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There’s no better way to learn about your heritage than by visiting your family’s homeland—or at least a neighborhood that’s become a hub for diaspora. For the 60 million or so Hispanic and Latino individuals who live in the United States, there are fortunately numerous spots both here and abroad where these connections can be made. As a first-generation Latina mom myself, I understand the importance of engaging with my family’s culture and sharing it with my son. That’s why I strongly advocate for families to do all they can to reconnect with their cultura—especially by way of travel (following proper Covid precautions, of course). If you’re looking to explore your own heritage more deeply, whether it be during National Hispanic Heritage Month or beyond, we’ve compiled a list of places and attractions that will further help you along your journey to discovering more about your raices (roots, that is).

RELATED: 5 unforgettable Mexico City experiences no one should miss

Houston’s Mexican culture

Work seen at Casa Ramirez | Flickr CC: Adrian Gonzales

The largest city in Texas is nothing if not proud, and that includes its vibrant Mexican heritage. Start your day with a sugary delight from legendary El Bolillo Bakery. Next, head to the East End District for a stroll down Návigation Boulevard esplanade, a pedestrian-friendly street marked by an iron archway. Highlights include kid-friendly Guadalupe Plaza Park featuring a historic fountain, splash pad, and greenery; Latino-focused arts center Talento Bilingue de Houston; and The Original Ninfa’s where “Mama” Laurenzo purportedly introduced the fajita craze in 1973. After lunch, head to the vibrant Arts District where mural projects like Art Alley at Sawyer Yards includes contributions from Mexican-American and Tejano artists. Houston gets hot so cool off with a raspados (Mexican snow cone) from Tampico Refresqueria, which boasts several locations. Next up, visit Casa Ramirez, a folk-art gallery that displays works from Latino artists, and sells handcrafted goods, ceramics, and books. Houston’s Tex-Mex eateries are plentiful and excellent; check out Picos from Mexican-raised chef Arnaldo Richards and Tacos Tierra Caliente—a beloved Houston food truck.

Book your Houston hotel here.

New York City’s Nuyorican culture

Puerto Rican cuisine

Puerto Rican New Yorkers (or Nuyoricans) make up one of the city’s largest Latino communities, and their presence is felt all over. To begin, visit The Clemente, a cultural hub for Puerto Ricans and other Latino folks, featuring art exhibitions, performances, and year-round events. Next, you’ll want to head over to El Museo del Barrio—the go-to spot for all things Latino art, featuring rotating and permanent exhibitions, plus workshops, story times, and other activities for children and families. When you get hungry, there’s an abundance of dining options for arroz con gandules, pernil asado, and other Puerto Rican staples. Try the beloved Casa Adela Restaurant, or if you’re seeking live entertainment with your meal, there’s always La Fonda. Speaking of entertainment, Nuyorican Poets Cafe is an absolute must. Open since 1973, this institution has served as a gathering space for Nuyoricans and others for open mics, poetry slams, workshops, and more. (Note: The cafe is currently closed due to the pandemic and has moved events online for the time being.) Finally, stop into Casa Latina Music Shop to share your favorite Puerto Rican and other Latin artists with your loved ones. You’ll find records, CDs, instruments, collectibles, and more to take home with you.

Book your NYC hotel here.

Los Angeles’s Salvadoran and Central American culture

Making pupusas

LA is home to a sizable Central American population—including the largest Salvadoran diaspora in the nation. Start your travels in Downtown LA where you can pick up some delightful eats at Sarita’s Pupuseria inside Grand Central Market. Just outside the market, kids will enjoy a short $1 ride on Angel’s Flight, a 1901 funicular railway. Next, pop into La Libreria, a Spanish-language bookstore geared toward young readers that features children’s books, graphic novels, comics, and more. Swing through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where plenty of Central American art can be found on display via their permanent collection, or try Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions—a nonprofit art space where works by Latin artists like Beatriz Cortez (of El Salvador) can be viewed. Of course, you’ll also want to venture to the El Salvador Community Corridor, home to many Salvadoran-owned businesses, including the highly revered Conchitas Restaurant, where you can order traditional dishes like platanos con crema y frijoles, salpicon and, of course, handmade pupusas. Keep your eyes peeled for vibrant street art in the area and, if you time it just right, you might even get a chance to check out the Salvadoran Street Food Market (located at Two Guys Plaza). Similarly, there’s the Guatemalan Night Market, hosted nightly in the Westlake neighborhood, where the sights and smells of carne asada, garnachas, dobladas, and more will win over your whole family. Finally, don’t forget sweet treats for your kiddos from Panaderia El Salvador.

Book your Los Angeles hotel here.

Miami’s Cuban culture

Other than a direct flight to Havana, there’s no better place to learn about Cuban culture than Miami. Head straight to the quintessential Cuban neighborhood of Little Havana, where kiddos will love pointing out the various colorful rooster sculptures. Pick up a cafecito and some pastelitos from any of the nearby ventanitas (walk-up cafe windows), including ever-popular Versailles. Take a walk along the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame, which displays stars and murals of notable Cuban celebrities. Stop by Domino Park where many Cuban locals play dominoes daily, then drop into the Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center to scope out some Cuban art, hear live music, and enjoy a little rum if the mood strikes. Craving more art and history? You’ll find it at the Perez Art Museum, which houses impressive Latin American and Caribbean art collections, as well as at the family-friendly HistoryMiami Museum, which offers a glimpse into Miami’s past, including its Latin diaspora. And finally, cool off with the kids at El Palacio de los Jugos—home to tropical fresh-squeezed juices and yummy Cuban favorites like media noches, fufu, and yuca fritas.

Book your Miami hotel here.

Chicago’s Mexican culture

While almost all of Chicago’s neighborhoods have a strong Latino presence, you’ll find many of the city’s top Mexican cultural attractions in two near-South Side enclaves, Little Village and Pilsen (both just minutes from downtown and accessible by CTA trains). The latter, Pilsen, makes for the best entry point for any family’s Mexican heritage tour of the city, since it’s home to the free National Museum of Mexican Art. Here you’ll find more than 11,000 pieces by Mexican and Mexican-American artists, and past exhibitions have included Frida Kahlo, as well as Cheech Marin’s formidable collection of Chicano art. The neighborhood’s also home to dozens of vibrant murals, many along 16th Street; the best way to see them is to sign up for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s “Walk Pilsen” tour. Feeling hungry yet? The neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, 18th Street, is lined with great dining options, but our top picks include Carnitas Uruapan, known for its trays of namesake carnitas (shredded, braised pork), and 5 Rabanitos, known for its fresh ingredients and interesting flavor combos. Come summer, don’t miss the fun-for-all-ages Fiesta del Sol, a massive street fest featuring tasty eats, lively music, carnival rides, and more.

Book your Chicago hotel here.


Trajineras in Xochomilco

Begin your trip at the heart of it all in Mexico City, built above the capital of the Aztec empire: Tenochtitlan. Learn all about it first with a visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, then visit nearby Teotihuacán to see the majesty of these ancient ruins in person. Take in some art at La Casa Azul where renowned painter Frida Kahlo lived for much of her life, as well as at the Museo de Arte Popular. Experience the magic of a flowery trajinera (gondola-like boat) ride in Xochomilco. And if time allows, try to visit during a major festival, such as Dia de lo Muertos or La Guelaguetza to fully immerse yourself in the culture of your gente (people). If casting a wider net, visit archaeological sites, like the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula. To bring you back to the present, spend some time eating street food (like sopes, churros, and elotes) and people watching in just about any town plaza. Mexico City’s zócalo is fairly popular, but plazas in places like Oaxaca City, Guanajuato, or others are also worth exploring. You might even get a chance to see live mariachis and other street performers. Alternatively, you can sit at or walk along a malecon (that’s boardwalk) like the one in Puerto Vallarta to get a better sense of local culture. Visiting a mercado (or marketplace) is another great way to learn more about daily life in Mexico (try Mercado Lucas de Galvez in Merida or Mercado San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara).

Book your Mexico City hotel here.

Dominican Republic

Zona Colonial | Flickr CC: Hernan Bustelo

The Dominican Republic is known for its breathtaking beaches and lush green mountains, but there’s even more to explore. Make Santo Domingo your first stop. Walk (or bike) around the Zona Colonial where numerous historic buildings can be found—including the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor and San Nicolás de Bari Hospital (the first cathedral and first hospital built by Europeans in the “New World”). Make time to stop into El Museo del Hombre Dominicano, an anthropological museum offering a glimpse into the island’s pre-Columbian history, including a large collection of Taino artifacts. To get even more insight into the nation’s complex history, plan to visit the Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance, dedicated to preserving the struggles and perseverance of the Dominican people over the years. Your family will love the gorgeous natural wonders of the island. Visiting Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos (a national park featuring an unforgettable open-air limestone cave) and the Parque Nacional del Este (home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna as well as coral reefs) are both a must. Dine at any of the many local establishments to indulge in delectable Dominican cuisine, including sancocho, pollo guisado, and mangu (all of which can be found on the menu at El Meson De La Cava—a unique spot where you can choose to dine inside a cave to escape the island heat). Still in need of more ways for your family to connect with their Dominican culture? Sign up for a Dominican Heritage Tour, which will help you experience more via a more decolonized lens.

Book your Santo Domingo hotel here.

Puerto Rico

Old San Juan

There are so many reasons to visit “La Isla del Encanto,” and taking your family to rediscover their heritage is certainly at the top. A walk through Old San Juan is a great way to start. Snap photos of the colorful historic buildings, stop and listen to musicians in the street (or even dance if the rhythm compels), and treat the fam to piraguas (shaved ice in a variety of flavors). Wander the Plaza del Mercado de Santurce to find treats and treasures in this popular market. Afterwards, pick up some local cuisine at a spot like ​​Trifongo Taíno (where you’ll want to order the mofongo or trifongo, of course). Check out the Museo de las Americas to view everything from archaeological finds to traditional arts and crafts. For more modern and contemporary art, there’s the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (with dedicated activities for children of all ages). If you find yourself in Ponce, make sure to stop into the Parque de Bombas—a former fire station turned whimsical museum that’ll educate and entertain the whole family. Spending time outdoors is also a must, so along with some beach day trips (Balneario de Carolina is a good kid-friendly option), do yourself a favor and commune with nature at El Yunque National Forest, where you might happen upon the adorable coqui frog. Puerto Rico’s caves are also magnificent—try La Cueva del Indio in Arecibo, where you might even glimpse pre-Columbian petroglyphs. One final tip: Carve out an evening to spend at Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay, a spectacular glowing body of water that is certainly part of why this island is known for enchantment.

Book your San Juan hotel here.

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