A number of SMALL AMERICAN TOWNS have borrowed names from big European cities. Though they’re a fraction of the size of their namesakes, they’re plenty big on charm.
Europe and America go back. The former a little further than the latter, but if one needs any reminding that our proud, diverse homelands are rather linked, check out any state map. Athens, Ga. Belgrade, Mont. Glasgow, Mo. Venice, Calif. (Or Florida. Or Illinois.)
For just about every big European city, it seems there’s at least one small American town, village or hamlet somewhere whose founders decided many years ago — for reasons not always so obvious or clear anymore — to go with that name too. There are still some holes: Bucharest, Helsinki and Kirkjubæjarklaustur remain up for grabs. As for the following ambitiously named communities in American Way’s first-ever alt-Euro tour through backroads America, here’s some enduring, endearing proof that your next great trip to Dublin, Stockholm, Paris, Brussels or Barcelona is well worth the quick drive from Dallas, Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis or Buffalo.
Closest Major City: Dallas-Fort Worth (100 miles)
Story Behind the Name: There are more than one, all dating back to the mid-19th century. Some say the name was coined by the town’s first wave of homesick Irish immigrants. Another theory draws on the early settlers’ habit of “Doublin’ In” (circling) wagons during raids. Still others suggest it derives from The Double Inn, a pair of long-gone boarding houses flanking the town’s original stagecoach stop.
Most Famous Resident: Golf legend Ben Hogan grew up here.
Must-See Attraction: Dublin’s five museums include two dedicated to the history of Dr Pepper, which was first bottled in 1891 in Dublin.
Must-Do Annual Event: The St. Patrick’s Day Festival, the town’s signature annual celebration, features parades, entertainment, a craft fair, a rodeo and, occasionally, Irish singers and dancers.
Local Testimonial: “My commute to work is just under a mile, and between the office and home is the grocery store, the post office and a lot of people I know and love. I’m from Dallas originally — a lot of us here came from big cities — but I haven’t been in a traffic jam in a very long time.” —Karen Wright, director of the Dublin Economic Development Corp.
Population: 66 (the state’s smallest incorporated municipality)
Closest Major City: Minneapolis-St. Paul (70 miles)
Story Behind the Name: Founded and developed in the 1850s by Swedish immigrant Erik Peterson, the village became a landing point for Scandinavian settlers (primarily Swedes) who, after some debate, named the town after Sweden’s capital.
Most Famous Resident: World-renowned industrial designer Bill Stumpf — creator of the Aeron ergonomic office chair — kept a home studio here.
Must-See Attraction: Great River Road National Scenic Byway was tapped in a recent Huffington Post poll as the prettiest drive in America, edging out Hawaii’s Hana Highway and California’s Big Sur and inspiring its own “West Coast of Wisconsin” campaign. One of its nicest stretches flanks Stockholm along State Highway 35, overlooking the spectacular bluffs of Lake Pepin.
Must-Do Annual Event: The Stockholm Art Fair was launched 40 years ago by a handful of local artists and now reels in about 8,000 visitors. October brings stunning autumn foliage and the Flyway Film Festival, featuring movies and documentaries from around the globe.
Local Testimonial: “We’re a town of 66 permanent residents, but we have 25 member businesses in the Merchants Association, so clearly we love visitors.” —Paul Larson, president of the Stockholm Merchants Association, innkeeper and co-owner of nature shop A Sense of Place
Best Euro-Tribute (Besides the Name): the annual Stockholm Midsommar Swedish Festival (June)