Cities large and small around the United States play host to a number of international ethnic neighborhoods, creating a more obvious array of "melting pot" culture.
These neighborhoods are popular tourist attractions and are also wonderful places to sample ethnic foods, take part in multicultural events and parades, and collect souvenirs. No matter where you are in the U.S., chances are you'll be visiting a city close to one of these amazing destinations and we recommend stopping by at least one on your own group trip.
1. Chinatown - San Francisco
The oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, San Francisco's Chinatown is a marvelous starting point for ethnic neighborhoods. Full of history, this Chinatown began all the way back in the mid-19th century when Chinese immigrants entered the United States through the San Francisco port in the area now known as Chinatown. After a somewhat tempestuous history with earthquakes, turf wars, and such, today Chinatown is a peaceful and iconic neighborhood full of landmark attractions, delicious restaurants, and hundreds of thousands of permanent residents making this neighborhood an authentic slice of China.
2. Little Italy - Manhattan, NYC
New York City has so many ethnic neighborhoods that it's difficult to pick just one or two but Manhattan's Little Italy stands out among the rest. This is the best known Italian neighborhood and while it has been somewhat absorbed by the surrounding Chinatown and NoLIta areas, it still retains several authentic Italian family-run shops within the collections of kitschy tourist traps. Now, you can't visit Little Italy anywhere without trying the local food. Try Angelo's of Mulberry for Neapolitan meals, Lombardi's Pizza, Caffe Roma or Caffe Palermo for classic Italian baked goods (especially cannoli), or just walk the neighborhood and sample whatever strikes your eye.
3. Germany - Leavenworth, WA
Leavenworth originally started as a stop along the Great Northern Railway and named for the man who purchased the land for development. Incorporated in 1906, the town became the railway's headquarters but was then abandoned by the railway industry, its economy greatly affected. As a solution, a committee transformed the city into a Bavarian village which has boosted its economy exponentially. Walking through the town you'd swear you were in Bavaria at a ski resort in the Alps. Visit the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum and see over 5,000 ancient to modern nutcrackers, come during Oktoberfest for some German festival fun, or taste test all of the Bavarian cream, schnitzel, and bratwurst you can possibly handle.
4. Little Tokyo - Los Angeles
The centerpiece of Japanese culture in America and home to the largest Japanese-American population in the country, Los Angeles' Little Tokyo is a slice of Tokyo in the middle of Tinseltown. After a period of turmoil during the Japanese internment camp era in WWII, Little Tokyo was again up and running, developing into a grand destination and operating as an immigration magnet. Here you can find the Japanese American National Museum, historic shops along First Street where the neighborhood began, and also religious sites like the Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist temple.
5. Greektown - Baltimore
A thriving, predominately Greek neighborhood since the 1930s, the area in Baltimore didn't officially become "Greektown" until the 1980s when the city petitioned the government to change the name from The Hill. Known for its beautiful and authentic collection of Greek businesses, Greektown is the best place to find delicious gyros, baklava, and other traditional Greek delicacies. Walking tours are recommended, especially those surrounding food. Try Ikaros, a family-run restaurant in the area since the 1960s, or the Acropolis, Samos, Zorbas, or the Greek Village Bakery for some delicious eats. Also in the area is the Baltimore Gallery featuring works by local artists and also the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a gorgeous house of worship and the centerpiece of the neighborhood.
6. Denmark - Solvang, CA
Walking through Solvang you'd think you had been transported to Denmark, the land of Hans Christian Andersen, windmills, and poppy flowers. In beautiful Santa Barbara County, California, Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish immigrants who wanted a town of their own without the harsh Midwest winters. The buildings reflect the Danish architecture with gabled roofs and colorful, Tudor-Esque facades with statues of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid, a replica from Copenhagen, as well as a bust of the writer himself. A replica of Copenhagen's Round Tower is set behind the town, visible to tourists as you explore the shops selling Danish costumes, traditional Danish goods, and more.
7. Little Saigon - Orange County, CA
Finally, we come to Orange County, California, where you'll find a large population of immigrated Vietnamese and their established neighborhood of Little Saigon. The oldest and largest in the United States, Little Saigon is home to nearly 200,000 Vietnamese-Americans in a district roughly 45 miles south of Los Angeles. After the area began attracting more and more immigrants, commercial developers and multicultural businesses sprung up to suit the needs of the growing population. Today you'll find all sorts of Vietnamese attractions like the Asian Garden Mall, one of the first businesses built in the area, several theaters, delicious restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese dishes like pho or fried bananas, and more.