When we think of Europe, images of charming cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and rich cultural experiences come to mind. However, you don’t have to cross the Atlantic to experience a taste of Europe. Several U.S. cities offer a delightful blend of European charm, making them perfect destinations for families looking to explore a unique cultural experience. From the French Quarter in New Orleans to the Bavarian-inspired towns of Helen, Georgia, and Leavenworth, Washington, these cities exude an unmistakable European vibe. Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the hidden European gems right here in America and learn why they are the ideal destinations for your next family vacation. Keep reading to discover the top American cities that feel like Europe for families.
A Danish Escape in the West
Nestled in the heart of California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang stands as a charming Danish-inspired town that transports visitors to the enchanting streets of Europe. In fact, it’s one of the best European towns in California. Wander through the quaint streets adorned with Danish-style architecture, where bakeries and cafes beckon with delectable pastries. This picturesque town offers families the chance to experience Denmark’s essence without leaving the States.
Explore the local wineries and vineyards, offering an authentic taste of California’s wine culture combined with European heritage. Families love Shoestring Winery and Rideau Winery for kid-friendly options. Then, bring kids to the nearby ostrich farm where they can feed the ostriches and emus! Or, embrace the great outdoors at Lake Cachuma. Additionally, as the holiday season approaches, the town transforms into a winter wonderland, with a European-style Christmas market that enchants visitors with holiday cheer. Whether you’re seeking a slice of Denmark or simply a peaceful escape, Solvang promises an idyllic European-inspired retreat for the whole family. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most European cities in North America.
San Francisco, California
Exploring the European Vibes of the City by the Bay
San Francisco, California, stands as a city with a captivating blend of European charm. From its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, inspired by Art Deco design popular in Europe, to the historic Alcatraz Island, reminiscent of European fortresses, San Francisco exudes an unmistakable European influence. The city’s diverse culinary scene offers cuisines from all over Europe, with Italian, French, Spanish, and German dishes readily available. Foodies will find a haven in San Francisco’s bustling culinary landscape.
The city’s many museums and galleries offer glimpses into European art and history, with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art boasting incredible European masterpieces. Kids may also like Musée Mécanique or the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. Visitors can embrace the European vibes while strolling through the streets, surrounded by flags from various European countries, making San Francisco a destination where the Old World meets the modern allure of the Bay Area. Then, don’t miss grabbing a sweet treat at Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. With so many fun things to do with kids, no wonder San Francisco tops the list of European-style towns in America.
Where to Stay in San Francisco with Kids
As one of the top American cities that feel like Europe for families, there are plenty of fantastic family-friendly hotels in San Francisco, including options with pools. Book a stay at the Four Seasons San Francisco or the Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco. Large families also have lots of options, like The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square or Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf. Other wonderful hotels in San Francisco for families include The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, Hotel Fairmont San Francisco, and Omni San Francisco Hotel.
For more hotel options, read our list of the Best Family Hotels in San Francisco (With Great Options for Large Families & Pools)!
An Alpine Village in the Cascade Mountains
Next on our list of the best American cities that feel like Europe for families – Leavenworth, Washington! This Bavarian-style village is nestled amidst the Cascade Mountains. The town’s European influence is a testament to the efforts of local business owners who transformed it into a Bavarian wonderland. From alpine architecture to quaint shops and cafes, Leavenworth charms visitors with its European-inspired ambiance. Explore the picturesque streets, indulge in traditional German cuisine, and savor the fresh mountain air.
The town’s surroundings offer outdoor enthusiasts ample opportunities for adventure, from hiking to skiing. Start by exploring Lake Wenatchee State Park. Kids will also delight in the chance to go ziplining! Back in town, lovely boutiques invite you to browse. Then, when you’re ready to dine, you’ll find classically-styled beer gardens, as well as other tasty eating establishments. In the winter, this quaint town turns into an idyllic Christmastown, which features live music, vendors, and more. They will also have family-friendly entertainment and activities throughout the season. As one of the best German towns in the USA, Leavenworth promises an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of Europe within the heart of the United States. No wonder it ranks highly as one of the top European-themed towns in the USA.
Alpine Escape with European Elegance
Tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, Vail, Colorado, welcomes families to an enchanting mountain town with a European flair. Its charming alpine architecture and stunning surroundings provide a captivating setting for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation alike. If you’re searching for Swiss towns in the USA, add this one to your list!
The town’s pedestrian village, modeled after traditional alpine architecture, offers a delightful Austrian village theme. As families wander through the village, they’ll find the streets lined with flags from all over Europe, adding to the European ambiance. Vail’s pedestrian village is the heart of the town, bustling with shops, restaurants, and a lively atmosphere. Then, be sure to save time to visit the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. And, anyone who has a sweet tooth can’t miss Fuzzwig’s Candy Factory. When you’re ready to eat, try Ludwig’s Restaurant for a European brunch or enjoy European fondue, among other delicacies, at Alpenrose, Swiss Chalet Restaurant. and Almresi Vail. As one of the most European cities in North America, there is no shortage of great places to eat!
Where to Stay in Vail with Kids
If you’re wondering where to stay in Vail with kids, families love The Arrabelle at Vail Square. This alpine-themed, European-inspired resort has everything you need for a wonderful vacation. Undoubtedly, it adds to Vails allure as one of the best American cities that feel like Europe for families. Then, Grand Hyatt Vail, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail, and The Ritz-Carlton Club, Vail, are also great with kids.
New Orleans, Louisiana
A Southern European Haven
New Orleans is a captivating city that boasts a rich blend of European influences, creating a unique atmosphere that feels straight out of Europe. With its French Quarter filled with cobblestone streets and French-inspired architecture, visitors can immerse themselves in the ambiance of a European city dating back to the 18th century.
The iconic St. Louis Cathedral stands tall, reminiscent of European cathedrals. Then, a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River allows families to experience the charm of the Old World from a different perspective. Choose from either Steamboat NATCHEZ or Riverboat CITY. Delight your taste buds with Cajun and Creole cuisine, along with a French-inspired treat at Cafe du Monde. As one of the top European-style towns in America, you’ll find no shortage of great places to eat.
Families also like exploring the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture to immerse in New Orleans and Mardi Gras culture. But if you’re looking to slow down a bit and relax, there is no better place than City Park. New Orleans is a true melting pot of cultures, making it an excellent destination for families seeking an unforgettable European-infused adventure. Undoubtedly, New Orleans is one of the best American cities that feel like Europe for families.
Where to Stay in New Orleans with Kids
For more of a European feel during your stay, book a hotel in the French Quarter – the area that makes New Orleans one of the top European-themed towns in the USA. Families love The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, for its central location in the French Quarter and luxury hotel amenities. Or, within walking distance of Jackson Square, Grenoble House offers vacation rentals in a historic building. If you’re looking for a pool, try Omni Royal Orleans, offering a heated rooftop pool in the heart of the French Quarter. Finally, Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans and Bourbon Orleans Hotel are both located on Bourbon Street for families interested in being in the middle of all the action!
READ MORE: Best Hotels In New Orleans For Families
Bavarian Magic in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, Helen is a little slice of Bavarian-inspired paradise. With its charming German architecture and annual Oktoberfest celebration, this town captures the spirit of Europe’s alpine villages. Undoubtedly, families seeking one of the best European cities in North America will love this town!
Explore the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest with its numerous outdoor activities, from hiking to tubing. You can also get your thrills at the Georgia Mountain Coaster. Back in town, head to Bavarian Mountain Miniature Golf And Arcade for a little friendly competition. Then, don’t miss grabbing a sweet treat from the Hansel And Gretel Candy Kitchen. In the winter, experience a picturesque Christmas market during the holiday season, adding a touch of European wonder to your family’s winter vacation. Indeed, families will have a jolly good time at the Christkindlmarkt Helen! Helen offers a budget-friendly European escape, making it an excellent choice for families seeking a unique and affordable adventure in one of the best German towns in the USA with kids.
Helen made our list of the 18 Magical Christmas Markets In The United States For Families; find out who else did!
A Bavarian Retreat in the Heartland
In the heartland of Michigan lies the charming city of Frankenmuth, a hidden gem with a delightful Bavarian-inspired ambiance. As one of the top German towns in the USA, this small town boasts Bavarian-style architecture that creates an enchanting European atmosphere. While you stroll through Main Street, you’ll be surrounded by shops and restaurants reminiscent of traditional German structures.
As one of the top European-style towns in America, this city offers various attractions for families, from museums and theaters to outdoor activities like canoeing and kayaking on the Cass River. Frankenmuth FunShips and Bavarian Belle Riverboat both offer lovely opportunities to enjoy sunny days on the Cass River. Alternatively, families can make a splash at Zehnder’s Splash Village. Afterward, families can also enjoy a European-inspired family meal at The Station 100!
Embrace the city’s German heritage during the annual Oktoberfest celebration, where visitors can experience lively music, costume, and street dancing, perfect for families seeking a taste of Germany right in the Midwest. Frankenmuth is also known for hosting one of the largest Christmas stores all year around, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Additionally, Frankenmuth transforms into a European-style winter wonderland during the holiday season. Frankenmuth is a charming Bavarian retreat that promises a delightful and authentic European experience for families. No wonder it ranks highly as one of the best American cities that feel like Europe for families.
New Glarus, Wisconsin
A Bit of Swiss Countryside Nestled in the Midwest
Photo Courtesy: New Glarus Chamber
New Glarus, Wisconsin, showcases a captivating European ambiance that sets it apart from typical American towns. Nestled in the rolling hills of Green County, this charming destination boasts a distinct Swiss heritage that is evident in every aspect of its architecture, culture, and lifestyle. Founded in the mid-19th century by Swiss immigrants, New Glarus has carefully preserved its Old World charm through the generations.
Families can stroll streets lined with picturesque chalet-style buildings, adorned with colorful flower boxes, reminiscent of the Swiss countryside. Visitors are also greeted by the harmonious sound of Swiss yodels and the aroma of delectable Swiss cuisine wafting from local eateries, like Glarner Stube. Kids will delight in challenging parents to a round or two at Swissland Miniature Golf. Touring New Glarus Brewing Company is another great way to learn about local history. Alternatively, get outside by taking a hike at New Glarus Woods State Park.
As one of the best American cities that feel like Europe for families, New Glarus hosts many festivals celebrating Swiss traditions. Festivals include timeless traditions such as cheese-making and folk music, which further reinforce the town’s European connection. New Glarus’ genuine warmth and inviting atmosphere make it an enchanting slice of Europe right in the heart of the United States. Undoubtedly, if you’re looking for Swiss towns in the USA, you’re going to want to add this one to your list!
Dutch Tulips in Favor of Midwest Corn Fields
Photo Courtesy: Visit Pella
Nestled in the heart of Iowa, Pella offers a delightful European charm that captivates visitors from far and wide. Settled by Dutch immigrants in the mid-19th century, Pella has carefully preserved its Old World allure through the ages. The town’s architecture showcases distinctive Dutch influences, with windmills, gabled roofs, and quaint canal-like waterways creating a picturesque scene reminiscent of the Netherlands. As one of the top European-themed towns in the USA, the town even boasts its own Klokkenspel!
Strolling through Pella’s charming streets, one is greeted by the aroma of freshly baked Dutch pastries and the sight of locals clad in traditional Dutch costumes during festivals and celebrations. That is only the start of exploring one of the best European villages in the USA with kids! You can even take a self-guided tour and check out the viewing windows at Frisian Farms Cheese House. Families love playing in Wonder Spelen Playground (an accessible playground), and climbing the tallest observation tower in the Midwest at Cordova Park & Observation Tower. You can also take a step back in time with kids when you explore Pella Historical Village & Vermeer Mill.
Then, the annual Tulip Time festival, a nod to the Dutch heritage, showcases vibrant tulip gardens and lively parades. This festival alone makes it one of the best Dutch towns in America! Indeed, Pella’s European feel, coupled with its warm hospitality, makes it a unique and enchanting destination in the heart of the United States. Not to mention, one of the top American cities that feel like Europe for families.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Beautiful Architecture and Rich Cultural Heritage
One of the most charming cities in America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, stands as a captivating blend of Native American and Spanish colonial influences, creating a distinctive European feel. Founded in 1610 by Spanish colonists, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States. Today, it is a vibrant cultural center with a rich history and diverse population.
Wander through the city’s smooth adobe Pueblo-style architecture, surrounded by a stunning mountain backdrop that adds to the European ambiance. Santa Fe is a haven for art lovers, boasting museums like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art. Then, dive into the city’s rich culinary scene, where traditional Mexican and Native American dishes blend with contemporary flair. Whether exploring art, history, or cuisine, Santa Fe offers a unique European experience within the borders of the United States. No wonder Sante Fe ranks highly as one of the top American cities that feel European.
San Antonio, Texas
A Southern European Fusion
San Antonio, Texas, exudes a European charm that enchants visitors with its unique blend of history and culture. Explore the River Walk, a tree-lined path that showcases cafes, shops, and art galleries housed in beautifully restored historic buildings. Not only is this one of the most European U.S. cities, but there are tons of family-friendly things to do too!
Discover The Alamo, an iconic mission that played a pivotal role in Texas history, reflecting European architectural influences. Then, Market Square beckons families with its array of traditional Mexican restaurants and artisanal crafts. If your kids love animals, you can also visit the San Antonio Zoo or SeaWorld. Additionally, families can also learn more about San Antonio with a ranger-led tour at San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Savor the city’s famous Tex-Mex cuisine, blending European and Mexican flavors. San Antonio’s European vibes and diverse cultural experiences make it a captivating destination for families seeking a mix of history, art, and culinary delights. With so much to offer, it’s no surprise this is one of the most European cities in North America.
St. Augustine, Florida
Step into Spanish Colonial Splendor
Venture to the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, and discover a treasure trove of Spanish colonial history and European charm. Wander through cobblestone streets, surrounded by picturesque architecture that harkens back to Spain’s golden age. With so many lovely features, St. Augustine is one of the top American cities that feel like Europe for families.
The imposing Castillo de San Marcos stands tall, reflecting the influence of the Old World. The Old City invites families to browse unique shops and art galleries, soaking in the European ambiance. Beyond its historical allure, St. Augustine offers stunning beaches for relaxation and outdoor activities. Families also like exploring the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Then, head to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument to learn more about the local history. Alternatively, those traveling with animal enthusiasts can’t miss St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. Embrace the European vibes and enjoy fresh seafood and local specialties at the city’s diverse dining establishments. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply craving a European adventure, St. Augustine holds the key to a memorable family vacation for families seeking the best European villages in the USA with kids.
An American City with a Distinctive European Flair
Boston, Massachusetts, boasts a blend of old and new, with its architectural mix of historic buildings and modern skyscrapers. Boston Common, the city’s central park, provides a serene escape amidst the hustle and bustle. European culinary delights abound, with restaurants offering classic dishes from Italy, France, and Spain.
While in town, take in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, a true American experience with a European twist. Then, The New England Aquarium, located on Boston Harbor, is a favorite for visitors of all ages. For a little history during your visit, add the Tea Party Museum and Freedom Trail Tour to your itinerary. Plus, The Public Garden was the first public garden established in the U.S. It’s a beautiful place for families to take a stroll together. Finally, the Boston North End neighborhood, sometimes referred to as “Boston’s Little Italy,” is a vibrant and historic destination. It’s the perfect option for some Italian-inspired meals or treats! Boston’s rich history, combined with its European-inspired culture, makes it a fascinating destination for families seeking an immersive and diverse adventure.
Where to Stay in Boston with Kids
Depending on what neighborhood you want to stay in, you’ll find lots of options for your family vacation to one of the best American cities that feel European. In Boston’s Back Bay, The Westin Copley Place and The Sheraton Boston have convenient locations and a pool to enjoy after a long day of sightseeing. In Downtown Boston, stay at Omni Parker House or Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel, which are both right by Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. Families who want to stay by the water will love Boston Marriott Long Wharf.
READ MORE: 14 Best Hotels in Boston for Families
New York, New York
A Melting Pot of European Vibes
In the heart of the bustling metropolis that is New York City, families can discover a fascinating blend of European influences that enrich the city’s cultural fabric. As a melting pot of diverse communities, NYC offers a wide range of neighborhoods that exude European charm. Undoubtedly, NYC has earned its spot on this list of the best American cities that feel like Europe for families.
Little Italy stands as a quintessential example, with its Italian-inspired architecture and authentic cuisine. Greenwich Village and the East Village add a bohemian European flair, while Chinatown embraces the vibrancy of a bustling Asian market. Families can explore world-class museums and galleries housing European masterpieces or uncover hidden gems in smaller art spaces. Families love the Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then, be sure to stroll through Central Park. You can even pop into The Central Park Zoo. Alternatively, The High Line combines nature and art in a one-of-a-kind way. With a variety of European cuisines to savor and a rich tapestry of cultures to embrace, New York City is an excellent choice for families seeking an American adventure infused with a European twist.
Where to Stay in New York City with Kids
If you’re searching for a hotel to accommodate you in one of the most European U.S. cities, you won’t have to look far in New York City. Staying in lower Manhattan? You’ll love the Millennium Hilton New York in the Financial District or the trendy Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Midtown Manhattan, try the Loews Regency New York. Finally, for a true luxury experience, we also recommend the nearby St. Regis New York.
Charleston, South Carolina
Discovering Old World Charm on the East Coast
Founded in 1670, Charleston, South Carolina, stands as the oldest city in the state and a gem of old-world charm on the East Coast. Its architecture and cobblestone streets evoke the spirit of European cities, while the Southern hospitality warmly welcomes visitors. As one of the top American cities that feel European, Charleston also has a lot to offer families!
Explore the historic landmarks, museums, and art galleries that offer glimpses into Charleston’s rich past. In particular, families adore taking a carriage ride through the city with Old South Carriage Tour. Then, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens offers families a historic house to explore, with one of the best romantic gardens in the country. For a little adventure, thrill-seeking kids will love Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Parks. Plus, the city’s culinary scene celebrates local seafood and traditional Southern cuisine with a European flair. Lastly, as you stroll along the narrow streets with antebellum architecture, Charleston’s European vibes transport you to a bygone era. No wonder Charleston is one of the most European towns in America for families!
Where to Stay in Charleston with Kids
Searching for family-friendly accommodations in Charleston? You won’t have to look far! The city has plenty of hotels to stay at with kids. Families love Charleston Place, a Belmond Hotel, located in historic Charleston. It has a saltwater pool for kids, a rooftop deck, and a spa for parents. Adjacent to the Charleston marina, The Residence Inn By Marriott Charleston Downtown is another convenient option if you want to stay centrally located. For a more historic, cozy feel, try the French Quarter Inn. Finally, consider Wild Dunes Resort, The Restoration, and The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel.
READ NEXT: Best Hotels In Charleston For Families
Photo Courtesy: Beth Beckman, Irina DeCamillo, Linsey Stuckey
In America, you don’t have to look far to find cities with European charm, each offering a unique blend of history, architecture, and culinary delights. Hopefully, this list of the 15 Best American Cities that Feel Like Europe for Families helped you find the best options for your family. From the French Quarter in New Orleans to the Bavarian-inspired towns of Solvang, Helen, and Leavenworth, these destinations transport families to European experiences without crossing the Atlantic. Not only will you love simply strolling through some of the most European towns in America for families, but each offers tons of kid-friendly things to do too! If you’re looking for places in America that feel like Europe, we hope you found this article helpful in planning your own family trip. Happy travel exploring European-inspired cities in the United States.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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