Pros:Cheap souvenirs, great food, and it's a "real" Chinatown
Cons:Some things are very cheaply made, a lot of signs are in Chinese only.
The Bottom Line: It's a live with sights and sounds that can't be found anywhere else. There's shopping, food, and "feeling" that can't be described. It must be experienced.
There's no Chinatown like the Chinatown in San Francisco. If you enjoy a lot of hustle and bustle, Chinese food, and shopping till you drop, then San Francisco's Chinatown is for you.
I just returned from spending a 3-day weekend in San Francisco ( I currently live in Orange County in Southern California). I love EVERYTHING about San Francisco, and Chinatown is one of my favorite places to visit when I'm in the area.
Mid-morning on a Sunday is my favorite time to go. It seems as if all the residents of Chinatown are out and about at that time. It doesn't seem as "touristy" on Sunday mornings. There are husbands and wives out for a walk, families going to or coming from church and visiting with each other..."catching up" for the week. Mothers with their children shopping for the following week's groceries, or picking up party favors, and there's food places everywhere beckoning you to come in for a visit. Restaurants, buffets, bakeries, grocery stands, and herbal shops ( selling things that look strange and smell stranger). It's absolutely WONDERFUL!!
On this last trip I was accompanied by a friend of mine who hadn't been to San Francisco in close to 10 years. He was dying to visit Chinatown, and have brunch. Dim sum was his desire. We went to a restaurant called "Golden Dragon" ( FYI it's located at 816-822 Washington Street off Stockton). It's located in the heart of Chinatown, and they offer a great deal for "lunch" on Sunday ( at least upon my visit 2-weeks ago). $7.95 all-u-can eat buffet (during the week this same buffet is $11.95). The buffet set-up itself wasn't the big "draw" it was the fact that it was all you could eat dim sum. Every few minutes a petite Chinese woman would go by our table with stacks of steamers filled with all kinds of dim sum or bao. My friend ate so much we nearly had to get a wheelbarrow to cart him out in.
We picked up some wonderful little "cheap" souvenirs for relatives who are children. There were also many deals to be found on linens and tablecloths...most of the stores were having "pre-spring" sales and many items were over 50% off.
Chinatown is a place to go to experience a different culture. It's a cacophony of colors, sounds, smells, and people. The architecture of some of the buildings is very ornate, others are very run down. There's a lot of history in Chinatown. It's home to one of the largest, if not the largest populations of Chinese people outside of China.
If you visit San Francisco I highly recommend a visit to Chinatown...even if you're not into shopping, at least for one great meal at one of their many wonderful restaurants.
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime