Although it was founded more than 150 years ago by a Presbyterian minister, the city of Westminster, south of Los Angeles, is now best known for being home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese residents in the country.
The city is located within Orange County, near the border of Los Angeles County, and is conveniently located close to many of the region’s most iconic attractions.
Westminster is also close to some of the best beaches in the area. It is home to many important historical and cultural sites, including museums, parks, war memorials and theatres.
Here are 15 things to do in and around Westminster, California.
1. Museum of History of the Republic of Vietnam
Partly tucked behind a small plaza on Bosra Avenue in Westminster, the Museum of History of the Republic of Vietnam is one of the city’s most poignant attractions.
Although small, the museum is definitely worth a visit for military and history buffs. It is said to be the only one of its kind in the country, as it focuses exclusively on the military history of the Republic of Vietnam.
The museum has only been open for a few years, but houses an impressive collection of historical memorabilia, photographs, and first-hand accounts of soldiers and civilians who fought and lived in the conflict.
2. Westminster Memorial Park
Memorial parks and morgues tend to rank low on most holidaymakers’ itineraries, but for those interested in enjoying the outdoors and getting away from the crowds, Westminster Memorial Park will be a great option.
The Memorial Park covers more than 100 acres and includes an impressive chapel, traditional Vietnamese pagodas, multiple gardens, and paved paths that connect different areas of the grounds.
The park is a great place for a quiet morning or afternoon walk, and previous visitors have noticed that despite its large number of graves, it is surprisingly uplifting.
The entrance is on Beach Avenue in Westminster, just a few blocks from the city centre.
3. Little Saigon
For those who dream of one day taking a plane and experiencing one of the most exotic cities in Southeast Asia, a visit to Westminster would be a great and more affordable alternative.
As America’s premier “Little Saigon,” downtown Westminster is filled with many of the sights, sounds and smells you’d experience in the real Saigon.
Although it’s just over three square miles, it’s filled with authentic restaurants, unique museums, and traditional shops.
Vietnamese are known for being hard-working and outgoing, so don’t be shy to ask for tips on dining, shopping and entertainment.
4. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
With so many valuable attractions packed into such a small area, it is possible to cover a lot and visit many of Westminster’s sights in a short amount of time.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on American Avenue in Westminster. It has an impressive monument dedicated to American and South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who served and lost their lives in the conflict of the 60s and 70s.
The centerpiece of the park is a huge bronze statue depicting American and South Vietnamese soldiers nearly 12 feet tall.
There’s also a playground for kids who don’t care much about history.
5. Asia Garden Mall
Comprising over 200 stores spread across multiple floors, Asia Gardens Mall is one of the city’s premier shopping destinations.
Most suppliers are immigrants or first-generation Vietnamese-Americans. They sell everything from shoes, children’s clothing, and cosmetics to traditional foods, jewellery and books.
Most shoppers stay for an authentic meal or street food. Although many suppliers converse in Vietnamese, most speak English.
Parking in the area can be quick, especially on weekends, so consider walking or taking public transport.
6. Rose Center Theatre
Located on All American Way, just a few blocks from the Little Saigon area, the Rose Center Theater is one of the city’s most enduring live performance venues.
The state-of-the-art facility hosts multiple performances throughout the year; they range from traditional Vietnamese music and theater to more contemporary American-style performances.
The theatre features a variety of seating options to suit audiences of varying budgets. Tickets can be purchased online before the show or at the box office.
They tend to watch popular shows quickly during peak hours, so consider buying early to avoid selling out.
7. Westchester Golf Course
Golf is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in Southern California. For those living in and around Westminster, there is no shortage of options.
Conveniently located west of Los Angeles between LAX and Westminster, Westchester Golf Course is a favorite for value-conscious golfers.
The course’s 18 holes stretch just over 4,600 yards, which means most rounds take about three hours to play, while larger courses within 6,000 yards take four or five hours.
The course is just five to ten minutes west of Westminster. It features a driving range, putting green and a pro shop.
8. Qing Restaurant
Savvy diners of Vietnamese origin tend to agree that Thanh’s restaurant on Bosra Avenue in Westminster offers some of the tastiest and most authentic dishes in the region.
Considering the competition in town, that’s a pretty decent compliment. They are also known for their reasonable prices, efficient service, and generous portions.
Perennial favorites include eggs and spring rolls, fried rice and pho – a hearty clear noodle soup with a variety of options including vegetables, meats, meatballs and seafood.
Thanh only accepts cash and can get extremely busy during peak hours, so consider dining early or late if you want to avoid the crowds.
9. Mile Square Regional Park
Conveniently located three blocks southwest of Westminster in Fountain Valley, Mile Square Regional Park offers a lot of punch in a relatively small area.
With multiple golf courses, softball and baseball fields, picnic areas, ponds, basketball and tennis courts, it is a popular destination for sporty types. It’s also a great place for a casual walk or bike ride.
The park’s arable land is planted with a wide variety of California plants. For out-of-town visitors, bikes can be rented on-site for a small daily fee.
During peak hours, parking spaces can disappear quickly, so plan accordingly.
10. Huntington Beach Pier
The Huntington Beach Pier is one of Southern California’s main attractions, located 10 kilometers west of downtown Westminster.
As one of the longest piers in the Golden State, it offers visitors amazing sightseeing and photography opportunities, as well as activities such as fishing.
The beach adjacent to the pier is home to one of the largest annual surfing championships in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators and competitors from around the world.
The waterfront area is full of trendy shops and restaurants; it’s a great place to relax and have a refreshing drink while a small group of people watch.
11. Noguchi Garden
Located on Anton Avenue in Costa Mesa, just 20 minutes south of Westminster, Noguchi Garden is a magnificent Japanese botanical garden created over 40 years ago.
The public gardens include cultivated fields, sculptures and natural elements such as streams, rocks and tree areas, creating a unique relaxing environment with a typical Japanese design.
While most guests won’t stay for more than an hour, Noguchi Gardens is a great place to stop and snap a few photos on the way to Newport Beach, just a kilometer south of the Pacific coast.
12. Crystal Cathedral
The Crystal Cathedral on Chapman Avenue in nearby Garden Grove is the largest glass building of its kind in the world, according to locals.
Whether that’s the case or just an urban legend coveted by the local tourist board, there’s no denying it’s an impressive structure; it lights up like a supernova in the intense afternoon sun.
The Cathedral is one of the largest pipe organs in the world. In order to hear it, you need to go through the service as it is a fully functioning house of worship.
Garden Grove is located five blocks northeast of downtown Westminster.
13. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Located just 15 minutes south of Westminster in Huntington Beach, Bolsa Chica Eco Reserve is a popular outdoor recreation destination for amateur ornithologists, photographers, hikers and all-around outdoor enthusiasts.
Spread across nearly 1,500 acres of diverse habitat, the reserve is often used as a resting area for several species of migratory birds at different times of the year.
With nearly ten kilometers of trails, the reserve is a great place to hike or bike in the morning or afternoon. For those who want to experience things in more depth, a guided tour is available if booked in advance.
14. Stanley Ranch Museum and Historic Village
Before it became a magnet for tourists, sun lovers and movie moguls, much of Southern California’s vast expanse was devoted to pastures and citrus crops.
Unlike most other attractions, the ranch includes many aspects of the area’s history, involving the film industry, ranching, and farming. Many of the buildings on the site have been restored to near original condition.
The facility is only open a few times a month, so check their website or give them a call before a special trip.
Stanley Ranch Museum and Historic Village is one of Orange County’s most underrated historic gems, just minutes northeast of Westminster.
15. South Coast Plaza
Just a 15 or 20 minute drive southeast of Westminster, Costa Mesa is one of the area’s most iconic attractions. It’s especially popular with those looking for upscale shopping.
South Coast Plaza is home to small boutiques and upscale international brand stores such as Dior, Tiffany & Co. and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The plaza also features a wide variety of dining options, ranging from coffee shops, bakeries, and fast-food restaurants like pizza and burgers to family-friendly and fine-dining restaurants.
Other amenities include currency exchange services, wheelchairs and personal shopping assistance for those ultra-wealthy individuals who cannot manage retail therapy without a partner.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Westminster, CA, CA
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