Are you a teacher looking to take your Spanish class on a field trip? A trip abroad to a Spanish-speaking country is the capstone experience for many students studying Spanish in high school. However, there are many reasons why it’s hard to take a field trip abroad, and with the COVID pandemic, many teachers are looking at multiple years of not being able to take their students out of the country.
In addition, the high cost prevents many students from being able to go on trips to other countries. Or, if students are undocumented, they can’t leave the country, and a trip abroad is impossible for them.
An alternative to trips abroad is taking a longer field trip within the United States. The good thing is, the United States has a huge Spanish-speaking population and a rich history of Spanish culture in many places.
While at first glance it may seem like a field trip within the United States is not as exciting, there are lots of benefits. Besides the aforementioned reasons for student participation, here are a few other reasons to take a trip within the good ol’ USA.
Advantages for Spanish class field trips in the U.S.
- The cost is generally lower
- You don’t have to worry about being away from good medical care
- Communication is easier because students normal cell phones will work
- You may be able to drive there and avoid flying
- Students don’t need to get passports or visas
- It will give students a better understanding of the history of the U.S. and the diversity within their own country.
I’ll bet that just about everybody in the contiguous 48 states has a great field trip that their Spanish class could take within a day’s drive of their hometown.
The following locations are places that I’ve visited that are historically and culturally significant, have enough things to do for an overnight field trip, and are geographically diverse. Don’t forget that the best field trip might be connecting with Spanish-speakers in your own state!
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Miami, Florida: Little Havana
Miami is home to over a million Cubans and people with Cuban heritage. A visit to the Little Havana neighborhood means that you are guaranteed to hear Spanish in the streets. As you walk, don’t miss the colorful street art. There are plenty of places to try a cuban sandwich or coffee (strong and with sugar). There is also an interesting monument to poet José Marti. You’ll want to visit Domino Park, which has been made famous again by the song Patria y Vida.
If you take students you’ll want to call ahead and plan a visit to the Bay of Pigs Museum. Veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion staff the museum and provide a first-hand account of events.
Boise, Idaho: Basque Block
While you wouldn’t normally think of taking a Spanish class field trip to Idaho, the Boise area is home to one of the largest populations of Basque immigrants in the world. There is a dedicated Basque Block that includes a cultural center, restaurants, a museum, and more. There is even an indoor Jai Alai court where students can learn to play this fast-paced handball game, similar to Basque pelota. Add in some pintxos for lunch, a museum visit, and a performance from the Oinkari Basque Dancers and you’ve got a very special day!
Find out more about the Basque Block here.
Chicago, Illinois: Pilsen Neighborhood
The Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago has a number of student-friendly sites to see, including street art and the National Museum of Mexican Art. There are plenty of Mexican and Central American restaurants in the area.
The Humbolt Park neighborhood has Puerto Rican roots and is home to the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.
Chicago is known for its theatre scene, and a handful of theaters, including Teatro Vista, have plays in Spanish.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe provides the quintessential Southwest experience. It is a unique city that combines art, indigenous peoples and cultures, Spanish colonial history, and nature in a way that makes its motto “the city different” fit perfectly.
The New Mexico History Museum is a must-see to learn about the region’s history before exploring. As you enjoy the unique adobe-style architecture, don’t forget to stop at The Palace of the Governors, which was built by the Spanish in 1611 and is still in use today!
If students get tired of history, there are hands-on art and cooking classes available (including one about chocolate!) and you can even hike part of the historic Santa Fe Trail.
Tucson, Arizona: Spanish missions
Stretching from California to Texas and beyond is a chain of missions created by the Spanish missionaries as they settled in the Southwest. Some are only ruins but others like San Xavier de Bac in Southern Arizona (below) are well-preserved. A trip to Tucson could include the Tumacácori National Historic Park, the first mission to be located in what is today Arizona.
Tucson sprung up from the Presidio San Agustin de Tucson, founded by the Spanish in 1775. Today you can visit this reconstructed living history museum to learn about early Native Americans, Presidio residents and Territorial Period settlers.
San Antonio, Texas
So many of us know the legend of the Alamo, and San Antonio would be a great place to learn more about this famous landmark and the nuanced Tejano history around it.
Although the Alamo is the most famous, there are a number of other Spanish missions nearby that might be better for exploring the daily life of Tejanos. San Antonio Missions is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes four distinct areas each a few miles apart.
Taking a boat ride on the famous Riverwalk would be a sure hit with students. There are dozens of restaurants here, and you can be sure to be entertained by a mariachi band.
New York City
New York is home to people from every Spanish-speaking country in the world. Here is a guide to which neighborhoods are where. The New York City area has over a million Dominicans, so it would be an obvious place to explore the culture of the Dominican Republic.
New York is synonymous with theatre, and there is sure to be a play in Spanish to enjoy at one of these Latin theaters. Also check out The Met(ropolitan Museum) to see what exhibits they have on, as there is always something that relates to Spain or Latin America.
St. Augustine, Florida: The cradle of the US
St. Augustine is home to the first continuously occupied European settlement in what is today the United States. Decades before Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, it was the Spanish that settled here, not the English. You can tour the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and see a canon firing and historical re-enactments on the weekends and holidays. There are a number of other museums that tell the history of the Spanish in Florida and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park that has demonstrations of indigenous and Spanish ways of life like blacksmithing.
If you are more interested in history than language, this would be a good choice for your students. It would also be a great place to critically study the representation of history and how tourism and history interact. St. Augustine is a popular place for field trips, and there are lots of other things to do in St. Augustine.
San Diego/Tijuana border
In college I took a life-changing trip to the San Diego/Tijuana border area to study border issues. We met with leaders of groups with opposing ideologies, like the Minute Men who would unofficially patrol the border and the Border Angels who would leave food and water in the desert for migrants trying to cross. I would guess that the Border Patrol is no longer giving tours, but you could probably have an agent speak to your students.
Friendship Park, where the border fence disappears into the Pacific Ocean, is open to the public on weekends, and the public art and memorials to those who have died crossing the border are a moving tribute.
The other place to see public art is Chicano Park. A historic example of community organizing, Chicano Park is an open area that is home to dozens of murals by Chicano and Latino artists celebrating their culture.
A visit to see the architecture and gardens of Balboa park and the San Diego Zoo would be a hit with students.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Let’s not forget that Puerto Rico is part of the United States! While, yes, you would need to fly there, many of the other advantages listed above are still valid. Your students can get a true Spanish immersion experience within the U.S.
Sites to see include the colorful Old San Juan The San Juan National Historic Site includes a number of forts and castles, including the commanding El Morro overlooking the ocean. You could easily book a salsa class or the Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour.
Outside of San Juan, a day trip to El Yunque National Forest would be great for students looking for adventure, as it can include hiking to a waterfall, wildlife spotting, and kayaking.
I hope this list of the best Spanish class field trips in the U.S. has given you some ideas of great places to take your Spanish students! If you have suggestions of other places, I would love to hear them in the comments below!