Where I'd stay and what I'd do
A few years ago when my son graduated from high school, went as a family to a beautiful all-inclusive resort on the white sandy beaches and the clear turquoise waters south of Cancun, in the Riviera Maya. I will never forget the contrast of leaving the bright-white heat of outdoors and entering the cool, scented, polished and pristine lobby. No matter how many times that week I entered the lobby, I immediately felt refreshed and calm.
A few weeks after arriving home, my two girls and I were shopping at the mall. One of our favorite pastimes at a favorite store is to smell the soaps, lotions, body washes, and candles. We were finding our favorite scents that day when suddenly my youngest daughter said, “Hey, what does this remind you of?” and handed a candle to her sister. The older one took a big sniff. “Ohhhhhh. That’s our hotel lobby in Mexico!” They passed it to me. Sure enough, I could almost feel again that calm, cool lobby as I took in the delectable scent.
I love how smells, songs, and atmospheres can mimic other places and times! Isn’t it great that we can be transported just for a few minutes to a different place? I’ve been thinking about how we’re so restricted on where we can travel right now. And I decided I’d highlight some places right here in the U.S. which feel like somewhere in Europe. All of these accommodations are welcoming guests and following good healthy practices right now.
New Glarus, Wisconsin – wellness focus: culinary
This town was named after New Glarus, Switzerland and is known as “America’s Little Switzerland.” With its Swiss-style architecture and culture, small villages surrounded by farms, and restaurants and bakeries which serve fondue, cheese, pastries, and (of course) chocolate, it’s a great Switzerland substitute.
Where I’d stay: The Edgewater Hotel, 40 minutes away on the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison. Their spa and fitness center are amazing, with a relaxation pool, steam room, fabulous spa treatments, and private fitness classes.
Solvang, California – wellness focus: outdoor fitness
Danish settlers first established this town, located 21 miles from Santa Barbara. The shops, bakeries, horse-drawn carriages, and restaurants might convince you you’re actually in Denmark, and if you visit in September you’ll catch the Danish Days celebration.
Where I’d stay: The Alisal Ranch, a luxury guest ranch, open year-round. It includes riding trails, a 100-acre spring-fed lake, two 18-hole championship golf courses, and a pool, fitness center, and spa. Breakfast and dinner are included daily.
Boston, Massachusetts – wellness focus: local food
The entire Cape Cod area is reminiscent of the English countryside, with a rocky coastline, delicious seafood, an arts & crafts community, charming harbors, and houses with picket fences. Boston was founded by the British in 1630, and especially the Beacon Hill neighborhood looks that way: cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, gas lanterns, and row houses. In Boston, visit the Boston Public Garden and the Boston Common, go ice skating, take a historical or trolley tour, and definitely take at least one of the many food tours in the city.
Where I’d stay: The Boston Harbor Hotel has a waterfront setting right on historic Rowes Wharf. It includes a 60-foot 3-lane lap pool, yoga and other fitness classes, a 24-hour fitness center, personal trainers, and health programs with targeted offerings and personal fitness assessments. The spa includes a variety of massages, reflexology, facials, gentlemen-specific treatments, and nail care.
Leavenworth, Washington – wellness focus: leisure/exploration/connecting with friends or family
Leavenworth is about a two-hour drive from Seattle and is the year-round destination that feels like Oktoberfest and European Christmas markets all in one package. The town specializes in timber-framed houses, bratwurst sausage, beer, the Nutcracker Museum, and Christmas shops such as The Gingerbread Factory. In the spring, summer, and fall, you can enjoy cycling, mountain biking, birding, hiking, golfing, fishing, paddleboarding, rafting, and wagon and carriage rides. Year-round, you should visit the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, and in the winter, don’t miss a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh on one of the local farms.
Where I’d stay: It’s a great family destination, but if you don’t take your kids, I’d recommend staying at the Posthotel Leavenworth, an adults-only 55-room spa resort. They have a saltwater swim-out pool, authentic European breakfast, a putting course, and bike, showshoe, and cross-country ski rentals available. One of their signature spa services is a mineral bath followed by a herbal compress massage and a detoxifying body wrap. Ahhhh.
There are so many great U.S. destinations which feel like a little taste of Europe! I’m only halfway done; in my follow-up article I’ll highlight Spain, the Netherlands, Greek islands, and Italy.