International cultural experiences can be rewarding, educational, and can broaden your worldview. But they can also be expensive—not to mention time consuming—if you’re going to faraway places such as India (it takes more than 12 hours to fly from New York to New Delhi).
One alternative worth considering: Immersing yourself in other cultures much closer to home. Take a look at these unique ethnic communities in the U.S.—no passport (and much less jet lag) required.
Deutschland in the Pacific Northwest
What do you do when the sawmill and logging industries that once sustained your town face a crippling downturn? The community leaders of Leavenworth, Washington, decided to convert their town into a European hamlet. Inspired by the surrounding Alpine hills, Leavenworth was rebranded as a Bavarian village and now welcomes nearly 2 million lederhosen-loving tourists each year. Get a taste for German culture, music, and traditional dress—no matter the season—by attending one of their many festivals: Bavarian Icefest each January; Maifest, a German tradition to celebrate spring; Oktoberfest, a fall celebration that claims to be the next-best thing to being in Munich; and Christkindlmarkt, a Bavarian-style Christmas market.
How to get there: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and rent a car for the 130-mile trek through the gorgeous mountains of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee National Forest.
Other places to discover German and Bavarian culture: Frankenmuth, Michigan, and Fredericksburg, Texas.
Scandinavia in the Midwest
Affectionately called “Little Sweden USA,” Swedish culture has prevailed in the city of Lindsborg, Kansas, ever since immigrants from Sweden began settling there in 1869. Challenge yourself to see how many Dala horse statues you can spot. These colorfully painted and iconic symbols of Sweden are positioned around the city. And find Swedish trinkets and treats (Dala horses in gummy and chocolate varieties, as well as Pepparkakor spicy ginger cookies) in the local shops and eateries. Lindsborg has several lively celebrations throughout the year, such as Våffeldagen, or “Waffle Day” in the spring. Svensk Hyllningsfest, held each October in odd-numbered years, celebrates the early Swedish settlers with parades, folk dances, and a savory smorgasbord.