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The San Francisco Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in the world, bringing in thousands of visitors each month. If you are near Chinatown for work and are looking for some activities for after 5:00 pm, there is plenty to do in Chinatown to keep you busy in the evening.
You can get to Chinatown by Uber or Lyft (I recommend being dropped off at Dragon’s Gate), or taking public transportation. The BART Dublin/Pleasanton – Daly City line has a stop called Chinatown. There are also MUNI metro and bus stations that will drop you off nearby. There are many options, so depending on where you are coming from I would recommend checking Moovit.
Portsmouth Square not only is the location of one of the most reasonably priced parking garages in Chinatown, but it may also be considered the birth place of Sam Francisco. This park the site of the first public square of the city, and also where the first American flag rose in San Francisco. Many significant events took place at the square, with plaques on site to commemorate the events. When we visited, it was $4 an hour to park in the garage under the square.
The Dragon’s Gate is an arch marking the entrance to Chinatown. Park at Portsmouth Square, and walk south down Grant Avenue to the gate. Located on Bush Street and Grant Avenue, the path to the gate will take you past a wide variety of shops for you to look through. There are three passageways of the gate. The two smaller pathways are meant for common people, and the center is designed to welcome more important individuals. Knowing this, it’s amusing to see cars casually driving through it! If you cross Bush Street, you can easily catch a quick photo.
Walk the streets
Chinatown has multiple alleyways that won’t fit any cars – you might even see plaques for some of these small roads. Back in the day, a lot of the Chinese people in Chinatown were pushed into this small area, and the alleys were created to help navigation. It’s fun to explore and see what interesting shops or murals you will come across. The above mural was found in Ross Alley, on your way to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
Fortune Cookie Factory
Within one of the tiny alleyways in Chinatown, you can visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. This is one of the only places in the country that hand make their fortune cookies, and you can even watch for free. You will see the cookie batter being poured, cooked, and then hand folded by one of the employees. The factory will offer a free sample of an unfolded cookie, and the opportunity to even write your own fortunes. In order to take photos, there are signs recommending that you leave a 50 cent tip. During the week, the factory closes at 6:30 pm.
Try Dim Sum
It should be a crime to visit San Francisco’s Chinatown and not eat Chinese food. Dim sum is like tapas for Chinese food – you order a ton of small plates to fill yourself up! You can also try Chinese BBQ, Chinese noodles, the possibilities are endless. Check out Yelp to see some of the best restaurants depending on your taste. There are also other Asian options available. I was surprised that a Vietnamese restaurant is often recommended!
San Francisco has many activities for after the work day, and visiting Chinatown may keep you entertained for an evening or two. Even once you wake all of the alleys and see some of the sites, there’s always new restaurants for you to try.
Thanks for the informative post! I love the idea of the fortune cookie factory (and ofc dim sum!) Helpful for travellers working and just passing through.
I remember visiting my extended family in California when I was a child, and going to SF’s Chinatown for a dim sum lunch. It all seemed so exotic to me at the time. Do you have any specific dim sum places you’ve visited and would recommend?
So I’ve lived in California my whole life, and still haven’t been to San Francisco. There seems to be a lot of things to do and interact with in Chinatown at night though! I feel as though when I’m traveling I get stuck when the sun sets and places start closing. SO happy I found your blog as the premise is amazing and helpful!
I’ve not been to San Francisco, but when I do get there I will make a point of visiting Chinatown. I’d love to try some Dim Sum.
Dim sum is life! I’m sure San Fransisco’s famous China town has some great options. And love your blog’s after 5 theme Michelle!
I’d love to get to the west coast someday, especially to San Fransico. This neighbourhood would top the list!
I love seeing different cultures immerse themselves into foreign settings! It’s always so interesting to see how they change 🙂
Rachel Silverwood says
I had the best Chinese of my life in San Francisco’s China town! I’ve been wanting to go back for more ever since, and readings this has only made me want to return more (my mouth is watering just thinking about it haha)
What a great idea! I wish I found your blog when I was working nd traveling. Keep exploring.
This is a very informative post! Last time I was in San Fransisco, I didn’t have enough time to really check out the city. Now I know that the next time I’m there, I’ll check out Chinatown.
great post! I visited SF last year for the first time and definitely didn’t spend as much time as I should of there!
Marysia @ My Travel Affairs says
I love SF, and hey the Fortune Cookie Factory is just the best!
Hey, I am from Santa Cruz! Chinatown is super fun, lots of great shops and eating, thanks for the reminder, as I am far from home, living in Italy!
First, this is a brilliant idea for a blog!
Second, I’m hoping to be in San Fran for work and I will be checking this out.
The Starving Artist says
I love a good little China Town tour! I did not know that this particular one was one of the biggest in the world! What a fact! If I ever make it to the west coast of America I will surely be stopping in here. For a second I thought this was the China Town in Malaysia! Your pics are epic! Pinned it for future reference!
jenny bhatia says
I went to San Francisco for a conference by myself many years ago. My favorite place in the city was China Town. I spent hours there and ate Dim Sum solo! It is one of my favorite traveling memories.
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