Guest Post by Grandparents.com
In the high-Dow years we might have taken our grandchildren to Naples for pizza. This year we’re thinking twice about long, expensive trips.
No problem. There are plenty of places in the United States that offer the flavor of faraway lands. We all know about San Francisco’s Chinatown, Boston’s Irish neighborhoods, and Miami’s Little Havana. And there are other, less-known places, where grandchildren can taste the food, hear the music, and enjoy the culture of other lands. Here are five of the best.
Michigan’s Dutch Treat:
A glance at the phone book in Holland, Mich., reveals this town’s Dutch heritage. The book is full of names of Dutch ancestry, and the bearers of those names are eager to share their heritage with visitors.
What kids will love: In Windmill Island Gardens they can watch a giant windmill turn grain into flour, see Friesland ponies, and enjoy discovering a mini canal that runs under a miniature drawbridge. At Nelis’ Dutch Village across town, the kids can learn traditional dances, ride an antique carousel, and even help scrub the streets in typical Dutch fashion. At Veldheer Tulip Farm, they can watch costumed woodcarvers fashion klompen (wooden shoes) and see painters decorate distinctive Delftware china. Finally, no matter what street they’re on, they can savor the fine Dutch chocolates!
California’s Sari-Studded City:
The scene in Artesia, Calif., looks as if it belongs in a Bollywood film. There are women in bright colored saris, men in turbans, and signs with elegant lettering. The scent of exotic spices fills the air. It’s easy to believe you’re thousands of miles from home in India, instead of just 20 miles from Los Angeles.
What kids will love: The glittering fabrics, graceful saris, and brilliant jewels will enchant the girls. The Swaminarayan Hindu temple where men and women sit separately and pray to the rhythm of beating drums and shaking tambourines will fascinate boys and girls. As for food, Ashoka the Great has a lunch buffet that’s perfect for picky eaters who like to sample different foods in order to find ones they like. For dessert: Bombay Sweets & Snacks has lime-green cookies and bright pink pastries; at the Saffron Spot, ice cream is available in oh-so-good flavors like lychee, mango, and cardamom.
Massachusetts’ Portuguese Enclave:
First they came to work on the whaling ships. Later they came to labor in the textile mills. Now a 20-mile stretch of the south coast of Massachusetts is home to the largest community of Portuguese in North America. The people, the food, the festivals, and the music have a distinctly Mediterranean flair.
What kids will love: Downtown Fall River has cobblestone sidewalks reminiscent of Lisbon, a Portuguese bakery that floods the street with the aroma of yeasty homemade bread, and a store filled with Portuguese products, including foods and giftware. Sagres Restaurant serves traditional Portuguese dishes and is one of the few places where, on Friday nights, families can enjoy fado (Portuguese folk music). New Bedford has two Portuguese neighborhoods where, if you peer down the narrow spaces between homes, you can glimpse grape arbors and vegetable gardens, both typical of homes in Portugal. Stop in one of the many neighborhood shops that sell imported snacks for a bag of malassadas ‘ fried, sweet-dough buns.
Planning your trip: New Bedford’s Feast of the Blessed Sacrament draws more than 300,000 visitors the first weekend in August. It’s an excellent place to experience the music and food of Portugal.
Florida’s Greek Gulf:
Florida may be best known for theme park recreations of faraway places, but Tarpon Springs, 100 miles west of Orlando on the Gulf of Mexico, is the real deal. Greek settlers were attracted to the area in the early 1900s to dive for sponges. Today, nearly 12 percent of the town’s 23,000 residents claim Greek heritage, the largest concentration of Greek-Americans in the United States.
What kids will love: On St. Nicholas Boat Line tours, divers in full underwater regalia show how sponges are harvested. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium has more than 30 species of fish, including the tarpon, which are hand-fed four times a day. But the best way to enjoy Tarpon Springs is just to wander. You’ll find sponges of every size, shape, and color in the souvenir shops on Dodecanese Boulevard, where numerous restaurants serve Greek food, including souvlaki and gyros. The back streets offer a better glimpse of the town’s Hellenic character. The markets are filled with Kalamata olives and sesame seeds, a small shrine is half-hidden in a residential courtyard, and many of the older folks prefer to converse in Greek.
St. Louis’ Italian Hill:
Sixty percent of the folks who live on The Hill, a small neighborhood just eight miles from downtown St. Louis, claim Italian heritage. Most of their ancestors came from northern Italy in the 1880s; others came later from southern Italy.
What kids will love: Food is the big draw on The Hill. Children can watch ravioli being made at Mama Toscano’s, snack on cold cuts at Volpi’s, taste cuccidata (pastries filled with a mix of figs, raisins, nuts, chocolate, and orange peel) at the Missouri Baking Company, and enjoy cannoli (cream-filled pastries) at Vitale’s Bakery. Baseball fans will want to walk along the newly named Hall of Fame Place to see the childhood homes of Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. They can then play bocce, a type of bowling that’s as Italian as baseball is American, at Milo’s Bocce Gardens.
Of special note: For a special Italian experience, let Joe DeGregorio, who grew up on The Hill, show you around. He’ll give your grandchildren the true flavor of the community as he regales them with stories and introduces them to his friends
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