San Francisco – Everyday Insider! (TM) Trips 5

When you arrive to a new city, you come with interests which are not necessarily described in guide books, and usually you will want to meet local people who share your interests. So, my Everyday Insider(TM) tips are just what you need!

These two areas are stops on San Francisco’ famous, historic 49 Mile Drive and within each location, you will find history, culture and great photo opportunities.

6. Chinatown evokes all the exotic sights and sounds, products and cuisines of regional China, beginning at the Chinatown Gate, Grant Avenue at Bush Street. As San Francisco’s Chinatown has always been the largest Chinese population in a Western country, you will be able to experience a lot of Chinese life without the long trek to China itself.

Especially in the early morning, you will see vestiges of traditional Chinese life. You can have breakfast in a little alleyway teahouse and be plied with a myriad of little dim sum morsels; watch fortune cookies being made; see all the fresh food being stacked outside stores; join the people doing their tai chi exercises in the park.

Of course, there are usually Chinese art exhibitions at the Chinese Cultural Center at 750 Kearney, 3rd floor, across the skybridge from Portsmouth Square; various festivals (the biggest is Chinese New Year parade) and hundreds of restaurants where you can dig deeply into the various regional foods, far beyond what would usually be available in other towns and cities away from China.

Chinese Cultural Center, San Francisco:
In the 1970’s, when President Nixon was wooing China, I had the great honor to docent a cultural-exchange art exhibition there and also took traditional Chinese art classes there. You might see what’s happening now, as they do still offer classes! You can also check the part of the site pertaining to Heritage Chinatown Walks! They are in the Program section.

Chinatown Parking Garages:
It isn’t easy to park, so I recommend arriving by bus. Part of this neighborhood is quite hilly; so if you cannot walk the hills, then it might be better to go by taxi to just the flattest parts, like Grant Street or Kearny.

There’s a great deal to see and hear and smell; it’s a different world.

7. Portsmouth Square:
This is a small historic park in Chinatown, where the U.S. flag was raised in July 1846 in front of the former Mexican adobe Customs House. It was also the site of the first public school in California. Many more historic occurrences happened on this small patch of ground which has one border in the original Chinatown. You will find plaques throughout the park.

But, mostly the Square is a gathering place for the community. For decades, as I have wandered through, I have seen people doing their tai chi exercise early in the morning and you will also see many Chinese men playing board games, like Go, and gambling on the outcomes, throughout the day. Often you will be treated to other cultural events, like music, and there is a children’s playground. You can access the Chinese Cultural Center across the skybridge.

If you drive into Chinatown, then below Portsmouth Square is the main parking garage for the area, although there are some more (see link above).

Learn more at: Portsmouth Square, San Francisco

Please be aware that parts of the Chinatown area and parts of some bordering neighborhoods can have seedy pockets. There are reasons to be careful in any area which looks like it’s not being kept up well, and even beyond these kinds of areas, you may still meet some seedy characters here and there. Just keep walking and hold your children’s hands at all times, as most of this is a really crowded, bustling area.

More on the 49 Mile Drive tomorrow.

Part 1: San Francisco Everyday Insider

Part 2: San Francisco Everyday Insider Trips

Part 3: San Francisco Everyday Insider (TM) – Flax Art and Design

Part 4: San Francisco 49 Mile Drive Venues 1-5

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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