Ready to quench your international wanderlust but know the timing just isn’t quite right? Us too. Luckily, the US is the third largest country in the world coming in at 3.8 million square miles. Our massive size means that we have a whole lot of land to discover as we find it safe for ourselves, our family, and our community to travel domestically.
So, if shuffling through terminals and sitting on a plane for 6+ hours to get to Europe doesn’t sound appetizing, there are many domestic destinations that will make you feel as though you’ve traveled abroad. Some will make you question if you’re still in fact on this planet.
What It Reminds Us Of: Located in a box canyon surrounded by steep mountains and cliffs, Telluride calls the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado home. The rugged rocky peaks surrounding town remind us of Europe’s Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site found in Italy and Austria.
Where to Stay: Telluride has a plethora of great lodging options and we have three favorites. Where you opt to stay depends on how you want to spend your vacation. Our favorite downtown option is Hotel Colombia. Stay here if being in town is important to you – easy access to shops, restaurants, and the Telluride Nordic Center. Enjoy complimentary breakfast, easy access to the free gondola that takes you from Downtown to Mountain Village, and dinners at their fabulous on-site restaurant, Cosmopolitan.
For super easy ski-in-ski-out access, stay at Madeline. They’re located in the heart of Mountain Village, have a solid spa, boast beautiful decor, and offer great dining options. Finally, for impeccable hospitality and large residences visit Lumiere. Also located in Mountain Village, Lumiere offers ski-in-ski-out access, their team is topnotch when it comes to hospitality, and their accommodations range from studio to five bedroom penthouses – bring the entire family!
What to Do: Telluride is an awesome year-round destination. In the winter, enjoy great downhill, Nordic, and backcountry skiing plus snowshoeing, snowboarding, sleigh rides, sledding, ice climbing, ice skating, snowmobiling and a wonderful apres ski scene. In the summer, breathe in the fresh mountain air while hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, golfing, rock climbing, SUP boarding, kayaking, playing disc golf, and horseback riding.
Where to Dine: In Mountain Village, our favorites are: The Pick (for delicious grab-and-go burritos and bowls), Altezza at The Peaks (for enjoying brunch, lunch, or apres while soaking up beautiful views of the San Juans), and Allred’s (for a memorable fine dining experience perched at the top of the gondola). In Downtown Telluride, we love: New Sheridan Hotel (for brunch – the chilaquiles are amazing!), The National (for great cocktails and an exceptional dining experience), and La Marmotte (for the ultimate treat – upscale French cuisine in a 19th century cabin).
Fun Fact: Though we’re reminded of the Dolomites while in Telluride, the two have very different geologic history. The San Juan Mountains of Telluride are mostly formed from volcanic rock whereas the Dolomites were once an enormous coral reef.
What It Reminds Us Of: An oasis on the northernmost tip of Cape Cod located 60-miles out to sea, Provincetown feels like a world away. The sandy shores, island life vibe, arts scene, and foodie haven will make you feel as though you’re on an island somewhere far away from the US.
Where to Stay: There are many charming B&Bs, boutique inns, and Airbnbs/VRBOs in Provincetown. To decide the best place for you, consider two things: 1) do you want to be in the center of Downtown Provincetown’s action or right on the edge of town for a little more serenity? and 2) do you prefer B&Bs, inns, or Airbnbs/VRBOs?
A few of our favorite accommodation options include: Eben House (a modern boutique B&B), White Porch Inn Art Hotel (a B&B with an integrated art gallery), and Eileen House (a luxe Airbnb on the edge of town).
What to Do: There’s something to do in Provincetown during every season though spring, summer, and fall are definitely the most popular times to visit. During your stay, enjoy whale watching, beach lounging, hiking, biking, and yummy dining. Be warned – in the summer Provincetown’s population rises from 3,000 to 60,000. We recommend a trip in the spring or fall to beat the crowds of their peak season!
Where to Dine: We shared Provincetown is a foodie haven so it’s hard to narrow down our list of favorite places to dine here. Our top five include: The Mews Restaurant & Cafe (it’s been around since 1964 and is located right on the beach), Ciro & Sal’s (to feel as though you’ve been transported to Northern Italy), Helltown Kitchen (for flavors from around the world great breakfast at Yoloqueria), and Strangers and Saints (an eclectic coastal tavern with craft cocktails inspired by the Mediterranean).
Fun Fact: This seaside town is rich with American history – it’s the site for the Mayflower’s landing in 1620.
3New Mexico: Taos, Santa Fe, & White Sands
What It Reminds Us Of: New Mexico has several great options that will make you feel transported to another world and perhaps even to another time. We recommend checking out Santa Fe, Taos, and White Sands (pictured above – the world’s largest gypsum dunefield). Both Santa Fe and Taos will deliver beautiful adobe architecture, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a vibrant arts community, and a community steeped in history. In Taos, for example, you’ll experience a UNESCO World Heritage site with structures dating back to the 14th century! Below, we’ll share our favorite picks in Santa Fe and for a complete guide to Taos, checkout our thoughtfully curated and personally vetted Destination Design.
Where to Stay: In Downtown Santa Fe, we love both the Inn and Spa at Loretto and the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi – imagine traditional wood ceilings, kiva fireplaces, and sophisticated Southwest decor. To completely mix it up and stay in a 20-acre Japanese inspired spa and boutique inn, checkout Ten Thousand Waves located just 10-minutes outside of Downtown.
What to Do: New Mexico is stunning year-round. In the winter, enjoy skiing at the Bavarian inspired Taos Ski Valley or go cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. In the fall, enjoy hatch chile season, beautiful fall colors, great hiking, and the world’s largest hot air ballooning event (Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta). Summers are relatively mild in Santa Fe and Taos (think low to mid 80s) due to extremely low humidity and an elevation over 6,900 feet above sea level.
Where to Dine: Geronimo is hands down our favorite restaurant in Santa Fe. Located directly on the famed Canyon Road, this restaurant features fine dining in a 1756 adobe home – it’s a stunning dining experience and both the food and service are incredible. We also love breakfast from Cafe Pasqual’s and dining alfresco at Luminaria for brunch or dinner is beautiful.
Fun Fact: Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the US and was one of the first European settlements in North America.
What It Reminds Us Of: Nestled in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Leavenworth will make you question if you’ve landed in Germany. Think: a vacation filled with alpine-styled buildings, restaurants serving German beer and food, a Nutcracker museum, and events like Oktoberfest.
Where to Stay: Posthotel and the Bavarian Lodge make our list. Stay at Posthotel for a rejuvenating spa retreat inspired by luxe spa hotels of the Alps. For a classic alpine lodge experience for the entire family, checkout the Bavarian Lodge – be sure to book a room with a fireplace and private balcony.
What to Do: There’s a whole host of year-round things to do in Leavenworth – everything from backcountry skiing to wine tasting to river tubing. When we’re not strolling through Downtown or enjoying Oktoberfest, our favorites include: hiking to see Enchantment Lakes (crystal clear high alpine lakes backed by immense granite peaks), rafting along the Wenatchee River, and skiing at Stevens Pass.
Where to Dine: If you love German cuisine, Leavenworth is the place for you! For the quintessential Bavarian experience, head to München Haus (think craft brews served in a beer garden, large pretzels, German sausages, and sauerkraut) and afterwards enjoy gourmet European style chocolates at Schocolat. To treat yourself to fresh farm-to-table cuisine, checkout the ever-changing menu at Watershed Cafe or head to Mana Restaurant. For quick grab-and-go enjoy the sandwiches at Argonaut Cafe and to totally mix it up with some Italian inspired cuisine, dine at Wildflour.
Fun Fact: In the 1960s, the residents of Leavenworth intentionally transformed their town into a Bavarian inspired village to promote tourism.
5Alys Beach, Florida
What It Reminds Us Of: Dreaming of the gorgeous whitewashed coastal villages of the Mediterranean? Santorini, anyone? Well, Alys Beach is your best bet if you’re looking to stay stateside in your travels! This gem of a Gulf Coast town features cobblestone streets, white stucco buildings, and Moroccan design details.
Where to Stay: Book a vacation home in Alys Beach or stay at one of two hotels in surrounding beach communities – The Pearl at nearby Rosemary Beach or WaterColor Inn in further away WaterColor. This area, also known as 30A, has ample Airbnb and VRBO options as well. Checkout this property to see one of our favorite VRBOs in the area – it’s just a 5-minute bike ride away from Alys Beach and received a full kitchen and living room renovation during the winter of 2021!
What to Do: All of your favorite beach activities are available here like biking, running, kayaking, standup paddle-boarding, beach lounging, fishing, and more. We recommend skipping their high-traffic summer months in favor of an October through April trip – you’ll have more of the beach to yourself and beat the heat!
Where to Dine: 30A has so many wonderful dining options. In Alys Beach specifically, we love: Raw & Juicy for healthy breakfast and lunch bites, Caliza for alfresco dining next to the stunning Caliza pool, NEAT for drinks and light bites, and George’s for lunch or dinner coastal cuisine.
Fun Fact: The planning firm and architects who designed Alys Beach in 2003 intentionally infused elements from Bermudan, Caribbean, and Spanish design.
Want more US destinations with international flair? Next week, we’ll share our final five favorite stateside spots that’ll make you feel as though you’ve traveled internationally.