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USA: European Style Cities

European Style Cities to Visit in the US

by Bob Glaze

There are many such cities here in the US, where you can have a European experience without having to fly overseas. My top recommendations include several near Chicago. 

New Glarus, WI

New Glarus is known for being an original Swiss settlement.  In the 1840’s, the village of Glarus, Switzerland found itself in dire straits after years of failed crops that forced many into poverty. A group decided to see about going to the U.S., so two men set out to find a suitable spot and bought 1,280 acres for $1.25 an acre in Southwest Wisconsin.  On August 15, 1845, 108 settlers from Switzerland arrived in their new home.

Today it is known for tourism, its Swiss chalet-style architecture, its Swiss food and beer and its many festivals.

Make sure to visit the New Glarus Brewing Company. Just south of downtown is the newly expanded brewery, high on a hill, overlooking the New Glarus Woods State Park.  Here you will find multiple tasting rooms, a huge outdoor beer garden, a gift shop and a retail store where you can buy their many products.  Self-guided and guided tours are also available.

Solvang, CA

Make sure to stop in Solvang when you are in the Santa Barbara area. The town was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes, who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the Midwestern winter. Today you will see traditional Danish architecture, with a number of bakeries, restaurants, galleries and shops offering Scandinavian items. It is a little touristy, but very fun.

Stop in for some Danish butter cookies and a coffee at the Danish Mill Bakery at 1682 Copenhagen Dr. Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe is another institution downtown at 460 Alisal Rd.  At 1547 Mission Dr., is the Solvang Brewing Company. They make a number of lagers, ales, IPAs, stouts, and Pilsners.

Vail, CO

Vail has a definite European feel as it was developed to look like a Tyrolean village with classic Bavarian architecture, seen in the farmhouse-style hotels, bars, shops, and restaurants throughout Vail Village. It is reminiscent of the Bavarian alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  On my recent trip, it was beautiful with its many flowers and blue skies. I was impressed with all of the new offerings and some of the new modern additions to Vail in particular.

I recommend:

Pepi’s Restaurant and Bar at the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer, 231 East Gore Creek Drive, has also been there since 1964. It is located in a classic European-style lodge that was created by its original Austrian owners.

On my recent visit, I enjoyed staying at the Tivoli Lodge in the heart of the village at 386 Hanson Ranch Rd. With 66 rooms, the lodge has been there for over 50 years. I met the owners, the Lazier family, who live onsite.  The rooms are lovely and the service excellent. There is a breakfast buffet offered in the morning. It is a great spot from which to walk and explore Vail.

Lake Forest, IL

For a taste of the English countryside, head to Lake Forest. The affluent suburb is along the shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its beautiful homes and small, charming downtown with many buildings featuring examples of Tudor architectural style.

For a pub experience head to Market House on the Square. At 655 Forest Ave, in the heart of downtown, this is a restaurant featuring American fare in a warm, traditional setting. They are open for lunch, dinner or brunch on Saturday or Sunday.

The Deer Path Inn opened in 1929, is a Lake Forest Institution. It was styled after a 15th Century English Manor Home and was recently renovated. You can sit in one of the sitting rooms by the fire, enjoy a meal in the English Room, an elegant afternoon tea on Tuesdays through Saturdays or head downstairs to their White Hart Pub. This proper English pub is a fun, casual spot. I would definitely try The Bar, a very popular spot on the North Shore, with a fun dining room and a large menu including sushi. 255 E. Illinois. Rd.

I loved being in the Garden Room of the English Room enjoying a great selection of teas along with scones, small sandwiches, tiny quiches, pastries and cookies. It was a really fun experience.

Holland, Michigan

For a taste of Amsterdam, make sure to visit Holland, MI. Holland is the largest city in the area that is located on the shore of Lake Macatawa just north of Saugatuck. Its much-photographed Big Red Lighthouse stands by the channel that connects the Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. It has a nice downtown area with a large number of restaurants, shops, galleries, high-end boutiques, and brewpubs. I went back recently after many years and enjoyed my time exploring downtown. Not to be missed include.

Alpen Rose: Located in downtown Holland, Alpen Rose features a casual cafe and bakery as well as more formal dining rooms where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner with many European dishes in a classic, European setting. 4 E. 8th St.

New Holland Brewing Co.: New Holland is a local craft brewery that makes a number of beers including porters, ales, and stouts. They also have New Holland Artisan Spirits which features their Beer Barrel Bourbon from aged beer barrels, a Zeppelin Bend single malt whiskey, a Zeppelin Bend Reserve which is aged in sherry casks and a Beer Barrel Rye. I loved the Beer Barrel Bourbon and bought a bottle to take back to Chicago. It was excellent!! You can visit their New Holland Pub at 66 E. 8th St. downtown like I did and enjoy food as well as taste one of their whiskeys or craft beers. They also have the Knickerbocker brewpub at 417 Bridge St. NW.

Throughout the year there are summer concerts, parades, farmers’ markets and art fairs plus Fall Fest, Tulip Time Festival in May and a Holiday Open House downtown in December. 

Milwaukee, WI

For a touch of Germany, head to Milwaukee. Milwaukee saw a huge influx of German immigrants in the late 1800’s and as a result, has always been known for its brewing traditions. It also has many German food traditions that can still be found today. By 1856, there were more than two dozen breweries in Milwaukee, most of them German-owned and operated. Miller, Blatz, Pabst and Schlitz were all bottled there. Only Miller remains today, but there are several craft breweries that have started in the last few years. To experience the beer traditions, make sure to see and visit:

Milwaukee Brewing Company: Sign up for a tour of the MKE 2nd St. Brewery. This is a local micro-brewing company making some excellent craft beers. Make sure to try Louie’s Demise, their medium-bodied amber ale and Outboard, their cream ale. Their Snake Oil Stout flavored with Anodyne Coffee’s espresso is also good and very unique. 613 S. 2nd St.  They also have an ale house at 233 N. Water St. and the MKE 9th St. Brewery at 1128 N. 9th St.

Lakefront Brewery: At 1872 N. Commerce St., along the RiverWalk in Milwaukee, this is a well-known microbrewery founded in 1987. There are tours available along with a large tasting hall where you can sample their many beers. I liked a lighter lager but can’t wait to try the pumpkin lager on my next visit!

Another great experience is to visit Mader’s Restaurant for its classic German cuisine. Mader’s has been a popular destination since it opened in 1902.  I loved the Bavarian decor and traditional food. I went for their Sunday brunch buffet which allowed me to try a number of their German dishes! It has been visited over the years by many presidents, actors, and musicians. 1041 N Old World 3rd St.

Newport, RI

Rather than visiting the chateaus of France, head to Newport, RI. Founded in 1639, Newport is a charming city of around 25,000 people located on Aquidneck Island. Its yacht-filled harbor hosted the America’s Cup, a renowned annual sailing regatta, for many years. It is also known for hosting the original US Open Tennis Tournament prior to it being moved to Forest Hills, NY.  Newport is also known for its historic Gilded Age mansions lining Bellevue Avenue on the east side of town, where for many years the country’s wealthiest families spent the summer season in their extravagant mansions. I highly recommend that you visit:

The Breakers: The Breakers is by far the largest of the Newport mansion and therefore very popular. So make sure to go early to avoid the crowds! Home to the Vanderbilt family, the mansion became a National Historic Landmark in 1994. In 1893, Cornelius Vanderbilt II “commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a villa to replace the earlier wood-framed house which was destroyed by fire the previous year. Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo inspired by the 16th-century palaces of Genoa and Turin.” There is a cafe on the property in the visitor’s center.

Marble House: Marble House was one of my favorites of the mansions that I visited. It was built between 1888 and 1892 for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles in France it contains 500,000 cubic feet of marble. There was a Chinese Teahouse, that is is now a small cafe, where you can grab a salad or sandwich. I wanted something light as I was having afternoon tea and enjoyed my lunch overlooking the water.

Rosecliff: “Commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899, architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles.” It is a beautiful home and was featured in the film The Great Gatsby.

The Elms: “The Elms was the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York. Mr. Berwind made his fortune in the coal industry. In 1898, the Berwinds engaged Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to design a house modeled after the mid-18th century French chateau d’Asnieres (c.1750) outside Paris.”

Chateau-sur-Mer: Here you can see many examples of “high Victorian architecture, furniture, wallpapers, ceramics and stenciling. It was the most palatial residence in Newport from its completion in 1852 until the appearance of the Vanderbilt houses in the 1890s. It was the scene of memorable entertainments, from the “Fete Champetre”, an elaborate country picnic for over two thousand guests held in 1857, to the debutante ball for Miss Edith Wetmore in 1889.”

Paso Robles, CA

Here you can visit Italy on the Central Coast of California. Paso Robles is surrounded by rolling hills and many wineries with several featuring Italian varietals. It has a large downtown square with many restaurants, shops, galleries and tasting rooms. You will love it! Make sure to visit:

IL Cortile is a fine-dining Italian restaurant a block from the main square with an extensive wine list and menu of seasonal specialties. I enjoyed a very good salmon entree. 608 12th St.

For wines, Giornata is known for its Italian varietals. I focused on Zinfandels and others and highly recommend that you visit:

Tablas Creek Vineyard: They are known for their Rhône varietals. I particularly enjoyed their smooth and full-bodied, Esprit De Tablas which is their “flagship” red which is a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache and Counoise.

Law Estate Wines: One of the highlights of the Paso Robles area is this new winery at 1885 Peachy Canyon Road. The wines were all smooth, full-bodied with wonderful berry notes. They are expensive so the tasting fee is well worth the $30 cost. In addition to the wonderful wines, the tasting room is wonderful with stunning views of the vineyards below. The contemporary architecture is the best in the area. Reservations are required so make sure to call 805-226 9200 to book your reservation before you go.

JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery: This is an excellent winery with a well-known restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner. They also have a small Inn at the winery with three suites where you can stay and enjoy the beautiful countryside. There is also a villa and a large mansion for rent as well. I tasted a Rosé and a full-bodied Malbec.

Denner Vineyards: At 5414 Vineyard Dr, the winery has a spectacular tasting room overlooking the surrounding countryside. Make sure to book an appointment at 805-239-4287 before you go. I tasted both the Grenache and the Zinfandel which were both excellent.

Adelaida Cellars: This is a winery known for its Zinfandels. I loved the Reserve 2002, the Reserve 2003 and Reserve 2010. They have recently expanded, added new labels and improved the tasting room.  5805 Adelaida Rd.

Opolo Vineyards: Make sure to stop in to try their award-winning red wines. Their Grand Rouge, Concerto and Mountain Zinfandel have received gold medals in the San Francisco Chronicle. There is also an Inn at Opolo above the vineyards. They are also known for their food and BBQs. A perfect place to eat and look over the vineyards below. 7110 Vineyard Drive.

New Paltz, NY

New Paltz is a charming town of 14,000 in Ulster County, NY west of the Hudson River, which was founded by French Huguenots in 1678. The main street has a large number of stores, cafes and restaurants.

Historic Huguenot Street: This is a National Historic Landmark District that includes the DuBois Fort, a colonial stone house that is now the visitors center. Huguenot St. is the oldest authentic museum street in the US and dates back to 1677. The area was settled by French Huguenots. There are a number of historic stone houses and a reconstructed 1717 French Church. My Grandmother was a DuBois so it was a treat visiting the old family homestead for the first time!

Getting excellent reviews is the historic, 151-year-old Mohonk Mountain House Resort with 85 miles of hiking trails on its 1,200 acres.

Hermann, MO

Hermann, MO, 75 miles west of St. Louis, was founded in 1837 by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia as a place to preserve German culture and heritage. Before prohibition, the area thrived with its wine production and then was hit hard afterwards. It took until the 1960s for it to start up again and to grow. The town has many bed and breakfasts, restaurants and shops in addition to its popular Wine Trail.

Make sure to visit:

Hermannhof Winery: At 330 East First Street, this is an excellent winery established in 1852. It is located in a historic building with ten stone cellars. In addition to tours and wine tastings, there is an attractive deli where you can buy lunch. They offer a number of dry white, rose and red, sweeter whites, and fruit wines.

Stone Hill Winery: At 1100 Stone Hill Hwy., Stone Hill was originally started in 1847. Today it is a successful winery that offers tastings and tours through the historic wine cellars. I enjoyed my tasting. The Chambourcin, a little lighter medium-bodied red with black current, cherry notes, and Norton varietals were excellent reds as was the Port made with Norton red wine. Norton is the official State grape. Theirs is a mix of fruit, spice, and oak. Their Vintage Restaurant offers a great dining experience in the old horse stables. It features many German specialties including Sauerbraten, one of my favorites.

OakGlenn Vineyards & Winery, at 1104 Oak Glenn Place, has wonderful views of the Missouri River below. They had a good Cabernet Sauvignon and a very good Norton. They have a large tasting room, with a large covered porch and a large outdoor stage with seating. There are music events in the summer months and during Octoberfest on weekends in October.

Tin Mill Brewing Company, in Hermann at First and Gutenberg: Here you can tour the brewery and taste their beers which include seasonals in addition to the regular line of beers, wheat beers and pilsners. The Oktoberfest beer is dark and very malty. Food is also available on the premises.

To stay, there is the Inn at the Hermannhof, and the Alpenhorn Gasthaus which offers four-course Wine Country Dinners and nightly Chocolate and Wine Cellar Rendezvous. The Hermann Hill Inn is a luxury boutique hotel with 20 suites and cottages. I understand that all are very good.

I hope that you enjoy visiting some of these spots as much as I did. 


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