TravelNerd: The Best Places to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the West

Did you know Cinco de Mayo is not very widely celebrated in Mexico? The holiday is a predominantly Mexican-American event. With Latinos making up 20% of the Bay Area's population and 40% of Los Angeles, California is home to a few of the world's most expansive and exciting Cinco de Mayo celebrations. For a little Latin fun, flair and flavor this May, here are the top Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the Western United States.

Los Angeles Fiesta Broadway

April 28th

Every year, half a million people take part in what is the country's largest Hispanic event. Fiesta Broadway kicks off LA's Cinco de Mayo festivities a week before the big day. Two dozen city blocks near Little Tokyo are shut down and filled with music, food and revelry. This year's festival features performances by Pepe Aguilar, Angelica Maria and Gilberto Glass among others. The Cinco de Mayo celebration continues throughout the week at various locations and restaurants in the city.

San Francisco Cinco de Mayo Festival

May 4th

Held in Dolores Park, San Francisco's Cinco de Mayo festival take great pride in being an alcohol-free, family-friendly event. The Kids Zone includes numerous arts and crafts activities--everything from beading to balloon art. Like last year, the festival kicks off with a morning Zumba-thon, which is basically a giant outdoor fitness class and dance party. The event goes until 10PM, and the day's proceeds go to Mission Neighborhood Centers.

San Diego Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo

May 4th and 5th

Of Cinco de Mayo events that actually take place on Cinco de Mayo, San Diego's Old Town festival is the largest in Southern California. The two-day gathering is free and welcomes participants of all ages. There are interactive activities for kids, tequila sampling and ice cold cerveza for adults, and music and dance for everyone.  The Mercado is lined with vendors selling trinkets, jewelry, handcrafted leather products and more.

Phoenix Cinco de Mayo Celebration

May 4th and 5th

Phoenix, a city with palpable Mexican influence, is home to one of the top Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the Southwest. With hundreds of booths and vendors, Patriots Square Park serves as the central hub of festivities during the holiday weekend. In 2013, event organizers have set a goal to raise $100,000 for Arvizu Scholarships to provide financial aid for Hispanic students.

Portland Cinco de Mayo Festival

May 3rd, 4th and 5th

A seemingly unlikely West Coast candidate, Portland actually throws a pretty stellar Cinco de Mayo festival. Organized by the Guadalajara Sister City Association, the celebration pulls out all the stops. Portland goes beyond and above with attractions running the gamut from carnival rides to flash mobs. Participants can enjoy a calming visit to the live butterfly exhibit or spice up the day with an exciting Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling match.

Denver Cinco de Mayo

May 4th and 5th

With a Hispanic population exceeding 20%, Denver throws a mean Cinco de Mayo party. Nearly half a million participants take part in a weekend-long, carnival-esque festival full of mariachi music, spicy food and rows and rows of street vendors. During the celebratory weekend, Denver organizes several mini-events including a parade, a green chili cook off and a taco eating contest. Be there Sunday at 3PM for the annual Chihuahua races in which the winning pooch receives $500--or rather its owner receives $500 (which will hopefully be spent on treats and gas money driving to and from the dog park).

Stephen Vanderpool is a writer for TravelNerd, a site providing information about airport parking, airport maps and airline fees for travelers planning their next adventure.