Photographers love cities that are culturally diverse because they’re visually interesting, and young people love them because of the energy and creativity that often exists in cities with a wide mix of people.
“Diversity certainly makes for a more interesting city,” said Bert Sperling of Sperling’s Best Places.
It means a ton of restaurants and shops beyond the usual big-box chains as well as festivals and other cultural events that can make you feel as if you’re traveling — right in your own backyard. Plus, it offers an opportunity to learn about the history and traditions of different cultures.
Here are the 10 most diverse cities in America.
By Cindy Perman 17 May 2011
Population: 2.4 million
Diversity index: 71.1
Miami has a rich cultural tapestry that dates back through several centuries, including Native Americans, Spanish colonizers and Spanish, Italian, Jewish and Greek immigrants. And, of course, there are the Cuban refugees that arrived in this tropical city in the 1960s, settling in an area west of downtown known as Little Havana. Other Caribbean cultures have also settled here — there’s also a Little Haiti, according to Trip Advisor. This culture is reflected in Miami’s clubs, restaurants, architecture and festivals. Miami is actually home to one of the largest concentrations of international banks in the U.S. as well as several international companies.
Population: 1.7 million
Diversity index: 72.4
San Francisco is home to many immigrants from Asia and Latin America. In fact, nearly 40 percent of its residents were born overseas. Asians make up nearly 25 percent of the city’s population. There is a large Chinese population, and San Francisco is famous for its Chinatown neighborhood as well as its Chinese New Year parade. There’s also a Japantown and Little Saigon. Hispanics and Latinos make up nearly 18 percent of the population.
Population: 1.7 million
Diversity index: 73.4
Las Vegas was initially settled by the Spaniards and, with its many artesian wells, “vegas” means green areas or meadows. Nearly 30 percent of its population is Hispanic or Latino and nearly 10 percent is African-American. It has a strong artistic culture and there are many festivals and celebrations, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Black History Month, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Feast of San Gennaro, Greek Food Festival and a cowboy festival known as Helldorado Days.
Population: 1.9 million
Diversity index: 74
San Antonio was also named by Spanish settlers, specifically for San Antonio de Padua. Today, more than 53 percent of its population is Hispanic or Latino. The city is known for its Spanish missions and Paseo del Rio, or River Walk. There is a 10-day festival in April called, appropriately, “Fiesta,” or party, to celebrate the state’s independence from Mexico. There’s also a “Fiesta de las Luminarias,” where the river is lined with thousands of luminarias, or bags with candles inside. Even the local theme park is known as the Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park. There’s also an annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and a Texas Folklife Festival.
Population: 3.9 million
Diversity index: 75
Dallas has a rich cultural history, with both Spanish and French settlers shaping the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, 30 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latina and 15 percent is African American. It’s known for its barbeque, Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. There are a variety of cultural celebrations, including Cinco De Mayo, a Greek Food festival and the Texas State Fair. As Dallas.computs it, “Everything is a party in Dallas!”
Population: 3 million
Diversity index: 75
San Diego was originally settled by the Kumeaay Indians but, like several other towns on the list, was named by Spanish settlers that landed there later. It’s adjacent to the Mexican border and was, for a time, part of Mexico. Today, more than 31 percent of its population is Hispanic or Latino and more than 10 percent is Asian. San Diego has a wide range of cuisines, including Mexican, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Latin, German, Filipino, Vietnamese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Pacific Islander. It even has a Little Italy neighborhood. There are a variety of cultural festivals, including a Sicilian festival, a Pacific Islanders festival, a Lunar New Year festival, a Jewish film festival, a Latina film festival and a Salsa Bachata dance festival.
Population: 5.2 million
Diversity index: 78
Houston is such a diverse city that it has one of the highest concentrations of consulates in the U.S. There are more than 1 million residents here who were born outside the U.S. Many are from Mexico, though there are roughly 90 languages spoken here. According to the latest census, nearly 35 percent of its population is Hispanic or Latino and nearly 17 percent is African American. And, while less than 6 percent of the population is Asian, the city is rich with Asian culture, including two Chinatowns, a Little Saigon and a “Little India.” It has a colorful arts and music scene featuring rock, blues, country and a growing hip-hop scene. There are several festivals here each year, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, a Greek festival and a Bayou City art festival.
Population: 2.5 million
Diversity index: 79
Oakland was originally inhabited by the Huchiun tribe, but later the Spanish settled in the area. Today, the population is nearly 23 percent Hispanic or Latino, more than 20 percent Asian and more than 11 percent African-American. The city has a Chinatown neighborhood, which is actually a diverse pan-Asian area, including Chinese, Koreans and Filipinos. There are celebrations for the Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Races, Chinatown street festival and Vietnamese Mid-Autumn or Moon festival.
Population: 11.5 million
Diversity index: 80.1
New York City, one of the original entry points for many European immigrants, is one of the biggest melting pots in the world, with more than 800 languages spoken here. More than one third of the city’s residents were born outside the U.S. The biggest countries of origin include the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Mexico and Haiti, though there are significant African-American, Italian, Irish and Jewish populations. New York is home to the United Nations and some of the best food from all over the world, including Italian, Greek and Egyptian. On any given weekend in the spring, summer and fall, you’ll find a different cultural festival or street fair, including the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the West Indian Day Parade, the Feast of San Gennaro and the Brazilian Day festival.
Population: 10.1 million
Diversity index: 84.5
And the most diverse city in the U.S. is … Los Angeles! L.A. was originally inhabited by several Native American tribes and was later settled by the Spanish, who named it Los Angeles, “city of angels.” Today, it’s known as the “Creative Capital of the World,” with an estimated one out of every six residents doing something creative. About 48 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, nearly 13 percent is Asian and nearly 9 percent African-American. There are more than 200 languages spoken here. There is a Chinatown and a Little Tokyo. There are a variety of annual festivals including the Golden Dragon Parade, the Valley Greek Festival, the Indian film festival, a JazzReggae festival, a Korean festival and the Festival of Chariots.