If there’s one thing that can be said to make New York City what it is, it has to be the vast range of people from different cultures and ethnicities who inhabit this eclectic metropolis. The Big Apple has always attracted people from every corner of the world, dating back to European migrants in the early 1800s, creating to what is truly an international city in the present day. It’s not a cliché to describe NYC as a melting pot of cultures; as a result, it’s possible to see the world (or part of it, at least) by simply jumping on the subway and exploring some of the city’s characterful neighbourhoods.
The famous of these, of course, is Chinatown. Situated in Lower Manhattan, it’s the largest enclave of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere. It’s been a hub of Chinese-American activity since the mid-1800s, and today it’s a bustling neighbourhood that still maintains some of that small-town community feel. It goes without saying that it’s unbeatable when you’re craving some dim sum or noodles, with diners and restaurants to be found on every corner. Chinese New Year is the biggest event on the calendar, with celebrations running for ten days and taking in parades, street performance and plenty of great food.
Bordering Chinatown is New York’s other iconic migrant neighbourhood, Little Italy. It’s a little different to the mafia hangout depicted in any number of gangster movies over the years, with the Italian presence in the area considerably diminished in recent times, but the annual Feast of San Gennaro is still one of the city’s biggest celebrations for the Italian-American community. Running for eleven days, it includes religious processions, delicious Italian food, free musical entertainment and even a cannoli eating competition!
Heading north of Manhattan towards the Bronx, Woodlawn is the most prominent enclave of Irish-Americans in New York today. New York boasts one of the US’s largest Irish communities – at one point in the early 1900s, there were more Irish residents in NY than in Dublin – and while the majority have fully assimilated into every part of American society, Woodlawn retains a distinctly Irish flavour. Its multiple Irish pubs and stores selling goods from back home make it a magnet for the Irish all year round, though the St Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue is rightly world-famous as a city-wide celebration.
To experience another microcosm of NYC’s cultural diversity, cross the East River into Flushing, Queens. As well as a growing Chinese community, there are a considerable number of Italian, Russian, Greek and Irish based in the area. Considered the birthplace of religious freedom in America, Flushing has numerous churches, synagogues and mosques for an eclectic range of religious denominations. For sports worshippers however, it’s best known for being the venue for the tennis US Open at Flushing Meadows, as well as being the home of the New York Mets (the true New Yorker’s choice of team).
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