Travel Tips for Visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown

Travelers to San Francisco looking for an authentic Chinese experience should be sure to add the city’s Chinatown to their to-do list. San Francisco boasts the oldest Chinatown in the United States, with roots going back to the 1850s.

However, deciding to visit the area is the easy part. The hard part is selecting which attractions to visit from among the many options. Below is a list of several possibilities recommended by tourists and locals alike:

Chinese New Year:

The annual celebration doesn’t take place on January 1 as is the American custom. The next two celebrations take place on February 5, 2019 and January 24, 2020. The start of each new year includes the recognition of a zodiac sign. It’s the brown earth pig for 2019. The parade normally starts at Market and Second Street. It spans two to three hours and is an excellent way to learn about traditional Chinese culture.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory:

This factory, which is located at the intersection of Jackson Street and Ross Avenue, offers low-cost tours to the public. A must-do activity in Chinatown, tourists can watch how workers create the famous fortune cookies from start to finish. At the end of the tour, they have the option to purchase some fortune cookies straight from the oven.

Chinatown Gate:

In 1969, the government of the country of Taiwan presented a gift of a gate to San Francisco to place at the entrance to the city’s Chinatown. The Dragon Gate, as it’s widely known, is located at Chinatown’s official entrance on Bush Street. It’s decorated with Koi fish, dragons, and two stone lions. The gate also includes a quote from the founder of the Chinese Republic. Translated into English, the quote says, “All under heaven is for the good of the people.”

Tin How Temple:

The San Francisco Chinatown Tin How Temple is an authentic Buddhist temple inside of a four-story apartment building. Local residents and tourists gather at the temple to pray, have someone read their fortune, and burn incense. The address for the temple is 125 Waverly Place. Although it’s recommended, visitors are not required to make a donation.

Bank of Canton:

Located at 743 Washington Street, the Bank of Canton has a rich history and was once the Chinese Telephone Exchange Building. In 1891, the building was the site of the first pay telephones in the nation. Switchboards appeared three years later to serve people who subscribed to the local telephone system.

Workers had to know five distinct Chinese dialects as well as memorized detailed information about each subscriber. The building, like numerous others in San Francisco’s Chinatown, sustained major damage in the 1906 earthquake. After renovation, it remained as a telephone exchange center until 1949.

Finish the Day with Lunch or Dinner at Z and Y Restaurant

Z & Y Restaurant in Chinatown, located at 655 Jackson Street, serves authentic Chinese dishes prepared by the internationally renowned Chef Han. He takes a traditional approach to preparing Chinese dishes while adding new world flare whenever possible. Z & Y is pleased to have earned a Diner’s Choice Award in 2017 and continues to earn customers’ approval with its flavorful dishes and modest prices.