San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinese community in North America and the largest outside of Asia. It was established in 1848 and was the starting point for most Chinese immigrants. The area was once a ghetto; it was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake and was rebuilt to be a tourist attraction. Today it is home to 15,000 Chinese in a 20-block area; it is the densest neighborhood in California. 75% of tourists visit Chinatown while in San Francisco’s making the area more frequented than the Golden Gate Bridge.
Enter Chinatown through the Dragon Gate. This authentic pagoda topped gate of dragons, fish and lions is constructed from materials donated by the Republic of China in 1969. The large center passageway is for dignitaries and the 2 small side passages are for commoners.
Grant Avenue is the main street for tourists and is full of beautiful architecture and souvenir shops. Red lanterns drape across the street; look up and notice the golden dragons on the street lights. Stop in Far East Flea Market to buy souvenir paper lanterns.
Golden Gate Bakery is a must stop, try one of their famous egg tarts. Also consider stopping at Ten Ren Tea for a tea tasting. Nearby Portsmouth Square is the birthplace of San Francisco. It is common to see locals practicing Tai Chi in this park. Other architecture to see is the East West Bank and the Nam Kue School.
Stockton Street is the main street for locals. It is full of markets of live produce and exotic fruit. Many restaurants have whole roasted poultry hanging in the windows. This is a great place for lunch. New Moon Restaurant and Good Mong Kok Bakery are both great options for a quick and inexpensive meal.
Waverly Place is a beautiful street of painted balconies and temples. Spofford Alley is full of Chinese associations and social clubs. Be sure to visit Tin How Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in the US. It was founded in 1852 to honor the Goddess of Heaven and Sea.
Wander the alleys and check out the street art. Do not miss Golden Gate Fortune Cookies in Ross Alley. This small store produces 20,000 cookies a month by hand. Watch the process and enjoy warm free samples. You can also create your own fortune for a unique souvenir.
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