You’ve drawn a big red circle around Chinatown on your New York map for a reason. This community is home to some of the best Asian food on this side of the world, but don’t spend all of your dough on dim sum. Along with delicious restaurants, Chinatown in New York City also has exciting shops, family-friendly activities and a handful of historical sites. Head in with more than just an appetite and check out all the things to see and do in Chinatown, NYC.
The melting pot that is New York has a wide variety of weird and wonderful dishes worth trying | © Robert K. Chin – Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo
Chinatown has the best Chinese food in the city, obviously. But it also has the best Japanese-accented Cantonese cuisine in NYC. Chef Akiko Thurnauer of Cha Kee was born in the Big Apple, raised in the Japanese culinary tradition and trained in places such as Nobu. So, if there’s one person who can make the harmony of multi-Asian flavors sing, it’s chef Akiko – especially in the mouth-numbing, Sichuan-style dandan noodles in sesame sauce.
Chinatown Fair Family Fun Center
While others are following the crowd down Doyers Street, you and the kids will have a grand time one street over at Chinatown Fair Family Fun Center – one of the last-remaining arcades in New York City. This fun attraction on Mott Street has everything from classic cabinets and unique Japanese imports to skee-ball and shooters. Its special status among New Yorkers means it’s even featured in various films, including The Devil’s Advocate (1997) starring Al Pacino.
Edward Mooney House
If the red-brick Edward Mooney House seems out of place in Chinatown, that’s because it is. A remnant of the 1780s when row houses dotted the community, it’s now the oldest brick townhouse in the entire city. The Edward Mooney House is adjacent to Confucius Plaza on the corner of Bowery and Pell – and an under-the-radar landmark that’s hard to miss.
Nice One Bakery
Skip the lines at the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and walk a few storefronts down for a different sweet treat at Nice One Bakery. It doesn’t sugarcoat the prices or dazzle up the seating; it leaves all the bells and whistles for the delicious dim sum, sticky-rice donuts and mooncakes. The bakery doesn’t even have a formal website, so don’t be shocked when you see the cash-only sign outside.
Mott Street Girls Walking Tour
Don’t let the relatively small size of Chinatown make you think you can stroll right through in a few minutes; a Mott Street Girls walking tour will take you deep into the history and culture of the community. The Flavors of Old Chinatown food tour needs only a napkin and 90 minutes of your time. In contrast, the immersive walk of Chinatown through the lens of the Chinese Exclusion Act will show you a darker history of the community.
You’d be forgiven for overlooking the small Hak Box under the Manhattan Bridge. This counter-service shop within the East Broadway Mall has Hakka-style eats ready to grab and go. The dumplings are delicious, huge and cheap, ticking off the trifecta of excellent Chinese food, all prepared fresh for you in a New York minute.
Pearl River Mart
The windows at Pearl River Mart displaying colorful Asian items, including clothing, a dragon and a Buddha | © Robert K. Chin – Storefronts 2 / Alamy Stock Photo
Pearl River Mart is the first Chinese-American department store in the world and precisely where you want to shop if you’re looking for something beyond the typical tourist souvenirs. The shelves hold everything from chopsticks and sake cups to clothing for children, ceramics, Kasugai roasted green peas and Kung-Fu shoes. Drop by, get lost on a shopping spree and Dragon dance your way out with way too many ginger candies.
Yu and Me Books
Yu and Me Books is less of a bookstore and more of a living library showcasing the stories of immigrants within the community. It’s a home for those who feel underrepresented and a meeting place for bookworms in Chinatown. So, grab a coffee or beer and open your heart and mind to intimate tales not widely told until now.