Post Overview: Best things to do Chinatown NYC
New York City’s Chinatown was once a refuge and a place of entry for Chinese immigrants to the United States. Over the years it has become recognized as one of Manhattan’s most famous neighborhoods. As such, it’s difficult to be bored when there are so many exciting things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
Between the vibrant decorations and the unique shops that line the streets, there’s always something to do. And don’t even get me started on the mouth-watering dishes that come out of this delightful neighborhood.
What’s more, the largest Chinese population in the western hemisphere resides in Chinatown, making it a genuine Chinese community. A stroll down the block will have you feeling like you’ve left the concrete jungle without the hassle of a passport stamp.
So if you’re looking to take a break from the skyscrapers and are searching for the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a list of fun things to do and the best places to eat in the neighborhood.
Enough of the small talk, here are some of the top things to do in Chinatown NYC!
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Things to do Chinatown NYC
Grab bubble tea from Yaya Tea Garden
Unless you’re living under a rock you’re probably well aware of the bubble tea phenomenon happening as of late. Folks just can’t get enough of the tapioca pearls with the sweet milk tea concoctions!
That’s why one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC is to swing by Yaya Tea Garden for a refreshing cold drink. The shop serves some of the best bubble tea in New York City and should not be missed.
Yaya Tea is well suited for lovers of all things Japan since its cartoons and snacks are a focal point of its aesthetic. They serve made-to-order Onigiri and imported Japanese treats along with their iconic bubble tea. It doesn’t stop there though, merchandise featuring cartoons, boba, and Lunar New Year themed items are also available for purchase.
A distinguishing characteristic of Yaya Tea is the creative names they give their innovative drinks. It’s not every day you walk up to the counter and order a “boyfriend” or a “Hulk”. When I’m in a particularly spunky mood I order a Blue Blood (strawberry, lychee and blueberry black tea).
As one of the most popular things to do in Chinatown, NYC don’t be alarmed if you see a line. The staff works quickly to keep the line moving and the tea is delicious enough to warrant the wait.
Lose track of time at a Basement speakeasy
Speakeasies in New York City are not all made equal. Some emphasize their cocktails, others are romantic date-night spots, and some provide entertaining games that you can play with friends.
Paying a visit to Basement (the name of a speakeasy) is one of the best things to do in Chinatown because it offers a little bit of everything. This speakeasy has beer pong, darts, card games and so much more! It’s the perfect spot to bring new friends, because the games relieve some of the pressure of having to make constant conversation.
To get to the speakeasy you’ll have to walk though a front door that is made to look like a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine. No wonder visiting is one of the best things to do in Chinatown,NYC — it’s a hoot.
Drinks like the Chinatown old fashioned and toki highball are made with Asian spirits and provide a unique flavor to time-tested classics. There isn’t any food at the moment, since the kitchen is being renovated. You should make an effort to swing by for a drink since visiting the Basement is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
Address: 45 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Purchase porcelain ware at Wing On Wo & Co.
Wing on Wo & Co. is the longest continually running business in NYC’s Chinatown, operating since 1925. With a legacy that spans over five generations the shop specializes in selling porcelain items and cultural souvenirs.
And the older I get the more I realize just how right my mom was drooling over fine china.
Not only is swinging by one of the best things to do in Chinatown NYC, but it’s also a great spot to pick up a souvenir. You’ll get a break from the typical postcards and inappropriate sweaters, instead having the option to pickup something more unique.
This amazing store has everything you could ever need for your home. You’ll find everything from stunning dish sets to tiny trinkets that fill the empty spaces on your bookcase.
You’ll be entertained whether you visit with the aim to shop or just to wander while checking out one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
Address: 26 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Customize your own candle at Lantern Lab
I know I’m not the only one guilty of collecting candles. Every scent unlocks a different memory or welcomes a new season. That’s why one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC is to create your very own candle.
At Lantern Lab you can personalize and design your very own one-of-a-kind candle in a clean and modern environment.
Try to create a scent that’ll remind you of your time in New York City. That way every time you light it you’ll be right back in the Big Apple, reminiscing.
Guests can pick a scent, throw some glitter or floral petals into the wax and create a unique label for their candle. The whole experience takes about an hour or so and then another hour to let the wax set. Don’t worry, you’re able to leave for that hour.
It’s one of the more memorable things to do in Chinatown, NYC and while you wait for your candle to set feel free to roam around the neighborhood looking for other fun things to do.
Address: 69 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013
Peruse the grocery stores
New York City’s Chinatown is chock-full of authentic restaurants and shops that are begging to be explored. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t swing by a few of them and check them out.
Perusing the grocery stores is one of my favorite things to do in Chinatown, NYC. Aside from the ingredients and goods you can’t pick up from your local bodega the authenticity is riveting. Many of the shops don’t even have English signage.
These grocery stores are a great place to pick up fresh produce, raw seafood and Asian inspired snacks that just hit different. It may seem a little intimidating at first but trust me exploring these markets is among the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
Check out Doyer St + Walking tour
Doyers Street is arguably the most famous street in Chinatown, NYC. In the 1920’s it was the fierce battleground for Chinese gangs and even garnered the nickname Murder Alley. The criminals would hide behind the street’s bend and ambush their victims, which gave it another nickname: the Bloody Angle.
Luckily 21st century Doyers Street is a bright and inviting place. The main draw is the oldest, continuously operating dim-sum restaurant in Chinatown, NYC called Nom Wah Tea Parlor. It opened in 1920 and has steadily grown to be one of the best attractions of Chinatown, NYC.
The street is also home to a handful of barber shops and beauty salons. Although I’ve yet to go under the clippers it’s reported that folks travel from as far as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to get their hair cut on the historic street.
Visiting Doyers Street after dark is also one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC because it’s home to two speakeasies, Apotheke and Peachy’s. They’re fun and creative cocktail bars that are popular date-night destinations.
Purchase a new house plant at Dahing Plants
When looking for a large plant Dahing Plants is among the best plant stores in New York City. They sell large, luscious greenery at a reasonable price which is why making the pit-stop is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
The store divides its indoor plants into sizes such as full size, large, and huge. They really mean it when they say huge! And with free delivery on orders over $75 getting that big houseplant home just got a little easier.
They offer one of the city’s largest selections of indoor plants. Stopping by whenever you’re in the area is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC because you never know what treasure they’ll have in store.
Address: 289 Grand St, New York, NY 10002
Create a new piece of art at Happy Medium
One of the most unique things to do in Chinatown, NYC is to go to an art cafe, and yes, it’s a real thing!
Happy Medium is the place where true arts and craft lovers go to create something beautiful (or to blow off some steam). Like a real cafe, at Happy Medium you are greeted with a menu and sat table side, only instead of food items you’re given the choice of a craft.
There are projects you can make out of clay, watercolor and even a collage experience. Projects typically take around an hour and half to two hours and will cost around $25 a person.
Creating a unique piece of art for your apartment or as a souvenir is among the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC. Reservations are encouraged, try to book in advance if you can.
Address: 49 Market St, New York, NY 10002
Check out the Lanterns at Bayard & Mott Street
Chinatown is one of the most interesting and colorful neighborhoods in New York City. You can’t walk more than a few blocks before passing an array of vibrant store fronts.
But if you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC I recommend walking down Bayard and Mott Street and checking out the beautiful lanterns.
The lanterns are a newer addition to the neighborhood. Much like many other neighborhoods Chinatown struggled to bounce back after the pandemic. Not only did revenue drop drastically but foot traffic decreased as well.
The lanterns were put up by Send Chinatown Love, an organization created to help the local small business’ stand a chance after the pandemic. In an attempt to draw crowds in the lanterns were a way to entice folks to stroll down the charming streets and hopefully pop by a shop or two on the walk.
One of my favorite things to do in Chinatown, NYC is to stroll the streets right as the sun begins to set. The lanterns and string lights illuminate the blocks in a magical way.
Dance the night away at Daphne
Now this next item on our list of fun things to do in Chinatown, NYC is not for the faint of heart. In fact it’s something I personally don’t partake part in. With that said I have friends who enjoy clubbing and rave about Daphne’s.
On every Friday and Saturday night of you’ll be able to partake in sweaty dancing, loud music, and great cocktails at the Chinatown nightclub. You’re in luck if this seems like your cup of tea because it’s one of the top things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
This boisterous venue, situated below the Hotel 50 Bowery, is the ideal place to end the night with friends. You can party the night away under a disco ball-filled ceiling while dancing to the ultimate mix of oldies but goodies and current hits.
This is one of the best late-night things to do in Chinatown, NYC since the club is open until 4 AM.
Address: 50 Bowery, New York, NY 10013
Enjoy a shaved ice from Sweet Moment
Dessert after a meal is a necessity, so one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC is to swing by Sweet Moment for a treat that’ll blow your mind.
I originally came to Sweet Moment to try the matcha latte. When I walked in and saw the Bingsoo though I immediately changed my order and opted to try the dessert instead.
Bingsoo is a popular snack from South Korea made up of shaved ice topped with fruit and ice cream and oh my goodness if your mouth isn’t watering just reading that I don’t know what’s wrong with you (kidding..but not really).
The cafe offers plenty of seating and an affinity for K-Pop. When I visited I was shocked to see both younger and older generations coming together at this cute NYC cafe, but when I tried the Bingsoo it all made sense.
Do yourself a favor and order the shaved ice. Better yet come with a date and partake in one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC together!
Address: 106 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Drink authentic chai at The Chai Spot
You might be shocked to learn that there are businesses that are not Chinese in Chinatown, NYC. The Chai Spot is one of these, being influenced by the tea-drinking traditions of the Middle East.
The Chai Spot is just as much a labor of love as it is a tea house. It was founded by an interracial couple that had to fight long and hard convincing their families to bless their marriage. They had meaningful conversations over chai (tea) and The Chai Spot tries to bring people together in much the same way.
When you walk in you’ll be asked to take off your shoes as is customary in Pakistan, and the cafe seemingly transports you to a whole new world. This is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC if you’re looking for an experience outside your own culture.
The traditional cardamom chai is a great starting point and don’t forget to order a samosa. Now’s a good time to mention that 50% of The Chai Spot’s profits go towards supporting women and children in Pakistan. Not only is this one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC it’s also a good place to spend your money.
Address: 156 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Let loose at Chinatown Fair
Contrary to the name, Chinatown Fair is not in fact a fair, instead it’s the oldest arcade in New York City! And lucky for us visiting is one of the most underrated things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
The arcade has been around since the 1940’s and has had such an impact on the neighborhood that there’s even a documentary called “The Last Dance” about it.
Similar to other arcades you just load up a card with credits and play to your hearts desire. Expect to find classic games like Mario cart, Dance Dance Revolution, air hockey and so much more.
And once you’re ready to call it a night head on over to the counter of goodies and claim your prizes. Visiting Chinatown Fair is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC if you’re looking for a fun date-night idea or if you’re hanging with friends.
Address: 8 Mott St, New York, NY 10038
Have drinks at one of the best bars in town Apotheke
Ask locals about the best cocktail bars in New York City and the honest ones will mention Apotheke. The dishonest ones still want to keep it a secret, hogging one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC all to themselves.
The appeal at this Manhattan bar is the overall vibe. Mixologists in lab coats create inspired cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t lack imagination or romance.
The menu is broken down into six distinct sections: Health & Beauty, Aphrodisiacs, Pain Killers, Euphorics, Stimulants and Stress Relievers. Cocktails are referred to as prescriptions, feeding into the whole old-school European apothecary experience.
Regardless of the drinks you choose to order, one thing is certain, you can’t be disappointed when partaking in one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC. Using organic produce and house-made ingredients, everything tastes refreshing and satisfying.
Address: 9 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013
Best Places To Eat in Chinatown NYC
Alimama has gone viral on TikTok thanks to beautiful looking teas, puff pastries and mochi donuts. Luckily it isn’t just noise though, the small cafe really lives up to the hype.
Visiting is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC just be aware their cafe is small and doesn’t have a place to sit. I suggest swinging by for a drink and pastry and heading out onto the street. Then you can eat on the go like a real New Yorker.
Out of all the pastries the cream puff is my favorite, creamy and soft like a cloud. If you order one with boba you’ll be in heaven, the tapioca pearls are the perfect addition.
Address: 89A Bayard St, New York, NY 10013
Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food
If you’re looking for a fast, cheap eat in Chinatown, NYC you need look no further than Wah Fung No. 1.
Famous for their roast pork this has been a hidden gem for years but the secret is finally out. The frequent lines are worth the wait – it’s a quintessential NYC Chinatown restaurant.
I love bringing out of town guests here (especially those from small towns). This way they can experience the chaotically idyllic nature of a fast paced, flavorful Chinese restaurant.
One thing to note is that Wah Fung No. 1 is a cash only establishment. I recommend ordering the roast pork or the roast duck (or even better, one of each).
Unfortunately Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food is temporarily closed due to a broken gas-pipe. Keep an eye on their Instagram or come back to this post for updates.
Address: 79 Chrystie St, New York, NY 10002
Cha Cahn Tang
Found on the historic Mott Street, Cha Cahn Tang is a Hong-Kong style diner that mixes both traditional Chinese and American fare.
It’s one of the best restaurants in Chinatown, NYC for quick and inexpensive meals that are heavy on flavor. The Hong-Kong milk tea is a popular and staple drink that can easily pair along with whatever you order.
Just remember that Cha Cahn Tang is a cash only establishment so bring some along to cover your meal. Otherwise you’ll be forced to work your meal off in the kitchen! 😉
Address: 43 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
Mei Lai Wah
One of the best places to eat in Chinatown, NYC is Mei Lai Wah. The spot is known for their delicious baked and steamed buns.
Be prepared for long lines because this spot is very popular and visiting is among the top things to do in Chinatown NYC. Serving a multitude of flavors, my personal favorite is the pineapple pork bun or the BBQ pork bun.
The buns are fluffy and pull apart nicely to allow the explosion of flavor inside to shine. The meat is tender and juicy enough to complement the slight sweetness in the dough of the bun.
This is one of the most affordable places to eat in Chinatown, NYC. The buns start as low at $1.50 and they are a decent size (a little bigger than a fist).
Local’s tip: If you pay with cash, there is a small discount.
Address: 64 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013
Shu Jiao Fu Zhou
Known for their peanut noodles and pork & chive dumplings, Shu Jiao Fu Zhou has earned a spot on our list of best places to eat in Chinatown NYC.
This is the spot if you are trying to save a buck. An order of the pork and chive dumplings will cost you less than $3 for 6 dumplings or $4 for 10. And don’t even get me started on the peanut noodles that only cost $2.75 (for a generous amount might I add).
It’s hard to believe that for those prices the quality (and flavor) of the meal don’t suffer– but they truly don’t! After one bite you’ll understand why swinging by for an affordable meal is considered one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
Come prepared: This is a CASH-ONLY establishment.
Address: 295 Grand St, New York, NY 10002
Banh Mi Saigon
If there is anything you take away from this post, it’s that some of the best cheap eats in NYC are going to be located in Chinatown.
Banh Mi Saigon makes the list thanks to their delicious Banh Mi (a Vietnamese sandwich) which is typically made with a crispy baguette and filled with savory ingredients.
At Banh Mi Saigon the BBQ pork sandwich is my go-to order every time. The baguette is perfectly crisp, the BBQ pork is juicy and the vegetables offer a refreshing crunch. You’ll be able to find a tasty option for less than $10!
Since this is one of the best places to eat in Chinatown, NYC there’s usually a line. But, stick around and give them a chance, Bang Mi Saigon is very efficient and quickly get the line moving.
Local’s tip: If you don’t plan on eating the sandwich right away or want to save it for the next day, ask for your sandwich to come prepared “for tomorrow” and they will set the veggies to the side so your sandwich doesn’t get soggy.
Address: 198 Grand St New York, NY 10013
Wonton Noodle Garden
For folks looking for fun things to do in Chinatown, NYC on a budget, consider going on a food crawl. All the best places to eat in Chinatown are typically affordable and the flavors are unmatched.
Wonton Noodle Garden for example serves a multitude of every day Chinese dishes, but where it truly shines is in regards to it’s namesake.
For under $9 guests can order a noodle soup with sizable wontons filled with pork and shrimp. It’s a satisfying meal that punches above its weight both in flavor and in value.
And if you’re not in the mood for soup, for $8.75 there is an order of siu mai which is essentially just the dumplings. I tend to go heavy with the chili oil but regardless the authentic flavor resonates through the additions.
Address: 56 Mott St New York, NY 10013
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
If time isn’t an issue and you don’t mind a small wait, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is the oldest dim sum restaurant in NYC and swinging by is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
The century old establishment has a menu full of dumplings, noodles & soups that are sure to satisfy any craving.
What’s more, the restaurant has been in its original location since 1920! There’s history to be appreciated. And visiting the 100+ year old shop is one of the best things to do in Chinatown, NYC.
Address: 13 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013
Quick recap of the best things to do in Chinatown NYC
- Grab bubble tea from Yaya Tea Garden
- Lose track of time at a speakeasy
- Purchase porcelain ware at Wing On Wo & Co
- Customize your own candle at Lantern Lab
- Peruse the grocery stores
- Check out Doyer St + Walking tour
- Purchase a new house plant at Dahing Plants
- Create a new piece of art at Happy Medium
- Check out the Lanterns at Bayard & Mott Street
- Dance the night away at Daphne
- Shaved ice from Sweet Moment
- Drink authentic chai at Chai Tea spot
- Let loose at Chinatown Fair
- Have drinks at one of the best bars in town
- Ali Mama
- Wah Fung No 1
- Cha Cahn Tang
- Mei Lai Wah
- Shu Jiao Fu Zhou
- Banh Mi Saigon
- Wonton Noodle Garden
- Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Things to do Chinatown in New York City (Helpful Map)
And there you have it, our list of the fun things to do in Chinatown, NYC. As always, don’t hesitate to let us know if we missed anything. Cheers!