If you’ve traveled across the United States, you may notice that many states have their own Chinatowns, which resulted when a large number of Chinese immigrated to the United States in the mid-19th century. They created their own tight-knit communities across the country, which helped them keep their ethnic heritage strong and share their culture with others. Nowadays, Chinatowns are a major tourist attraction for visitors from around the world. From San Francisco to New York, these are the ten best Chinatowns in the United States. Pro tip: visit them during Chinese New Year!
Visit These 10 Great Chinatowns in the United States
Arguably the most famous and largest Chinatown outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is located near the Financial District and covers more than 20 blocks with old architecture and beautiful décor. Come here for dim sum and other delicacies, such as egg tarts at Golden Gate Bakery, Hunan Homes Restaurant, and Hang Ah Tea Room, which is America’s oldest dim sum house. Other attractions include the restored Bank of Canton and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, which offers free tours and prepares homemade fortune cookies (try their giant ones).
One of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States, Honolulu’s Chinatown is located on the western edge of the Financial District and is home to a variety of herbalist shops, lei makers, antique dealers, Asian restaurants and bakeries, temples, bars, and nightclubs. Get lunch at the popular Pig & the Lady Restaurant, which is famous for serving Vietnamese fusion food. Try the exotic moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuen Chinese Bakery, and visit gorgeous temples like the Izumo Taishakyo Mission Shrine and the Juan Yin Temple. You can also catch a performance at the historic Hawaii Theatre and explore the Chinatown art walk on the first Friday of every month.
3. New York
New York’s Chinatown is located in the center of cultural diversity, with Little Italy to its north and Tribeca to its west. This Lower Manhattan neighborhood is known for having some of the best restaurants in New York, and is notable as NYC’s largest Asian community. Go shopping for jewelry and gifts on Canal Street, and for more exotic items check out Mott and Grand Streets. If you can, definitely celebrate Chinese New Year here.
4. Los Angeles
Don’t let its smaller size fool you; the Los Angeles Chinatown is packed with plenty of great dim sum restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, unique markets, and art galleries that will keep you entertained all day. Chinatown Central Plaza is the hub of activity in town and hosts unique evening events in the summer. They also offer 2.5-hour guided walking tours of Chinatown’s hidden spots, and Far East Plaza is a great place to go shopping for everything form ginseng to ramen. Step into Thien Hau Temple, which offers dance performances and firecracker displays around Chinese New Year, and grab lunch at the famous Foo-Chow Restaurant, which was featured in the movie “Rush Hour” starring Jackie Chan. Or head to some of these incredible Chinese restaurants in L.A. to top off a perfect day.
Located in downtown, Boston’s Chinatown is the third largest in the country (after New York and San Francisco), and is conveniently located at the edge of the shopping and financial districts for easy access. As you walk through the opening gate, you’ll notice two Foo lions on either side, which are meant to ward off evil spirits. Sites to visit here include Hayden Building, China Pearl Restaurant, and Imperial Seafood House.
The historic Chinatown neighborhood has been around since the 1930s, and even though it is small, they have some great Asian food restaurants including Wok & Roll, Ming’s Restaurant, Tony Cheng’s Seafood Restaurant, and Mongolian BBQ. To enter Chinatown, one walks under The Friendship Arch, which celebrates the connection with Washington’s sister city of Beijing.
Chicago’s Chinatown is a fun place to visit due to its numerous art exhibitions and museums that are located throughout town. They also hold various festivals every year, and group tours are offered throughout the week for those seeking to learn more about its history. Chinatown is located 20 minutes from downtown, and places to stop include specialty shops like Ginseng Co. and Ten Ren Tea, MingHin Cuisine, and Lao Sze Chuan—a family restaurant that was recently named “America’s Best Chinese Takeout” by USA Today.
This diverse community is home to a culture blend of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipino residents, and just as many diverse restaurants like Thai Curry Simple, Jade Garden, Green Leaf, and Tamarind Tree. Go shopping at Uwajimaya supermarket, pick up mocha croissants and matcha breads at Fuji Bakery, and check out the Bruce Lee exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum. Kobe Terrace Park is home to a four-ton stone lantern from Seattle’s Japanese sister city, and during the Lunar New Year celebration, the streets come alive with dragon dances and discounted restaurant rates.
With the second largest Indochinese population (after Los Angeles), Houston’s Chinatown features a vibrant and thriving Asian community. Many people come here to try the dim sum at Ocean Palace and shop for fresh fish at the Hong Kong City Market. Harwin Drive is the place to go bargain shopping, along with the numerous Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Pakistani markets that share space with cultural centers.
Pass under the brightly colored China Gate at 10th and Arch Streets and you’ll find yourself in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, which is packed with restaurants and stores that are influenced by everything from Hong Kong and Taiwanese to Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese culture. Take in an Asian-themed performance at the Asian Arts Initiative; go on a locally guided tour, and sample wontons, noodle dishes, and dim sum at restaurants like Sang Kee Peking Duck House and Four Rivers Restaurant.
This article was written by Kamala Kirk.