Itching to go abroad but not able to get there now? Great news: You can visit some amazing international destinations without a passport.
Thanks to a bevy of American cities with international heriage, groups can feel transported to the Caribbean, Europe and even Asia while traveling within our own borders. Read on for the best events, attractions and food opportunities in cities that will transport group travelers while staying right here in America.
There’s no bigger Oktoberfest in America than the one in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Imbibing isn’t the only way to experience German culture in the Buckeye State, but it’s certainly an option. Take advantage of German heritage tours to explore Cincinnati’s legacy of German-influenced beer and breweries. Or savor Deutschland-inspired foods like sauerkraut, Limburger cheese, sausages, soft pretzels and strudel at one of the city’s many festivals and restaurants. Finally, round out your time in Cincinnati by exploring a historically German neighborhood.
Oktoberfest is a favorite event for groups visiting Cincinnati. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati showcases the rich German heritage of southwest Ohio, as well as a sampling of German-style music, dance, food and beer. First held in 1976, the event hosts more than 575,000 attendees every year. Expect dachshund races, lederhosen costume contests and the “Gemütlichkeit Games” built to entertain with beer-barrel races and the beer-stein carry. Other German festivals in Cincy include Glier’s Goettafest, Christkindlmarkt and Bockfest.
You can get great German grub any time of the year, however. Multiple restaurants feature Cincinnati’s rich German heritage, like Hofbrauhaus, Mecklenburg Gardens, Wunderbar, The Lubecker and Kreimer’s Bier Haus.
Cincinnati is one of the cities making up the “German Triangle,” so-named for its high concentration of German-American residents. That history can still be seen in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. OTR is a vibrant place once home to the German working class whose stunning brick structures date back to the early 1800s. Just outside downtown, OTR is one of Cincy’s hottest neighborhoods, with parks and fountains, music halls, breweries, restaurants and Findlay Market — Ohio’s oldest farmer’s market.
Other landmarks of German heritage include the Tyler-Davidson Fountain, forged in sister city Munich, and the Roebling suspension bridge.
When immigrants from the Netherlands founded a town in Michigan in 1847, they believed living in America would fulfill their long-held dreams of economic and religious freedom. Instead, the land promised nothing but hard times, challenges and mosquitoes. They weren’t expecting the amount of hard work that awaited them, but they triumphed over adversity like so many others in the stories of Americana. Despite their obstacles, these Dutch-Americans eventually succeeded in a new town they lovingly named Holland.
Today, the top attractions in Holland are Windmill Island, Dutch Village, the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe Factory, the Holland State Park and the Holland Museum. Groups also enjoy Tulip Time, a festival with a nearly 100-year history. Tulip Time begins the first Saturday in May each year and runs through the following Sunday.
BoatWerks is the sole lakefront restaurant in town, boasting an excellent patio for sunset views. And the Beechwood Grill is another group-friendly option for evening dining. For quaint scenery, dine in historic downtown.
If you’ve ever wanted to see and explore Cuba for yourself, head straight to Tampa, Florida.
A Cuban cigar industry took root in Key West in the mid-1800s. However, Tampa’s freshwater and access to a railroad made it a more attractive place to do business. That meant the Cuban cigar industry would move to Florida’s Gulf Coast in a little Tampa neighborhood called Ybor City, and its immigrant workers followed. Today, Ybor City is full of culture that’s been passed down through families since 1885.
For the best Ybor City cigar history and authentic Cuban culture experience, take the official Ybor City Walking Tour. Guides will take groups through a two hour-tour of the most significant sites. Then pay a visit to the newly opened J.C. Newman Cigar Factory and Museum. Groups will be able to view Cuban torcedores make hand-rolled cigars just as they did back in 1885.
In addition to cigars and Cuban culture, Ybor City is also known for its nightlife. Stroll down Seventh Avenue and see an array of eclectic restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Plus, the Josi Marit Park, dedicated to the memory of the firebrand who led the Cuban resistance against Spain, was the only piece of Cuban-owned property in the United States until the opening of the Cuban Embassy in 2015. Visit this park owned by the people of Cuba at the corner of Eighth and 13th streets.
No need to go all the way to Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone — you can tap into the luck of the Irish in Savannah, Georgia.
Several historic variables (involving Colonial opportunities, the Great Potato Famine and the Civil War) came together, making Savannah an increasingly attractive place for Irish immigrants over a period of about 100 years, resulting in the city’s decidedly Irish heritage.
Catch a glimpse of just one of Savannah’s many green-dyed fountains in March and you’ll know the big event the city is prepping for: St. Patrick’s Day. Dressed in their finest Kelly green, parade-goers celebrate the city’s Irish community in the biggest St. Patty’s Day parade in the nation outside of New York.
If your group loves sports, you may want to plan to attend a Gaelic game through the Savannah Gaelic Athletic Association. Teams take on rival cities in games of hurling and Irish football.
To get a sense of the spirit of Ireland in Savannah, visit one of its many Irish sites. Start with the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The cathedral has many ties to Savannah’s Irish community — namely, its headquarters for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and hosts the Mass of the Feast of St. Patrick. Self-guided tours are available, except on Sundays.
Groups always appreciate walking tours, and there are multiple available year-round. Learn even more about the influence of Irish Americans in Savannah by visiting Father Whelan’s gravesite, Emmet Park, the William Jasper Monument and the Old Fort Neighborhood.
Plus, Savannah has its own Blarney Stone. Kiss the stone at Cohen’s Retreat, a tasty eatery in town.
The Great Chicago Fire was a major turning point in the Windy City. What isn’t so often known is the demand for jobs rebuilding the city attracted Greek immigrants to the area. Lucky for everyone who loves gyros and mujadara, Greektown is a vibrant neighborhood in Chicago celebrating Greece’s Old-World traditions, right in the Midwest.
Groups enjoy the National Hellenic Museum, the premium museum founded in 1983 to preserve and share Greek culture, history and culture.
To be transported among the bleached white buildings and azure blue water of Santorini, visit during Greek heritage events like Greek Independence Day, Greektown Restaurant Week, or the Taste of Greektown festival.
And anytime you visit, you’ll find Greektown restaurants with a tempting menu and robust history. That’s because many restaurants have been passed down in family lineages for decades. Find your next delicious meal at a pillar of the community like Greek Islands, Spectrum Bar and Grill, 9 Muses Bar and Grill, Artopolis Bakery and Cafe, Athena Restaurant, Mr. Greek Gyros, Zeus Restaurant, Meli Cafe and more.
Expect to see something new each time you visit Greektown. The neighborhood has a lively arts committee that puts on new outdoor exhibits like paintings and sculptures along Halsted Street.
Time Magazine called China Live one of the best places in the world in 2018. Michelin-starred Empress by Boon restaurant serves a Cantonese menu daily. And two-time James Beard award-winning Mister Jiu’s restaurant provides fresh Chinese fusion food. The best part? These dizzyingly delicious Chinese restaurants aren’t abroad. They’re in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Chinatown is one of the most intensely distinct neighborhoods in America, with a serious sense of place thanks to its high concentration of immigrants from China, who were drawn to the U.S. during California’s Gold Rush. (Trivia night tidbit: It’s the most densely populated neighborhood west of New York City.)
In addition to incredible food, visitors love people-watching in Chinatown. If you prefer more structure to your day, there are myriad walking tours to try.
Some of the best times of year to visit Chinatown are during the Chinese New Year Festival and the Autumn Moon Festival. The Chinese invented fireworks more than 2,000 years ago. The Chinese New Year Festival celebrates this history with a dazzling fireworks display to end the nighttime parades.
In 2022, the Chinese Historical Society of America launched “We Are Bruce Lee: Under The Sky, One Family,” a multimedia collaboration showcasing the career of the legendary martial artist and Chinese American Bruce Lee. Plus, the society has reopened its doors in Chinatown with upgraded galleries and new exhibitions and programs.