Sometimes, you just want to pack your bags and wake up in a country that eats mostly bread for breakfast—but likely, time and money are keeping you from living this dream. Well, luckily for you, there are ways to get a taste of Europe right here at home—no hopping the pond required. Better yet, some of these towns are among the best places to retire, meaning if you like them, you might just want to stay forever.
Have you ever wanted to go to Oktoberfest? Well then, you’re in luck, because Leavenworth, WA—a scenic two-hour drive from Seattle—throws its own every year. Funnily enough, Leavenworth didn’t exactly start out this way—it was an idea that came to fruition in the 60s, when the town was struggling financially and decided to lure in tourists—but the results are so convincing, it’s impossible to dislike. Leavenworth is a little slice of Bavaria, complete with gorgeous German architecture framed by the snowy Cascade Mountains. And if beer isn’t your thing, Christmas is a magical time to visit special holiday-themed shops and eateries.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is often referred to as the American Riviera, and for a good reason. The area has been populated since about 13,000 years ago with the first Native Americans, but when the Spanish arrived in the 1700s, they occupied the area in order to spread Christianity. Their influence is still heavily apparent, as a myriad of Spanish Mission-style houses spread among the rolling green hills between the Ynez Mountains and the brilliant blue Pacific Ocean. It’s no wonder Santa Barbara is the best city to retire in!
New Orleans, Louisiana
This one is perhaps a bit of a no-brainer—the French Quarter and beignets are probably a bit of a give-away. This is because NOLA was founded by French colonists, and later become part of the Spanish Empire, meaning its architecture is a blend of French wrought iron balconies and Spanish cottages. The people of Louisiana reflect this international heritage, with the Louisiana Creole people being of Spanish, French, and/or Afro-Caribbean descent, and Cajuns being descended from French exiles from Canada.
If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the Netherlands, then look no further than the Midwest. Pella is filled with Dutch-style architecture, right down to its very own windmill, Vermeer Mill, which is the largest structure of its style in the U.S. Lodgings include the Royal Amsterdam Hotel, which you can book for May so you can enjoy their famous Tulip Time Festival—because a Dutch town would not be complete without tulips. Locals celebrate their heritage with Dutch attire, parades, food, dancing, and (surprise!) tulips.
In short, just because you can’t leave America doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of Europe. Our country is the Great American Melting Pot, after all, and although it’s not always evident, our roots can be found in special places on our own turf. So there’s no time like the present to go out and explore your own backyard!