Looking for a unique way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, 2023)? Look no further than Amtrak. Get ready to journey across the US by train to explore Hispanic culture by visiting historic landmarks, museums, restaurants, and art galleries.
The stops we’ll make are distant from each other, but you’ll be traveling in comfort — on Amtrak trains, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the views from the large windows. There’s free wifi, and you’ll never have to worry about getting stuck in the middle seat. Hungry? Get up and grab a bite in the Cafe Car. Need to work or rest without distractions? Opt for the Quiet Car at no extra charge. And beyond the onboard amenities, a big Amtrak bonus is that you can start your Hispanic Heritage Month tour right from the station. Admire beautiful works by local Hispanic painters, sculptors, and mixed-media artists at various stations with Art at Amtrak.
Our train travel guide below has a list of sites in the country’s three biggest cities where you can learn more about Latin American history and indulge in delicious Hispanic cuisine. Come join us on this unforgettable journey.
Amtrak Union Station in Los Angeles is a historical landmark. It opened in 1939 and showcases Spanish colonial architecture with an Art Deco interior design. After extensive restoration and preservation, the vibrant hand-painted ceilings and 24-carat-gold details have been brought back to life. Beyond merely catching your train, you can enjoy live entertainment in the lush open patios surrounded by fountains, as well as exquisite murals and artworks that celebrate the cultural diversity of the city, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to relish in the unique beauty of LA.
When you’re ready to step out of the station, put these spots on your list for a little Hispanic heritage 101.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles: A three-minute walk from Union Station will take you to the historic district of Olvera Street. Also known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles, this living museum is filled with authentic Mexican street food, live performers, and gift shops. Look for vendors selling favorite bites like tamales and mango paletas topped with Tajín, or shop for handcrafted keepsakes while listening to mariachi music.
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the Avila Adobe Museum: The Olvera Street area is also home to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the Avila Adobe Museum, both integral parts of the Hispanic historical narrative and city landmarks. At LA Plaza, art and cuisine are preserved through exhibits and old-school cooking. Learn how to make cochinita pibil and ceviche directly from abuela-level recipes, and admire work from local artists. Walking through the Avila Adobe Museum, considered the oldest residence in the city, is a great way to get acquainted with the story of the first local settlements and how houses were built back then.
El Mercado: El Mercado, or El Mercadito to locals, is another hub of all things Latin where you can find traditional food and goods. From tacos smothered in birria sauce and palo santo to cleanse the house of evil spirits, to embroidered accessories and leather shoes, you’ll have the chance to take a part of LA Hispanic culture home with you.
DAMA Fashion District Restaurant & Bar: Don’t miss DAMA, a modern take on Latin-inspired food and drink in the Fashion District. Try the chicken croquetas, Spanish paella, and seafood tostadas, and pair your meal with a cocktail made with fresh fruit like a watermelon tequila or a pineapple pisco.
El Salvador Corridor de Los Angeles: An array of Salvadoran cuisine awaits at the Corredor Salvadoreño, a community-led initiative highlighting identity and culture through food and souvenirs. Visit La Pupusa Urban Eatery for top-notch pupusas, loaded yuca fries, and chorizo burgers. Be sure to save room for dessert at Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars, serving popsicles with unique flavors such as hibiscus, tamarind, rice pudding, and cucumber with chile.
Amtrak Union Station Chicago has served as a major Midwestern transportation hub for decades, and it’s still an essential part of the way the city moves. The magnificence of the building is in the contrast between the Neoclassical construction of its edifice and its up-to-date interior. A barrel-vaulted skylight rises 115 feet above the floor in the Great Hall, and the station’s detailed walls and arches, bronzed-dipped monumental columns, and the famous “Night” and “Day” statues are among the sights to be admired at this landmark.
Most of the sites profiled below are either northwest or southwest of Union Station, accessible via CTA and/or Metra lines.
Little Village: Among the many neighborhoods in Chicago, Little Village has a strong and longstanding Hispanic heritage, making it a great place to find traditional foods and crafts. Colonial-style arches, with “Bienvenidos a Little Village” emblazoned across the top, welcome you to a zone where colors and flavors come together to bring a piece of Mexico to Chicago.
Mercado: From taquerias and craft stores to street musicians, everything you’d expect to find at a mercado has beautifully found a home here. Grab simmering carne asada fajitas or chiles rellenos (cheese-stuffed peppers) for lunch at Mi Tierra en la Villita. Then pick up unique sweets like gummies with chile at Dulcelandia, and finish the day off with a chamoyada tamarrica michelada or a daring shot of mezcal con worm at Osito’s Tap.
National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture: The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture is the perfect place to learn more about Puerto Rican history and heritage through year-round visual and oral exhibits, paintings, and workshops. The valuable contributions of Puerto Ricans are also highlighted through the annual Raíces Gala. This event honors actors, musicians, and authors, among others, who have promoted their heritage through their work.
Humboldt Park: Humboldt Park is home to one of the oldest murals in the United States. The artwork here depicts social issues, such as inequality and racism, that still impact the community today. “The Crucifixion of Don Pedro Albizu Campos,” “Breaking the Chains,” and “Together We Overcome” are among some of the most famous murals, which have been restored to show their true colors and maintain their relevance and symbolism.
Puerto Rican cuisine: For a true taste of Puerto Rico, visit Nellie’s Restaurant and try their famous avena de coco (coconut oatmeal). Another favorite is the jibarito bowl, made of arroz con gandules, vegetables, avocado, and fried plantains, which can be mixed with meat like chicken or even made vegan. At Café Colao, meanwhile, pick up pastelillos de guayaba y queso (puff pastries filled with cream cheese and guava), a delicious cheese or coconut flan, or a roasted pork sandwich.
Find Amtrak in Moynihan Train Hall, located across from New York Penn Station, which can take you wherever you’re going in the City That Never Sleeps. The transportation hub is so efficient that, aside from the Amtrak platforms, you can also access subway lines or jump on the Long Island Railroad.
The station is an architectural marvel — skylights fill the halls with light and warmth, staircases and arches evoke nostalgia, and artwork showcases as much history as innovation. Among the pieces are the suspended sculpture, “The Hive,” and colorful stained-glass windows. Once you’re finally able to peel yourself away from all there is to see inside the station, it’s time to make a circuit around Manhattan and Queens to get in touch with some of the Big Apple’s Hispanic heritage.
Avenue of the Americas: If you’re heading towards famous sites like the Central Park Zoo or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, stop along the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) where it meets Central Park. Here you can admire multiple monuments honoring Latin American leaders who fought to liberate their people from Spanish oppression and rule. There’s a statue of Cuba’s activist José Julián Martí, one of Argentinian general José de San Martín, and another monument to Simón Bolívar, who liberated and presided over what was known as the Gran Colombia.
A taste of Cuba: After strolling down Avenue of the Americas, stop for a bite at Victor’s Café. In this sophisticated Cuban restaurant, you can indulge in Lechón Asado (a traditional roast pig marinated for 24 hours and served with garlicky yuca con mojo) or Salmón Carnaval (seared Atlantic salmon served with charred pineapple salsa and Cuban creamy polenta) while sipping a Coconaty Mojito with fresh mint or a Cuba Libre. Farther uptown, Amor Cubano is an excellent choice for dinner, as their traditional menu, which includes the Frita Cubana Sandwich (with ground pork, beef, and Spanish sausage) and Paella a la Valenciana (saffron rice with shrimp, scallops, squid, clams, mussels, chicken, and sausage) is accompanied by lively Cuban music.
East Harlem: New York is a hub for Hispanic culture and gastronomy, and East Harlem is one of the main zones with a large concentration of spots that highlight the traditions and diversity of the Latin community. Also known as El Barrio, the neighborhood has been enriched by places like El Museo del Barrio. This museum’s permanent collection displays paintings from Latin American and Caribbean artists, photography exhibitions with a Hispanic socio-historical context, and Pre-Colombian indigenous artifacts, among other installations.
La Marqueta: A five-minute walk from El Museo del Barrio will take you to La Marqueta, a marketplace featuring vendors from all over Central and South America and the Caribbean. This one-stop-shop has various eateries with traditional dishes and drinks, local artwork, and entertainment. Have chicken pasteles from Cocotazo, a churro cupcake from Lizzy’s Treats NYC, a painting lesson by Puerto Rican artist Carmen Ayala at her studio Maruka Café Galeria, or enjoy an evening of live music and salsa dancing at the Urban Garden Center.
Jackson Heights: Jackson Heights is also accessible from Moynihan Train Hall via the subway. Located in Queens, the area has gained the name Little Colombia due to the high prevalence of residents and businesses from this South American country. Feast on cheese arepas stuffed with chicharrón or sweet plantains with avocado at Arepa Lady, or a bandeja Paisa with assorted meats mixed with rice and egg at Seba Seba. Then cool off with a passionfruit snow cone with condensed milk and fresh fruit at El Palacio De Los Cholados, or buy delicate handmade jewelry from one of the many street vendors. Or stay longer and do it all — it is Hispanic Heritage Month, after all!