Chinatown tourists have many options for how to see it, including walking and trolley tours. For those who prefer not to take public transportation, figuring out where to park in Chinatown can be challenging since the area has limited off-street parking available. Additionally, all off-street parking is controlled by a meter that limits time to two hours between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. This may not be enough to see all the sights. On the plus side, off-street parking is free on Sundays.
Paid Parking Lots and Public Transportation
Chinatown has at least six parking lots for people who prefer to take their own vehicle. Most lots charge by the hour or quarter-hour. Options include:
- 650 California, 650 California Street
- Chinatown Parking, 728 Pacific Avenue
- North Beach Garage, 735 Vallejo Street
- Portsmouth Square Plaza Garage, 733 Kearney Street
- Sutter Stockton Garage, 444 Stockton Street
- Mary’s Square Garage, 433 Kearney Street
Of course, riding a cable car to Chinatown combines two popular San Francisco attractions into one. Cable cars pick up passengers at major tourist hubs such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Union Square. Park and Ride at Golden Gateway Garage is also an option, as is riding the MUNI bus system. Lastly, tourists may want to book a ride through Uber or Lyft.
Must-See Chinatown Sites
What could be more authentic than touring a Chinese fortune cookie factory? Visitors who want to see the process for themselves should head to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory located at 56 Ross Aly. This small building houses a working factory and the owner welcomes visitors for a tour for a suggested donation of $1. Guests can sample a fortune cookie provided by the owner or buy a whole bag of them.
The Chinese Historical Society, located at the cross-section of Stockton and Clay Street, provides a comprehensive history of Chinese people in the United States. Visitors learn what it was like for the Chinese to come to America by crossing the Pacific Ocean in the mid-1800s. They also learn more about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited any further immigration of Chinese laborers.
The Tin How Temple, located at 125 Waverly Place, is the oldest Taoist Temple in Chinatown. Built in 1910, it provides a place for people to offer prayers to Tin How. In Chinese tradition, Tin How represents a Chinese sea goddess and the Empress of the Heavens. The temple honors Tin How for blessing immigrants from China as they sought a new life in America.
Located at 717 Grant Avenue, the Chinatown Kite Shop offers hundreds of whimsical kites with designs of cartoon characters, animals, airplanes, and much more. It is across the street from St. Mary’s Cathedral, the first Catholic cathedral in San Francisco with origins dating to 1854.
The Z & Y Restaurant at 655 Jackson Street offers more than 150 authentic Chinese dishes and frequently lands on the list for Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area. For dessert, tourists can head to the Eastern Bakery at 720 Grant Avenue. It offers moon cake and several different varieties of cookies.
These are just a handful of the dozens of experiences a visitor to Chinatown can enjoy. By budgeting plenty of time, they can take in as much of the Chinatown experience as possible.