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You might think the only way to get a global education in Orlando is to take a walk through Epcot. Think again. Orlando is full of colorful neighborhoods rich in diversity. The city’s Little Vietnam is one opportunity to explore beyond the usual tourist spots.
With the influx of war refugees from Vietnam in the 70s, “Little Vietnam” or “Little Saigon” was born in an unassuming corner of Downtown Orlando. Today, you’ll find an established community of restaurateurs, martial artists, grocers, jewelers, and practitioners of Eastern medicine. These small businesses and their loyal local followers exist side by side, growing into what is now the ever-gentrifying Mills 50 District.
So why put Little Vietnam on your itinerary for your next visit to Orlando? Because you’re not a tourist – you’re a traveler in search of authentic culture, food, and history. Because that’s what you’ll find in Orlando’s “Little Vietnam.”
This neighborhood has grown to encompass the flourishing Asian-American community in Central Florida. In Little Vietnam, you’ll find more than just pho. Asian immigrants have flocked to set up shop here for the neighborhood’s familiar feel. The community has grown to encompass Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Thai influences. You’ll find a number of Asian markets selling anything from live eel to jackfruit.
Vietnam’s most well-known dish is undoubtedly pho. Notable restaurants serving up the noodle soup are Pho 88, Pho Vinh, and Little Saigon. But the neighborhood has even broader culinary appeal. Gourmands can find banh mi at Nha Trang Subs; papaya salad at Pop Thai Restaurant; Korean BBQ at Shin Jung Korean Restaurant; Taiwanese bubble tea at Lollicup Cafe; Pan-Asian street food at Hawkers; and Asian-inspired tacos as Tako Cheena. Yes…tacos.
The area is dotted with murals and street art. Perhaps best known for its painted utility boxes, Mills 50 has adopted an eclectic look thanks to a call for artists commissioned by the city. The boxes are painted by locals and reflect the community’s diversity and creativity. The project is ongoing, so new art awaits around every corner.
The second generation of Asian-Americans are coming of age, but often lack an emotional connection to their homeland. This is where the Hon Viet group come in. This female dance troupe keeps their cultural heritage alive with traditional performances of Vietnamese dance and song.
Look no further than the cross streets of Highway 50 and Mills Avenue for a unique Orlando attraction. It is here that you’ll find “the intersection of creativity and culture” as the grassroots organization, Mills50, describes it. Take a walk through Orlando’s history while sipping on a cool cup of boba.