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Get a taste of Europe next door for less

In previous years, European vacations were possible for all types of travelers. A strong dollar, cheap airfares, and an array of budget accommodations and restaurants made for affordable vacations, even quick “across the pond” excursions only lasting a few days.

However, in recent months, the euro and British pound have surged ahead of the dollar, making European trips budget busters. If you’d like to go to Europe, but don’t think it’s within your budget this year, consider visiting a Europe-like destination right on this continent instead. And for an added savings perk, if you live within driving distance, you won’t have to shell out extra money for airfare.

Our top five Europe-style destinations within North America are:

Denmark on the West Coast: Solvang, CA

Solvang, located in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, is considered the Danish Capital of America. The town is known for its Old World architecture, windmills, Danish bakeries, wineries and breweries, and stores selling European imports (such as porcelain, wrought-iron, and cuckoo clocks). See the history of the town and Danish culture at the Elverhoj Danish Heritage and Fine Arts Museum, or learn more about Denmark’s famous native son at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. And for an excursion that’s a unique blend of California and Denmark, stop by one of Solvang’s many tasting rooms to sample local vintages.

At the time of publication, we found a Wine Tasting Package at the Petersen Inn, available from $199 per night for weeknights, and $225 per night for weekend stays, excluding taxes. The package includes accommodations, dinner for two at the hotel’s Cafe Provence restaurant, a European buffet breakfast, wine tasting for two at the Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, and two complimentary wine glasses. For other accommodations and package options, visit the Solvang CVB website.

Solvang is an easy drive from Santa Barbara. If you don’t live within driving distance, check SmarterTravel.com for last-minute airfares to Santa Barbara, the closest airport, or see all air deals.

German heritage in Texas Hill Country: Fredericksburg and New Braunfels

You won’t have to fly to Germany for authentic wurst, beer, and schnitzel. Head to the Texas Hill Country, where the towns of Fredericksburg and New Braunfels (both short drives from Austin) celebrate their German roots all year round.

New Braunfels is known for its authentic German foods and heritage festivals, including the Folkfest in April and the Wurstfest in November. Have a meal at the Schnitzelhaus restaurant in the historic Hotel Faust, where you can also sample beer from the restaurant’s own brewery. In Fredericksburg, stop by the town’s German-themed stores, admire German-influenced architecture, and feast at a local restaurant. You may even hear the locals speaking German.

At press time, two Fredericksburg inns, the Alte Welte Gasthof Old World Inn and the Schandua Suite Bed and Breakfast, offer accommodations from $150 per night. In addition, the Alte Welte Gasthof Inn have value-added extras, such as food baskets and massages, ranging from $40 to $75. Or, find other places to stay on the Texas Hill Country visitor website.

If you are visiting the Texas Hill Country from far away, check SmarterTravel.com for last-minute airfares to Austin, the closest airport, or see all air deals.

A blend of France and Spain in the South: New Orleans

New Orleans, a melting pot of European culture in the South, is a treat for the senses: Hear live jazz and Zydeco at a neighborhood bar or club, taste beignets and cafe au lait, smell Cajun dishes as they’re prepared for evening meals, and see French- and Spanish-inspired architecture, especially the city’s famous wrought-iron balconies. Explore the many faubourgs (suburbs/neighborhoods) on foot, or take a leisurely stroll by the Mississippi.

At the time of publication, the Hotel Ste. Pierre offers an Explore New Orleans package, available for $150 per night on weeknights, and $200 per night for weekend stays, before taxes. The package includes deluxe accommodations, breakfast each day, brunch or dinner for two at a local restaurant, choice of complimentary city tours, beignets and cafe au lait, and a surprise gift upon arrival. For other accommodations throughout New Orleans, visit the New Orleans CVB website.

If you do not live within driving distance of New Orleans, visit SmarterTravel.com for last-minute airfares, or see all air deals.

Old Europe in New England: Newport, RI

If you want to see European chateaux, take a trip to New England to see the Newport mansions. Modeled after the castles and chateaux of Europe, the mansions are one of Newport’s top tourist draws, and are open to the public for walking tours, concerts, educational seminars, and more. To add to the European experience, greater Newport is home to several wineries, which also host tastings and tours. In addition, the city is well known for its diverse array of European-style boutiques and hotels.

At press time, one such property, the Hotel Viking, is offering a Tea for Two package, available from $139 per night (excluding taxes). This price is valid for stays through March 31, after which the price increases. The package includes accommodations, afternoon tea for two people including gratuity, and complimentary parking. Find additional hotels throughout Newport on GoNewport.com.

If you’re flying to Newport, check last-minute airfares to Providence, the closest airport, or see all air deals.

France in Canada: Montreal

Perhaps you want to practice your rusty French skills, but don’t have enough money to vacation in France. Or, you may be eager to try out a variety of fondues, pastries, and other French culinary delicacies. Maybe you’d also like to see a variety of arts, music, and culture festivals. But instead of flying to Europe to experience everything French, just head north to Montreal.

At the time of publication, Tourisme Montreal is sponsoring a city-wide Sweet Deal package, available for two-night stays through April 30. Prices start at $121 per night before taxes, and include accommodations, half off the second night’s stay, discount coupons for area attractions, casino vouchers, and a welcome gift. The tourism bureau also posts an extensive accommodations list on its website.

Check SmarterTravel.com for last-minute airfares to Montreal, or see all air deals.

If you’re still itching to go to Europe, be sure to visit SmarterTravel.com’s air and vacation websites to find affordable deals. However, if such a trip still doesn’t fit your budget, consider one of our Europe-like destinations at home (where your dollar may go farther), and put aside what you saved for a future European excursion.

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