United States

No Passport Needed: These US Destinations Will Make You Think You’ve Traveled the Globe

Last updated 19th February 2019

Think you have to travel the world to see iconic sights and architecture? Think again. These ten US destinations will make you think you’ve circled the globe and gone international.

1/10. Holland, Michigan

This city on the shore of Lake Macatawa, Michigan, is known for its number one tourist attraction, the annual Tulip Festival. Save the date for May 4-12, 2019 if you’d like to see the millions of tulips in the city parks, Downtown planters, Tulip Lanes, Windmill Island Gardens, Nelis’ Dutch Village, and Veldheer’s Tulip Farm. The festival celebrates Holland’s Dutch heritage. For another nod to the Netherlands, don’t miss Windmill Island Gardens, which is home to De Zwaan, a centuries-old windmill.

2/10. Vail Village, Colorado

Vail, Colorado, is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain, home of the Vail Ski Resort. Nestled within White River National Forest, the town is a gateway for winter sports. It’s also a summertime destination for golfing, hiking and cultural festivals. But if you’ve ever visited or seen a picture of Vail, you’ve likely caught a glimpse of the iconic pedestrian village. Many of its buildings were originally built by Vail’s founders in the early 1960s, inspired by classic European alpine architecture. Vail Village retains a peaceful, small-town ambiance even with its world-class restaurants, shopping, cafes and late night hot spots. The heated streets make for an easy walk up Bridge Street to Gondola One.

3/10. St. Augustine, Florida

Established in 1565 by Spanish explorers, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the contiguous United States. Situated on the northeast coast of Florida, it’s known for its Spanish colonial architecture as well as Atlantic Ocean beaches, like the sandy St. Augustine Beach and the tranquil Crescent Beach. The city is also home to Anastasia State Park, a protected wildlife sanctuary. The Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress with views of the St. Augustine Inlet.

4/10. Sonoma, California

Although it’s instinctive to immediately associate wine with Sonoma (and rightly so), the Northern California region is also home to Safari West. Self-proclaimed as Sonoma’s Serengeti, Safari West offers safaris and animal encounters across their 400-acre preserve. Visitors can journey out in search of herds of wildebeest, romping rhinos and towering giraffes. From ring-tailed lemurs to the dazzling zebra, nearly 900 animals from over 90 unique species roam through their preserve.

5/10. South Walton, Florida

South Walton, Florida, is 26 miles of sugar-white sand beaches, turquoise water and 16 acclaimed beachside neighborhoods, each with its own personality and style. Located between Pensacola and Panama City Beach, it boasts luxury accommodations, challenging golf, eclectic shops, unique art galleries and award-winning dining — together forming part of the area’s distinctive character. Outdoor activities are abundant within the four state parks, a state forest, 15 rare coastal dune lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. The new urbanist towns and architecture — right alongside stunning beaches — evoke a decidedly European feel.

6/10. Great Sand Dunes National Park

The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. At Great Sand Dunes National Park in southwest Colorado, visitors can experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching and more. The park and preserve are always open, so guests can also experience night skies and nocturnal wildlife during a visit.

7/10. Solvang, California

For a unique getaway, the historic Danish village of Solvang, California, offers the best of the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara wine country in a relaxed and peaceful setting. Indulge in authentic Danish pastries at world-famous bakeries, stroll through the village and admire the old-world European architecture and shop at the charming boutiques. A ride on the Solvang trolley is a must for families: This historic, wooden, horse-drawn street car is just one example of Solvang’s rich cultural heritage and offerings. Food and wine lovers can explore the 120 wineries near Solvang or enjoy farm-to-table dining options.

8/10. San Francisco, California

Nestled within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is the Japanese Tea Garden, a hugely popular feature of the park — and of the broader city. It was originally built as part of a sprawling World’s Fair, the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 spanning about one acre. The Japanese Tea Garden provides visitors from around the world with an opportunity to experience the natural beauty, tranquility and harmony of a Japanese style garden. Today, the garden features classic elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden. Cherry blossom trees bloom throughout the garden in March and April.

9/10. Shelby, Michigan

Cherry Point Farm and Market in Shelby, Michigan, serves up a lot of what might be expected from an operating farm and market: cherries, pies, breads, jams, fudge. But that wasn’t enough for owner Barbara Bull. In 2001, she began work on the lavender labyrinth. With the help of artist and architect Conrad Heiderer, Bull designed an asymmetrical flower maze with an herb garden at its center. It takes about an hour to walk to the center on one long, meandering route. The lavender is in bloom annually mid to late July, with the color lasting into August. But there’s always something blooming in the herb garden, at the center of the labyrinth, during the summer months. The market sells bulk lavender and an array of lavender products, so you can make your home feel like Provence (or Shelby, Michigan).

10/10. Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, “The Bavarian Village”, in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, is a premier recreation and vacation destination. Alpine-style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food line Front Street. The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries. On the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park is a habitat for ospreys and eagles. The village is situated in a prime spot for skiing, rafting, rock climbing, hiking, snowmobiling and more.

Find more domestic family travel inspiration here.