Exotic, diverse experiences without going abroad

The Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico, is considered a sacred pilgrimmage to many. (Anne Chalfant/Contra Costa Times/MCT)
The Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico, is considered a sacred pilgrimmage to many. (Anne Chalfant/Contra Costa Times/MCT)

Throughout the year, families can uncover exotic and culturally diverse experiences without leaving the United States.

Here are five ideas to consider:

1. Lourdes, France, in Chimayo, N.M.

Pilgrims visit this “Lourdes of America” in search of physical and spiritual healing. A National Historic Monument, El Sanctuario de Chimayo is a modest adobe church that draws nearly 300,000 visitors a year to this northern New Mexican community. The faithful collect “holy dirt” and leave behind crutches, photographs and stories of miraculous transformations. A welcome center provides an historical perspective. Consider a stop at the nearby, family-owned Rancho de Chimayo restaurant and local galleries while in the area.

Contact: http://www.elsantuariodechimayo.us/Santuario/windex.html; https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american(underscore)latino(underscore)heritage/el(underscore)santuario(underscore)de(underscore)chimayo.html

2. Iceland in Spanish Fork, Utah

The first wave of 400 or so Icelanders arrived in the region in the mid-1800s. Every February their descendants congregate for a mid-winter feast of shark meat, dried fish and sheep. Families are also welcome to join in the festivities surrounding Iceland’s Independence Day (June 17), which includes a parade with costumes and performances by the children’s choir.

Contact: www.UtahIcelanders.org

3. Basque culture in Boise

Explore the unique Basque culture, food and art in the heart of Idaho’s capital city. Shop for traditional fare such as olive tapenade, port-poached figs and squid ink in the Basque Market. Visit the Basque Museum & Cultural Center to learn more about the Basque heritage through exhibits, collections, tours and special events.

Contact: www.Boise.org; www.BasqueMuseum.com

4. Germany in Leavenworth, Wash.

Put a little oompah in your travels with a stop in this Pacific Northwest hamlet modeled after a quaint Teutonic village. With snowcapped mountains as a backdrop, the four-season destination offers hiking, skiing, rafting and fishing, similar in style to their European counterpart. Sample genuine Bavarian stollen at the local bakery and listen to authentic music. Consider a visit during Oktoberfest or the Christmas holidays, when the town really shows its stuff.

Contact: http://www.leavenworth.org

5. Amsterdam in Albany, N.Y.

Imagine a sea of more than 150 varieties of colorful tulips. It may sound like a dreamy Dutch scene, but you can gaze upon such beauty during this city’s annual flower festival held within an 81-acre park. Every May, more than 140,000 tulips blossom and visitors celebrate a Tulip Queen as well as the city’s rich culture. Expect arts and crafts, plentiful children’s activities, as well as traditional food, drink and music.

Contact: www.albanyevents.org.


Resource: “Abroad at Home: The 600 Best International Travel Experiences in North America” (National Geographic Books)


Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com

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