fun to do kids chinatown san francisco california   Travel for Kids
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San Francisco - Chinatown

Chinatown in San Francisco started during the 1850's, when Chinese came for the Gold Rush, and stayed on to run businesses. With kids, it's fun to explore Chinatown on foot, stopping to look at (and smell) usual herbs and foods in the stores, shopping for souvenirs, and having a dim sum or noodle lunch, and custards or fresh-baked fortune cookies for dessert.

Chinese New Year Photo Album
Chintatown Gate
  Chinatown Gate (Dragon Crested Gate) – Start exploring at the Chinatown Gate (Grant Ave. at Bush St.). The green tiled gate is topped with two dragons and fish, symbols of strength, goodness, and prosperity. The gate is flanked by two mythical Chinese guardian lions (called "foo dogs") to scare away evil; the male lion (on the left) holds a ball, the female lion (on the right) has a little cub.
  Grant Ave. Grant Ave., the oldest street in San Francisco, is chock full of shops and restaurants. This is a great place for kids to spend their money. Shops have jade jewelry, Chinese embroidered clothes, "singing cricket" toys, zodiac animals, stuffed animal pandas and red dragons. For fun, get a T-shirt with your child's name in Chinese characters.
    Tip: Stop into Chinatown Kite Shop (717 Grant Ave.) to buy a Chinese dragon kite. Later, head down to Marina Green, Crissy Field or Aquatic Park at Fisherman's Wharf to fly your kite.
  Portsmouth Square – Portsmouth Square is more than just a playground with swings and slides for kids. Captain Montgomery raised American flag at Portsmouth Square on July 9, 1846 claiming "Yerba Buena" (San Francisco) for the United States. Portsmouth Square was also the site of California's first public school, established in 1848. Don't miss the gilded sailing ship monument to Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived and was married in San Francisco, a few years before he wrote Treasure Island.
    Chinese Cultural Center – In the lobby of the Chinese Cultural Center, they have a small display of Chinese puppets, musical instruments, changing exhibitions and an excellent art gallery and bookshop.
Fortune cookie factory
  Fortune Cookie Factory – Fortune cookies were invented in the U.S. San Francisco and Los Angeles both take credit for this popular dessert. In Chinatown, you can see how fortune cookies are made. Stop into the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley) or Mee Mee Bakery (1328 Stockton). The smell of fresh baked cookies is delicious – buy a large bag, and start munching.
    Tin How Temple (125 Waverly Place) – This is one of the oldest Chinese temples in America, originally built in 1852. From street level, after you've climbed up a bunch of stairs, you'll find yourself in the small temple, beautifully ornamented with gilded altars and a forest of red paper lanterns suspended from the ceiling, inscribed with ancestor's names. At the far end of the temple is an altar with a statue of Tin Hou, the Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea, wearing an elaborate headdress, flanked by two fierce guardian figures.
    Chinese New Year
yellow lion dance
    Chinese New Year is celebrated by the lunar calendar, on the first and 15th days of the new moon. Dates for the celebration vary from year to year, sometime between mid January and mid February. On festival days, Grant St. becomes pedestrian only, and the street filled with booths selling colorful lanterns and firecrackers to scare away evil spirits, flowers and fruits to bring luck and prosperity. There are two big parades, celebrating the Spring and Lanterns Festivals.
    In the parades, watch groups of kids walking on stilts, dancing with scarves and fans, boys and girls drumming. Have your picture taken with Fu, Lu or Shou, the three gods of prosperity, good fortune and longevity. Lion dances by martial arts groups are incredible – yellow, red, black and white lions, picking up oranges and lettuce which they distribute to the audience for good luck, and balancing on high poles! During the dragon dance, a long red dragon is carried by strong people, swooping over and around, chasing a ball (which represents a pearl or the sun).
    Tip – On our blog, read "Books about Chinese New Year."
kids books san francisco chinatown
     
Exploring Chinatown san francisco childrens books  
Exploring Chinatown
Carol Stepanchuk, Leland Wong

Take a cultural tour of San Francisco's Chinatown. This is a wonderful background for what you'll see – herb shops with unique aromas, stationery stores and calligraphy, the Tin How temple, art galleries with brush paintings, New Year's parades, festivals and dragon lore. (Picture book)

 

     
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats
Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, Meilo So

Celebrate major Chinese festivals – Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with holiday tales, recipes, riddles, arts and crafts activities. (Activity book)

 

 
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats kids chinese festivals hong kong
     
Bringing in the New Year chinese kids san francisco  

Families celebrate Chinese New Year – sweep away the old year, cook special dishes, get a haircut, put on a new dress, enjoy a New Year's feast, and carry lanterns to light the way. (Picture book)

 

     
Chinese New Year Activity Book
Karl Jones, Steve Simpson

Learn about Chinese New Year traditions, fold together four different lion dancers, color lion and dragon mask, make confetti fireworks and pinwheels, recipe for steamed dumplings, stickers with zodiac animals, lions, food, lanterns and stars. (Activity book)

 

 
chinese new year activity book
     
Dragon Dance  
Dragon Dance
Joan Holub, Benrei Huang

Charming "lift the flap" book about Chinese New Year, with irresistible illustrations. Great for little kids. (Picture book)

Also fun for toddlers My First Chinese New Year

 

     

In this Chinatown mystery adventure, a priceless ruby is stolen from Miss Chinatown during the New Year's parade. Can three kids find the real thief, and what's the secret of Gum Lung? (Easy reader)

 

 
 san francisco The New Year Dragon Dilemma mystery chinatown kids
     
 

Starting in 1910, immigrants from China and Asia arrived at Angel Island in San Francisco bay. Although many immigrants were allowed into the United States, often they were detained for weeks on the island. Photos, poems and first hand experiences, good for older kids. (Illustrated chapter book)

 

     
The Magic Brush
Kat Yeh, Huy Voun Lee

Jasmine learns Chinese calligraphy from her grandfather. Together they create a magical world of rivers and mountains, flying fish, friendly monkeys, and mythical dragons. Fabulous cut-paper collages! (Picture book)

 

 
art chinatown san francisco kids The Magic Brush
     
Dim Sum for Everyone! food childrens books chinatown san francisco  

"Little dishes on carts, little dishes on tables," dim sum is fun for everyone in the family – Ma-Ma likes pork buns, Ba-Ba eats fried shrimp, Mei-Mei picks sweet tofu. A charming story, plus a picture glossary of dim sum dishes. (Picture book)

 

(More children's books on other San Francisco pages)
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