With millions across the US boasting Asian and Pacific Islander descent, it’s only fitting to have an entire month deemed Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Throughout the month of May, the country honors the history, culture, and traditions of Asians and Pacific Islanders. And even if you can’t attend a festival or celebration, there are loads of other museums and historic sites where you can appreciate these cultures and their contributions to the fabric of America.
In Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas, you can find a good number of places to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Hosted by the Asia Heritage Foundation, Fiesta Asia is a beloved month-long celebration featuring events like the Fiesta Asia Silver Spring in Maryland and the Fiesta Asia Street Fair in front of Capitol Hill. The D.C. event features plenty of outdoor craft exhibits, performances, food vendors, and martial arts demonstrations. There are usually over 1,000 performers, artisans, and participants. While you’re in town, you can also catch exhibitions from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Offering innovative museum exhibits and digital enterprises, the center sets out to expand and enhance the recognition of America’s Asian Pacific heritage.
San Francisco celebrates Asian Pacific Heritage Month with its Asian Heritage Street Celebration. Held in May, the event takes place around the streets of Civic Center. Attendees can expect to see traditional and contemporary performances along with the “Faces of Asia” cultural procession. In addition to the Asian Heritage Street Celebration, the local Asian Art Museum offers free admission on the day of the celebration along with a schedule of events like poetry readings, kids tours, crafts, and artists’ talks. If you can’t make it to the museum during the month of May, a visit anytime of year proves worthwhile as the museum claims the largest collection of Asian art outside of Asia, spanning some 6,000 years.
Another worthy stop in San Francisco to learn about Asian Pacific history in the US is Angel Island Historic Landmark. Located on the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay, this place acted as an immigration hub from 1910 to 1940, with the majority of immigrants coming from China. You can visit the Immigration Barracks to reflect on what life was like for those who were detained on the island. Many of those who made it to Angel Island were kept their for years. Head back into the city and you can experience the beauty of a Japanese-style tea garden in Golden Gate Park. It remains the oldest public Japanese tea garden in the country.
To truly celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage month, Seattle lends one of the best museums to visit. The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience offers up guided tours and exhibits about the Asian Pacific American community. Set up in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, the museum also offers insight into how immigrants have shaped the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the museum, Seattle also puts on the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration in May. Presented by the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, the event shows off the traditions, history, and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders. You can expect lots of dancing, music, and art, along with a hum bow eating contest and a wealth of kids activities.
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New York City
It comes as no surprise that in a city with 1.35 million Asians, you can find the longest running festival celebrating Asian diversity. Every May, New York City hosts the Asian American and Pacific Islander Festival. The free event has been a tradition for over 30 years in New York City and features a wealth of performances, so it’s a reason as good as any other to take the Big Apple in consideration when looking for cheap domestic flights in May. The festival is put on in collaboration with over 120 community organizations. You can also appreciate Asian heritage in America with a visit to the Chinatown Historic District in downtown New York City. The neighborhood took shape in the mid 19th century through the early 20th century and features bustling restaurants, markets, and shops, and tops the list as the largest Chinatown in the US. Visitors will also want to head to the Museum of Chinese in America while in the area, host to exhibits and programs detailing the over 160 years of Chinese-American history and culture. New York also offers a wealth of Pacific Islander art and artifacts, specifically at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples at the American Museum of Natural History.
Are you celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? Tell us where you’re headed in the comments below!