4 U.S. Cities With The Best Chinatowns

Chinatowns are a common occurrence around the world. In America, these stunning neighborhoods rose with the railroad age and grew distinctive personalities that make them top attractions in their own right.

Chinatowns are a common occurrence in America’s big cities. While most of these neighborhoods share an exotic air, with distinctive cuisine and eye-catching markets, not all Chinatowns are created equal. In cities where poverty is rampant or rising prices are driving Chinatowns away, much of these cultural delights are lost. However, several vibrant options have retained their character, offering a bold allure for residents and visitors alike.

1. San Francisco – The Oldest Chinatown in America

Chinese immigrants arrived in San Francisco in 1848, giving this city its claim to the oldest Chinatown in America. The neighborhood is so popular that it’s become the top tourist attraction in the city, surpassing even the Golden Gate Bridge. This is undoubtedly one of the best places to live if you want a thriving Chinatown near your home.

San Francisco’s Chinatown has more than 300 restaurants and shops ranging from fish markets to herbalists. Stunning dragon-entwined lamp posts, pagoda roofs, and bilingual signs create an immersive atmosphere. Even the Bank of America looks different here in a building adorned with 60 dragon medallions.

2. New York – Forty Blocks of Asian Intrigue

New York’s Chinatown emerged in the 1870s and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. This colorful neighborhood transports visitors away from the distinctive flavor of New York City and into a world all its own, brimming with street vendors and live markets. Much of the signage here is only in Chinese and not bilingual, underscoring the fact that this is an area many can visit but few will truly belong to.

3. Chicago – A Bustling Community of 70,000

The Chinatown in Chicago was established in 1905. This bustling neighborhood hosts several annual events that are must-see attractions for anyone in the area. The Chinese Autumn Moon Festival lights up the night with massive lanterns. During the Chinatown Summer Fair, cultural performances, live music, and other festivities make this lively area even more vibrant.

Tea aficionados can’t miss the Ten Red Tea and Ginseng Co. For an unforgettable meal, try the three-course Beijing Duck specialty at Lao Beijing.

4. Seattle – A Diverse Melting Pot

The first building blocks of Seattle’s Chinatown were laid in the 1860s by Chinese immigrants, but today the neighborhood is home to a blend of Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Japanese cultures. Known as the Chinatown-International District, or ID, this is the most diverse Chinatown in the country. In 2008, a colorful Chinese gate, known as a pai-lau, was constructed over South King Street and Fifth Avenue South, with a second to follow.

Hing Hay Park sits at the center of the district and regularly hosts live performances and cultural programs. For a panoramic view of the surrounding area, head to Kobe Terrace, which overlooks South Seattle.

Each Chinatown has its own unique flavor, but all offer something notably different from their surrounding cities. For international allure and excitement, these are must-see areas.

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