Party Earth Review Not only is San Francisco’s Chinatown the oldest of its kind in North America, it’s also the largest Chinese neighborhood outside of Asia, and surpasses even the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the city’s top tourist destinations... ... read full review
Roughly between Columbus Avenue on the east, Jones Street on the west, Broadway
to north, and Bush Street to the south
San Francisco, CA 94133
Chinatown, San Francisco –
Not only is San Francisco’s Chinatown the oldest of its kind in North America, it’s also the largest Chinese neighborhood outside of Asia, and surpasses even the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the city’s top tourist destinations.
Out-of-towners tend to stick to Grant Avenue, entering through the “Dragon Gate” at the intersection of Bush Street, where the sidewalks overflow with visitors buying up fabric, furniture, and trinkets from a seemingly endless array of kitschy shops. Sculpted dragons peer from street posts as patrons pile in to Asian Renaissance for kimonos or Asian Image for sushi-shaped candles, while China Station satiates everyone’s need for a plastic Buddha.
Further up Grant, kite stores share blocks with antique importers like Old Shanghai, where wealthy types on a decorating kick snag hand-painted cabinets and bronze incense burners that cost more than the average car.
Those craving authentic cuisine head over to Stockton Street, stopping in first at the myriad temples on Waverly Place before stumbling onto a sea of markets peddling live animals – and not for pets, either. If cooking their own frog leg soup doesn’t sound appealing, however, open-minded eaters can always let Yuet Lee Seafood Restaurant do it for them, or take their pick from a plethora of traditional eateries, including the thousand-capacity dim sum paradise New Asia.
Drinking dens in this neighborhood trend on the divey side, normally full of old men playing chess and chain smoking cigarettes at grungy hideaways like Sam Wo’s and Li Po Lounge, so anyone looking for traditionally classy nightlife will usually head elsewhere.
Full of sights, shopping, surprises, and smells, a trip to San Francisco's Chinatown is always an adventure.
Maybe the coolest part of Chinatown is getting lost down all the side alleys. You never know what you’re going to find: a hidden bar, a fortune cookie factory, even an old tea room will pop up from out of nowhere. When your feet get tired, head on over to Portsmouth Square on the corner of Clay Street and Kearny Street to watch the groups of people practicing their T'ai Chi.
Tourists of every ilk, Chinese natives, and San Francisco residents hungry for authentic Chinese food. All ages.
People-watching and window-shopping can easily fill the day, making Chinatown a great place to simply wander.
Autumn Moon Festival (September) showcases martial artists, acrobats, singers, dance troupes, and more.
Chinese New Year (mid-January–mid-February) is one of the city’s largest festivals, and includes two weeks of parades, street fairs, pageants, firecracker displays, and a parade featuring a dragon more than 160-feet-long.
Many shopping options, though the most notable include Asian Renaissance (662 Grant Avenue) for imports from kimonos to sake sets; Asian Image (800 Grant Avenue) for two floors of books, clothes, and candles; Bonsai Villa (825 Clay Street) for bonsai plants; China Station (456 Grant Avenue) for arts, crafts, and lots of Buddha statues; China Gem Full (910 Stockton Street) for wholesale garments; Chinatown Kite Shop (717 Grant Avenue) for handmade kites; Clarion Music Center (816 Sacramento Street) for an incredible variety of musical instruments; and Old Shanghai (645 Grant Avenue) for pricey antiques.
Hundreds of restaurants to choose from, including Great Eastern Restaurant (649 Jackson Street) for fresh seafood and Hong Kong specialties; Green Garden (434 Broadway) and Hing Lung (674 Broadway) for tasty bargain bites; Hang Ah Tea Room (1 Pagoda Place) and the cavernous New Asia (772 Pacific Avenue) for dim sum; Kam Po Kitchen (801 Broadway) for crisp-skinned pork and duck; Y. Ben House (835 Pacific Avenue) for fabulous dumplings; Yuet Lee Seafood Restaurant (1300 Stockton Street) for authentic seafood and specialty fare like frog legs; and Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant Avenue) for delectable custard-filled desserts.
Price range at shops and restaurants runs the gamut from bargain to wallet-busting, but Chinatown has always been a great place for cheap eats and even cheaper souvenirs.
Anytime, but if possible, visitors should check out the Chinese New Year celebrations in January or February, depending on the lunar calendar.
The Cable Car Museum (1201 Mason Street) offers a wealth of information and displays about San Francisco’s famous cable car history, as well as the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables of the cars today.