For the past year, a fat ceramic pig had been taunting me. Perched on my dresser, the polka dot piggy bank gobbled up my spare change and stray bills when I’m feeling flush...and then reluctantly coughs them back up when I hit some sort of household emergency. The idea, initially, was that Little Mr. Piggy would eventually help pay for a European vacation. A week in Spain, I thought, as I dropped a five note in the pig. A weekend in Paris? I wondered, as I later fished that fiver out to help pay for our heating repairs. After six months of repeatedly robbing our meager savings, my wife declared a truce. “You want quaint little towns and artisanal dairy farms? We don’t have to go to Provence—let’s go to Vermont!”
Scoff if you want, but she was right: Many of those cultural sights that seemed to be beckoning from across the pond can be had right here, on this side. Here’s how to plan your very own Almost-European American Vacation.
You’re craving: The cheesemaking charm of the French Countryside
The Vermont Cheese Trail. Yes, the state makes cheddar cheese (and an awful lot of maple syrup), but it’s also home to dozens of artisanal cheese farms, crafting everything from gorgonzola and gouda to feta and chevre. Print out a map at vtcheese.com
of the 280-mile loop that will take you past the factory tours, cheese shops, and small towns scattered across the Green Mountain State. You can tell us merci when you’re done.
You’re craving: The head-scratching wonders of Stonehenge
America’s Stonehenge. True, there’s a big time gap (er, thousands of years) between the prehistoric site in England and it’s American counterpart of standing stones and astronomically aligned sculptures. But this eccentric roadside oddity, located in the town of Salem, New Hampshire, is still a worthy trip that will have you wondering whodunit. (stonehengeusa.com
You’re craving: The romance of a gondola ride
Try: Fort Lauderdale. Home to the most yachters in the Sunshine State, this small city earns its nickname “the Venice of America” thanks to its extensive waterways and intricate canals system. Just like in its Venetian doppleganger, you can sail past the city at a snail’s pace atop a Water Taxi or by taking a romantic (and even more leisurely) gondola ride.
You’re craving: The architectural awesomeness of castles
The Iolani Palace
in Honolulu. Hawaii is home to America’s only official royal residence, built in 1874 by King Kalakaua as a symbolic home for the Hawaiian nation. Hawaii too far from home? Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, is probably our nation’s most famous castle, built with architectural elements shipped directly from Europe. Or consider Belcourt Castle, built in 1891 in New Port, Rhode Island. More than a dozen rooms of the lavish, 60-plus room estate are open to tour.
You’re craving: The whimsy of a blossoming tulip field in the Netherlands
Holland, Michigan. This Midwest city didn’t just transport its Dutch name to the States—it also imported (then-exorbitantly priced) tulips. Each spring, Holland residents celebrate their European roots with an eight-day Tulip Time Festival. The largest such fest in the U.S., it features parades, concerts, traditional klompen dancing, craft fairs, fireworks, and—oh, yeah—thousands upon thousands of tulips lined along the streets and in special gardens for touring.
Next: Spring Break for Grown-ups