One needn’t journey far to find a little magic. From actual castles to charming villages to places inspired by legend, there are plenty of nearby places that embody that fairytale feeling. If you’re hoping to bring some sparkle, joy, or intrigue into your travels, read on to discover nine fairytale destinations you can visit right here in the U.S.
The Biltmore, North Carolina
The crown jewel of Asheville, the Biltmore Estate is more akin to a European castle than a southern estate. Since the Gilded Age mansion was built by George and Edith Vanderbilt, it drips with the grandeur of old money royalty. The grounds, which are filled with manicured gardens and tranquil walking trails, are as enchanting as the palace itself. To save the best for last, head to the conservatory at the end of your day. With its glass-roofed building, blooming exotic plants, and model train system, this indoor garden transports you to another world.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Witnessing Crater Lake in person feels otherworldly, but did you know the famed geological phenomenon is also based in legend? The Klamath people, a Native American tribe of southern Oregon, have maintained a 7,000-year-old oral tradition about the lake’s formation. According to Klamath lore, the lake was created during a battle between two dueling worlds. The legend also claims that to look upon the lake may cause premature death. Of course, many people have witnessed Crater Lake and lived to tell the tale, which is lucky since this is one natural wonder you won't want to miss.
Ice Castles, Utah
The Ice Castles of Midway, Utah are the literal embodiment of a winter wonderland. Visiting these cavernous, handmade icicle forts feels like walking into a fairytale of the Frozen variety — a detail that also makes it family-friendly. Kids will love exploring the frozen crevices and playing on the slippery slides made entirely of ice. Adults will be enchanted by the beauty of the blue icicles and the nighttime show of lights. Regardless of your age, the temperatures will be frosty, so dress appropriately in boots, layers, and a warm winter jacket.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
If you love a good scary story, a visit to Sleepy Hollow, New York may be in order. Back in 1819, this small village inspired Washington Irving to write his infamous short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Although Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman are fictional, the modern-day village of Sleepy Hollow continues to embrace its mythical past. If this sounds up your alley, make your pilgrimage during the fall. From October to November, Philipsburg Manor hosts the Horseman’s Hollow, a weekly event that recreates the ghostly tale and includes a spooky tour of the nearby cemetery.
Boldt Castle, New York
Not only does Boldt Castle look like a fairytale castle, but it’s also based upon a fairytale romance. Built by George C. Boldt for his beloved wife Louise, the castle was meant to be a romantic, summertime paradise on the St. Lawrence River. Sadly, not all fairytales have happy endings — Mrs. Boldt passed away unexpectedly before the house was finished. Mr. Boldt ordered construction to stop and the beautiful estate remained empty for 73 years. On a happier note, the castle was rehabilitated for the public in the 1970s and visitors are allowed to tour the castle and its grounds today.
Pipiwai Trail, Hawaii
Located in Maui’s Haleakalā National Park, Pipiwai Trail is nothing short of magical. The two-mile trail meanders over footbridges, past waterfalls, and through forestland. Photo ops include a massive banyan tree that is straight out of a storybook and the ethereal, bamboo forest that looms into the sky. The trail ends at Waimoku Falls, a 400-foot-high waterfall that cascades over a sheer rock cliff. This hike is sure to make you feel very far from home, in the best way possible.
If your favorite fairytale involves sandy beaches, warm breezes, and a glass of fine wine, then Carmel-by-the-Sea is for you. Located along the coast of central California, this seaside village has heaps of Old World charm. In lieu of street addresses, residential homes go by names like “Nutcracker” and “Rosebud Cottage.” The downtown’s Tudor-style architecture resembles real-life gingerbread houses, which gives the place a refreshing air of whimsy. Best of all, the residents are welcoming and the village is pet-friendly. It’s the kind of place you may never want to leave.
It’s reasonable to say that Alaska, with its soaring mountains and pristine landscapes, feels like a faraway land in a fairytale. But Sitka, a seaside village on Baranof Island, may have an edge over the rest of the state. The village culture is a hodgepodge of Russian, American, and Tlingit tribe traditions, which gives the town its delightfully quirky vibe. From the New Archangel Dancers of the Russian tradition to the Totem Trail, a one-mile forest walk lined with totem poles, the town’s diversity makes it thoroughly enchanting to outsiders.
Skagit Valley, Washington
If walking through fields of blooming tulips isn’t on your bucket list, it certainly should be. Every April, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival turns the landscape of northern Washington into a real-life rainbow. Whether or not you’re a flower fanatic, the region’s brilliant blooms and staggering peaks will make you feel like you’ve found the proverbial pot of gold. If you have the time, the festival hosts plenty of fun events all month long, from bike tours to barbecues to chili cook-offs. Touring popular farms such as RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town should also be in order, but be prepared for large crowds on the weekend.