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Things To Do In Chinatown New York: New York City Attractions
Visiting New York's Chinatown
The culturally diverse New York City has many interesting neighborhoods, but one of the most exciting to visit is Chinatown. When I'm there, I don't even feel as if I'm in Manhattan -- it feels as if I'm in another country!
I've been to actual China and being in Chinatown definitely brings back feelings of being in that country. Walk the streets and you won't hear much English spoken. Enter the stores and you'll see many items and spices from China that aren't really sold in other parts of the city. For example, one of my friends purchased a durian (an exotic fruit found in many Asian countries) there at one of the fruit stands. And when you dine in the restaurants in Chinatown, you know that you're getting the real deal -- authentic Chinese food that goes beyond egg rolls and chop suey and lo mein. I especially love getting dim sum, which the Chinese traditionally eat early in the day, sort of like a brunch. It's so much fun to watch the food carts come by with all of these "mystery" dumplings and buns and dishes -- each time you get it, it's a little adventure.
Mostly, though, I just love walking around the area so I can people watch and take in the sights. But if you're looking for more specific attractions, here are some great things to do in Manhattan's Chinatown.
Chinatown New York Tour
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Top Attractions In Chinatown New York
Though Chinatown is only one corner of Manhattan, you'd be amazed by how much there is to do in a day! The best way is to get there on the subway: you can take the N, Q, R, J, M, Z and 6 trains to the Canal Street station. I recommend just getting out at that stop and then walking because going by foot is the best way to see the neighborhood. And now, for the activities...
1. Wander along Canal Street or Mott Street. This is a great way to get acquainted with the neighborhood, as you'll find bustling and funky shops and markets along these crowded streets. On Mott Street, there are plenty of authentic Chinese restaurants, as well as curio and spice shops. This is a good place to find genuine Chinese tea, which is about a million times better than the stuff you can get in a standard supermarket. Meantime, Canal Street is the place to purchase really inexpensive "designer" watches, purses and ties (my dad's favorite!). But even if you don't want to spend a dime on knockoffs, these streets are fun to walk down and are an ideal place to people watch. Back in the '80s, after we returned from Hong Kong, my dad was very excited to find some "Rolexes" here like the ones he'd seen in HK. He still wears these watches, too! I don't really care what brand (or faux brand) is on my clothing or accessories, but I still enjoy being able to get cute, inexpensive stuff. On some days, Cana Street feels almost like a flea market.
2. Visit the Museum Of Chinese In America, a.k.a. MOCA (215 Centre Street, between Grand and Howard Streets; one block north of Canal): MOCA features many exhibits relaying the history of New York's Chinatown. It not only focuses on Chinese arts and culture, but shares the story of the Chinese immigrants as they came to the United States and settled into this area of New York City. It's an interesting way to learn more about the people who make up this neighborhood and to understand all that their families went through when they got here.
3. Enjoy a dim sum lunch. If you want to try REAL dim sum -- something that goes beyond pot stickers -- this is the place to get it. Keep in mind, though, that dim sum is served early, during the breakfast and lunch hours, and that at some places, you won't get a menu -- you simply choose what dishes you want off of the food cart when it comes by the table. I personally prefer it when it's random like this because it's almost like a game to see what delicious treasures are next going to pass your table. Some of the best dim sum restaurants are in Chinatown, such as Dim Sum Go Go (5 E Broadway, between Catherine Street and Chatam Square) and Golden Unicorn (18 E Broadway, at Catherine Street). Both serve a delicious variety of dim sum dishes, including pumpkin cakes,shiu mai, pork buns, stuffed tofu skin, sesame balls (my favorite) and, if you dare, chicken feet (my husband swears that they're tasty).
4. Relax in Columbus Park (Mulberry Street, between Worth and Bayard): This is another ideal spot to see how the residents of Chinatown spend their days. At one end of the park is a pavilion that's decorated with red and gold dragons. If you come here in the morning, you'll see many folks practicing tai chi. In the afternoon, the park is filled with men offering games of chess and dominoes, and just families hanging out.
5. Visit the Mahayana Buddhist Temple (133 Canal Street): This beautiful temple is the largest in Chinatown and also features the largest golden Buddha. On weekends, services are held.