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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.