For the most part, the Pacific Northwest is very confident in its Northwesterness. We have our own NW vibe – casual, grounded in nature, influenced by the water, trees, and mountains; the unique combination of maritime and frontier; and being surrounded by such variety – both in climate and terrain. While we love the PNW, there is something uniquely special about Europe. Our buildings aren’t quite as old, but we do appreciate a bit of the old world.
The Northwest is a melting pot of families that purposely moved here from all over the United States and countries all over the world looking for opportunities they could not find elsewhere – whether those reasons were economic, religious, or other. Many immigrants tended to arrive and live in communities that felt most similar to their homelands. For example, Scandinavians grouped in cities near maritime areas because they had the fishing and boat building skills already. Some of those communities have embraced a little bit of their European heritage, combining it with the Northwest style. Other towns have just evolved with a European vibe. While vacations to Europe have been put on hold due to the Coronavirus epidemic, you can still get a little bit of that European feel in some of these Pacific Northwest towns.
A little bit of Germany in an alpine setting that is truly unique in the Northwest. Leavenworth regularly makes the national lists of must-see towns for good reason. The once thriving frontier town survived on mining and timber, but when those economic drivers collapsed, the city went into rapid decline. In the 1960s the city leaders opted for a bold plan to rebuild and revitalize the town in an authentic Bavarian style. Buildings must fit the town theme – even national chains must have a wood carved sign. You won’t find streets filled with illuminated neon signs here. They have added German style festivals throughout the year including MaiFest, Oktoberfest, Kinderfest, Christkindlmarkt, among many others. Wander the downtown’s beautiful buildings, explore the unique shops, and eat your way through Bavaria at one of the many German-themed restaurants. All are set in a little hamlet among towering mountains. Wunderbare!!
The influence of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival has brought a bit of Stratford-upon-Avon to this southern Oregon town. The festival began in 1935 with a performance of “Twelfth Night” as part of a July Fourth celebration with general admission costing just 50 cents. Begun by a local college professor with an artistic vision, the festival has continued to grow and is an internationally recognized success. The Shakespearean vibe has become part of Ashland’s identity. Sit at an outdoor patio next to beautiful Lithia Creek with the sounds of live music in the background, watch an outdoor performance under the stars, wander the many art galleries, or eat in a true English style pub complete with aged oak beams and perhaps some bangers and mash. Cheers!
The Scandinavian influence of Poulsbo is evident in the colorful buildings, rosemaling decorating the storefronts, and the beautiful boats that line the waterfront. Dubbed “Little Norway on the Fjord,” the town of Poulsbo was founded in 1886 by Norwegian immigrants who came to the area that felt so similar to the homeland they had left behind. Located on the Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle and in the shadow of two giant mountain ranges, this maritime home was a natural draw for the seafaring Norwegians. The town celebrates its heritage with an annual Viking Festival, Midsommer Festival, Jule Fest, and Lighted Christmas Boat parade. Velkommen!
Just a ferry ride across the Juan de Fuca Straight from Port Angeles and Port Townsend, Washington, Victoria is technically in Canada, yet it still is close enough to feel part of the Pacific Northwest. The British influence is evident with Tudor style homes, tea shops, expansive gardens, and a grand building at the heart of the town that reminds you of the Tower of London. A visit to Victoria must include a proper English afternoon tea at the iconic Empress Hotel. One lump or two?
Mount Angel, OR
If you can’t make it all the way to Leavenworth, Mount Angel offers Bavarian charm on a smaller scale. Known for its big Oktoberfest, the town has a giant fest hall, a lovely glockenspiel (the largest in the United States,) and several antique shops to browse. Settled by Swiss and German immigrants, the town built up around a newly formed Benedictine Abbey on a nearby hilltop and the Queen of Angels Benedictine monastary. Visit these beautiful buildings, enjoy a coffee at the Abbey, then stop by in town for some shopping and beer and sausage. Prost!
A little bit of Dutch style can be found in the northwest corner of Washington. You can’t miss the giant windmill downtown that is now an atmospheric restaurant and bar. The downtown is lined with gabled rooflines, is home to a nice Pioneer museum, and best of all – a great Dutch bakery. The town, just 5 miles from the Canadian border, gained its reputation as a second home for those coming from Holland around the turn of the century when settlers arrived enticed by the fine agricultural land which was also good for dairies. More families emigrated to Lynden from Europe following WWII. The town now embraces its Dutch heritage with a summertime Raspberry Festival and a big Christmas parade featuring Sinterklaas, a legendary Dutch figure based on Saint Nicholas. Welkom!