Just the facts
Main strip: 8th Street (near Webster) >> Who dwells here: Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese >> Population: 3,300 >> Founded: 1850s >> Main architecture: California bungalows built in the early 20th century >> Neighborhood giant: Pacific Renaissance Plaza >> Well-known residents: Amy Tan, Bruce Lee >> Where to mingle with locals: Madison Park, Pacific Renaissance Plaza, Restaurant Peony
One of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States, Chinatown Oakland was settled in the 1850s, shortly after the gold rush. No longer just Chinese, this 16-block area is Pan Asian, with Koreans, Vietnamese and Japanese. Visitors will find foodie bliss in the hand-pulled Chinese noodles at Shan Dong; chew jow ho fun at Vien Huong; seasoned bahn mi at Cam Huong; and boba tea at Sweet Booth. Wares are displayed on the sidewalks or in the windows, from herbal teas, live seafood to porcelain and delicious shaomai at bakeries. What you won’t find in this Chinatown are ticky-tacky camera and T-shirt kiosks. This is the real deal. Look out for the expressive murals from block to block, including the Chinese Zodiac dragon on 10th and Jackson.
The inside inside scoop
The Fortune Cookie Factory is inside a storefront on a quiet strip of 12th Street. The proprietors offer tours of the factory for just $1, so there’s no excuses for missing this deal.
If you have only three hours
Check out the schedule at Oakland Asian Cultural Center for workshops, cultural performances, classes and exhibitions. Cooking classes are also offered for many different cuisines like Filipino and Hawaiian.
Stop by Madison Square Park early in the morning to see much of the community hitting the greenery to practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
Steps away from the heart of Chinatown is the 300,000-square-foot Oakland Museum of California (OCMA), which hosts a crazy fun Friday night with food trucks and street mingling. Offbeat exhibits are balanced with interesting California history.
Hungry for more? Sign up for the Savor Oakland Chinatown cultural food tour for a guided taste of some of the best eats in the area.
How to get here
Freeway exit: From San Francisco, take 1-80 E to 1-980 W (Jackson Street exit); from the South Bay, take 1-880 N (Oak Street exit); from Berkeley, take 1-80 W to 1-580 E, taking 1-980 W to 5th Street (exit at Jackson Street)
BART stop: Lake Merritt BART Station
Bus lines: 1, 1R, 11, 12, 14 (more can be found at actransit.org)