China is an amazing place to visit and explore. Everything from the cuisine to the traditions honored by the people of the country are what make visiting China such a special vacation. However, sometimes it is not possible to fly halfway around the globe to visit this amazing destination. Everything from time to money to needing a passport to dealing with a language barrier keeps many American travelers from visiting China on vacation.
If you are wanting to enjoy some of the most authentic Chinese cuisine right here in America, look no further than the many Chinatowns found across the country. Every Chinatown offers the opportunity to explore this nation's culture, cuisine and other traditions without ever needing a passport.
Here are some of the best Chinatowns in America:
New York City
Escape the hustle and bustle of the big city by heading New York City's Chinatown where you will feel like you have stepped right off the plane in the heart of China. Very few signs in this area are in English, as many of the community members try to keep their home country alive in their new country. While walking the streets, you will encounter street peddlers offering unique souvenirs and some of the most mouth-watering and authentic Chinese food in the country.
Some of the best restaurants in New York's Chinatown include Grand Sichuan, Peking Duck House, Nom Wah Tea Parlor and New York Noodle Town. Do not forget to visit Yunhong Chopsticks Shop, which features more than 200 different styles of chopsticks.
Take time to visit the Museum of Chinese in America which offers cultural insights to how both Chinese and American cultures have influenced one another.
Just a short trip from downtown Chicago by water taxi, or land taxi, you will find this city's Chinatown which is home to more than 70,000 residents, and the population continues to grow. Chicago's Chinatown dates back to 1905 when it was officially established as an influx of Chinese immigrants made their way west. This area is home to historical sites, such as the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, and specialty shops, such as Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Co. Do not forget to visit the city in February during the Chinese New Year when the community puts on an annual street party and parade. Plus, enjoy even more festivities at Navy Pier for the Lantern Celebration held in late February.
You will quickly discover that dining, shopping and entertainment options in Chicago's Chinatown are near endless. Top restaurants in the area include CAI and Lao Mala. The Chinatown Bazaar is the place to go when looking for authentic Chinese décor, souvenirs and other unique gifts.
The Chinatown in Philadelphia started developing when early Cantonese immigrants began settling in the area in the mid-1800s. Though these immigrants started opening up shops and restaurants in the area, it was not until the 1960s when a huge influx of families started settling in the area, creating the Chinatown we know today. Everything in this small area is influenced by Chinese artisans and showcases the immigrants' heritage and culture.
Some of the most popular restaurants include Sang Kee Peking Duck House, Four Rivers Restaurant and Imperial Inn. Do not forget to stop at the 1st Oriental Supermarket for everything you need to make an authentic Chinese dinner at home and other souvenirs.
Related: Top Diners in Philadelphia
Honolulu's Chinatown is located on the far western border of the city's financial district. This area is home to a variety of restaurants, quaint shops, lei makers, antique dealers, bars, restaurants and temples. This Chinatown is nestled among 15 blocks of unique architecture and historic buildings. During the day there is plenty of opportunity to explore the streets where you will find both indoor and outdoor shopping venues featuring handmade Chinese souvenirs and other cultural items. At night, this area turns into a hot spot of entertainment as the clubs and bars come alive.
Top restaurants in Honolulu's Chinatown include the Little Village Noodle House, Yee Hong Pavilion and the Royal Kitchen. Activities planned in this community include the Chinatown Art Walk and First Friday Festivities.
Many skip visiting Chinatown when exploring the Los Angeles area. Why? Because many of the area's Chinese population have made their way to the city's suburbs. However, just because a majority of the Chinese population has relocated, does not mean that this city's Chinatown is something to overlook. You will be welcomed by the distinctive red gate and be amazed by the colorful neighborhood. Throughout the year you will find the city streets decorated with lanterns and shops waiting for you to come in and purchase clothing, accessories and souvenirs. Plus, this community is home to many Chinese-influenced restaurants including Foo Chow Restaurant and Golden Dragon Restaurant.
Here is the link for a self-guided tour of Los Angeles' Chinatown.
Whether you live close to your area's Chinatown or are vacationing in a city with one, make plans to explore the different shops, live entertainment venues and restaurants in these quaint communities. If you are looking to learn more about Chinese culture, take time to talk to the many shop and restaurant owners. Most of the time, they are more than willing to share stories about their homeland with visitors.
Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.
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