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European towns in the U.S. for family-friendly trips

El Santuario de Chimayo outside of Espanola, N.M.,

El Santuario de Chimayo outside of Espanola, N.M., on Nov. 13, 2011. A plan to build a multimillion-dollar retreat complex next to the historic El Santuario de Chimayo in northern New Mexico has drawn opposition from some nearby residents over fears of increased traffic and "erosion of cultural values." Credit: AP / Russell Contreras

You can uncover exotic and culturally diverse experiences without leaving the United States. Here are five suggestions from "Abroad at Home: The 600 Best International Travel Experiences in North America," a new book from National Geographic.

1. AMSTERDAM IN ALBANY Gaze upon a sea of colorful tulips during the city's 67th annual Tulip Festival May 9-10. Every May, more than 100,000 tulips blossom and visitors celebrate a Tulip Queen, the Mother of the Year and children's activities, as well as traditional Dutch food, drink and music.

2. LOURDES, FRANCE, IN CHIMAYO, NEW MEXICO Pilgrims visit this "Lourdes of America" in search of physical and spiritual healing. El Santuario de Chimayo, a National Historic Monument, is a modest adobe church that draws nearly 300,000 visitors a year to this northern New Mexico community. The faithful collect "holy dirt" and leave behind crutches, photographs and stories of miraculous transformations.

3. ICELAND IN SPANISH FORK, UTAH The first wave of 400 or so Icelanders arrived in the region in the mid-1800s. Every February, their descendants congregate for a midwinter feast of shark meat, dried fish and lamb or mutton. Visitors are also welcome to join in the festivities surrounding Iceland's Independence Day (June 17), which include a parade and performances by a children's choir.

4. BASQUE CULTURE IN BOISE, IDAHO Explore the unique Basque culture, food and art in Idaho's capital city. Shop for traditional fare including olive tapenade, port-poached figs and squid ink in The Basque Market. Visit The Basque Museum and Cultural Center to learn more through exhibits, collections, tours and special events.

5. GERMANY IN LEAVENWORTH, WASHINGTON Put a little oompah in your travels at this Pacific Northwest hamlet modeled after a quaint Teutonic village. With snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, the four-season destination offers hiking, skiing, rafting and fishing similar in style to its European counterpart. Sample genuine Bavarian stollen at the local bakery and listen to authentic music. Consider a visit during Oktoberfest or the Christmas holidays, when the town really shows its stuff.

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