Five of the Best Chinatowns in the United States

Not all Chinatowns are created equal. Luckily, you’ve got us to guide you in the direction of the glowing red lanterns. Here are some of the finest Chinatowns in the United States.
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Red lanterns hang in New York City's Chinatown
Red lanterns hang in New York City's Chinatown  (Ingram Publishing)

Most big cities in the United States have some sort of historic Chinese neighborhood dating back to the 1800s. The country’s most vibrant Chinatowns buzz with a fascinating cacophony of dialects and move to the rhythm of the Chinese lunar calendar. You’ll find the finest Chinatowns in the United States in these top cities.

San Francisco, California
San Francisco's Chinatown, established during the 1800s Gold Rush, was America’s first and remains the country’s most famous. Rebuilt after the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the district ranks with Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the top attractions in the City by the Bay. The neighborhood hosts the country's largest Chinese New Year festival (typically late January or early February), a month-long celebration with beauty pageants, dragon parades, fireworks, and street fairs. Visitors come to San Francisco’s Chinatown not only to eat in the numerous restaurants and noodle parlors—rumor has it that chop suey was invented here—but also to peek into the neighborhood’s Buddhist temples, shop in the fresh-food markets and herbalist shops, and watch the cookie makers at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Visit some of the colorful pagoda-style buildings here like the 1901 Chinese Telephone Exchange (now the Bank of Canton) or a Bank of America branch adorned with 60 dragon medallions.

New York, New York
New York's Chinatown, also established in the 1800s, is the largest in the United States. This lively neighborhood encompasses two square miles of prime lower-Manhattan real estate and is the historic home of the largest concentration of Chinese people in the West. This bustling enclave has hundreds of restaurants representing at least a dozen distinct Asian cuisines, a bevy of tea houses, bakeries, and grocers, and plenty of shops selling jewelry and knock-off designer wear (imported from China, of course). The traditional medicine shops here are well stocked with herbal remedies and rare Chinese medicines. In Confucius Plaza, a statue of the famous Chinese sage presides over the most popular meeting spot right in the center of all the action. For even more authentic Chinese dining and shopping, head to the two Chinatowns in Queens or any of the three in Brooklyn—among the eight official Chinatowns in the New York metropolitan area.

Published: 11 Oct 2012 | Last Updated: 5 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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