Old Chinatown Central Plaza
Central Plaza was the first part of “New Chinatown” to be constructed and dedicated in 1938. It is the only planned Chinatown in the entire U.S., as opposed to other cities where neighborhoods were organically formed as Chinese immigrants moved in. This heart of New Chinatown is officially called Central Plaza, but many refer to it, confusingly, as “Old Chinatown,” since this square is the oldest and most historic part of the entire neighborhood.
The buildings inside Central Plaza, with their characteristic sloped roofs, carved wood ornaments, and colorful facades, were inspired by the Hollywood version of Shanghai and designed by non-Chinese architects Erle Webster and Adrian Wilson. It was a precursor and inspiration to other themed shopping areas, like Universal CityWalk and Downtown Disney.
The Central Plaza is the nucleus of Chinatown, and on sunny mornings you can stroll through and see seniors playing Chinese chess and mah-jong while they sip on tea and socialize. If you happen to be in Los Angeles during Chinese New Year or the Autumn Moon Festival, Central Plaza hosts all types of traditional events from lion dances to lantern festivals.
Tile Mural On The Plum Tree Restaurant
The Plum Tree Inn restaurant is as famous in Chinatown for its delicious Schechuan cuisine as it is for the historic tiled mosaics affixed to its walls. These handpainted murals have graced the neighborhood for decades, and the original artists aren’t even known.
The three images, from left to right, are called, “Picture of Viewing Waterfalls in Summer Mountains,””Palace in Heaven,” and “Four Beauties Catching Swimming Fish.” They are believed to be the largest tiled mosaics painted in this style outside of China. You can see them just one block from the Chinatown metro station, at Broadway and West College Street.
Chinatown Los Angeles Events
The area is kept lively by a series of monthly and seasonal events. Here are some to keep in mind.
Chinese New Year Festival & Parade
Chinatown Summer Nights An event featuring food trucks, food vendors, culinary demonstrations, and cultural activities
Chinatown After Dark Monthly opportunity to try new dishes and listen to up and coming artists
Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
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Experience A Traditional Chinese Market At Chinatowns Far East Plaza
Another great way to experience the excitement of a traditional Chinese market in Chinatown is to pay a visit to Far East Plaza, a shopping market you might not even notice from the outside. Inside, youll find a Chinese-American mall thats a cultural experience in itself. You owe it to yourself to check out the Eastside location of Chego, the rice bowl outpost of world renowned chef Roy Choi. Also worth a visit is the Wing Hop Fung, a two-story supermarket well known by the locals for its eclectic selection of herbal teas.
Eat Sushi To Your Hearts Content
Having sushi in Little Tokyo is a no brainer. I should have started the article by providing sushi dining recommendations. The thing is that I tend to eat ramen and okonomiyaki when I visit the area. There are excellent sushi options in my neighborhood so, I am spoiled with choice.
However, my personal preference should not stop you from having sushi or sashimi in Little Tokyo.
Sushi Gen is one of the best-rated sushi joints in Los Angeles. It has been in business since 1980. That is not an easy feat in such a competitive place as LA. For lunch, you can have a sashimi plate, sushi combo, chirashi, tekkadon, or beef teriyaki combination for $20. Dinner prices oscillate between $24 and $40.
Oomasa is another good option. It has on the menu some of the dishes that you will find at Sushi Gen and the prices are similar. Now, Oomasa has a lot of rolls, noodles, and tempura options on the menu. Choose this restaurant if you are more into these kinds of dishes.
My last recommendation is Sushi Enya, a restaurant with a decent variety of cut rolls, hand rolls, sushi pieces, sashimi, and rice bowls.
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Splurge On Korean And American Goods And Gifts At Koreatown Plaza
Located near the intersection of the artsy Western Avenue and 9th streets, this Asian-style shopping mall is a haven filled with both Korean and American products. Koreatown Plaza is full of shops that sell an assortment of products and diverse brands: they sell Korean beauty, health, and body products, as well as kitchen and house utensils and tools. They also sell elegant designer bags and shoes from local and international brands. Inside the mall is a popular food court with cult restaurants offering dishes influenced by culinary traditions from across the globe. It also has stalls offering street food and quick-to-eat meals for people on the rush. A sizeable supermarket is also located inside Koreatown Plaza.
Opening hours: Sat – Thu: 11am – 6pm
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With The Decorative Doughnuts At California Donuts
Enjoy the sweet treats of California Donutsâa shop whose doughnut varieties look so great on Instagram. Feast on multiple holiday-themed doughnuts crafted by expert bakers. A family-owned and -operated doughnut shop, California Donuts has been the pride of Koreatown for more than 30 years. It serves the tastiest, most colorful, and most visually appealing doughnuts in LA. Whether you want a white chocolate doughnut drizzled with syrup, one dotted with multicolored sprinkles or an M& M filled one, California Donuts has every doughnut you can imagine. They are open 24 hours so you can just stop by their little window anytime. They also offer great-tasting and eye-catching muffins and croissants.
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Show Off Your Talent In Singing At Pharaoh Karaoke Lounge
Liven up the night singing your favorite songs with friends at the Pharoah Karaoke Lounge. The nightclub karaoke machines boast a massive collection of 4,000 songs. The lounge restaurant offers a wide variety of sumptuous appetizers and dishes and alcoholic drinks that will make jamming with friends a fun-filled experience. Whatever the occasion is, be it a casual get-together, birthday or corporate outing, Pharaoh Karaoke Lounge can accommodate it. It has 34 private rooms and a full bar. Since singing in a crowd can be intimidating for some, at Pharaoh Karaoke lounge, you can hold your own party in any of its 17 private karaoke rooms.
Pharaoh Karaoke Lounge
Opening hours: 6pm – 2am
Learn About The World Of Tea
Tea is the most popular drink in the world. For one reason or another, you may not be familiar with the varieties, preparations, or beneficial properties.
If you are interested in learning more about tea, Chado is the place for you. This specialty store sources over 300 hundred varieties of tea and herbal blends from all over the world. They pride in offering a high-quality product and outstanding service to customers.
One way to get immersed in the world of tea is by visiting the Chado Tea Room in Little Tokyo. You can order straight tea , flavored teas, house specialty teas, display teas , wine-inspired tea, decaffeinated teas, and herbal blends. The staff is more than happy to help you with a selection.
An afternoon tea service, including a pot of tea, 4 half sandwiches, a scone, and a dessert, is offered.
You can choose to eat a meal at Chado since they have salads, soups, or sandwiches on the menu. Or, have an afternoon treat by ordering the lemon bundt, coconut or carrot cake.
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Check Out Contemporary Art For Free
TripSavvy / Amanda Blackard
If you’re into contemporary art, two of Southern California’s preeminent museums are not just in downtown Los Angeles, but they’re across the street from each other and both are free to enter.
The Broadpronounced like “brode”is the newer contemporary art museum that opened in 2015 on Grand Avenue, next to the Walt Disney Disney Concert Hall. Built by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the 120,000-square-foot museum houses their personal and their foundation’s art collection of more than 2,000 works by over 200 different artists, including the museum’s most Instagrammable exhibit, the Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama.
Walk out of the Broad and cross the street to enter the Museum of Contemporary Art, which locals just call the “MOCA.” The MOCA doesn’t have any permanent exhibits, so check ahead to see what’s on display at the time of your trip.
Thien Hau Temples Stunning Architecture Worth The Visit
Another Chinatown tourist spot is the Thien Hau Temple, a gable roof Taoist temple with meticulously crafted columns that bring to mind the ancient times of China where emperors and samurais ruled the countryside. The Chinese New Year features dance performers and firecracker displays that are fun for the whole family. Any time the rest of the year, the temple is worth a visit simply for the stunning architecture. Youd never know the Temple was used as a Christian church as recently as 2005. Remember to bring your camera because this place is very picturesque when the light is just right.
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Do Not Forget About Udon
Ramen is awesome but do not forget Udon is delicious too.
A restaurant called has achieved legendary status in Los Angeles because the noodles are prepared fresh in an open kitchen.
You can have hot udon , cold udon, or one of the specialty dishes .
I ensure you will dream about this place for many months.
Spot The Street Art Murals Along Western Avenue And Take Photos For The ‘gram
Go on a leisurely walk down Western Avenue and admire its artistically rendered murals that make for Instagram-worthy pictures. The people of Los Angeles, through its city government, initiated the Great Streets Initiative in 2014 with the goal to beautify large blank walls in Western Avenue, giving the street a distinct character. Now, Western Avenue is a sprawling canvass filled with colorful street art. Some of the famous murals found along Western are created by famous artists/muralists Hector Ponce, Hans Haveron, and John Park. These public artworks have greatly influenced the urban space in Koreatown and LA, making a more vibrant streetscape that celebrates diversity and community.
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Visit The Geffen Contemporary At Moca
Next to the Japanese American National Museum, you will find The Geffen Contemporary, an exhibition space owned by the Museum of Contemporary Art .
This former warehouse, renovated by Frank Gehry, hosts a wide range of exhibitions from established and emerging artists. Admission is free but special exhibitions may involve a cost .
In addition, the space has a bookstore, reading room, workspaces, coffee carts, and video installations.
Visit El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument At Olvera Street
TripSavvy / Christian Hundley
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, more commonly known simply as Olvera Street, is the location of the oldest remaining structure in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe. However, it’s the Mexican Marketplace running up and down the pedestrian street that primarily draws visitors. The Marketplace started in 1930 and was originally conceived as a way to rejuvenate the dilapidated neighborhood by bringing in the charm of old-world Mexico with locals selling their crafts and hosting vivacious fiestas. Nearly a century later, Olvera Street is still one of the most popular attractions in downtown Los Angeles.
It is also the home of the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a museum that charts Latino history from the arrival of the first 11 Mexican families who were among the earliest settlers in Los Angeles.
Olvera Street is a one-block pedestrian zone across from Union Station, which is served by the red and gold lines of the Metro.
The Los Angeles Music Center consists of a group of original theaters that are home to the city’s drama, dance, and opera companies, the most famous of which is the architecturally stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. It’s home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the most celebrated orchestras in the country. The “winter season” of the LA Phil at the Disney Concert Hall typically runs from October to June .
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The West Gate Of Central Plaza
The West Gate, with its neon Chinatown sign, was the first gate built around the Central Plaza. The inscription at the top of the gate reads “Cooperate to Achieve” in Chinese characters. The neon-covered West Gate is even more spectacular lit up at night, color-coordinated with all of the red lanterns. If you enter the plaza through the East Gate, just continue through toward North Hill Street to exit under this ornate doorway.
Just inside the West Gate is the Wishing Well, one of the oldest landmarks inside of Central Plaza. Designed to emulate the Seven Star Caverns in southern China, you can toss your coins into these waters to wish for love, health, or prosperity.
Stroll The Japanese Village Plaza
Start exploring Little Tokyo by heading to the Japanese Village Plaza. This open-air, shopping center pleases visitors with historic architecture, hanging paper lanterns, an abundance of trees, and sitting areas.
You can get a sensory overload while exploring the culinary offerings at the Plaza. For example, you will notice restaurants/shops selling macarons, yakitori, rice cakes filled with red bean paste, sushi, takoyaki , ice cream and more.
In addition, there are stores selling cosmetics, clothing, shoes, accessories, and gifts. Of course, a lot of what is available for sale comes from Japanese brands.
Note: Some people call this shopping area the Japanese Villa Plaza Mall.
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From Thien Hau Temple To West Plaza And Chung King Road
From the temple go north along Yale Street. At the intersection of Yale Street and College Street, youll find the Castelar Elementary School, famous not only because its the second oldest school in Los Angeles but also because of its large mural on College Street. The mural by artist Shi Yan Zhang is entitled The Party at Lan-Ting and depicts one of Chinas most important calligraphers, Wang Xi Zhi of the Jin Dynasty, who lived between 321 and 376 AD.
After admiring the details of the mural, start walking on Hill Street until you reach West Plaza. Here youll find the West Gate to Chinatown and a fountain of wishes. This area, particularly Chung King Road, is renowned for its traditional restaurants and art galleries. If you love antique shops, dont miss the chance to visit Fongs at 943 Chung King Road and the F. See On Company at 507 Chung King Road.
Enjoy Some Korean Cuisine In Ktp Seoul Soondae House
Editor’s Note: Photo taken from the establishment’s official social account
In the mood for some Korean food? Youre in luck! Located inside the international food court of Koreatown Plaza, KTP Seoul Soondae House offers a wide variety of Korean dishes for you to enjoy. What the place lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in the quality of their food.
Customers have reviewed the food to be well-cooked and delicious with one reviewer even saying that there are not many restaurants in Koreatown that offer budae jjigae , let alone it tasting very good.
KTP Seoul Soondae House
Address: 928 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006, United States
Opening hours: 11am – 8pm
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How To Get In Chinatown Los Angeles
Chinatown is located in Downtown Los Angeles. You can get to the neighborhood . If you are driving and are using a GPS, you can enter Union Station as your destination. The real center of the neighborhood is actually Central Plaza, but our walking route departs from Union Station where you may find parking more easily.
If you use public transportation, Union Station is the station that is closest to Chinatown and many metro lines and buses pass through there. In the neighborhood, youll also find the Chinatown Metro Station, which is accessible via the Gold Line. This beautiful station, which opened in 2003, features works by artist Chusien Chang. The result of the architects design, which incorporates I Ching, Feng Shui, the contrast between Yin and Yang, and the elements of Ba Gua, is truly breathtaking.
The East Gate Of Central Plaza
sim_t_as / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
The East Gate is the grand entrance to the Central Plaza, also known as the Gate of Maternal Virtues, and was commissioned by attorney You Chung Hong in honor of his mother’s memory. This photogenic entrance is located on the east side of the main plaza, on Broadway between West College Street and Bamboo Lane.
To the right of the gate is a tower with a painting of a dragon by Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong. Just inside the gate is a statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Chinese revolutionary, first provisional president, and ideological father of the Republic of China.
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From The Chinese American Museum To The Dragon Gate
The Dragon Gate, also known as the Chinatown Gateway Monument, is a gateway to modern Chinatown. Two dragons facing each other characterize this entrance on N Broadway designed by artist Ruppert Mok. It was inaugurated in 2001. Since 2004, the lights that illuminate the Dragon Gate have made the place a must-see attraction for anyone who wants to take a selfie during an evening in Chinatown.