Updated: Feb 24
Traveling is by far the best way to explore the richness of culture. When you are learning a new language, for example, it is often recommended that you travel to a country where the language is customarily spoken, as doing so provides a truly immersive experience. While you can obtain a great deal of knowledge about a particular society and culture by reading about it, without physically immersing yourself in the society you cannot truly obtain cultural awareness.
In this article, I’ll discuss five travel destinations for cultural enrichment in the United States. I was careful not to label them as the “Top 5” destinations for cultural exploration, as the opportunity to explore culture exists anywhere in the world, and we should each take advantage of this opportunity wherever we travel. The five travel destinations for cultural enrichment are: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, and Jersey City.
If you truly want to experience the richness of culture, New York is the place to be! New York society is a blend of cultures. Thousands of people immigrate to New York each year, and the city is a national hub for global travelers. According to the American Immigration Council, nearly a quarter of New York residents are immigrants with the largest percentage of immigrants originating from the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Mexico, Guyana, Ecuador, and Haiti. The city is divided into many ethnic enclaves such as Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan. You can experience authentic Italian food in “Little Italy”; Caribbean cuisine in Brooklyn; Indian fare in “Little India”; Chinese cookery in the Manhattan Chinatown; German and Hungarian cuisine in Yorkville; Filipino food in “Little Manila”; Korean fare in Koreatown; and Vietnamese in “Little Saigon”.
New York is home to several ethnic museums, including the Museum of the American Indian, which serves as an exhibition and education facility; the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which promotes tolerance and historical perspective on the immigrant experience; the Rubin Museum of Art, dedicated to the collection, display, and preservation of the art and cultures of the Himalayas, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and other regions within Eurasia; the Museum of Chinese In America, which exhibits Chinese American history; the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to Holocaust victims; and the African American Museum, dedicated to showcasing local and national African American artists. You can even take a Harlem heritage tour!
Aside from the rich ethnic and cultural diversity in New York, the city is renowned for its performing arts, culinary arts, and fashion.
Los Angeles is a mecca for entertainment and cultural enrichment. While it pales in comparison to New York in terms of ethnic diversity, Los Angeles is ranked as one of the most diverse US cities. There are many ethnic enclaves present in Los Angeles, including East Los Angeles, a Mexican American neighborhood; the Los Angeles hilltop neighborhoods of Baldwin Hills, Ladera Heights, Windsor Hills and View Park, nicknamed the “Black Beverly Hills”; the east Asian ethnic enclaves of Chinatown, Koreatown and Little Tokyo; the southeast Asian ethnic enclaves of Filipinotown and Thai Town; Little Armenia, a middle eastern ethnic enclave; and Little Ethiopia, an African ethnic enclave. These are officially recognized or dedicated districts, but there are many more ethnic enclaves in Los Angeles.
The El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is a 44-acre Historic Park located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. It dates back to 1781 and is regarded as the birthplace of Los Angeles and considered the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles. The park features many museums and historic buildings, a traditional Mexican-style plaza area, street vendors, cafes, restaurants, and gift shops selling handcrafted goods, Mexican folk art, and tourist items.
The world-famous Olvera street is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. A variety of traditional events are held on Olvera street each year including Dia De Los Muertos, Cinco De Mayo, and Las Posadas. On the weekends there is strolling mariachi music, and dance performances by Aztecs and Mexican folkloric dancers. Museums include the La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a Mexican American museum and cultural center; the Italian American and Chinese American Museums, dedicated to the history, experience and contributions of Italian and Chinese Americans in Southern California; and the Museum of Social Justice.
Located in the Little Tokyo area just 0.6 miles from the El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument is the Japanese American National Museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Japanese Americans and is an affiliate within the Smithsonian Affiliations program. Situated just 1 mile from the Japanese American National Museum and 2.4 miles from the El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument lies the African American Firefighter Museum. It is the only museum of its kind in the United States, and it is dedicated to sharing the history of the Los Angeles African American firefighters. The Museum is housed at old Fire Station 30, one of two segregated fire stations in Los Angeles between 1924 and 1955.
The Getty Center is an art museum located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angles. It is a cultural landmark in Los Angeles and is often reflected in ariel footage of the City during live broadcasts of sports games, as well as tv shows and movies. It is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles, as well as a rich collection of pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts, and photographs.
Miami is renowned for its world class beaches, nightlife scene, and cultural and ethnic diversity. Cubans immigrated to Miami after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Many more Cubans came to Miami in the 1980s for economic reasons. During the period 1946-1964 more than a half a million Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States in what is known today as “the Great Migration.” Many migrated to New York while others relocated to Miami. Blacks immigrated from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands to the United States for socio-economic reasons. Many Jamaicans immigrated to the United States during the civil rights era of the 1960s. The largest proportions of Jamaican Americans live in South Florida and New York City. Haitians began migrating to Miami in the 1970’s. There are several ethnic enclaves in Miami, including Little Jamaica, Little Haiti, Little Havana, Overtown, Little San Juan, Koreatown, Little Moscow, Little Tel Aviv, and Little Managua. Due to the many immigrant communities, Miami is the perfect destination for exploring the richness of culture.
The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center is a multidisciplinary arts center designed to showcase the performing arts. The Haitian American Heritage Museum is dedicated to highlighting and preserving Haiti’s rich culture and heritage. The museum showcases Haitian art, music, films, literary works, and historic artifacts. The American Museum of The Cuban Diaspora is a culturally specific museum of memory, dedicated to showcasing and documenting the history, culture, and contributions of the Cuban exile community through exhibitions, and programming in the arts and humanities. The Island SPACE Caribbean Museum celebrates all of the cultures of the Caribbean region and is the first Caribbean Heritage Museum in the United States. The museum features a collection of artifacts, iconic paraphernalia, cultural relics and historical data and fine art representing South Florida’s Caribbean communities.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and the most diverse large city in the nation. No racial/ethnic group constitutes a majority. Houston does not have large, segregated areas, but there are some places with concentrations of different ethnic businesses.
There is a great deal of food diversity in Houston. There is Korean dining in the Spring Branch District, Vietnamese in Midtown, Venezuelan in Katy, and an abundance of diverse restaurants on Westheimer Road. The Mahatma Gandhi District consists predominantly of Indian and Pakistani restaurants and shops.
Houston is renowned for its performing and visual arts. Houston’s Museum District is home to 20 museums, including the Asia Society Texas Center, an Asian-Pacific educational and cultural institution; the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the only museum in the nation devoted to honoring and upholding the legacy of African American soldiers; the Czech Center Museum, dedicated to exploring and preserving Czech and Slovak heritage; and the Houston Museum of African American Culture, dedicated to promoting the exuberance of African and African American culture and art. Notably, Houston has received worldwide acclaim for its symphony, ballet, opera, and theatre companies. Houston’s Theatre District includes the Alley Theater, Jones Hall, the Hobby Center, and the Wortham Center.
Jersey City is ranked the most diverse midsize city in the nation and has been nicknamed America’s “golden door,” because it was an attractive location for newly arrived Ellis Island immigrants. Ellis Island was the busiest immigration processing station in the United States. It closed for immigration in 1954 and today it is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Like Houston, Jersey City does not have large, segregated areas. According to Data USA, in 2020 the largest ethnic group in Jersey City was Asian, followed by White and African American, then Hispanic. 42.5% of residents are foreign-born. The most common birthplace for the foreign-born residents of the State of New Jersey is India, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.
The Museum of Russian Art (MORA) is dedicated to fostering Russian culture and community through exhibitions, events, and lectures. According to its website, MORA’s exhibitions have helped to establish the current Russian art market now negotiated in New York, London, and Moscow. The Afro-American Historical Society Museum is dedicated to researching, collecting, preserving, and exhibiting Afro-American history and culture. The Liberty Science Center is a 300,000-square-foot learning center with 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater, live simulcast surgeries, hurricane- and tornado-force wind simulators, a giant dome theater, and the biggest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere — the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium. There are many more museums in the greater New Jersey area, including the Down Jersey Folklife Center, the Dr. William Robinson Plantation Museum, and the Museum of American History.
If you are planning a trip to the United States or currently live in the United States and are seeking a more culturally immersive travel experience, consider these five cities when choosing a vacation destination. Each city is ethnically diverse, providing an opportunity for you to learn about many different cultures. They each also have a considerable arts, entertainment, and food scene.