Places to 'Travel Abroad' Without Leaving the U.S.

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New York City

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Overseas travel will always be the best way to get a feel for other cultures, but the cost of plane tickets, accommodations, and sightseeing can put it out of reach for many — even with very careful budgeting. Happily, there are several places in the U.S. that make it possible to enjoy "international" destinations without paying the steep costs of foreign travel. Here are 18 spots to consider if you want to travel, without traveling too far. (Did we miss any of your favorites? Tell us in the comments at the bottom.)

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Solvang, California

Solvang, California

Where you're really going: Denmark
Just up the Pacific coast from Santa Barbara, Solvang is an impossibly picturesque Danish village, complete with a windmill and horse-drawn streetcar. The town is worth a stroll year-round to enjoy shopping in charming boutiques and art galleries, tasting local wines and dining on Danish fare such as aebleskiver (pancake balls) as well as modern eats. This year, Solvang Danish Days return  Sept. 16-18 with plenty of traditional Danish breakfasts, folk dancing, and other events.

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Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington

Where you're really going: Germany
The architecture in Leavenworth will clue you in quickly: This town is all about everything Bavarian, and the Cascade Mountains setting does a credible impression of the Alps. Check out the town's glockenspiel, traditional maypole, Nutcracker Museum, and scores of German restaurants and gift shops. Notable traditional events include Oktoberfest and the Christkindlmarkt just after Thanksgiving.

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San Francisco

San Francisco

Where you're really going: China
Among San Francisco's many worthy attractions is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, and the oldest in North America. Packed with shops, restaurants, and landmarks such as the Dragon's Gate archway, the iconic area is worthy of deep exploration. Another can't-miss destination is the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, which showcases visual art and has served as a jumping-off point for guided tours.

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Little Havana Miami


Where you're really going: Cuba

Head to the Little Havana neighborhood on the third Friday of the month and you'll understand why Miami is America's hotspot for Cuban culture. Viernes Culturales offers plenty of music, dancing, traditional arts and crafts, cigar rolling, and even a free walking tour of the neighborhood. Also worth visiting is the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, which showcases the work of Cuban artists and thinkers born outside of (or exiled from) Cuba.

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Holland, Michigan

Holland, Michigan

Where you're really going: The Netherlands
The name gives this one away, but Holland is one of the best places in the U.S. to get a dose of all things Dutch. Highlights include Nelis' Dutch Village theme park, where you can watch traditional Dutch dancing and browse shelves of wooden shoes, and the Holland Museum for plenty of culture and history. Go in May for the Tulip Time Festival to see roughly 5 million dazzling tulips in bloom.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park by Jasperdo (CC BY)

San Diego

Where you're really going: Mexico
There are plenty of places in the U.S. to experience Mexican culture, but San Diego remains one of the best. The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park offers insight into the city's Mexican roots with restored buildings, restaurants, and shops, while the Barrio Logan neighborhood is a thriving modern Mexican-American neighborhood (be sure to check out the colorful murals in Chicano Park). Choose from a range of events during Cinco de Mayo.

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San Inazio Festival

Boise, Idaho

Where you're really going: Basque Country (Spain)

The Basque Country, though part of Spain, is linguistically and culturally distinct. In the U.S., it has gained an improbable foothold in Boise, where you'll find the historic Basque Block neighborhood. It's home to The Basque Museum and Cultural Center and spots such as Bar Gernika, where you can sample authentic Basque dishes. The San Inazio Festival has traditional music, dancing, games, and more.  

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Swedish Museum Chicago


Where you're really going: Sweden
Plenty of immigrants have left their cultural imprint on Chicago, but one of the lesser-known groups might be Swedes. In the North Side neighborhood of Andersonville, you'll find the Swedish American Museum, Svea Swedish restaurant, and a landmark water tower painted like the Swedish flag. June's Midsommarfest (which was skipped in 2020 and 2021) offers up everything from maypole dances to floral crowns to Viking hats, plus plenty of Swedish food and entertainment. 

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Orange County, California
Gary W./Yelp

Orange County, California

Where you're really going: Vietnam
You'll find a staggering number of Vietnamese shops, restaurants, and other businesses packed into Orange County's Little Saigon neighborhood, only a few miles south of Disneyland. One of the area's biggest events is the Tet Parade, which celebrates the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (dates vary). Thousands have turned out in past years to watch the lion dances, colorful floats, bands, and more.

New York City

New York City

Where you're really going: Italy
Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and many others can all lay claim to significant Italian heritage, but New York City is still a great place to soak up some culture despite the fact that Manhattan's Little Italy neighborhood isn't as big as it used to be. The Italian-American Museum (expected to reopen this fall) and the Tenement Museum tell the story of Italians and other immigrants starting out in New York. Notable events include the massive Feast of San Gennaro in September and the Columbus Day parade in October — and there are still more classic Italian restaurants than any visitor could ever hope to discover. 

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Front Street Northeast
Front Street Northeast by Steven Pavlov (CC BY-SA)

Poulsbo, Washington

Where you're really going: Norway
Nicknamed "Little Norway," Poulsbo does a credible impression of a Scandinavian town perched on a fjord — or in this case, Puget Sound, not far from Seattle. There are galleries and breweries galore, and plenty of shops selling Nordic-inspired wares. Visitors can get out on the water on boat tours or rented kayaks, and there are plenty of festivals and events year round. One of the most notable is Viking Fest, complete with a parade, carnival, food, crafts and more.

New Glarus

New Glarus, Wisconsin

Where you're really going: Switzerland
"America's Little Switzerland," New Glarus, is actually in the heart of America's Dairyland. Be sure to sample Swiss favorites such as schnitzel and fondue at Chalet Landhaus while you're in town. Visitors can dig into Swiss culture at the Swiss Center of North America and the Swiss Historical Village, which chronicles Swiss immigrants' arrival in Wisconsin in the mid-1800s. 

Eve L./Yelp


Where you're really going: Ireland
While it has plenty of stiff competition, Beantown is still the best place to embrace Irish culture, claiming the highest percentage of residents in the U.S. with Irish ancestry. Follow the sprawling Irish Heritage Trail to check out sites including the Boston Irish Famine Memorial and Boston City Hall. Check out eponymous Irish pubs such as The Black Rose and mark your calendars for St. Patrick's Day and its famous parade through South Boston.

Related: 30 Free Things to Do in Ireland

New York City

New York City

Where you're really going: Russia/Ukraine
It's no surprise that the melting pot that is New York City makes two appearances. This time, it's the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach, otherwise known as "Little Odessa," that offers a peek into another world — Russia and Eastern Europe. You'll see plenty of restaurants and shops offering food and products from the motherland, and even newspapers printed in Cyrillic. Pick up your nesting dolls at Saint-Petersburg Global Trade House, or catch a Russian-inspired show while stuffing your face at flashy Tatiana Restaurant and Night Club.

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Cedar Rapids' Czech Village/New Bohemia District

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Where you're really going: Czech Republic/Slovakia
Cedar Rapids' Czech Village/New Bohemia District is the place to find reminders of the Czech and Slovak immigrants that settled here starting in the mid-1800s. Sykora Bakery sells traditional favorites such as pirohy — perhaps better known as pierogi — and kolaches, a fruit-filled pastry. Relocated after a devastating flood, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library allows visitors to explore a late 1800s immigrant home and rotating art and history exhibits.

Indian Food Edison, NJ

Edison, New Jersey

Where you're really going: India
At least a fourth of the population of Edison is Indian, and it shows: You can catch Bollywood films at the local theater, and there's no shortage of Indian restaurants and shops. Many are concentrated on Oak Tree Road, which even gets a shout from Saveur as "one of America's best Indian food destinations." Try the snack delicacies at Dimple's Bombay Talk, the magazine recommends. Celebrations of Indian heritage are also a big part of the Asian American Heritage Festival in May. 

Los Angeles
Los Angeles by Ripper777 (None)

Los Angeles

Where you're really going: Korea
Los Angeles' massive, thriving Koreatown offers a formidable array of restaurants, bars, spas, markets, bookstores, beauty shops, and more that may make you forget you're still in the U.S. Los Angeles is also home to the Korean Cultural Center, which hosts a variety of events and exhibitions, and will soon host the Korean American National Museum in the heart of Koreatown. The Los Angeles Korean Festival is scheduled for September this year and offers plenty of traditional food, shopping, and performances.

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Fibonacci Blue
Fibonacci Blue by Fibonacci Blue (CC BY)


Where you're really going: Somalia
You'll find the largest Somali community in the U.S. in the Twin Cities, including plenty of immigrant-run small businesses in the city's Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Learn more at the Somali Museum of Minnesota, which claims to be the only museum of Somali culture anywhere in the world. The annual midsummer Somali Week was held earlier this month with events celebrating Somali independence and more. 

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