When Chinatown relocated to its current spot in the 1930s, the Central Plaza was to be the neighborhood’s vibrant hub of activity. The neon-drenched square still attracts tourists and locals alike with its shops, restaurants and events such as Summer Nights and Chinatown After Dark. Local lore often credits the the backlot-like look of the area to Cecil B. DeMille, but it was in fact designed by the local Chinese community. There was, however, a Hollywood-backed (and highly orientalist) competitor named China City that burned down in the ’40s.
Though small in terms of area, there are enough things to do in Chinatown to fill an afternoon (and maybe a little bit into the evening if you want to see the Central Plaza’s famous neon trim switch on). Of course, you’ll find the tastiest dim sum west of the San Gabriel Valley, but there are also grocery stores that stock those hard-to-find ingredients, under-the-radar art galleries, cultural festivals, dimly lit dive bars and a culinary scene that’s often abuzz.
Chinatown roughly occupies an area between the 101 and 110 freeways and the L.A. River. Most of the major attractions are along Hill Street and Broadway, north of Cesar Chavez Avenue—but a bustling scene has also blossomed just off an industrial stretch of Spring Street near the river.
So, take a tour of the area’s attractions and discover some of the best activities, both inside and outside of the Central Plaza, with our guide to the best things to do in Chinatown.