chinatownsign

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

You may think you know exactly what you’ll find in Chinatown, but there is more than meets the eye in this classic LA neighborhood. It is a perfect spot for the family to soak in culture, food, art and play. And as Los Angeles does best, this neighborhood blends the eclecticism of the city with classic Chinatown charm. With family friendly events all year round, you can always find a reason to visit Chinatown.

alpinerecreation

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

 

Play and Explore

Alpine Recreation Center
If your active kiddos need to get their wiggles out right away, this is the perfect first stop. This recreation center and playground is situated across the street from the local elementary school and is frequented by locals of all ages. The playground is outfitted with several slides and two swings (one toddler swing included). Also, it’s a sand playground so bring your toys. If you have a basketball player on your hands, you’re in luck. There is a full court adjacent to the playground.

817 Yale St.
213-485-5448
Online: laparks.org/dos/reccenter/facility/alpineRC.htm

thienhau

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Thien Hau Temple
Once your little ones are worn out, walk south to the Thien Hau Temple for a bit of stillness. The facade of the temple is adorned with lion statues and classic Chinese artwork. Step inside (visitors are welcome) to take in the altars. Encourage the kids to look overhead and take in the beautiful reds and golds dripping from the ceilings. And, if they are so inclined, join in the ritual and burn incense to honor the space.

756 Yale St.
213-680-1860
Online: thienhautemple.com

founatin

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Central Plaza
Step into the central plaza and prepare yourself. This is a hub of amusement, which quickly becomes most kids favorite spot. First up for smaller tots is raiding your quarter stash for the kiddie rides in the plaza, while older kids will enjoy perusing the shops throughout the space. From play swords to parasols, the plaza has a little something for everyone. Definitely pick up a few confetti poppers. If you’re in Chinatown for any festivals, they will certainly come in handy. Plus, there’s a wishing fountain in the plaza’s center. Dig for your pennies and let little wishers toss for health and prosperity.

947 N. Broadway

chunking

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Chung King Road
This street in the West Plaza of Chinatown was part of the “New Chinatown” built in the 1930’s and 40’s. The (west) plaza used to house mostly Chinese specialty shops and organizations. After years of shuttered storefronts, the plaza was revived with artists galleries and studios and specialty shops. This is now one of the main hubs of Chinatown’s yearly events and the Road’s galleries host regular artist receptions. Bring the kids to peruse the work and if they tire of that, bring them to fountain in the plaza center to watch the fish navigate their urban environment.

Eat

plumtree

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Plum Tree Inn
If you feel like taking a fairly classic route with familiar Chinese staples, Plum Tree Inn is right up your alley. Stop in for generous family style portions of dishes like Kung Pao Chicken, steamed pork dumplings and pan fried noodles. There are options to please any palate. The dining room appears more formal than it is, and the staff is friendly with the kids. And if you happen to have a big group, it can be fun to reserve a large round table in one of their private rooms. Plum Tree also has free parking for customers; a perk that only an Angeleno can truly appreciate.

913 N. Broadway
213-613-1819
Online: plumtreeinn.com

chego

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Chego
If you’re craving something a bit more modern, check out Chego located in the Far East Plaza tucked between Broadway and Hill Streets. This is another one of chef Roy Choi’s (as in the Kogi Truck) creations that specializes in rice bowls with a blend of meats, veggies and spices that cross all boundaries beautifully. From the Beefy T (or the Leafy T for vegetarians) to the Sour Cream Hen House, everyone’s tastes are sure to be satisfied. Some of the rice bowls are on the spicy side so if your kiddos are not down with heat, ask for the bowl sans chili or venture to other options. The meatballs served on a tasty polenta bed and seasonal vegetables are a hit. And if you’re here, an order of the ooey gooey fries are a must. You won’t regret it. This causal spot has outdoor seating on picnic tables. And if the food weren’t enough, the plaza also has several dollar kiddy rides that will keep the kids entertained during the meal.

727 N. Broadway
323-380-8680
Online: eatchego.com

littlejewel

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

The Little Jewel of New Orleans
Though you may not expect it, you can also get your New Orleans fix in Chinatown. The Little Jewel of New Orleans is housed in a former convenience store. Walk in and the market vibe remains. Store shelves are lined with New Orleans, Cajun and Creole staples. You can also pick up a hot cup of cafe au lait at the register. Magic happens behind the deli counter. This gem serves up New Orleans classics like shrimp po’ boys, muffuletta sandwiches and jambalaya. And you wouldn’t be complete without an order of beignets and chicory coffee (to keep your energy up).

207 Ord St.
213-620-0461
Online: littlejewel.la

blossom

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Blossom
You can cover a lot of culinary ground in Chinatown. If its the comfort of a hot bowl of Pho, Blossom Vietnamese restaurant has you covered. This family owned spot is conveniently located on Gin Ling Way right in the middle of Chinatown’s central plaza. You can depend on Vietnamese staples like Pho, vermicelli noodles, spring rolls and much more. This is the perfect spot to fill everyone’s bellies and take in the sights of the plaza.

451 Gin Ling Way
213-626-8345
Online: blossomrestaurant.com

We bet you noticed we didn’t include dim sum, and we’re talking about Chinatown.  That’s because you’ve got two big choices (Empress Pavilion and Ocean Seafood) and plenty more small joints on every corner.  But really, the best dim sum is in Monterey Park.  So head there if you’re all about the food, or pick a convenient spot if you crave the experience in Chinatown.

Desserts and Treats

scoops

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Scoops Chinatown
At this point, having ice cream at Scoops is something of an Angelenos duty, so get your little ones started young. This is one of four locations where you can enjoy unusual and interesting flavors with a light and slightly icy texture. It’s reminiscent of ice milk in the best possible way. Enjoy flavors like Bianco Bread or Blueberry Lavender. If you don’t want to send the kids into completely sugar overload, there are kid’s sized scoops available. If its a different kind of pick me up you need, this Scoops location also houses the Cognoscenti Coffee Cart where you can enjoy a pour over, cold brew and any number of espresso drinks. It’s a win-win.

727 N. Broadway
323-739-8675
Online: twitter.com/scoopsbic

phoenix

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Phoenix Bakery
If you want to stick to the tried and true, walk up Broadway to Phoenix Bakery. This Chinatown stronghold is most well known for their light strawberry filled vanilla cakes dressed with fresh whipped cream. And the cakes are just the beginning. Be prepared for the kids to glue themselves to the pastry case in amazement. Almond cookies, wintermelon cakes and fresh chocolate eclairs are just a few of the other mouthwatering options. Everyone will be tempted.

969 N. Broadway
213-628-4642
Online: phoenixbakeryinc.com/

Lollicup
At this boba shop on Hill St., you can choose from slushies, milk teas or classic green and black teas with or without boba or other add-ons like lychee or mango jelly. If this is new to you, boba is a slightly sweet pearl of sorts made from tapioca starch–think gummy bear texture. The kids may or may not be into the texture and if you’re with toddlers, it’s probably a good idea to skip it for safety’s sake (or open the lid and get a spoon!). With or without the boba balls, Lollicup’s confections are perfectly refreshing on a warm LA day.

988 N. Hill St.
213-687-8283
Online: lollicup.com

shopchinatown

photo credit: Angie W. via yelp

Shop

If you walk along Broadway, Hill or through the central plazas it is nearly impossible not to find a great buy. From plastic swords and parasols for the kids to lucky plants and sunglasses (cheap enough that you won’t feel a loss if your toddler gets hold of them) for the folks, Chinatown has it all. Here are a few highlights.

Wing Wa Hing
If its Chinatown souvenirs and tchotchkes you’re looking for, this is a necessary stop. The shop carries everything from red and gold lanterns, parasols, fans and lucky plants (and everything in between). From top to bottom, the shop is stacked to the brim so be prepared for the whole family to go into sensory overload.

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811 N. Broadway
213-437-0710
Online: wingwahing.com

Yan’s Gifts and Souvenirs
This is another on stop shop for kids and parents alike. From toy trucks to Chinese themed toys and souvenirs, they’ll be working their puppy eyes for something.  On top of that, this is a great spot to pick up house plants, outdoor rugs (for a fraction of the price of any other retail spot) and other household items.

711 N. Broadway
213-680-3078

kglouie

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

K.G. Louie Co.
This iconic Chinatown store has been around since 1938 and is still run by three generations of the Louie family. The neon sign and smiling Buddha should be enough to draw you i. Once there, kids and adults  have plenty to peruse. The store is filled with trinkets, paper lanterns, statues, cookbooks and classic Chinese silverware and tea sets. It always feels good to support a family business with the fam. Take a peek.

432 Gin Ling Way
213-626-4028
Online: facebook.com/KGLouieCo

chinatownsummer

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Events
If you need a special event to lure you, there are several throughout the year. Each has its own unique theme but is similar in presentation. Bring the kids for a day (and night) out in winter for the Chinese New Year festival and Annual Golden Dragon Parade where they can learn about the Lunar New Year. Mid-Autumn enjoy the Chinatown Moon Festival (often dubbed the Chinese “Thanksgiving”) in celebration of the summer bounty and the fullness of the moon at this time of year. Finally, if it’s good old summer fun you’re about, head out for KCRW’s Chinatown Summer Nights every 4th Saturday beginning in June. Each of these festivals hosts family activities and workshops (sand art is the theme this summer). The main plazas host food trucks, live music with a beer garden (take turns, folks), performances highlighting Chinese art and beyond, cooking demonstrations and live D.J.’s with an all-ages dance floor where everyone can let loose. And don’t forget confetti!  Be sure to stop by one of the local vendors and pick up several poppers.

confetti

photo credit: LeTania Kirkland

Parking
There is metered street parking throughout the neighborhood, but there are 2-4 hour time limits and it can get tight on the weekends. If you’re not a die hard parking scout, try one of the public parking lots. Most are an average of $5 per day, but the Alpine Tower (located at Hill and Alpine Streets) is $3. A stroller is a good idea with little ones as you can cover a lot of ground in Chinatown, Jake. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist, and this was the last chance to use the classic line!)

What’s your favorite undiscovered spot in Chinatown?  Let us know in the comment section.

—LeTania Kirkland