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Smaller than San Francisco's Chinatown, this Downtown sector near Union Station still represents a slice of Southeast Asian life. Sidewalks are usually jammed with tourists, locals, and, of course, Asian residents hustling from shop to shop picking up goods, spices, and trinkets from small shops and mini-plazas that line the street.
Although some longtime establishments closed in recent years, the area still pulses with its founding culture. During Chinese New Year, giant dragons snake down the street. And, of course, there are the many restaurants and quick-bite cafés specializing in Chinese feasts.
Gallery openings and hip artists bring in a stylish, younger crowd to Chinatown, and a few choice bars are getting in on the action, too, by offering a nightlife scene without the "guest list only" culture of Hollywood. You can get a taste of it in the Central Plaza of New Chinatown, where there are a handful of lively bars, some with karaoke.
What to See
The Chinese American Museum is located in the city's original Chinatown, which today is part of the neighboring El Pueblo de Los Angeles neighborhood, just a short hop away. It's worth a quick detour or a visit prior to coming to put the history of Chinese settlement into context with the arrival of the city's other ethnic groups.
An influx of local artists has added a spark to the neighborhood by taking up empty spaces and opening galleries along Chung King Road, a faded pedestrian passage behind the West Plaza shopping center between Hill and Yale. Also look for galleries along a little side street called Gin Ling Way on the east side of Broadway. Most galleries open when they have a show, or in the afternoon and early evenings from Wednesday through Saturday.
Where to Eat
The Asian holdout Empress Pavilion (988 N. Hill St. 213/617-9898) buzzes with activity and is touted as one of Chinatown's best restaurants.
Bordered by Yale, Bernard, Ord, and Alameda streets, Chinatown has its main action on North Broadway. There are several garages available for parking here that range from $3-$8 per day.
Best Time to Go
This neighborhood is always bustling. Weekdays are busy with residents rushing to and from work, picking up groceries and kids from school on the way home. On weekends, restaurant are packed with locals and tourists alike.
On the first Saturday of the month, there's a walking tour called "The Undiscovered Chinatown" from 10:30 am to 1 pm. For information, call 213/680-0243.
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