- By Kevin
- On Jun 28, 2017
- North America
- Travel Tips
If you think seeing one Chinatown means you’ve seen them all, you’d be wrong. This is a useful travel guide help you to Chinatown in San Francisco, San Francisco guide. San Francisco’s is the oldest in the US—being the first site of large-scale migration from the Pearl River Delta in the 1800s—and the history of the city, the state of California and the country itself are closely interwoven with the neighborhood. Present-day Chinatown is a square mile in the center of the city boasting a diverse mix of housing, temples, shops, markets, bakeries and more serving the local Chinese community—including some of the best things to do in San Francisco. And while eating at the best Chinese restaurants and shopping for hours are undoubtedly part of the draw and experience of the place, consumption isn’t the only reason to visit; crowded, chaotic and compact, Chinatown contains some impressive historic sites and is undoubtedly one of the most densely packed cultural areas in the city. Read on for our top picks on what not to miss in the 'hood.
Chinese Historical Society of America
The museum of the Chinese Historical Society of America is a must-see for anyone wanting to fully understand the growth of the Golden State. With an excellent collection featuring personal testimonials, photographs, original documents and real bits of history (look out for a section of rail from the Central Pacific Railroad), the museum gives a compelling and absorbing account of the history of the Chinese in America—from early arrivals in the 1630s, to the 19th century migrations from the Pearl River Delta, the decades of discrimination faced by the community and present-day life. Don’t miss the miniature dioramas of Chinatown interiors, designed by Frank Wong, a San Francisco native and later a Hollywood set designer. The museum is housed in a striking, ornate brick building with Chinese-inspired motifs, once occupied by the YWCA.
Located in the popular Ross Alley (of Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory fame), 41 Ross is a community arts space, hosting exhibitions and talks on the visual and performing arts. Past events include local artists speaking about the creative process, a shadow puppetry workshop for children and an exhibition of black and white photographs by Ben Kwan, a local journalist who catalogued life in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1980s.
Portsmouth Square started life as the Spanish plaza on the then shores of the bay, when the city was still Yerba Buena. It’s famously where Commodore John Montgomery claimed San Francisco for the United States in 1846, during the Mexican-American War, and where local newspaperman Sam Brannan is apocryphally said to have leapt off a ferry in 1848, declaring the existence of gold in the American River. Today, the plaza is a casual meeting ground where Chinatown’s residents come to play card games and Chinese chess, sitting around cardboard boxes. The Square also plays host to a range of events around the year, from annual music festivals to outdoor ping pong tournaments.