oc ethnic tourism

California Cultural Heritage Tourism - Vietnamese and Hispanic Culture in Orange County



Westminster --Start off your California vacation exploring the picturesque, culturally-diverse communities not far from the beach. Heritage highlights include shopping in Little Saigon in Westminster or the Hispanic shopping region of historic downtown Santa Ana. You probably won't find the beach trinkets, sunglasses, t-shirts and shot glasses that are so popular at the beach stores along the coast. What you may discover, in Santa Ana are fine leather boots, hand tooled belts, tamales, huaraches, and the gowns and gifts for the Quinceanera to receive such as a tiara, bracelet or ring, earrings, cross or  necklace, Bible or Prayer Book and Rosary, engraved cake server set, engraved champagne glasses, Quinceanera doll, scepter and kneeling pillow.


South of the Santa Ana border in Westminster youu'll discover shopping can be a completely different experience filled with Asian treasures. Get ready to barter for quality products such as 18K gold bracelets, rings, necklaces, silk wear, jade bracelets, CDs, videos and Ao dai (traditional Vietnamese long dress worn with white pants, then have a heaping bowl of pho (soup), spring rolls and then a delicious, sweet coffee drink.


Connecting the dots between two incredibly different cultures that are literally neighbors in bordering Westminster and Santa Ana, California, it's possible to veer from the beach, Disneyland and LAX to see some cultural treasures. Throughout California there are so many cultures to experience, but perhaps the most popular cultural attraction is Indian casinos. In California, only Native Americans are permitted to offer gambling and the casinos are the heart of that business.


Pechanga Casino Resort bus trip with Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce on a trip for the Orange County Presidents Council

What a delight to take a ride on a comfy tour bus with members of the Orange County, California-based chambers of commerce!

In addition to sitting with the president, Kim Yen Huynh (she is a VP at First Vietnamese Bank & VP of Vietnamese Chamber), I met some fabulous entrepreneurs and business community leaders. An added bonus was running into an associate I enjoyed working with at Pacific Bell (now AT&T), Viola Myre of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

We hopped on the bus in an Asian strip mall in Westminster, then headed south to Temecula for an evening of networking, entertainment, dining and tours of the hotel/casino.

I had seen photographs of the interior of California's largest casino facility, but had only driven by on tours of Temecula. The night we arrived, we were able to visit the resort's theater which would feature Jerry Seinfeld the next evening.

The casino's dance club, Silk, was alluring. It features fiberoptic lights (Viola Myre and I used to promote fiberoptics at PacBell), strung from the massive centerpiece bar. Lights are integral to the moods created in this modern, spread out club with its ever-changing colors. Coves with leather couches on two levels are visible from the entryway near the bar. A sweeping staircase and open spaces allow guests to see the upstairs seating areas as well as the main floor. The club was not open when we toured, but it's the kind of place you hope to check out one day.

When I toured a new cruise boat, Carnival Miracle, several years ago, and people on board touted the bar, Silk is what I envisioned and would have wished for.

The casino floors are spacious and it's especially nice having no-smoking areas. Our event was held in one of the casino's special events rooms. Not only was it huge, the food was delicious and the evening passed way too fast.

I met all kinds of people from Orange County who were involved in a variety of businesses. Each was out there networking while having a good time. Among the highlights of the evening were the Folklorico dance performances. When you attend ethnic-focused events such as this, the cultural difference become smaller as you notice the beauty of each culture in its dances, music, and even clothing.

Several hours at Pechanga simply breezed by and it was time to board our bus and head back home for the night. The culturally-diverse gathering of Hispanics, Afro-Americans, Native Americans, Vietnamese, Koreans and Caucasians was memorable and noteworthy. Where in such a small geographic area such as Orange County can you enjoy so many differences in clothing, foods and lifestyles?

To see more than the beach, be sure to drive around a bit, and don't worry that you don't speak the language. Most stores in the Hispanic area of Santa Ana are English-speaking, as are shops in Little Saigon and the Asian Gardens Mall.


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