searches in 2020, as did topics related to neon home lighting, minimalist décor designs and maximizing space around the house. Searches for modern mysticism, spiritualism, ritual cleansing baths and sleep-inducing bedtime routines are also on the rise as people continue to invest in their mental wellbeing and make sure they get enough rest.
Best Places To Ring In The New Year
This is the year you’re gonna do better than watch the ball drop on TV, right? There’s a great big world of New Year’s celebrations out there! From a big-city bash to a beach retreat to family fun, our resolution is to deliver a Happy New Year for every travel personality. BT Senior Editor Jamie Beckman shared these three great ideas on the Weather Channel's AMHQ this morning: The Roxy Tribeca Surrealist Ball A quirky and affordable alternative to Times Square, this NYC bash transforms The Roxy Hotel’s entire lobby into an absolutely bizarre costume party that will remind you of a Salvador Dali surrealist painting. Enjoy an open premium bar from 9 p.m. on, and a champagne toast at midnight from $149. GoldenEye Reggae Party, Jamaica Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica, is home to one of the Caribbean’s hottest New Year’s celebrations, when the GoldenEye Resort supplies live reggae music, DJs, traditional jerk cuisine, and, of course dancing. While a stay at the resort is pricey for Budget Travelers, the party is a stylish steal from $175. Family-Friendly Fun at Great Wolf Lodge This chain of kid-pleasing water parks re-creates the North Pole with its Snowland celebration, including indoor snow showers, holiday decorations, and a Snowball party with a carnival, family karaoke, and a midnight countdown. Room rates vary depending on location, but Great Wolf Lodge is a good deal because rates include water park passes for the entire family.
Stargazers look up tonight for the Great Conjunction
Stargazers who look to the sky on Monday night, December 21, will be rewarded with the Great Conjunction - the first time in 400 years that Saturn and Jupiter will be aligned in the night sky. The closeness to Christmas has dubbed it the "Christmas Star." If you're looking for the best place to view the stars, check out the Dark Sky Finder.
Cruise Along These Holiday Lights Drive-Throughs Across The U.S.
As the current pandemic is changing how we celebrate the 2020 holiday season, the tradition of seeing public holiday lights displays at night can now be done from the safety of your car. From readapted walking tours to first-time happenings or continuing events, here are holiday lights drive-throughs around the U.S. to take a ride-along. Check their websites for tickets and health and safety protocols before attending. New England Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has reimagined its annual Gardens Aglow as a drive-through event happening now through Jan. 2. The gardens will still dazzle with over 650,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights depicting trees, animals, flowers, and other delights. Plus, they’ve all been designed by the gardens’ staff. Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I. is hosting its first Drive-Through Holiday Lights Spectacular now through Jan. 10. The inaugural spectacular features festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 1.5 million illuminated lights. Now through Jan. 2, the Magic of Lights at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. is presenting the latest LED technology and digital animations in this holiday experience. Now through Jan. 3, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Concord is holding the “Gift of Lights,” a 2.5-milelong drive-through show with 3.5 million lights, a new 150-foot RGB Tunnel of Lights, and characters from popular children’s books. There are also fan-favorite displays, including the 12 Days of Christmas scene. Hershey Sweet Lights, presented by T-Mobile. Mid-Atlantic “Wegmans Lights on the Lake” at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, N.Y. is happening now through Jan. 10, and is a two-mile route featuring towering holiday displays, a larger-than-life land of Oz, twinkling fantasy forest, Victorian villages and a variety of animated scenes. Located down the road from Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, ”Hershey Sweet Lights presented by T-Mobile” is happening now through Jan. 3 and consists of two miles of fields and wooded trails decorated with nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays created from about two million LED lights. Through Jan. 3, “Bayport Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach” is Virginia Beach Boardwalk’s festive nautical holiday lights display featuring festive fish, musical crabs, and elves join a surfing Santa and a new 40-foot dancing Christmas tree. Southeast At Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., “Speedway Christmas” is happening now through Jan. 17 and has more than four million LED lights in displays along a 3.75-mile stretch. This event also has holiday movies shown on a large HDTV screen Thursdays through Sundays. For an additional fee, attendees can skate on a 5,400-square-foot ice rink; mask-wearing is required. In Columbia, S.C., the South Carolina State Fair is putting on “Carolina Lights” at Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds now through Dec. 27. More than 100 individual LED light displays along a mile-plus stretch including a nativity scene and a 25-foot-tall Frosty the Snowman. In Savannah, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens’ “December Nights & Holiday Lights” has been turned into a drive-through event, on now through Christmas Eve. Now through Jan. 2, “Jax Illuminations” will feature two mega trees, a 300-foot tunnel of lights and custom Christmas scenes at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville, Fla. Through Jan. 2, the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee spread across a four-mile route illuminated by more than 2 million lights among 250 displays. In Nashville, at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, the Jingle Beat is designed by the same artists and local creatives that behind some of the music industries biggest tours. This light show is helping to support the local music industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is a three-mile driving tour full of a lot of twinkling lights, happening now through New Year’s Eve. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Photo by Eric Scire. Mid-West Billed as Central Ohio’s largest drive-through Christmas light show, Wonderlight's Christmas at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron is now through Jan. 3. It has over one million LED lights synchronized to traditional and contemporary Christmas music played through your own car stereo. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in the (fittingly called) Santa Claus, Ind. happens now through Dec. 27. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is depicted through lighted displays and storyboards. Now through Jan. 3, “Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum” in Lisle, Ill. has guests remaining in their cars and tuning to a synced musical soundtrack while driving nearly two miles among the Arboretum’s trees. The Wisconsin Christmas of Carnival Lights in Caledonia, 20 minutes south of Milwaukee at Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort, features over two million twinkling lights on an over 1.6-mile path. Now through New Year’s Eve, the show allows attendees to experience lights on all sides, with displays ranging from forest friends and reindeer to Santa and his elves. South-West “Lights of Joy” in Branson, Mo. is located off of the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and contains more than 300 displays with over one million twinkling LED lights throughout this 1.2-mile drive. The Automobile Alley Art Light Display in Oklahoma City has colorful LED lights covering buildings on eight blocks of North Broadway and district side streets. Various shops and restaurants will also feature window displays. The event is part of Downtown in December and runs now through Jan. 31. “Gift of Lights” at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway now through Jan. 3 is made up of over one million twinkling lights that people can see from their own cars. Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg West “Christmas in Color” at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. is having drivers cruising along more than 1.5 million lights perfectly synchronized to holiday music heard through your car radio. Drive by giant candy canes, snowmen and more now through January 3. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Glittering Lights” features more than five million LED lights intertwining throughout a 2.5-mile course through the speedway, through Jan. 10. The Phoenix Zoo’s Cruise ZooLights can be seen from your car now through Jan. 31, with millions of twinkling lights and dazzling animal sculptures from the comfort of your vehicle. Now through Jan. 2, “Holidays in Your Car” is taking place both at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and Ventura County Fairgrounds, with more than 1 million LED lights and some fixtures standing at 40 feet tall.