Rome, Paris, London, Berlin...these grand dames of European travel are on everybody's bucket list. However, they're expensive and an ocean away. Right here in the melting pot that is the U.S. are "international" cities founded by immigrants and/or fashioned after their European and Asian big sisters. These affordable alternatives are not only closer to home but they make for fabulous vacation destinations. When your group is looking for a destination with the feel of international travel, ditch the price and head to one of these look-alikes right here in the U.S.
Hermann, MO - Germany
Some claim that the are of the Missouri River Valley resembled the Rhine Valley so much that German immigrants were prompted to settle there, founding the city of Hermann, Missouri. With 19th century brick buildings hugging the streets, a historic district filled with original 18th century homes, and Bavarian style attractions, Hermann is basically a smaller version of Germany. Visit the Deutschheim State Historic Site where you can tour the Pommer-Gentner House built in 1840 and the Strehly House. The village is replete with German heritage down to the Hermann Heritage Days festival, the Historic Hermann Museum, group tours of the historic district, and their many German restaurants where waitstaff wear lederhosen.
Sitka, AK - Russia
Sitka, originally known as New Archangel, was first home to the native Tlingit tribe and later colonized by Russia. Several buildings from the original colonization are preserved including the Russian Bishop's House, built in 1848 as the home of Bishop Innocent. Governor Alexander Baranov waged war on the local Native American tribes for the land in what is now known as the Battle of Sitka. Today, the Sitka National Historic Park memorializes the Russian-Native American battle. Also visit the Saint Michael Russian Orthodox Cathedral, New Archangel Dancers, Russian Block House, and Princess Maksoutoff's Grave.
New Vrindaban, WV - India
The unincorporated Hindu community of New Vrindaban was founded in 1968 to support the organization International Society for Krishna Consciousness, formed by Srila Prabhuapada. This small community is completely self-sustaining with it's own Gardens and Goshalla where they obtain their own vegetables and dairy products from the protected cows. The New Vrindaban Temple is the central worship area and constructed to resemble an ancient Indian temple complete with a four story high stained glass atrium ceiling, decorated pillars, and a central golden altar dedicated to Krishna. The Lotus Pond and Palace Rose Garden are award-winning gardens with over 150 types of roses and over 100 fountains. Finally, the Palace of Gold is the community's centerpiece reminiscent of an old Indian kingdom, named one of the eight religious wonders in the U.S.
Calistoga, CA - Tuscany
There's nowhere else in the United States that so resembles the Italian countryside as the Napa Valley in California. To add to its Italian charm, the Castello di Amorosa is the only authentic medieval Italian Tuscan castle and winery in the United States. Spanning an impressive 136,000 square feet, the castle is complete with 107 rooms, a 500 year old fireplace, a Great Hall with two story replicated Tuscan frescoes done by Italian artists, as well as a drawbridge, dungeon, and medieval church. Also located near Calistoga is the Villa Ca'Toga, Chateau Montelena, and the Golden Haven hot springs and spa. Take a wine tour and end your day at the Michelin star restaurant Solbar, overlooking the picturesque Napa vineyards, and watch the golden orange sunset over dinner.
Aroostook County, ME - France
Historic Acadians, French immigrants, settled in Nova Scotia in the 16-17th centuries. They were deported from the area by the English government and eventually settled near the St. John River in 1785. Aroostook County, a picturesque collection of small towns, is filled with Acadian influences. The largest influence is the Acadian Village, a historic community preserving 17 buildings dating back to the original settlement. Visit the Roy House, Morneault House, and others or the Noel Acadien au Village Christmas festival. Other small town Acadian attractions include the Acadian Cross Historic Shrine, the International Grand Riviere Festival in Van Buren, and the Musee Culturel du Mont-Carmel in Lille.
New Bedford & Fall River, MA - Portugal
According to southeastern Massachusetts history, roughly 50% of the populations of New Bedford and Fall River owe their descent to Portuguese ancestors. Though Fall River is known for Lizzie Borden, it is also home to one of the most concentrated Portuguese populations in the country. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament is billed as the largest ethnic festival in New England where, over the last weekend in July, you can find native foods, drinks, dancing and music authentic to Old World Portugal. See the thatched roof Madeiran home known as the Santana House or visit one of the summer festivals that occur almost every weekend throughout the area. Other festas include the Annual Day of Portugal Festival honoring Portuguese poet Luis Vaz de Camoes, the Feast of Santo Christo, and the Feast of Our Lady of Angels.
Cape Cod, MA - England
Cape Cod is a popular summer destination for New Englanders for its laid back atmosphere, coastal charm, and resplendent gardens. For views of the English countryside and a taste of English society, the tea rooms and meticulously landscaped gardens of Cape Cod share a marvelous resemblance. An English Garden B&B is a gorgeous attraction with award-winning gardens as are the Heritage Museum and Gardens of the Captain Freeman Inn. Make sure you head in for tea time at the Dunbar Tea Shop and Tea Room where you can be treated like proper English society with tea cakes, fine china, and lace linens with views overlooking the roses. The Village Tea Room at Bosari Gallery is another beautiful choice and you also cannot go wrong with the High Pointe Inn.
P.S. - Cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles have international communities with authentic attractions if you prefer to visit a larger city to sample international charm. Chinatown of San Francisco is the largest outside of Asia while Boston has a fabulous Little Italy. For samples of several destinations, Disney World's Epcot contains 11 countries and is authentic down to employee accents .