1. The French Connection
Instead of flying to Paris to see the Notre Dame Cathedral, visit St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. Begun in 1894, this cathedral in Covington, Kentucky, is a smaller-scale replica of its French predecessor, right down to its beloved rose windows and carved stone gargoyles. The interior doesn’t disappoint either: walls festooned with ornate murals and towering ceilings provide pitch-perfect acoustics for three historic pipe organs.
2. Greek To Me
There’s the Parthenon in Athens: Check out the one in Nashville. Built for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897, the Nashville Parthenon boasts the exact specifications of the original, down to the 42-foot golden Athena.
3. Rock of Ages
England’s Stonehenge is legendary. Instead, consider America’s own version in North Salem, New Hampshire. “America’s Stonehenge” is as much a mystery as the U.K. phenomenon. Archaeologists are still unable to determine the true origins of this 4,000-year-old man-made series of chambers, walls, and ceremonial meeting places dotted with Ogham, Phoenician, and Iberian Punic inscriptions. One of the U.S.’s oldest man-made constructions, it still pinpoints solar and lunar events.
4. The Moor the Merrier
Instead of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, visit Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in San Gabriel, California. This historic landmark, and still fully operational Catholic church, was founded by Spaniards of the Franciscan order in 1771. Architect Antonio Cruzado of Córdoba, Spain, ensured the mission features the Moorish “fortress-like” architecture detail of the original, down to the capped buttresses.
5. Bloom with a View
Always dreamed of seeing Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival? We have our own: Washington’s Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Designed as a driving tour, this monthlong regional event in April features more than 350 acres of vibrant blooms and dozens of horticultural, natural, musical, and epicurean activities in a cluster of quaint waterside towns and wholesome farming communities.
6. Gold and the Beautiful
The sight of the Taj Mahal can take your breath away. So can Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold in Moundsville, West Virginia. The intended American residence of Indian Krishna missionary Srila Prabhupada, this unlikely palace, flaunting marble floors and walls, stained glass windows, hand-carved wood, French chandeliers, lots of gold leaf, and extensive rose gardens, was never occupied by the spiritual master. Fascinating fun fact: The palace’s builders — devotees of the faith — had no construction training and configured it primarily by reading assembly manuals.
7. Garden Variety
Instead of the legendary Kenroku-en Gardens in Japan, visit the Portland Japanese Gardens, which were described by Japan’s former ambassador to the U.S. as “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.” A serene escape, the gardens are designed to inspire tranquility and offer the opportunity to learn about Japanese garden design and history.
8. Great Light North
Stockholm has its famous Midsomer Solstice Festival. Here at home, you can enjoy The Chatanika Music Festival in Fairbanks, Alaska. Just 198 miles from the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks gets almost 22 hours of daylight during solstice (June 20-22) — equivalent to what you’d experience in Scandinavia. The music festival features dozens of bands playing continually for three days. The town also hosts the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game, commencing at 10:30 p.m. on the longest day of the year and played with no artificial lighting whatsoever.
9. High Life
For an alternative to the Swiss Alps, pack up your hiking shoes and head for the Cascade Mountain Range in the Pacific Northwest. Though considerably lower than its European cousins, these breathtaking peaks, laden white alpine glaciers, granite spires, cascading falls, and stratovolcanoes span from the border of British Columbia into Washington State, Oregon, and Northern California.
10. Dive Yourself Crazy
Instead of snorkeling at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, visit the Dry Tortugas National Park. No need to journey down under for world-class underwater experiences when the U.S. has equally impressive tropical diving in the Florida Keys, home to one of the world’s largest coral reef systems. This southernmost national park in the continental U.S. is surely the wettest — more than 99 percent of it is undersea — but don’t miss the magnificent hexagonal Fort Jefferson while you’re on dry land.
11. Wine and Shine
Pass on the castle wineries of Tuscany, Italy, and visit Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, California. Replete with moat, drawbridge, Mediterranean-inspired gardens, and Italian frescoes, this 121,000-square-foot masterpiece was not only inspired by medieval Tuscan castles, but built using authentic 13th-century architectural techniques — including 8,000 tons of hand-chiseled local stone.
12. Storm the Castle
Germany’s Marksburg Castle is world famous. Lesser known is New York’s Boldt Castle. At the turn of the last century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of New York City’s world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel, set out to build a full-size Rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Lakes region as a gift to his beloved wife Louise. When she died suddenly, construction on the 60,000-square-foot structure was halted. Seventy-three years later, local authorities took over the building, completing the work and ultimately turning it into a tourist and event destination.
13. Till the Fat Lady Sings
Teatro Alla Scalla in Milan is a mecca for opera buffs. So is Lyric Opera of Chicago. Performed in the Civic Opera House (which opened in 1929), this stunning theatrical palace is a hybrid of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, delivering pitch-perfect acoustics for all the classics.
14. Great Scot!
Instead of the Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, visit California’s Monterey Scottish Games and Celtic Festival. You could easily forget you’re in the U.S. at the sight of kilted athletes competing to lift the Braemar Stone, throw the hammer, and toss the caber. All this is replete with sword dancing, the joyful braying of bagpipes, and much more.
15. Gold-Medal Getaway
Pass on that trip to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Oympic Games. You can head to Park City Utah’s Olympic Park … anytime! Built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the park hosts U.S. and International ski exhibitions and competitions year-round, often open to the public. Moreover, it offers visitors bobsled rides on the 1,335-meter professional track, tubing on the Nordic jump, mountainside zip lines, and summit courses. Afterward, visit the Alf Engen Ski Museum, tracing the history of winter sports in Park City.
Contributing editor Stephanie Citron’s last article for the Post was “Best Road Trips in Every State,” published in our September/October issue.
This article is featured in the March/April 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
Featured image: Portland Japanese Gardens (Shutterstock)
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