fun to do kids chinatown san francisco california   Travel for Kids
  | California | San Francisco

San Francisco - Chinatown

chinatown san francisco

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.

Lunar New Year Photo Album
    Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year)
    Lunar 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. There are two big parades, celebrating Spring and Lanterns Festivals.
    For all about the holiday, read our blog post: "Celebrate Lunar New Year"
    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.
yellow lion dance
    In Spring Festival Parade, 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, long red dragon is carried by strong people, swooping over and around, chasing a ball (which represents the "pearl of wisdom" or sun for a good harvest.)
lantern festival parade
    The end of the holiday is celebrated with the Lantern Festival Parade. A spectacular nighttime parade through downtown San Francisco, with colorful floats, huge figures of lucky gods and zodiac animal for the year, marching bands, acrobats, lion dances, and a huge dragon, carried by 100 people!
  Chinatown Gate (Dragon Crested Gate) – Start exploring Chinatown 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.
Chintatown Gate
    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 in San Francisco, a few years before he wrote Treasure Island.
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). 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.
kids books san francisco chinatown
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)


The Great Race
Dawn Casey, Anne Wilson

In the Chinese calendar, each year is named after twelve different animals – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig. Delightful retelling of how the Chinese zodiac was created, and why there is no year of the cat. (Picture book)


The Great Race chinese calendar kids
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
The Dragon Warrior
Katie Zhao

It's the Lunar New Year parade, and demons have invaded San Francisco Chinatown. Twelve year old Faryn Liu finds herself fighting a real nian lion-dragon, then aided by warrior deity Erlang Shen and goddess Guanyin, embarks on quest to find her lost father and save humanity. (Chapter book)



"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)


Dim Sum for Everyone! food childrens books chinatown san francisco

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)


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