Chinatown with Kids: 18 Best Things To Do in Chinatown, San Francisco

Discover culture and cuisine when strolling through Chinatown with kids in San Francisco. Photo by Nicole Findlay
Discover culture and cuisine when strolling through Chinatown with kids in San Francisco. Photo by Nicole Findlay
2/9/24 - By Nicole Findlay

Visiting Chinatown with kids in San Francisco is an immersive and culturally enriching experience. As you stroll through the vibrant streets, children can marvel at the intricate architecture, ornate temples, and colorful murals depicting Chinese folklore. Chinatown offers a captivating blend of history, cuisine, and culture that children and adults will enjoy discovering together. 

A perfect excursion for families, little ones will love the liveliness of North America’s first and biggest Chinatown. Admire the beautiful red lanterns floating overhead along Grant Avenue. Kids will delight in the colorful storefronts full of trinkets and unique treasures. Sample delicious dim sum, exotic fruits, and other culinary delicacies. 

For more iconic activities in San Francisco, check out everything you need to know about visiting Golden Gate Park with kids, read our guide on riding San Francisco cable cars with kids, and enjoy tons of budget-friendly activities with our Free Things To Do in San Francisco with Kids Guide

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Things To Do in Chinatown with Kids

1. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

Did you know fortune cookies were invented in America? The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a unique opportunity to witness Chinese American culture. It's also one of the most fun things to do in Chinatown with kids. Watch fortune cookies being carefully constructed by hand, and purchase a bag of cookies to go. The scent alone is enough reason to visit, and samples are free. 

2. Shopping 

Chinatown offers many places to buy fruit, vegetables, and other culinary treats. But little ones will be far more interested in toys, gadgets, and souvenirs. Bargain Bazaar on Grant Avenue is a multi-floor shop with fun finds for reasonable prices. More fun stores to peruse in Chinatown with kids include Anime Pop, the Chinatown Kite Shop, and Ying Hobbies & Toys

Chinatown with Kids in San Francisco: Willie "Woo Woo" Playground 
Kids won't want to leave the vibrant Willie "Woo Woo" Playground. Photo courtesy of the SF Recreation and Parks Department 

3. Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground

This colorful multi-level playground features play equipment inspired by Chinese mythology, like a giant water dragon kids like to climb, and several slides. For sports lovers, courts are available for basketball, volleyball, or pickleball. Additionally, there is an on-site clubhouse. 

4. Portsmouth Square Park

Another playground kiddos are sure to enjoy, the Portsmouth Square Park playground is fun, but the area offers so much more. This popular neighborhood spot gives visitors a peek into local culture. Grab a treat at a nearby bakery, and watch the kiddos explore. Before leaving, check out the square's interesting historical markers. 

5. St. Mary’s Square

This tranquil oasis in San Francisco is across the street from Old St. Mary’s Cathedral. There’s a small playground, intriguing statues, and plenty of benches. It tends not to be as busy as Portsmouth Square Park or Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground. Come here for some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the big city when visiting Chinatown with kids. 

6. Chinese Historical Society of America

While in Chinatown, stop by the Chinese Historical Society of America to learn more about the history of Chinese in America. Collections include Chinese American art and artifacts, as well as special exhibits and events—all offering insight into a fascinating history. 

RELATED: Guide To Riding San Francisco Cable Cars with Kids  

Chinatown with kids in San Francisco: Dragon's Gate 
Don't miss the Dragon's Gate. Photo by incidencematrix via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

7. Dragon's Gate 

Dragon's Gate is a thrilling introduction to Chinatown, offering a glimpse into a world filled with colorful lanterns, bustling streets, and delicious aromas from nearby restaurants. It makes a perfect photo op, too. 

8. Chinese New Year Parade 

This annual spectacle is a dazzling cultural extravaganza, blending traditional lion and dragon dances, martial arts demonstrations, ornate floats, and vibrant performances that wind through the streets of Chinatown. It's one of the largest celebrations of its kind outside of Asia, and spectators will be captivated. 

9. Waverly Place

This famous street buzzes with energy. Find traditional shops, historic buildings, and aromatic cuisine in the dynamic tapestry of Chinese culture. 

10. Ming Lee Trading 

Pick up a selection of traditional Chinese treats, including dried fruits and candies. Kids will get a kick out of trying a variety of Chinese candies they may not be familiar with. 

11. City Guides Walking Tours 

These free, guided tours are available throughout San Francisco, and there's a walking tour specific to Chinatown. Tours last approximately an hour and a half to two hours and require advance sign-ups. 

12. Admire Street Art

San Francisco’s Chinatown is a treat for art lovers as impressive murals adorn many buildings. A few favorites include the blue dragon on the corner of Trenton Street and Pacific Avenue, the Ping Yuen Mural, which highlights the vibrant community in San Francisco’s Chinatown (located at the corner of Stockton Street and Pacific Avenue), and the colorful dragons in Gold Mountain Mural on the corner of Sacramento Street and Grant Avenue. 

Out of all the beautiful artwork in the neighborhood, kids will likely enjoy The Zodiac Mural. Located in Jack Kerouac Alley between Chinatown and North Beach, kids can learn their Chinese Zodiac animal based on their birth year. 

13. City Lights Bookstore 

It's not actually in Chinatown, but is Chinatown-adjacent. After you've done all the fun and historical things in Chinatown with kids and ate your way through the delicious food, walk through Jack Kerouac Alley. City Lights, the most famous bookstore in San Francisco, popular from the Beat Generation, will be waiting for you at the other end of the alley. 

Where To Eat in Chinatown with Kids

14. City View Restaurant

City View Restaurant near Portsmouth Square has a delicious dim sum. There’s a wide variety of dishes to choose from. Servers push carts with everything from Steamed BBQ Pork Buns to Pork Siu Mai and Chicken Feet. Families can select choices straight from the cart. There are also noodle and rice dishes to accompany your dim sum. 

15. Eastern Bakery 

This cherished establishment is known for its traditional Chinese pastries, such as mooncakes and almond cookies, delighting with authentic flavors.  

16. R&G Lounge

R&G Lounge specializes in Cantonese cuisine, and its food is simply delicious. Try the Salt & Pepper Dungeons Crab or the Peking Duck. The menu is extensive, so little ones are sure to find something they love. 

17. Yin Du Wonton Noodle 

Yin Du Wonton Noodle is a family favorite. They’re cash only, the ambiance is very casual, and their noodle soups are the best thing around on a cold, foggy San Francisco afternoon. 

18. Good Mong Kok Bakery 

Good Mong Kok Bakery offers an array of traditional Cantonese dim sum delights, including their famous barbecue pork buns and custard tarts, ensuring a taste of authentic Chinese cuisine in the heart of the city.

RELATED: 100 Fun Free Things To Do in San Francisco with Kids 

Chinatown with kids in San Francisco: Red lanterns on Waverly Place 
Look up and admire the red lanterns when in Chinatown. Photo by Gina Ragland 

Getting To Chinatown with Kids

Getting to Chinatown with kids is easy. While there are many ways to enter Chinatown, the most iconic entrance to San Francisco’s Chinatown is through the Dragon Gate at the intersection of Bush Street and Grant Avenue. This ornate gate is walkable from downtown San Francisco. Walk along Grant Avenue toward Bush Street, and the beautiful entrance will materialize. 

If traveling to the city via BART, you have two options. You can get off at Montgomery Street Station and walk the few blocks to Grant Avenue. Alternatively, transfer from the BART platform to the Muni platform and take the T Third line light rail to the Chinatown-Rose Park Station on the corner of Washington and Stockton Streets. 

Via bus, the 30-Stockton bus heads straight through the center of Chinatown. Exit between Broadway and Bush. 

For an unforgettable city adventure, arrive in Chinatown with kids by taking an iconic San Francisco cable car ride. Take the Powell/Hyde or the Powell/Mason line and exit near Bush Street. Head down Bush Street to find the Dragon Gate. From the Ferry Building, hop on the California line and hop off again at Grant Avenue. 

Know Before You Go

  • Traveling with a baby? Consider a baby carrier. The narrow sidewalks and busy shops may be hard to maneuver with a stroller. 
  • Bring cash. Many stores and restaurants in Chinatown are cash-only. 

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