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March 18, 2019 7:02am
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San Francisco’s Chinatown

Visit America’s Largest and Oldest Chinatown Settlement

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Once you leave the ferry from Sausalito on San Francisco’s wharf areas and docks, it is only a short trip to one of the most famous and interesting destinations in the city. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest, largest, and most notable of all the immigrant settlements from Asia in the United States and has been a draw for visitors from around the world for more than 100 years.

Whether you are looking for authentic Chinese food, bargain shopping on a wide variety of imported goods, or just would like to see this preserved and old fashioned neighborhood for yourself, Chinatown has a sampling of everything and is guaranteed to keep your attention.

A short distance from Pier 39 and Fishermans Wharf, North Beach and the Embarcadero lies the famous jade-green Dragon Gate to Chinatown. Winding alleyways and some of the narrowest streets in all of San Francisco will bring you right back in time to a long-ago era and transport you into this city within the city.

History of San Francisco’s Chinatown

Beginning in the mid to late 1800’s, large numbers of Chinese immigrants made their way into San Francisco and began working for large industrial concerns such as the Transcontinental and Central Pacific Railroads. The immigrants gathered in the neighborhood now known as Chinatown as San Francisco generally had ethnic communities such as the Italian North Beach and others at that point in time. San Francisco’s famous Chinatown has continued to be one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the country and remained the largest Chinese settlement outside of Asia since this time.

Throughout major events such as the 1906 earthquake, periods of racial tension, and other disasters and political periods of uncertainty, San Francisco’s Chinatown community has remained tightly knit and has risen to restore damage and reputation time and again.

Visiting Chinatown

Visitors to Chinatown will find an enormous array of goods, services, and cuisine all packed into a tight geographic area. From restaurants and quick-snack food purveyors to houseware and clothing merchants, there is a huge variety of items for sale at generally low prices. In addition to the shopping available, there are many service oriented businesses in Chinatown as well, such as bodywork and massage parlors, medical practitioners, and much more.

Festivals and Events in Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown is famous for the festivals and special events that take place in the area. Chinese New Year Celebrations, the Autumn Moon Festival, and more give participants and attendees the chance to revel in the cultural holidays and enjoy a display of authentic Chinese dance and performance. The events, parades, and festivals in Chinatown can get crowded with the already narrow streets now packed with partygoers and festival enthusiasts, but the shows that are put on during these events are generally worth the crowds – you aren’t likely to see anything as interesting or dynamic as the shows put on here!

Just steps after leaving the ferry from Sausalito, you could be in one of America’s most historic neighborhoods and could get a chance to see the cultural and culinary attractions that have made this neighborhood so famous.

San Francisco Chinatown Merchants Association

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Photos copyright by Jay Graham Photographer
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