Exploring San Francisco
Chinatown in San Francisco is the oldest Chinatown in the United States and has the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Keeping its identity since 1848, Chinatown celebrates and honors its history and cultural influence in the area. Chinatown is known to have more visitors and tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge.
Chinatown officially spans 24 square blocks of the city, but there are two popular thoroughfares for tourists. One includes the famous Dragon Gate or Gateway Arch and is located on Grant Avenue at Bush Street. Entering through this iconic structure is like stepping into another world, but one that caters to the needs and desires of the traveler with restaurants and shops. Notice the streetlights as you walk along to catch the small details that makes Chinatown one of San Francisco's treasures.
The other location is along Stockton Street and is where the locals go. There are many produce and live animal markets along this street with crowds building up on the weekends. For travelers looking at the non-tourist side of Chinatown, starting with Stockton Street is a good bet. Or, simply walk around Chinatown and visit the variety of restaurants located within its boundaries. For a fun food-based activity, stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, located on Ross Alley. More than 20,000 fortune cookies are made here each day by hand. Travelers are welcome to watch cookies being made and even enjoy a sample! You can also capture a photograph of the cookie company, but they do ask for 50 cents for a photo.
There are many churches and Buddhist temples in Chinatown with some of the first churches built in 1854. Unfortunately many had to be rebuilt after the destruction of the 1906 earthquake. Some offer lectures and meditation classes and are definitely worth the visit.
For a total immersion in the Chinatown culture, be sure to visit for the two major community events: Autumn Moon Festival and Chinese New Year.
The Autumn Moon Festival is in September and coincides with the autumn equinox. The thousand year old Asian tradition celebrates the bounty of the summer harvest, the full moon, and Chang O, the immortal moon goddess. The event is free to attend.
Chinese New Year turns Chinatown red in honor of Lunar New Year. Celebrations include food, firecrackers, street fairs, and the Miss Chinatown USA pageant.