It is the summer, and already your mind is drifting to far-off places, exploring ancient sites and lazing next to jewel-toned waters or perhaps even looking for the best places to retire. Perhaps you are dreaming of Greece and its islands; but then your dreams come tumbling down when you pull up international plane ticket prices.
Well have no fear, because there are simple way to get a taste of Greece right here in your own backyard. In fact, here is a list of some places in the United States that’ll take you across the pond.
Nashville is pretty big on Greek Revival architecture; many buildings feature soaring white columns (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian) as well as impressive pediments, including the State Capitol Building and the Belle Meade Plantation. That, paired with its impressive emphasis on education in the late 1800s—it was the first Southern school to establish a public school system, and was the home of Vanderbilt and Fisk universities—granted it the title of “Athens of the South”.
But what truly sealed the deal with this nickname was when Nashville up and built a full-scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon in 1897, complete with friezes, pediments, and a large statue of Athena inside. The Parthenon here gives an amazing sense of what the Parthenon in Greece looked like some 2,000 years ago; even the statue of Athena (which no longer exists in Greece) is close to what it would have looked like, which was ivory and gold (and painted some interesting colors).
And if you’re looking for Greek food to cap off your day, there are several great options down Nolensville Pike, which is famous for its international community.
Tarpon Springs, FL
If you find yourself longing for a Greek island, Tarpon Springs is a fantastic option for you. Located on the Gulf Coast, it has been continuously occupied by Greek families for about a hundred years—and still has the highest percentage of Greek-Americans in the country. Many of the residents are sponge fishermen who come from a long line of sponge fishermen from the islands, and you can visit the Sponge Docks to watch them in action and the Sponge Factory to learn more about the history of the sponge trade in the town. The restaurants are spectacular, and there is a yearly Greek Food and Wine Festival, too.
New York City, NY
Astoria in Queens is notable for its large Greek community (and restaurants, and Greek Orthodox churches, etc.), and the Onassis Cultural Center in Manhattan has many fascinating programs and exhibitions that are entirely free and focus on Hellenic culture from antiquity to modern times. Another great place to see ancient Greek and Byzantine artifacts is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is the place to go in the U.S., and we mean that literally—it has the largest collection of ancient Greek artifacts outside of Greece itself.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Wisconsin Dells is home to Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park—as in, an entire amusement park based right off of Greek mythology. Hokey? They have a giant Trojan Horse, so most definitely. Worthwhile? Most definitely.