Hearty brats, delicious brews, and charming pastoral architecture are just a few of the things that make the quaint villages of Bavaria so beloved by tourists in search of great food and good cheer. The culture of Bavaria is so appealing that it has spread far beyond the borders of its native Germany, making it easy for non-Europeans to experience the festive atmosphere and delightful cuisine.
Fortunately for Americans, there are plenty of these villages scattered across the country, from the Pacific Northwest to the deep south. Here are our picks for the best stateside Bavarian village to visit!
The only Washington German town, Leavenworth is among the best reasons to visit the North Central Cascades. The other reasons—stunning mountain peaks, hiking trails through the dense Wenatchee National Forest, and tubing, swimming, and fishing through the Wenatchee River—are either yours to enjoy right in town or just a short drive to the north.
Other summertime activities include a performance of The Sound of Music at the Ski Hill Theater or bird watching at Pine River Ranch. The stunning views of Mount Baker and gentle flow of the river go well with the architectural sensibilities of a Bavarian village, and Leavenworth’s autumn Oktoberfest is more than worth the chilly weather that accompanies the changing seasons. Even the winter cold brings fun to Leavenworth, with piping hot food at restaurants like München Haus and King Ludwig’s, as well as seasonally appropriate attractions like the Nutcracker Museum.
Located just northeast of Salem, Mount Angel is a great weekend getaway for those looking for the quintessential Bavarian village experience while staying near Oregon’s state capitol. The town has its share of more somber sights, like the Queen of Angels Monastery and Saint Mary Catholic Church, but it’s well suited for fans of festivals, too. The Mount Angel Oktoberfest is the largest in the Pacific Northwest, and they literally ring in the festival with the largest glockenspiel in America!
Who would’ve known that an Appalachian twist on a village in the Alps would be so charming? Helen’s traditional architecture is accompanied by the same proximity to nature and mountains that make so many Bavarian villages great. The Blue Ridge Mountains are visible right from town, while Unicoi State Park provides plenty of hiking opportunities. When you’re not thrilling the kids with tubing in the Chattahoochee River, you can wow them with some of the town’s many festivals. These go beyond the traditional beer-and-brat affairs of Oktoberfest, too. If you don’t believe us, just visit during the hot-air balloon festival in June.
Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg’s German heritage is front and center for more reasons than its fantastic Oktoberfest. Not just in the high-quality beers, delicious food, and quaint rooftops, either—the town educates visitors on the fascinating lives of German immigrants with the Pioneer Museum Complex and Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Another thing that sets Fredericksburg apart from most Bavarian villages is its hospitality to often under-appreciated fans of sausages and brats: dogs! From wide-open areas like the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to a slew of dog-friendly activities, your canine companion will never have a better vacation than a trip to Fredericksburg.
Looking for an enchanting winter vacation? Look no further than one of America’s most famous German-influenced villages. Frankenmuth’s Franconia-influenced architecture helps set it apart from other Bavarian towns, and during Michigan’s heavy winter snows, it creates about as picturesque an environment as you could possibly ask for. The town is so perfect for Christmas vacations that it’s the location of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the self-styled “world’s largest Christmas store.” Whether it’s really the largest in the entire world or not, there’s no denying that the store is massive, and filled with quirky souvenirs to pick up on your vacation.
If you can’t make it in time for Christmas, don’t worry. Frankenmuth hosts year-round festivals featuring the amazing music and delicious beer Bavarian villages are known for. Try some brews at the springtime World of Beer Expo, take in some history at the summertime Cass River Colonial Encampment reenactment, or have a uniquely Frankenmuth Halloween at the family-friendly Scarecrow Fest in October.
Another historic town, New Ulm is notable for housing the largest Turner Hall (or German-American gymnasium) in the entire country. If local history like that is a little too dry for you, don’t worry—the snowy town is beloved for its incredible music. New Ulm houses the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and summer festivals like Bavarian Fest give this town its title of Polka Capital of the nation. Be sure to help yourself to a cold brew and hearty sausage before partaking in the festival. You’ll need the energy.
While not technically Bavarian villages, these two towns nevertheless offer beautiful surroundings, enchanting old-world architecture, and plenty of shops, restaurants, and unique attractions that more than make them worth a visit.
Vail, Colorado is a Swiss-inspired ski town with stunning snowy slopes that make it ideal for a winter vacation, though activities like carriage rides, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing give visitors something fun to do in the summer.
Farther southwest, meanwhile, lies Solvang, California. Santa Barbara’s Danish village is near Los Padres National Forest, as well as the thrilling games of the Chumash Casino Resort. Don’t ignore the village itself, though: Framed by classic Danish windmills, the town’s popularity skyrocketed after the visit of Denmark’s own Prince Frederik. If Solvang’s folk music and dancing are good enough for royalty, they’re definitely worth visiting at least once.
From the excitement of festivals and folk dances to the quiet beauty of nearby natural wonders, the Bavarian village has a certain magic that everyone should experience at least once. Start planning your trip today!
Featured image courtesy of Tim