The Great Swedish-American Journey: An Umgås-Approved Trip Across the USA

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The Great Swedish-American Journey: An Umgås-Approved Trip Across the USA

Here at Umgås, we’ve written about Swedish restaurants, historical sites and museums all across the States. With so much Swedish influence here at home, you don’t have to travel across the pond to get your fix of Swedish culture. So, pack your bags and throw together a playlist comprised of your favorite Swedish artists because we’ve planned the ultimate bi-coastal Swedish-American trip full of history, food, beer and more.

Väsen Brewing, Richmond, Va.

Since Umgås Magazine is headquartered in Virginia, we decided to start this journey at Väsen Brewing, a Swedish-inspired brewery in Richmond. Looking to tie the brand to their Swedish heritage, cousins Tony Giordano and Joey Darragh traveled to Sweden and traced their roots all the way back to the indigenous ‘Sami’ people of northern Scandinavia. Nate Winters, marketing and environmental director at Väsen, told us, “The symbols we use in our branding and on the wall art are based off of Sami symbols. We wanted to tie enough back to the Sami to honor it, but not to overstep in a disrespectful way.” With 20 taps, Väsen incorporates Scandinavian fruits and jams to create unique and delicious beers.

“New Sweden, U.S.A.” Wilmington, Del.

Traveling up the East Coast to Wilmington, Del., you will find a town rich with Swedish-American history. Originally settled by Swedes in the 1630s, Wilmington brings history to life in the New Sweden Centre, where authentic reenactors portray Swedish settlers. Two historic sites built by these settlers are also worth the visit, Old Swedes Church and the Hendrickson House. The stone church and farmhouse were both built in the late 1600s.

Photo: Svenska Cafe Facebook

Svenska Café, Birmingham, Mich.

Traveling further north, you might notice the temperatures dropping around you, so settle into a seat at Svenska Café for a warm coffee and a taste of fika culture on your Swedish excursion. This Swedish coffee house, which is about 30 minutes north of Detroit, serves up shrimp and egg sandwiches (räkmacka), caramel cookies and hazelnut cake (nötkaka), among dozens of other treats. Take your time, sip some coffee and take a load off…it’s a long trip after all.

Swedish American Museum Center, Chicago

Known for its Swedish roots and abundance of historic Swedish heritage, Andersonville is the perfect destination for your next stop. The Swedish American Museum Center sits right in the heart of Andersonville on the north side of Chicago. The museum’s main exhibit, “The Dream of America,” takes a closer look into the journey of emigrating Swedes, answering questions about why they initially left home and what was appealing to them about the Chicago area. Just look for the Swedish flag-painted water tower on top of the building! Dine as the Swedes do at Svea. Serving up delicious breakfast and hot sandwiches in a cozy café setting to satisfy your hunger and escape that cold Chicago weather. You could also try out Tre Kronor or Ann Sather. As you start west, check out Bishop Hill, Ill., what once was a bustling 19th-century town and is now a historic site with museums, art galleries and restaurants that all reflect the rich culture of those who came before. Bishop Hill, Ill., was settled by a group of Swedish immigrants in the 1840s. Spiritual leader Erik Jansson described the land as, “a land of plenty, brimming with milk and honey.” While the settlers struggled in some aspects, they built an economically sound community, which has lasted the test of time. Bishop Hill offers a lot of uniquely Swedish events, especially in the holiday season, like the Holiday Cookie Walk and the Christmas Market (Julmarknad).

American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis

Between the Turnblad Mansion and the Nelson Cultural Center, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis is a learning and gathering place for Swedish culture in one of the most historically rich Swedish areas in the country. The Turnblad Mansion serves as an authentic home for the ASI, which has some great holiday programming for the surrounding Swedish-American community. The Wallenberg Library is another a must visit when you’re in Minneapolis. While there, don’t forget to grab a bite at FIKA.

Photo: Umgås Staff

Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness, Omaha, Neb.

While driving through downtown Omaha, you can’t miss the 58 geese and nine bison that have interrupted the city and brought Nebraska’s wildlife to the forefront. Swedish sculptor Kent Ullberg’s “The Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness,” depicts westward migration and celebrates the beauty of Nebraska. Ullberg’s work has been displayed in Stockholm, New York, Connecticut and all around the world, making him one of the greatest wildlife sculptors in the world.


Photo: Yelp

Swedish Sweets and More, Swedish Royal Bakery, San Diego

If you’re feeling ambitious or maybe if you decide to start your Umgås road trip on the West Coast, Swedish Sweets and More and Swedish Royal Bakery are the perfect way to start or end your Swedish adventure. Founded by two sisters, Ann-Sofie Roy and Annika Wilson, Swedish Sweets and More has been providing Swedish treats for the San Diego area since 2012. The sisters told us the company’s goal is, “to be a one-stop shop for Scandinavian specialty food products, chocolates and candy and offer premium, quality goods at a fair price with personal customer service.” At Swedish Royal Bakery, the bikevi and “vacuum cleaner” are popular choices, as are the pizzas and sandwiches. Sameh Abdelmasih has Egyptian heritage but learned all the recipes from John Janni, who started the store in 2003 and sold to Abdelmasih a few years ago.

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