Airfare prices are at an all-time high this holiday season and are expected to climb even higher as year-end travel begins. For many US travelers, these surges mean their dream European vacation will have to wait.
Luckily there are many places at home in the US that will give you the feel of being in Europe without spending nearly as much on airfare.
Not to mention, it’s always nice to discover cities and small towns in the US that give that lovely European feel, thanks mainly to various immigrant populations. Without further adieu, here are seven US cities that feel like Europe.
1. Instead of Southern Italy, try San Francisco’s North Beach
North Beach’s sizable Italian population lends to the area’s nickname, “Little Italy.”
Although in more recent times, the neighborhood has become more diverse, North Beach is still the city’s traditional Italian quarter, which makes it such a great place to visit for authentic Italian cuisine and ambiance.
If you plan to go during the holiday season, you won’t want to miss these spots!
- Check out the Christmas midnight mass at Saint Peters and Paul Church. This church is known as the Italian Cathedral of the West,” and is the spiritual heart of the neighborhood.
- You’ll find Columbus Avenue fully decorated with festive displays and lights. A beautiful site to visit with your loved ones to partake in the holiday spirit.
- Though not in North Beach, nearby is Ghirardelli Square, where you can see a giant Christmas tree and enjoy various holiday events.
2. If you’re missing London, visit Charleston, South Carolina
Since the days of the original 13 colonies, Charleston was a bustling harbor and the gateway from the Atlantic to the American south. Trade and ship traffic here was so busy that the city was coined “Little London.” Laid with cobblestone streets full of Colonial-era architecture, you’ll feel like you just stepped into the real London.
During the holiday season, Charleston looks like something straight out of “A Christmas Carol,” with elegant mansions adorned with gorgeous decorations and horse-drawn carriages ready to whisk you away to see the sites the area offers. Here are some other activities to keep an eye out for!
- In early December each year, the holiday season gets kicked off at the Drayton Hall Oyster Roast in a local, casual style.
- Check out the Charleston City Market for your holiday shopping needs. There is also a unique holiday market in Marion Square that’s well worth the trip.
- You have to visit the Historic Dock Street Theatre and stay for a showing of the classic tale of Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge.
3. Are you looking for something more tropical? Head over to Oahu in place of the Portuguese Azores
At the turn of the 20th century, thousands of Portuguese Azores arrived in Hawaii to find a familiar landscape.
The Portuguese settlers brought parts of their culture to the Hawaiian islands, the most familiar ones being sugary donuts called malasadas, and the ukulele, which began as the Portuguese braguinha. Despite the tropical setting, Oahu goes all out for the holidays.
With palm trees decked out in Christmas lights and local events to mark the holiday season, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season!
- The Honolulu Hale Christmas lights at the city hall are a colorful outdoor display accompanied by a huge tree and festive lanterns.
- You won’t want to miss the Waikiki Holiday Parade, featuring a torchlit marching band procession down Kalakaua Avenue ending at Pearl Harbor with a touching wreath-laying ceremony.
- To get from place to place in a jolly way, check out the brightly lit Honolulu Trolly, which offers a Christmas light tour with sing-alongs and seasonal stories.
- Try not to forget to enjoy water sports, and the ocean. Scuba diving is pretty trending during holidays. You can learn everything about scuba diving here.
4. For a taste of Provence, France, check out Charlottesville, Virginia
With rows of vineyards, rolling green hills, and aromatic fields of lavender, it’s not hard to confuse the countryside of Charlottesville with the pastoral landscape of Provence, France.
Full of colonial-era architecture and home to Monticello’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll be transported to France of centuries past. During the holiday season, go for cozy lodging, crisp weather, special holiday tours, and much more!
- Winter Wander at the Boar’s Head Resort is an illuminated trail of festive lights about half a mile long.
- The Grand Illumination tree-lighting ceremony with music, food, games, and prizes is a great free event to treat your family and your wallet.
5. Head to Midway, Utah, for a feel of Switzerland
The Swiss Alps can be found closer to home in Midway, Utah. From sledding, skiing, and ice skating, to enjoying hearty mountain cuisine and strolling through whimsical Swiss chalet-style villages for a perfect winter vacation. After an influx of Swiss immigrants in the 1860s, Midway was coined as “Little Switzerland.” The mix of architecture, Swiss-German traditions, and situated at the base of the Wasatch Back mountain range makes Midway a solid swap for Switzerland.
- The town offers a tree-lighting ceremony which includes a visit from Santa and a real reindeer, as well as food trucks and live music for all to enjoy
- Be sure not to miss the Heber Valley North Pole Express Christmas Train, which passes through gorgeous winter scenery on its way to visit Santa’s North Pole workshop.
6. Solvang, California, in place of a Danish Holiday
Except for Denmark itself, there’s no place quite like Solvang, California. Danish immigrants in the early 1900s developed the area. They capitalized on its historical roots and architecture in the years after the great war by transforming it into a charming village right out of a Hans Christian Anderson story.
Year after year, Solvang is named one of the most Christmassy towns in America, and it shows. With a full calendar of events, here are a few things you won’t want to miss:
- The Solvang Julefest is an extended European-style Christmas festival that runs through the entire Christmas season. As part of the celebration, take a candlelight walking tour through the village with a guide in period dress who will explain the town’s Danish traditions and history.
- Shop for authentic made-in-Demark gifts and many other offerings in Solvang’s village center.
7. In place of Spain, head to St. Augustine, Florida, for a sunny holiday
Thanks to the area’s 450-year-old architecture and sunny weather, St. Augustine is a little slice of Spain in your backyard. Take a stroll through the city’s cobblestone streets to visit Spanish-style homes, the historic district, and a 17th-century seafront fortress.
As the oldest continually inhabited city in the US, St. Augustine has a rich history. Although the town is beautiful throughout the year, the holiday festivities are something you won’t want to miss!
- St. Augustine glows with millions of lights strung throughout the historic district during the over two-month-long “Night of Lights.”
- At the beginning of December, catch the old-fashioned Christmas parade.
- Catch a trolley tour with “magic glasses” that make all the lights sparkle more than they already do!