The best cities in the US for family vacations are all just a quick road trip or flight away. Japan, Denmark, France, Iceland, or Italy – take your pick! This holiday season, join the trendsetters and explore the country’s hidden gems that’ll give you an international feel at cheaper rates than your faraway favorites.
63% of Americans say they’ll travel during the holidays in 2021 – reports a recent survey by The Vacationer. Although international borders are mostly open for travel, road trips and family vacations continue to be favorites as the pandemic is still lurking around. The recent spike in Europe’s COVID stats is reason enough to be cautious of international travel. Besides, why go abroad when you are spoilt for choice at home with these US destinations that feel international.
Solvang, California – Denmark
Solvang is around 130 miles away from Downtown Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara County. The small city in Wine Country is home to some of the last half-timbered houses and horse trolleys in the US. You’ll see gorgeous Danish architecture and culture across the city, along with Danish artworks at the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art and Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Don’t miss a tour to the encampment of brave Vikings and grab a snack from the Danish bakeries in town.
Check out Solvang’s month-long Danish-style holiday celebrations. Live now!
How to Get There – From Los Angeles, take the US Route 101 and drive north for 125 miles. Drive south on the 101 for approximately 300 miles to reach Solvang while traveling from San Francisco.
New Orleans, Louisiana – Spain/France
Not a hidden gem, but you can’t help but feel the unique vibe of New Orleans any time of the year. The multi-cultural influences on the city left behind Spanish and French colonizers proudly remain in every aspect – from food and culture to architecture. Strolling through the streets is enough to transform you into a vibrant European holiday.
The holidays are a great time to visit New Orleans. Find out what’s exciting for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa this year.
How to Get There – New Orleans is accessible by air, road, and train. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is around 20 km west of Downtown New Orleans. Many highways and interstate routes connect New Orleans with Orlando, San Antonio, Houston, and Atlanta.
Washington Island, Wisconsin – Iceland
The perfect alternative to Iceland is tucked away in Wisconsin, just 7 miles north of Door Peninsula. There are only about 700 residents on Washington Island. If you are looking for a quiet retreat surrounded by nature, it can’t get better than this. Adventurous but less crowded bike trails, above-average hiking trails, and breathtaking views await your vacation on the island.
How about taking part in the Washington Island Annual Christmas Bird Count? Families, students, birders, and scientists are welcome!
How to Get There – Take Wisconsin Highway 57 and 42 to reach the North Pier, at the tip of the Door Peninsula. From there, hop on the Washington Island ferry and reach the island in around 30 minutes.
Honolulu, Hawaii – Japan
Japanese, the largest ethnic group in all of Hawaii, comprise 20% of the population. History books mention Japanese settlers in Hawaii since the 1800s; it’s no surprise there’s a bit of Japan in Honolulu. There is no need to cross the Pacific Ocean to witness Japanese folklore in street performances during the evenings or try authentic sushi flavors. A visit to the Tenri Cultural Center will make you forget that you are still in the US. Japanese architecture (especially the Tea House), Miyawaki gardens, and bonsai trees are must-see.
Don’t miss the Waikiki, Honolulu, and Oahu Christmas events and activities.
How to Get There – Flights to Honolulu International Airport take off from most airports in the country. You can also try ferry services from neighboring ports to the Honolulu main cruise pier. Driving around the unfamiliar terrains of Honolulu with twists and turns could get a bit complex at times, but traffic is comparatively low.
Little Italy, Boston – Italy
Authentic Italian pizza in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Boston has to be there on your bucket list. The cute little hamlet town in Boston’s North End is home to all things Italian in the United States. From cheese/chocolate-filled cannoli to delicate tiramisus and cappuccino’s, Little Italy is a foodie’s heaven. You’ll also love the cobblestone streets, architecture, and Hanover Street marketplace.
Holidays in Boston are magical and less chaotic than in the big cities. You can’t miss these events if you are planning to visit soon.
How to Get There – Buses to the North End are available from Boston University and Amtrak Route 128 Station Westwood. Subway routes Green Line C, Green Line E, and Orange Line also connect Little Italy. By train, take the Framingham – Worcester Line and Providence – Stoughton Line. And if you’d rather drive and be safer, no worries about parking – find affordable spots near Little Italy Boston here.