Every year 175 million visitors head to Germany. If you are wanting to explore Germanic nuances – from Biergarten, Oktoberfest, Christmas markets, to pretty Bavarian architecture, then these 8 German towns in USA might be a quick fix, without a long haul flight.
German Towns in USA
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Vail, Colorado: Alpine Bavarian village
Vail is known to be one of the popular ski resorts in Colorado. But this destination is also steeped in Bavarian vibes – from cuisine, architecture, winter landscape, and Oktoberfest. Vail became popular as a skiing destination in the 1960s.
The town was inspired by the pretty mountain villages in Bavaria. When you walk through the village of Vail, you will find hotels, shops and other buildings exhibiting classic European architecture, one that is a hybrid of Bavarian and Austrian influences. The ski slopes definitely will remind you of Austrian and German culture, with an Alpine twist.
In the restaurants, you will fall in love with German delicacies. Take time to try strudel-filled pastry, cheese fondue, potato pancakes, schnitzels, or Schnapps.
Oktoberfest is widely celebrated in Vail. A family-friendly event, you can expect live music, food, trinkets and everything that will remind you of Bavaria’s beloved festival. There are German bands playing traditional music, with people dancing, enjoying and having a good time, in traditional Bavarian attire.
Vail’s Oktoberfest is celebrated over two weekends in September annually.
Where to stay: The Sebastian – Vail
Frankenmuth Michigan: Known as Little Bavaria
Contributed by Slavka from On2Continents
Frankenmuth is a small town in Michigan, located just 90 miles north of Detroit. The interesting thing about Frankenmuth is the fact that it’s the most German town in the USA. The moment you enter you feel like in Bavaria. Bavarian-style architecture, Maypoles and pale-blue-and-white Bavarian flags adorning the houses greet you at every step.
The town has strong German roots thanks to generations of Franconian Lutherans immigrating to the area between the mid 1800’s and the WWII. Many of their descendants still speak German, you can see German signage all over the town and you can even attend a mass in the German language at one of the churches.
The best time to visit is during the Bavarian Festival in mid-June. The festivities take over the town with large tents, music performances, and oompah bands. While you are in town, you must try schnitzels with potatoes and pretzels with beer at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. The best place to stay here is the Bavarian Inn Lodge or Marv Herzog Hotel.
Don’t leave without visiting the Bronner’s store. It’s the largest Christmas store in the world taking space for two football fields. They sell every imaginable type of Christmas ornament and it’s easy to spend hours choosing the nicest one.
Other quirky and unique shops are the Frankenmuth Clock Company and the Cheese Haus. We also recommend a river cruise onboard the Bavarian Belle, especially if visiting with kids.
Helen, Georgia: Reminding you of Germany’s Bavaria
Contributed by Sharon from Tasmania Explorer
Helen, Georgia is a small town in the Appalachians about an hour and a half drive north east from Atlanta. Where this town is unique is that it is Bavarian themed. Incorporated in 1913, Helen was originally a logging town. As the town declined, it decided to resurrect itself by modelling its buildings after that of a Bavarian alpine town.
This change occurred in 1969 when zoning laws came in that mandated a south-German style on every building.
It has worked well and has brought the tourists turning around the fate of the town.
There are events during the year that play on this German theme with Oktoberfest during September, October and November, Christmas markets in December and a “Southern Worthersee”which is related to the Worthersee Tour in Austria.
When not enjoying the big events and simply wandering through the charming town enjoying the architecture, you can eat a German feast or visit some of the surrounding attractions.
There are some great natural attractions around Helen including the Anna Ruby Falls which are just a short walk to some stunning falls. You can also tube down the Chattahoochee or zipline in the Unicoi State Park. Embarking on hiking trails is a popular activity here.
We particularly enjoyed visiting the nearby Babyland General Hospital, home of the cabbage patch kid, where you can watch them being born.
We recommend staying at the Jameson Inn which is a great price with rooms including fridges, toiletries, wifi, and breakfast. There is also an indoor heated pool on site.
Where to stay: Jameson Inn
Fredericksburg, Texas: One of the Prettiest German Towns in the US
Contributed by Bruna from Maps ‘N Bags
With traditional German architecture, Fredericksburg is a lovely town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Founded by German immigrants, this little town is home to 11,000 residents only and proudly boasts its European heritage.
For such a small place, Fredericksburg has lots of history. A few of the museums in or around the city center are the National Museum of the Pacific War, which was voted the 5th best history museum in the United States by USA Today and is one of the best things to do in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Besides, the Vereins Kirche Museum in the Marktplatz is a reconstruction of the original construction built by the German settlers and showcases artifacts and historical photos depicting the German-Texan culture. The first building served as a church, school, and even as a fortress, among other functions.
After exploring the town, rest your feet at one of the world-class wineries in Fredericksburg. There are over 50 wineries and cellars in or around the town, which is also in the heart of the Texas Wine Country. It’s an excellent place to experience how the German and Texan cultures blend so perfectly!
As for a place to stay, the Hoffman Haus is a traditional German-styled Bed and Breakfast right in the center of the town. It’s a fantastic base to discover the surroundings on foot and to add a European vibe to your trip.
Where to stay: Hoffman Haus
Hermann, Missouri: Of German heritage and Oktoberfest
Contributed by Wayne from Daily Tourist
The city of Hermann, Missouri is best known as being one of the best destinations in the United States that were founded by European settlers. In fact, the city was founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia back in 1837. Their goal was to make this place into a “German-America” where it could perpetuate traditional German culture and establish a self-supporting colony built around farming, commerce, and industry.
Visitors who come to the city of Hermann will be pleased to know that the city has kept most of its German heritage and traditions alive. For instance, they can find many buildings that were built by the German settlers that are still standing to this day and allows them to explore it in full detail.
There is also a museum here where you can learn the history and culture of the German settlers. Plus all throughout the year, there will be many types of festivals with a German theme.
The biggest one is called “Oktoberfest”, where the entire city will be lit up and celebrating the town’s German heritage. During the first four weekends in October, visitors will be able to sample all kinds of local beer and wine, German food, old German traditions, dances and more.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay, the Alpenhorn Gasthaus is a popular choice. It’s located on a hilltop 19th century building with cozy quarters, vineyard, outdoor hot tub, and gardens.
Definitely one of the best European towns to visit.
Where to stay: Alpenhorn Gasthaus
Leavenworth, Washington: Bavarian Charm
Contributed by Allison from Small Town Washington
If you’re looking for a little slice of Bavaria in the United States, you have to head to Leavenworth, Washington! Tucked away in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, close to popular hikes like the Enchantments, is the beautiful mountain town of Leavenworth.
This small town (technically a city) of 2,000 was founded in 1885 with the construction of the Great Northern Railway. It served as an important place for lumber mills until the railway relocated in 1925.
The residents quickly turned to tourism, focusing on making Leavenworth a ski and winter destination. A few members of the tourism committee took a trip to the Danish-themed city of Solvang, another popular “Europe in America” destination, in 1965 and came back with the idea of turning Leavenworth into a Bavarian-themed town. They slowly began to redesign the buildings of Leavenworth in the traditional Bavarian style, starting with the hotel that is now Hotel Edelweiss.
The architecture utilizes the half-timbered style as well as Bavarian-inspired murals and paintings on some of the buildings, and several of the restaurants serve Bavarian-inspired and Germanic/Swiss fare, such as bratwursts, pretzels, and fondue!
Visiting Leavenworth is worthwhile any time of year, but we suggest visiting Leavenworth in winter when the Christmas lights adorn the Bavarian buildings and there’s a wonderful holiday cheer in the air that almost transports you to a German Christmas Market!
The best things to do in Leavenworth depend on the season. In the summer, it’s great to hike the neighboring mountainous areas, spend time enjoying nearby Lake Wenatchee, and strolling alongside the Wenatchee River and Enchantment Park. In the winter, there’s a ski area in town (as well as in nearby Stevens Pass), as well as snowshoeing, Christmas shopping, the Nutcracker Museum, and even a reindeer farm!
The best place to stay in Leavenworth is the Bavarian Lodge, which is as quaint and European-feeling as the name suggests!
Where to stay: Bavarian Lodge
Castroville, Texas: Explore Alsatian (French & German) architecture
Contributed by Kate from Lone Star Travel Guide
In the mid-19th century, the small town of Castroville, Texas was founded by German-speaking immigrants from the region of Alsace–and their legacy still very clearly lives on in the town today!
Alsace is located in today’s northeastern France, and has cultural ties to both France and Germany. For that reason, parts of Castroville look remarkably like a scene from Beauty and the Beast–and nowhere is that more apparent than at the Steinbach Haus.
The Steinbach Haus is Castroville’s best-known tourist attraction. Though it arrived in Castroville in 1998, the history of this house stretches far, far longer–it began its life in the village of Wahlbach, France (a bit west of Colmar) in the 1600s.
Today, it acts as Castroville’s visitor’s center and as one of the best spots to appreciate the heritage of Europe in Texas.
In addition to the Steinbach Haus, visitors to Castroville can enjoy numerous other Alsatian-inspired buildings around town (including the town’s beautiful Romanesque cathedral), as well as several delicious, Alsatian-style bakeries filled to the brim with delicious treats.
Castroville is located just 30 minutes outside of San Antonio, making it an easy addition to a trip to central Texas.
If you’re hoping to stay in town overnight, the beautiful Hillside Boutique Hotel is a charming, well-reviewed option with a pool that is an excellent base for your adventures in both Castroville and in the greater Texas Hill Country.
Where to stay: Hillside Boutique Hotel
Amana Colonies, Iowa: Traditional German villages/seven villages
It was in 1855 that a group of German settlers set out to the USA looking for solitude to practice their religion in peace. They fled the religious oppression in Germany to set up a communal and a peaceful village.
These settlers upon reaching Iowa organised themselves into Seven Villages. These villages, known as Amana, were borrowed from The Bible’s Song of Solomon.
With religious background, this community shared their property and resources, and divided the society tasks amongst themselves. Amana Villages due to their unique historical and cultural significance were named as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
Everything in the villages were set up in an organized routine, with roles defined for each person. Amana churches, located in each village’s main street, were the epitome of humility and simplicity.
Attractions inside of the Amana Villages are open to tourists every day from 09:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Final thoughts: Exploring German Towns in America
So you see, wanderlust is not out of reach. Visit one of these German towns in the USA and immerse yourself in Bavarian culture, enjoy delicious cuisines, learn about their history, and wander through beautiful villages.
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