18 Places to 'Travel Abroad' Without Leaving the Country

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Little Italy in New York City
Photo credit: Allard1/istockphoto

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.
Denmark in Solvang, California
Photo credit: delray77/istockphoto

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 like aebleskiver (pancake balls) as well as modern eats, but mark your calendar for Solvang Danish Days in September for plenty of folk dancing, a Viking encampment, and traditional Danish breakfasts.

Somali Week in Minneapolis
Photo credit: Courtesy of somaliweek.org

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 mid-summer Somali Week includes an independence day festival, soccer tournament, and more.

Germany in Leavenworth, Washington
Photo credit: AnnKuz/istockphoto

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 events include Oktoberfest and the Christkindlmarkt just after Thanksgiving.

Chinatown in San Francisco
Photo credit: bluejayphoto/istockphoto

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 like the iconic 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 serves as a jumping-off point for guided Chinatown tours.

Little Havana in Miami
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

Where you're really going: Cuba
Head to the Little Havana neighborhood on the last 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 recently-opened American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, which showcases the work of Cuban artists and thinkers born outside of (or exiled from) Cuba.

The Netherlands in Holland, Michigan
Photo credit: stevegeer/istockphoto

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
Photo credit: Photo © "Old Town San Diego State Historic Park" by Jasperdo (CC BY 2.0)

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). Come in March for the Mariachi Fest or choose from a range of events during Cinco de Mayo.

Photo © "Old Town San Diego State Historic Park" by Jasperdo (CC BY 2.0)

San Inazio Festival in Boise, Idaho
Photo credit: Courtesy of downtownboise.org

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 like Bar Gernika, where you can sample authentic Basque dishes. Come in late July for the San Inazio Festival for traditional music, dancing, games, and more.

Midsommarfest in Chicago
Photo credit: Midsommarfest/facebook.com

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 offers up everything from maypole dances to floral crowns to Viking hats, plus plenty of Swedish food and entertainment.

Little Saigon in Orange County, California
Photo credit: Gary W./yelp.com

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 annual events is the Tet Parade, which celebrates the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (dates vary, but in 2019 it's in early February). Thousands turn out to watch the lion dances, colorful floats, bands, and more.

Little Italy in New York City
Photo credit: Allard1/istockphoto

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. There's the Italian-American Museum and the Tenement Museum, which 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. There are also more classic Italian restaurants than any visitor could ever hope to discover, of course.

Norway in Poulsbo, Washington
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

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 May's Viking Fest, complete with a parade, carnival, food, crafts and more.

Los Angeles Korean Festival
Photo credit: Courtesy of wikimedia.org

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. L.A. 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 annual Los Angeles Korean Festival also offers plenty of traditional food, shopping, and performances every October.

Switzerland in New Glarus, Wisconsin
Photo credit: VillageofNewGlarus/facebook.com

Where you're really going: Switzerland
"America's Little Switzerland," New Glarus, is actually in the heart of America's Dairyland. Discover 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. Be sure to sample Swiss favorites like schnitzel and fondue at Chalet Landhaus while you're in town.

The Black Rose in Boston
Photo credit: Eve L./yelp.com

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 like The Black Rose and mark your calendars for St. Patrick's Day, including the famous parade through South Boston.

Little Ukraine in New York City
Photo credit: anouchka/istockphoto

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 — this time, 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.

Czech District in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Photo credit: Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

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 like 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.

Asian American Heritage Festival in Edison, New Jersey
Photo credit: asianamericanfestival/facebook.com

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, held in May in Edison.

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