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5 Destinations that Feel Like Europe in North America

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Do you have the itch to travel to Europe but your bank account doesn’t have enough scratch? Want to go somewhere that feels foreign without taking an overnight flight? You don’t have to leave North America to reach some great locales that will make you feel like you’ve crossed the Atlantic. Instead, travel to these five destinations that feel like Europe in North America.

How to Travel to Europe Without Leaving North America ~ 5 Destinations that Feel like Europe in North America!

1. Travel to Vieux France in Québec City, Quebec.

One of the oldest cities in North America, Québec City is a charmer. Walk its cobblestone streets and explore the UNESCO World Heritage walled section of Old Québec. You’ll be surrounded by French-speaking locals, and feel worlds away from home in this Canadian city.

Every season is stunning in this French Canadian city. Winter in Quebec City offers a German Christmas market. The skiing is sweet and the maple syrup is even sweeter in winter; local sugar shacks host maple syrup festivals with family activities, music, and dancing as the syrup flows. In summer, residents enjoy the late sunsets with outdoor activities in the city’s parks, squares, and terraces. The mountains that surround the city provide a kaleidoscope of color in autumn as the leaves change and fall.

Parade in front of the Château in Old Québec ~ 5 Destinations that Feel Like Europe in North America

Parade in front of the Château in Old Québec (Photo credit: Simon Armstrong)

2. Listen to the sounds of Jolly Old England in Tangier Island, Virginia.

The local dialect makes Tangier Island, Virginia sound foreign indeed. The locals (all 500 or so of them!) elongate their vowels in a way that some say is similar to the English spoken when the island was first settled in 1686. Tangier Islanders also “talk backwards,” sometimes saying the opposite of what they mean. For example, if your ferry arrives late you might be greeted with “Well, you’re early!” – a sort of good-natured sarcasm. Listen for unique vocabulary used on the island, like “spar grass” for “asparagus” and “nugs” for “sweets.”

Some say visiting Tangier feels like visiting a small English town in the 18th Century. Tangier Island is located in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and reachable only by boat or small plane. Most of the men on the island make their living as watermen, just as their fathers and grandfathers did, harvesting crabs and oysters from the Bay. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you step off the ferry. The golf carts locals use to get around the island, though, might break that illusion pretty quickly.

If you want to visit Virginia’s Tangier Island, you’d better hurry. Unfortunately, rising sea levels are eroding the island at a disastrous pace.

Bay View of Tangier Island (Photo Credit: Shannon Conner)

Bay view of Tangier Island (Photo credit: Shannon Conner)

3. Catch the spirit of Ireland in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

One of the oldest English settlements in North America, St. John’s, Newfoundland boasts a lively cultural scene with an Irish accent. Traditional Irish music spills from the corner pubs and the locals have an Irish lilt in their speech on this Canadian island.

In true Irish fashion, the oldest shop, on the oldest street, in the oldest city in North America, is a music shop. On a Sunday afternoon, settle in for a Jiggs dinner (a traditional meat and vegetable stew) while you listen to the musicians jamming in a circle at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub. If you hang around long enough, you might find a local to screech you in – a favorite activity for tourists to become honorary Newfoundlanders in an outrageous ceremony that involves reciting a poem, kissing a cod, and downing a shot of local rum known as “screech.”

Sunday afternoon Irish music circle at O'Reilly's Pub in St. John's ~ 5 Destinations that Feel Like Europe in North America

Sunday afternoon Irish music circle at O’Reilly’s Pub in St. John’s (Photo Credit: Paige Conner Totaro)

4. Experience France with a Caribbean twist in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

There are several islands in the Caribbean that have had European influence over the centuries, but Martinique and Guadaloupe in the Eastern Caribbean are actually considered part of France. Designated as an Overseas Department of France, residents of the two islands are French citizens who speak French and use the Euro. You’ll feel like you’re in Europe in North America when shopping in French department stores like Galeries Lafayette in the main cities of Fort-de-France in Martinique and Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe. But you’ll also find local Creole flavor in the markets, crafts, and the prized local cane sugar rum, rhum agricole.

Fabulously French, certainly Caribbean ~ Visit Europe Without Leaving North America

Fabulously French, certainly Caribbean (Photo Credit: Paige Conner Totaro)

5. Get a taste of Danish culture in Solvang, California.

Solvang, California feels almost like an amusement park dedicated to Denmark. Its lively streets burst with flowers and cafes peddling aebleskiver, a type of Danish pancakes. It almost seems too kitschy to be real. But a good percentage of the population of Solvang are fourth and fifth generation Danes, descended from the original Danish settlers who bought 9,000 acres of farmland here in 1911. They named the area Solvang, which means “sunny field” in Danish.

Today visitors will find plenty of Danish diversion in this California town. Explore downtown from the back of a horse drawn carriage or aboard a Segway tour. You must pop into one of many Danish bakeries for a sweet treat. (Who do you think invented the Danish pastry?) Then be sure to pose in front of the town’s giant wooden clog for Instagram.

What you won’t find here are chain stores. Because Solvang prides itself on its uniqueness and Danish heritage, its residents decided to preserve that character by blocking any stores with more than five locations from opening in town. You may not be fooled into thinking you’re in Denmark, but you will definitely see the Danish influence in Solvang.

Solvang brings Denmark to California ~ 5 Destinations that Feel Like Europe in North America

Solvang brings Denmark to California (Photo credit: SolvangUSA.com)

With the European vibe and history of these destinations, you can feel like you’ve been transported somewhere foreign without traveling far. With the mix of cultures in North America, there’s probably a community with deep ties to a foreign land near your hometown.

Do you know of any other destinations that feel like Europe in North America? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Paige Conner Totaro, The Startup Travel Mama

Paige Conner Totaro likes to help make dreams come true, whether helping people start businesses or helping people plan the trip of a lifetime. She made her own dream come true by taking a trip around the world with her husband and twin daughters in 2012 and is always planning the next adventure in travel or business (or both). Paige was a founder of Misra Records and Unquote Travel, a founding board member of the arts organization, Transformer, in Washington, DC; and a longtime board member and director of Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts. Paige is a fan of Scandinavian design, Ethiopian food, Arab hospitality, Japanese vintage stores, Brazilian music and Thai beaches, but also American craft beer, garage rock and roller derby. Can you see why her travel company is called All Over the Map? Connect with Paige on Instagram at @alloverthemap.

Comments
  1. All of these places sound like they would be so much fun to visit! I would love to get a taste of Europe without having to leave the country!

  2. Catherine Sargent says

    Visiting Europe is at the top of my bucket list. I will have to check out some of these places until I can make a Europe trip.

  3. Pam Wattenbarger says

    I would love to visit all of these places. I once watched a documentary on Tangier Island, so I have wanted to visit there for a while.

  4. I love this post! Chances are I won’t be getting to Europe any time soon but I could certainly manage a trip to one of these destinations! Thanks for sharing

  5. Diana Elizabeth says

    You had my attention at Europe. Great suggestions, now I guess I can experience some of it here and cheaper too. I sure do love Europe and their influence.

  6. These all sound like amazing places to visit! I’ve never been anywhere but in Ontario, so I’d love to check out more of North America and if it feels like Europe how much fun would that be!

  7. This is super cool! I never thought of this before. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe!

    • Paige Conner Totaro says

      You’d be surprised how many European eclaves you can find in the U.S. There’s also Little Italy in New York, of course.

  8. My in-laws went to Solvang and absolutely loved it. I would love to get back to Europe, but these are great substitutes in the meantime.

    • Paige Conner Totaro says

      There are some distinctly Swedish towns in the US, too. Mostly in the Midwest, Central Texas, and Northern Maine.

  9. Ann Bacciaglia says

    These are all great destinations. I loved Quebec it so full of charm.

  10. Tonia Sanders says

    Great post. I need to add some of these to my list!

    • Paige Conner Totaro says

      Thanks! And I would add New Orleans to the list of European-influenced (and all-around fun) cities to visit.

  11. Nicole Escat says

    I’ve never been in these place, but one day, I would love to go there first. Thanks for the destinations list.

  12. Europe is so on our bucket list and i am not sure when we will get there. These seem like perfect options for us, thanks for sharing!

    • Paige Conner Totaro says

      There are lots of great options for cultural experiences close to home. Did you know that North Dakotak has the highest concentration of Norwegians outside of Norway?

  13. Pretty awesome list. I would love to visit these places, it would feel as if you’re actually traveling to the places that they’re similar to. It would be such a nice learning experience for me and the kids.

  14. Marion Lewis says

    Pretty awesome list, All of these places sound like they would be so much fun to visit, I never thought of this before, I would love to go there first. I sure i ll love Europe and their influence.
    Thanks for shring

    • Paige Conner Totaro, The Startup Travel Mama says

      Thanks, Marion! There are some nice options close to home, but I agree, I do love Europe!

  15. Lydia J. Cohen says

    All of the places are so cool. Seems like I have no wonder about next vacation. I’ve got a list. Thanks a lot for sharing. Enjoy your trips 🙂

    • Paige Conner Totaro, The Startup Travel Mama says

      Thanks, Lydia. There are so many great places to visit. Happy travels!

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