When you travel abroad, it’s easy to get caught in the thrill of an entire experience. A combination of wandering through vibrant city streets, trying delicious local food, and immersing yourself in a brand new culture can create a feeling that’s wonderful, energizing and memorable all at once. That rush of feelings is essentially the apex of travel – and is more commonly obtained when traveling overseas.
While some are fortunate enough to pack their bags and fly to an international destination at their discretion, it’s totally understandable if that lifestyle isn’t for you. The good news is, you don’t have to leave the country to find that exhilarating feeling.
The United States is filled with countless cities that are so rich in culture, it’ll feel as if you’re in a completely different country when you visit. One prime example that deserves an honorable mention would be the town of Leavenworth, Washington. It’s as if someone took a puzzle piece of Switzerland (including a portion of the Swiss Alps) and inserted it right in the middle of the state of Washington. The city’s landscapes and architecture radiate Swiss and German vibes to another level, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
To keep a running list of cities that fall into this theme, we surveyed over 1,000 people to find the top four places in the United States that give off international vibes. Read on to find out our results!
#4: Frankenmuth, Michigan (6.05% vote)
If you want a taste of Germany without traveling abroad, take note: Frankenmuth’s Bavarian-style architecture, annual Oktoberfest, riverboat cruises, zip lining and indoor water parks are reason enough to make this city worthy of praise.
But what truly makes this city shine is Frankenmuth’s annual festivals that you can plan your whole trip around. In August, Frankenmuth hosts a Summer Music Festival featuring a wide selection of musical acts, ranging from vintage rock, to German and Polish polka, that will make you feel like you’re definitely miles away from home.
They’ve also got something special for the beer lovers! If you’ve always wanted to go to Oktoberfest in Germany, you can also visit the one in Frankenmuth. This city prides themselves in hosting the only Oktoberfest outside of Germany that’s sanctioned by the City of Munich and the Bavarian Parliament. Get the full experience of beer mugs clinking, people chanting, and a wide variety of different beers, without having to go all the way to Germany. To add to the fun, kids ages 12 and under get in for free! So ladies, slip on a dirndl – and men, wear your lederhosen proud because this Oktoberfest experience is one for the books.
While Frankenmuth may not be a big city, it’s still well-worth the trip. The fact that it’s a small town adds to its charm. Frankenmuth provides a cozier, more family-friendly version of that much sought-after international vibe. It’s a flavor of international travel that you don’t often come across, and when you get down to it, it’s an ideal place to visit if you want a dose of German delight.
#3: Boston, Massachusetts (13.84% vote)
While some may think of Boston as a quintessential American city because it’s home to classic sites like Fenway Park and the Freedom Trail, it can also provide curious travelers access to that feeling of crossing international lines. True to form, Boston delivers on all of the classic tenets of an international city with places like the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, the Boston Opera House, and the massive, yet beautiful Boston Public Library.
The city is bolstered by its brick buildings, classic architecture and cobblestone roads, evoking an Old English aesthetic. Most cities have ever-changing structures to conform to more modern styles, but Boston stands its ground and preserves the exterior of buildings from hundreds of years ago. Take the Paul Revere House for example, on 19 North Square. This national historic landmark looks just as it did during post-medieval times, and allows you to get a real life visualization of what it was like to live in the Colonial Era.
But the lively neighborhood that gives this city most of its international charm is Boston’s very own Little Italy, located on the North End of town. If you were to search the top ranking “Little Italy” neighborhoods throughout the United States, Boston seems to pop up on every list. Best known for their generous selection of authentic Italian food, you’ll be able to get a taste of Italy without splurging to fly to another continent.
For a flavorful selection of pasta dishes, you can visit Limoncello Ristorante, just a short walk from the Paul Revere House. Don’t be surprised if your mouth starts to water while scrolling through photos of their food online! Plus, if you’ve never tried a cannoli before, then Boston’s Little Italy is a good place to start. Mike’s Pastry is one of Boston’s staple stops for an assortment of super-sized cannolis, but if the tourist crowd takes over before you get there, you can also go to Bova’s Bakery for an honest-to-goodness version of the famous Italian dessert.
#2: Miami, Florida (35.01% vote)
If an international vibe translates to non-stop entertainment and a rhythm you can feel in the daily life of the city, then Miami has it in spades. It’s not surprising that this city ranks so high in this category because it’s defined by its Cuban and Haitian culture, and accented by its American influences. There’s definitely no shortage of fun in this city.
You can take a cultural food and walking tour in South Beach, or check out the Art Deco District for a unique architectural experience. But of all the spots to hit in Miami, there are two particular districts that give tourists the illusion of traveling internationally: Little Haiti and Little Havana. Both neighborhoods are rich in culture and highly influenced by friendly folk who immigrated from Haiti and Cuba.
You can take a peek into the Hispaniola lifestyle at The Little Haiti Culture Complex right in the center of Little Haiti’s neighborhood. The complex serves as a community center where you can take dance classes or art classes to fully immerse yourself Haitian culture. In addition, music floods the streets of this vibrant neighborhood. They are known for their booming independent music scene, proudly representing a mix of genres ranging from Afro-Cuban hiphop, to soulful jazz.
But the music doesn’t stop there! Make your way down to Little Cuba and visit Ball & Chain: the best place to get your daily dose of live music and mojitos. If you happen to be in Miami on the last Friday of the month, you can also check out Viernes Culturales, a block party that gives off the ultimate Cuban experience! No matter what you decide to do in Miami, just make sure to include Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana on your list. It’s not to be missed.
#1: New Orleans, Louisiana (37.67% vote)
New Orleans, with its old-world charm, soul-nourishing food and electrifying music, truly rises to the occasion for those interested in finding a global appeal within the United States. It’s no wonder that it’s world-renowned as a great and beautiful city.
The crescent city draws on its African-American, French and Spanish influences, and intertwines with Louisiana’s rich Creole lifestyle, to produce an incredibly unique culture. For a concentrated dose of this vivacious and captivating energy, visit the French Quarter – home to the famed Bourbon Street – with its colorful, Spanish-inspired buildings. You can also take a stroll down Frenchmen Street for live jazz bustling out every building, and you don’t even have to worry about concealing your alcohol while hopping from bar to bar.
Everything, from the rich flavors of the food, to the brightly hued buildings, and nearly year-round festivals, demand the traveler’s attention and hold it from start to finish. It’s loud, in your face, unapologetic and completely intoxicating. And that’s not even taking Mardi Gras into account.
Places like Preservation Hall, or Music Box Village, located near the city’s Ninth Ward area, can take your auditory experience to the next level while your eyes dart from place to place, never landing on the mundane or inconsequential. Restaurants like Dooky Chase Restaurant and Killer Po Boys are great places to start for an aromatic and flavor-filled experience. But if you’re the kind of person who loves to try a variety of dishes in one sitting, we highly advise making your way to St. Roch Market, a food hall for the culinary curious. In the past, their merchants have served mouthwatering Southern-fusion plates such as duck gumbo, sous-vide crab eggs benedict, crawfish poutine, blackened catfish po boys, and more! Are you convinced yet? You’ll begin to get a real feel of the city if you spend enough time appreciating its vibrant character.
Interested in taking a trip to New Orleans? Check out VacationRenter to find a great place to stay in the area.