This blog post was updated on July 10, 2019.
The United States is indeed a melting pot of cultures from around the world, and one of the nation’s most vibrant communities is the diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander community. As this group has flourished and is represented in major cities from coast to coast and from north to south, it’s not very difficult to find great events that celebrate their vibrant colors, cultural practices, and culinary delights.
Here are just a few events across the US where you can dive headfirst into the rich history, proud present, and optimistic future of Asian Pacific Americans. So start looking for last minute flight deals to one of these locations so you can be both educated and entertained on your next vacation!
Lantern Festival – Philadelphia
The practice of lighting lanterns was born of an interesting Chinese legend. During the time of the Han dynasty, a crane was said to have flown down from heaven to earth. As the creature was beautiful, villagers on earth soon hunted down the bird and killed it. The Jade Emperor of heaven was furious, as the crane was his treasured pet. He swore to unleash his fury on earth by raining down fire on the 15th day of the first Lunar month. A wise man advised the villagers on earth to light red lanterns and set off fireworks, so that it would appear that the village was already on fire, thus pacifying the angry Jade Emperor. This began a unique Chinese tradition that has lasted centuries. The City of Brotherly Love may seem an unlikely location for this age-old cultural practice to be celebrated, but in early May each year, Philadelphia’s historic Franklin Square is awash with hundreds of intricately crafted lanterns illuminated with thousands of LEDs. The modern lanterns depict various symbols and legends of Chinese culture and mythology and are sure to elicit “oohs” and “aahs” from both children and adults alike. This is one festival that’s sure to be an unforgettable experience the next time you visit Philly!
Fiesta Asia – Washington D.C.
The D.C. metro area comes to life with the hundreds of performers at the annual Fiesta Asia. Known for its cultural shows involving art, music, dance, in various locations, one of which is notably in front of a great view of the Capitol Building, the event is a must-attend for those interested in Asian American and Pacific Islander culture. The celebrations also cover a few smaller spectacles such as the Fiesta Asia Silver Spring and the Fiesta Asia Street Fair and are open to all who want to participate, volunteer, or donate for one or many of its programs.
Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration – Seattle
Championing Asian culture and Pacific Islander heritage since 2002, this event takes place in May and includes numerous exhibits, cultural performers and artists, and food representing Seattle’s Asian Pacific community. You can learn about and be enthralled by various facets of the Asian community, represented by Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese American (to name just a few) groups, as well as by the cultural practices of Pacific Islander communities, including those of Tongan, Samoan, and Hawaiian heritage (also to name just a few). For all you foodies who love cuisine with bold flavor, you can satisfy your palate with food from across Asia as well as the Pacific Islands thanks to the variety of food trucks serving up delectable creations. The most famous activities of the event has to be the hum bow eating contest, where community members and local celebrities take part in a very competitive tussle to see who can devour their baked pork buns the fastest!
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Cleveland Asian Festival – Cleveland, Ohio
The Cleveland Asian Festival attracts people to celebrate and socialize in and around the city’s vibrant AsiaTown neighborhood. The free event features more than a 100 vendors, more than 25 local restaurants and food trucks, and performances that include everything from Polynesian dance troupes to a Shaolin martial arts group. As an added incentive for visitors, there are free health screenings, games and activities, and free trolley tours of AsiaTown on offer. Attendees can also enjoy the fashion show featuring diverse national attires as well as a fascinating Asian Pop dance competition.
Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Festival – New York
If you needed another excuse to look for last minute flight deals to the Big Apple, then the Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Festival is just that reason! With New York City having one of the largest Asian populations in the US, it’s only appropriate that one of the most extravagant showcases of the Asian Pacific community should be held in the city. If you’re in luck to be in town during the month of May, you can enjoy the hundreds of artists, musicians, and dancers who are ready to put on a show you won’t forget in a hurry. As it is New York City, food is always in the equation; the celebrations incorporate all kinds of gastronomic delights from across Asia and the Pacific, which are sure to impress even the pickiest of food critics. Whether it’s the rich history, exuberant performances, or mouthwatering food you find interesting, there’s always something for everyone at this unique cultural extravaganza.
Do you have a favorite Asian festival or Pacific Islander event? Tell us about it in the comments.