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20 Ways to Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

All across the country, there are lots of things to do to celebrate the impact and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

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Photo: San Francisco Travel Association

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In 1992 the month of May was designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by then-President George H. W. Bush. The month has since evolved to become the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month). The month of May was chosen since it marks two key events, including the arrival of the first-known immigrants from Japan in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1969, which was built primarily by Chinese immigrants.

There are lots of ways to honor and celebrate the contributions of past and present Asian Americans, including festivals, parades, educational classes, museums, sporting events, walking tours, and even bookstore events. Here are 20 ways that the whole family can celebrate.

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Photo: Asian Film Festival of Dallas

Attend an Asian Film Festival

Asian film festivals take place across the country each year in support of Asian and Asian American filmmakers. In May, check out the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival or CAAMFest in San Francisco. Festivals typically include screenings of shorts and feature-length films, as well as classic films and current releases. Some include panels and workshops with actors and directors. Alternatively, you can also settle in on the couch at home to watch an Asian-led cast in the raucous Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All at Once, which also spotlights the Asian immigrant experience within its comic trappings.

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Photo: Japanese American National Museum

Visit an Asian History or Heritage Museum

There are heritage sites dedicated to specific buildings and historic districts, as well as heritage museums that offer more history and stories. One to check out is the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, which is home to artifacts, structures and photographs designed to preserve and share the history of Japanese Americans. This museum grew out of a movement by a group of Japanese American World War II veterans who were eager to preserve their legacy. In New York, the Museum of Chinese in America educates visitors on the diverse historical and cultural experiences of Chinese Americans.

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Photo: National Bonsai Foundation

Explore Asian Horticulture

Asian horticulture has had a real impact on gardening and landscaping in the United States. Popular ornamental plants native to Asia include bamboo, cherry trees and Japanese maples. In spring, seek out bright pink blossoms on Japanese cherry trees. Top spots for bloom-seekers include the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, the Quad at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the Japanese Tea Garden inside San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Bonsai, the Japanese art of growing and sculpting miniature trees, is also a must-see at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC, and the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Washington.

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