No, these following destinations may not be exact twins to their international counterparts, but they’re pretty close – with the added benefit of not having to board a long-haul flight across the globe, to boot.
Travel may be back in a big way, but that doesn’t mean everyone is clamoring to hop a long-haul flight to a distant corner of the globe. But that’s the beauty of living in the US: Our diverse melting pot of cultures promises that you can soak up a myriad of international experiences without a passport and 10-plus-hour plane flight. From a tucked-away slice of the Mediterranean on the Gulf Coast of Florida to a Swiss alpine village in the Adirondacks of New York, here are a few of our favorite ways to indulge in an international experience without actually having to travel abroad.
Maine’s Rocky Coast Instead of Ireland’s West Coast
Otter Cliffs in Bar Harbor’s Acadia National Park may be one of the most stunning examples: Here, a forest of spruce, fir, and hemlock suddenly stop and transition into 100-foot-high pink-granite cliffs that seemingly melt into the water. But this dramatic rocky coast – very reminiscent of the long dramatic western coast of Ireland – isn’t unique to this one location: Nearly 60 percent of Maine’s coastline is composed of hard rock, with the remaining 40 percent made up of soft bluffs and steep slopes of gravel, clay, and sand. That means, pretty much anywhere you end up, a sense of the Motherland is just a ride to the water’s edge.
Two other ways to summon a bit of the Emerald Isle in Opal destinations? If you’re in Bar Harbor, Paddy’s Irish Pub, located right on the street level of West Street Hotel, recreates the cozy, dark atmosphere of an Irish pub with its deep red walls, distressed leather booths, and classics like beer-battered fish and chips (served with malt vinegar, of course) and corned beef and cabbage. If you’re in the Mid-Coast Maine area, near the towns of Camden, Rockport, and Rockland, Samoset Resort is home to an 18-hole championship course that summons scenes from Ireland’s bests links layouts: undulating fairways, firm greens, towering dunes, ever-changing conditions, and breathtaking holes – many overlooking the ocean. Except instead of ruins from old castles peppering the course, here, you’ll find a series of enchanting cottage accommodations overlooking the resort’s signature golf holes of 4, 5, and 6, as well as the Breakwater Lighthouse.
Tarpon Springs, Florida, Instead of Greece
Just 15 miles north of Clearwater Beach, a secret slice of the Mediterranean flourishes in the form of a waterfront village known as Tarpon Springs’s “Greektown.” Here, Dodecanese Boulevard’s seven-block main drag boasts quaint Greek cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and shops, while the Historic Sponge Docks bustle with boats, fishermen, sponge divers, and boat engineers. It all comes peppered with the flag’s signature white and blue color scheme and an ever-present scent of garlic, lamb, and Greek confections wafting from nearby notable businesses and eateries.
Delray Beach, Florida, Instead of Japan
A bamboo grove, a 500-year-old Japanese lantern, a bonsai collection, and a rock garden featuring rows of carefully raked gravel. You’re not in East Asia, but South Florida, in a tucked-away pocket of bustling Delray Beach, known as Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. While the 16 acres of immaculate Japanese garden tend to receive a lot of the attention during a visit to this unique oasis, the museum and grounds also host an extensive range of programming focusing on immersing guests in Japanese culture, including traditional tea ceremonies, taiko drumming, basics of sushi, fabric wrapping, and more. So if you’re looking to truly summon The Land of the Rising Sun, take a crash course in the series of the museum’s popular hands-on cultural offerings.
Lake Placid, New York, Instead of Switzerland
Set along the western edge of Mirror Lake, the four-season village of Lake Placid is about as quaint and scenic as they come – and reminiscent of a classic Nordic village plucked from the hills of Switzerland (no surprise, this locale has served as the site of not one, but two Winter Olympic Games, in 1932 and again 1980). At about five blocks long, the town offers a mix of boutique and brand-name businesses housed behind brick façades and half-timbered cottages that front broad, walkable sidewalks on either side of the one-mile Main Street. Entirely ringing the town are the surrounding mountains of the Adirondacks, including Whiteface Mountain, which has become something of the symbol of the 1980 Games.
Where to Stay Lake Placid Lodge
Naples, Florida, Instead of Naples, Italy
Sun, sea, and, today, shopping are the core features that these two cities have in common. In fact, around the time Florida’s version of the city was founded in the late 1880s, magazines and newspapers likened the area’s mild climate, miles of beaches, and abundant fish to the sunny Italian peninsula, while promoters described the bay as “surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy.” Climate aside, today, Naples has become a shoppers’ paradise, offering five walkable, high-end districts, home to hundreds of shops and boutiques which have helped build the coastal city’s reputation as one of the best fashion destinations south of Fifth Avenue. And, also much like its European counterpart, there is world-class culture always at your fingertips, in the form of Opera Naples and the Naples Philharmonic to The Baker Art Museum and Naples Players at the Sugden Community Theatre.
Where to Stay Edgewater Beach Hotel
Key West, Florida Instead of The Caribbean
Located just southwest of Old Town is a 16-block area known as Bahama Village, which was originally a marginalized part of Key West, named after the Bahamians and Caribbean settlers who moved to the area in the 1800s seeking stable incomes. Today, however, this colorful village is celebrated for its distinct Bahamian culture, which is embodied in the local cuisine; its village market; fast-paced, rhythmic Junkanoo music; and Florida Conch architecture. In fact, each year right before Fantasy Fest commences, the neighborhood hosts The Bahama Village Goombay Festival, which is an ode to its Caribbean roots with music, marching band parades, dancing, and, of course, conch meat every which way you can have it.