Brimming with Chinese art, food, and culture, Chinatown, Los Angeles, is one of SoCal’s must-see destinations. Visiting this bright and lively neighborhood—with Pagoda-style buildings galore and paper lanterns strewn about—promises an experience unlike any other in L.A.
Aside from the vibrant Chinese-American background and ample opportunities for cross-cultural learning, L.A.’s Chinatown is known for its sprawling greenspaces, like the Los Angeles Plaza Park and the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
Ready to plan your ultimate Los Angeles vacation? Our complete travel guide to Chinatown LA has everything you need to know to make it epic, from what to see & do to where to eat, drink & stay.
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What to see & do in L.A.’s Chinatown
Thien Hau Temple
Located in the heart of the district, Thien Hau Temple is a beautifully preserved place of worship that’s been a proud landmark of Chinatown since 1760. This traditional Chinese temple is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu, and reflects themes of both Buddhism and Taoism.
Filled with the scent of burning incense and the rhythmic beat of drums, Thien Hau Temple is a beautiful place for prayer, a moment of reflection, or a bit of cultural tourism.
Be sure to build in time to walk around and take it all in; there are enough ornate carvings, artifacts, and artwork to keep you enchanted all afternoon!
Chinese American Museum
To learn more about the culture and heritage of Chinese Americans in California, be sure to plan a visit to the Chinese American Museum. Here, you’ll explore art, artifacts, and unique storytelling exhibits that help set the scene for how LA’s Chinatown came to be what it is today in a local and global context. Plus, it’s easy to get to, located directly across from Union Station; there’s really no reason not to go to this L.A. landmark!
One of the most popular exhibits at the Chinese American Museum is the Sun Wing Wo General Store and Herb Shop. This recreation of a historic landmark in the neighborhood (dating back to 1891), where the local Chinese community and other immigrant populations came to acquire Asian goods and services in the face of racism pointed against them.
Far East Plaza
Calling all foodies! Far East Plaza is the food mall of your dreams. Since 1976, this Chinatown dining hall has expanded to include dozens of vendors slinging authentic Asian street food and trendy L.A.-style lattes, plus the occasional pop-up restaurant headed up by the region’s top chefs.
With so many options to choose from, you might be wondering which vendors at the Far East Plaza are serving can’t-miss eats.
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We’d recommend grabbing chicken from Howlin’ Ray’s and a palm sugar-whiskey iced latte from Endorffeine and settling into a communal table. Or opt for Filipino cuisine at the sit-down restaurant LASA. Finish off with an ice cream cone at Scoops.
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
Located at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is a hub for celebrating the arts and culture of the resident Latino community and the region’s first immigrants from Mexico. The museum features historic and contemporary paintings, artifacts, and even music through a series of permanent and traveling exhibitions.
One of the most popular attractions associated with LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is LA Plaza Cocina, where you can visit a teaching kitchen and learn about the art of Mexican cooking. The best part? You get to taste everything you make!
Los Angeles Plaza Park
After visiting the museum, spend some time relaxing in Los Angeles Plaza Park, a popular urban green space with a rich history. Spanning 44 acres, the park is often referred to as Los Angeles’ birthplace, as it’s the oldest section of the city with a few historical monuments on site.
This area of town has a significant Spanish influence with a large Latinx community. Los Angeles Plaza Park often hosts markets and festivals for Mexican holidays.
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If you happen to be traveling during Cinco de Mayo or El Dia de Los Muertos, swing by for music, dancing, and more!
Los Angeles State Historic Park
If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy the outdoors, look no further than the Los Angeles State Historic Park. The main feature of this 32-acre urban park, located across from Chinatown, is simply plenty of space.
Whether you want a lovely spot for an afternoon walk or expansive lawns to host a family picnic in the heart of the city, Los Angeles State Historic Park is the perfect place. Public art displays and an orange grove are also hidden within the park; take your time to explore one of L.A.’s top tourist attractions.
A large portion of the Los Angeles State Historic Park transforms into the L.A. River Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. Pop in to pick up some fresh produce or snag some artisan handiwork to bring home for friends and family.
Where to eat & drink
You can’t visit Los Angeles Chinatown without making a pitstop for lunch at Philippe the Original. This iconic deli was the 1918 birthplace of the French dip. It’s still the best place to get a piled-high sandwich in L.A.
Choose between beef, lamb, pork, turkey, ham, or pastrami and a handful of cheeses, and you’ll be well on your way to flavor town. Still have some room? Don’t forget to try some of Philippe the Original’s famous sides, like macaroni salad and purple pickled eggs.
Of course, you’re not going to leave Chinatown without pigging out on some authentic Chinese food! Yang Chow Restaurant, specializing in Mandarin and Szechuan cuisines, is a local favorite. They now have three locations across the city, but it also makes the perfect take-out to bring back to your hotel room for a cozy night in.
Yang Chow’s house specialty, “Slippery shrimp,” is their most popular dish. You’ll also find classics like wonton soup, moo shu pork, and kung pao chicken on the menu.
Do you love fried chicken? Don’t forget to check out Howlin’ Ray’s. This takeout-only restaurant brings the heat with its signature Louisiana chicken sandwiches and classic southern sides like slaw and collard greens.
Howlin’ Ray’s even has a special Postmates menu, so you can enjoy it anywhere throughout your day of touring and sightseeing. Talk about the perfect way to kick your picnic in the park up a notch!
Hidden inside the L.A. Union Station, Homebound Brew Haus is the perfect blend of sophistication (with a historic, grandiose appeal) and classic beer garden vibes. It’s also a big hit with sports fanatics.
The bar is a proud Dodgers fan, which is evident in their ball-themed beer cans and stadium-style dishes like bratwurst, nacho towers, and hot pretzels. Looking for something special to celebrate happy hour? Be sure to turn your pint into a boilermaker, a Homebound Brew Haus specialty.
Melody Lounge is Chinatown’s coolest speakeasy-style bar, known for its moody red lighting and Chinese lantern-clad ceiling. Perfect for an evening filled with craft cocktails and a trendy Instagram picture or two, this bar is a hotspot for both locals and tourists, date nights, and a night out with friends. At Melody Lounge, the vinyl is always spinning, and the drinks are surprisingly affordable for L.A.
The Highland Park Brewery tasting and tap room has over 18 rotating taps with a wide range of dark, light, sour, and hoppy beers at your disposal. If you’re a Chinatown-bound beer lover, this craft brewery is the place to be.
The entire menu at Highland Park Brewery is focused on the perfect pairing, with a beer recommended for every dish you order. What kind of food are we talking about here? Think elevated brewpub classics like Wagyu hotdogs, burgers, and chicken wings. There’s even a giant chocolate chip cookie that’s a big hit among diners with a sweet tooth!
Where to stay
If you’re looking to soak up the cultural experience of Chinatown, you may want to consider booking a night in this small Chinese enclave. Although many of the most popular places to stay in L.A. lie in other areas & neighborhoods like Downtown L.A., there’s a handful of hotels and vacation rentals in L.A.’s Chinatown (or neighboring Little Tokyo) that should fit the bill.
The Best Western Plus Dragon Gate Inn will transport you all the way to China with colorful Asia-inspired decor and architecture. In addition to being an affordable mid-range stay, this hotel also offers a complimentary coffee house for guests to patronize and a full hot breakfast. Wondering about other amenities? They’ve got your every need covered with an in-house post box, pharmacy, and barbershop.
Looking for a hotel with all the comforts of home? SuitesRUs Apart Hotel at Chinatown is a small-scale operation offering clean, modern suites with living rooms and full kitchens, so you can prepare your own food as you please. This apartment building also features gardens, a lovely outdoor pool, and a sun deck for lounging about in the midday sun.
Want to try something a little different when booking your L.A. accommodations? The Miyako Hotel Los Angeles is a Japanese hotel located in nearby Little Tokyo. The in-house dining options are superb, with a contemporary sushi bar and a Japanese bakery on-site. Plus, each room comes with a Japanese-style warm water bidet for a little extra dose of luxury.