For those of us addicted to travel, it can be a struggle stay in one city for longer than a few months. The desire to see, smell and and experience new aspects of another culture is a part of every travel addict’s daily life.
Luckily, the diversity of the U.S. gives us a chance to indulge in life abroad while right at home. Cities all over the country have microcosms of nations such as a Chinatown or Little Italy. These areas, although located in the U.S., give us a chance to separate from city life and indulge in the cultures we crave to know.
One of the best cities to offer such a diverse range of cultural communities is New York City. If you live in New York or are visiting anytime soon, here are five neighborhoods you should make sure to visit.
This Manhattan gem encompasses the Italian experience. Waiters stand outside to convince you to visit their classic restaurant for a lunch special. Gelato stands line almost every corner, and red, white and green are the theme colors of Mulberry Street. Although the neighborhood is no longer home to the large number of Italians that lived there during the early 20th century, shopkeepers have managed to keep the Italian charm that’ll satisfy your European wanderlust. Make sure to stop by Pellegrino’s Italian Restaurant for a filling (and inexpensive) Rigatoni alla vodka for lunch, and pop into M’O Il Gelato for a sweet gelato cone and some irreplaceable people-watching.
The hustle and bustle of Chinatown in Manhattan is not for the weak. It’s home to the highest enclave of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere, yet it only stretches a few miles. Shoppers and store owners alike are packed into tiny streets, looking for great deals on knock-off handbags and delicious Chinese food. Because of this, Chinatown is a must for those missing their Chinese abroad experience. Cantonese, Mingdong and Mandarin can be heard at every corner, and Chinese singers and performers put on traditional shows in the middle of the street for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out the eight other Chinatowns in New York, which are all spread out across the boroughs.
West-African homesickness can be cured in Little Senegal. The small neighborhood is home to many of Harlem’s West African immigrants. The main streets are the blocks surrounding W. 116th Street between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard on the east and Frederick Douglass Boulevard to the west. The smells and tastes of fish and rice stew keep visitors coming back, along with the Malcolm Shabazz Market, showcasing some of the best West African clothes and hair care products.
Although there’s a common argument within the travel community on whether “Little India” exists or not, most locals visit a small neighborhood in Queens that’s home to a large population of South Asians. For those missing the liveliness of India and other South Asian countries, 74th Street between Roosevelt Avenue and 37th Avenue and the surrounding blocks are the heart of a large group of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. The smells of delicious Indian food are enticing, and cultural events on the weekend can be enjoyed by anyone in the area. Be sure to stop at Ayna Agra Indian Restaurant for one of the best Chicken Tikka Masala dishes in New York.
Little Dominican Republic
You can get your fix for Dominican culture in Washington Heights. The neighborhood lost a lot of its population in the ’00s thanks to gentrification, but the Dominican population has steadily begun to grow again and proudly flaunts its culture on every avenue. Dominican Republic flags hang in apartment windows and Spanish is the language of choice on the block. Families and friends congregate on the streets and parks to dance, listen to music and people-watch. Between the delicious dishes offered at the various restaurants, such as camarofongo, and the music blasting from neighborhood vehicles, you’ll forget you’re in the U.S.