Westminster, “The City of Progress Built on Pride” has certainly seen its share of changes over the years. Founded in 1870 as a temperance colony by a Presbyterian Minister, it is now home to the highest concentration of Vietnamese Americans in the United States. Westminster is a location in Orange County, part Metropolitan Los Angeles. From classically Californian adventures to exploring the culture of Vietnamese immigrants, there are plenty of ways to see the city’s progression.
Read on to find out about the things to do in Westminster, California:
1. Little Saigon
In the 1980s, Vietnamese refugees began settling in Westminster, in an area now known as Little Saigon. The community is spread out, sprinkled with strip malls filled with Vietnamese-owned businesses. The heart of Little Saigon is the Asian Garden Mall, a two-story shopping centre with restaurants and shops selling imported goods. It’s a great place to shop for jewelry and knick knacks. Stop for a refreshing, freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice when you need a break from shopping.
This community of strip malls and shopping centers boast numerous mom-and-pop restaurants. The popular Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho, is in abundance. It’s definitely worth trying a strong, French-roasted coffee in one of the many coffee shops, and stopping into a bakery for sweet pastries is a must for those with a sweet tooth.
If you prefer to cook at home, stop into one of the many Vietnamese grocery stores and pick up some supplies. From fruit like durian and persimmon, to Vietnamese spices, you’re sure to find ingredients to help you whip up your own meal at home.
If you’re in the area in late January to early February, check to see if Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tết, is on. Each year, the New Year is celebrated with a carnival, parade, and fireworks. The Flower Festival, at the Asian Garden Mall, kicks off the New Year. Flowers, some selling for as much as 1,000 USD, welcome in the new year.
Address: Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683
Website: Little Saigon
2. Vietnam War Memorial
Once you’ve explored the culture of Vietnamese Americans in Little Saigon, it’s worth stopping by the Vietnamese War Memorial. The memorial is located just 2 miles (3.2 km) from Little Saigon and provides a quiet opportunity to reflect and remember.
The memorial was designed by Tuan Nguyen, a Vietnamese artist who survived the fall of Saigon and escaped to the United States. His sculpture features two soldiers: one American and one South Vietnamese. The memorial was completed in 2000, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War. The memorial can be found at Sid Goldstein Freedom Park.
Vietnam War Memorial
Address: 14199 All American Way, Westminster, CA 92683
Website: Vietnam War Memorial
3. Huntington Beach Pier
With all the sun and surf California has to offer, it’s worth heading to Huntington Beach Pier, a little over 7 miles (11 km) west of Westminster. As one of the West Coast’s longest piers, it is the place to go to experience the area’s notable beach culture. The pier boasts year-round surfing, due to naturally enhanced waves.
The pier, built in 1903, is a popular spot for fishing and to take in the scenery. The pier offers panoramic views of Catalina Island and Newport Beach to the south, and Long Beach and San Pedro to the north. Ruby’s Diner, a chain designed to emulate the diners of the 1930s and 40s, can be found at the end of the pier. Stop in for a burger, fries, and shake before heading back out to catch a wave.
Each summer, the U.S. Open of Surfing is held on the south side of the pier. Typically lasting one week, it is the largest surfing competition in the world. Join the nearly 500,000 spectators to watch surfers compete into the Surfing Walk of Fame and the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, both of which can be found directly across from the pier. The pier is free and open from 5am until midnight.
Huntington Beach Pier
Address: Main St. and Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA
Website: Huntington Beach Pier
4. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Also in Huntington Beach is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, one of the most important wetlands in California, spanning 1,449 acres (586 hectares). The reserve is an excellent spot for hikers, birdwatchers, photographs, and nature lovers, with 5 miles (8 km) of trails to explore.
The wetlands support a large number of plants and animals. There are plants native to the area, such as coastal sage scrub, as well as non-native plants brought over after the Spanish first arrived in the area in 1542. The plant life provides nesting grounds for the high number of birds flying through the reserve—the best times of year to watch the largest number of birds is in the winter or summer. And if marine life is more your thing, the wetlands are home to around 80 species of fish and shark.
If you’d like to dig deep into the habitat of the reserve, private tours can be scheduled. A guide will take you on a guided hike and give you a tour of the interpretive centre, and exhibition space highlighting various aspects of the reserve.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Address: 3842 Warner Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Website: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
5. California Scenario
A short drive southeast of central Westminster is California Scenario, a public sculpture garden created by Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. This hidden gem is nestled between local businesses, but well worth the visit. It’s small, but a great place to relax and take in nature and art. The garden was created in the 1980s, and features seven different nature scenarios. These include a stream, rocks, and foliage. In mixing sculpture and nature indigenous to California, Noguchi has created a zen garden.
Visitors enjoy the park for its quiet and calm. It’s also become a popular spot for snapping photographs. You’re likely to catch people jumping over the stream in front of the pyramid, in search of the perfect photograph.
Address: 611 Anton Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Website: California Scenario
Westminster: a place to explore classic Californian fun and Vietnamese culture
A trip to Westminster will allow you to experience classic California fun in the sun, as well as the culture of Vietnamese expats. It is a place that allows you to stroll along a pier, enjoying the sun and surf. It is also a place rich in recent changes—Vietnamese immigrants have created a large community of family-owned restaurants and shops, allowing visitors to experience the food, products, and culture of Vietnam. Come to Westminster and grab a bowl of Pho before grabbing your surfboard.
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