If you are fortunate to be in Los Angeles and are inclined to explore, you have a variety of different cultures right at your fingertips.
The diverse Los Angeles culture is vibrant and inclusive and SoCal visitors can get a taste of its international flavor just by walking the bustling streets. Never been to China? No problem. We’ll bring China to you. Chinatown is located in downtown Los Angeles and has been since the 1800s. With the shops, the language, the smells and the sights, it is easy to believe you’ve flown thousands of miles, rather than a driven a short distance.
And when you’re done with Chinatown, if you find yourself with a hankering for a taquito and a margarita, it’s a short walk to Olvera Street, where you can find Mexican restaurants, music and shops, both authentic and romanticized.
Keep on walking and you may find yourself in Little Tokyo, a center for Japanese culture, festivals, events and my favorite — some of the best sushi in the world.
Armenia can be a little difficult to travel to in today’s political environment, but for a taste of all that is Armenian, SoCal offers up Little Armenia, right next to Hollywood. Since the 1970s, it’s been developing into an Armenian ethnic hub, and for something different, it’s well worth a visit.
And, mirroring Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Olvera Street in terms of proximity, you can walk from Little Armenia to Thai Town, where the borders are marked with statues and streets are lined with religious shrines.
Little Ethiopia, located only a couple of minutes from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is one of the newer enclaves, it was established in 2004 and is only a block long, but growing.
Should you find yourself in the Echo Park area, you can stop and visit Historic Filipinotown, where everything from the Philippines is celebrated and where you can find one of our country’s oldest Catholic churches, the St. Columban Filipino Church.
And Koreatown, a hot spot for bars and clubs that is now world-renowned for its food scene, does it all with a Korean flair.
If we had more space, I could also tell you a bit about Little Arabia, Little Bangladesh (now on my list!), Peru Village, Pico-Robertson (Jewish culture), Leimert Park (African-American art and culture), Sonoratown, Greek Town, Little Saigon, Oaxacatown, and on, and on, and on.
Suffice it to say, if there’s a part of the world you want to experience and a trip there isn’t in your short-term plans, somewhere in Southern California there is a neighborhood that embraces, celebrates and highlights the culture you are curious about.
For all of these different ethnic and cultural spots, it is well worth doing a little research in advance and seeing which holidays are being celebrated and when the festive parades are taking place. These events always bring out the most color and flavor and make a fun visit even more special.
So jump in your car, take a bus or call an Uber, and start your international travel through our Los Angeles culture — no passport required. Not in SoCal? Grab a flight and come enjoy our wonderfully diverse culture.
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