I feel like Chinatowns are always popular places to visit when in any big city. Seattle's Chinatown (International District) is pretty all right. Mainly, it's a place to see some of Seattle's oldest buildings, eat some Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese/Asian food, shop at the Uwajimaya, and probably see the latest exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum.
Uwajimaya is one of the main reasons I would find myself down in Chinatown. It is an awesome Asian food market, where you can get food products from China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, and even Hong Kong. We went down here, initially to get some groceries for the hot pot that we wanted to make for my family, but ended up buying most of our groceries elsewhere.
Chinatown has some of the most beautiful buildings in the Seattle area. There is a lot of history that went down in this neighborhood, most of which can be learned by talking to some of the tour guides at the Wing Luke Museum.
Fun Fact: The majority of what is now Chinatown was once apart of the burgeoning Japantown back before World War II, where a lot of the Japanese Americans were relocated to internment camps.
The Chinatown district is quite small, running mainly down Jackson, King and Weller Streets from 5th Ave up to 12th Ave. There are a few produce/grocery shops, video shops, bookshops, travel agencies, and the like. There are quite a number of restaurants, bakeries, bubble tea joints, dim sum houses, and the like. And there are a few hotels, residencies, and hostels that can be found within the blocks of Chinatown.
For the purposes of blogging about Chinatown, my husband and I decided to take a visit to the Wing Luke Museum, which can be found at 719 South King Street. I wasn't expecting much because I had been to the original museum, but I was so impressed at what the new museum was showing.
Wing Luke Museum Info:
719 South King Street (between 7th and 8th Ave. S.)
Seattle, WA 98104
Open Tuesdays - Sundays
Open from 10 am - 5 pm
Admission runs at around $15 for adults and $10 for kids
Free admission on the FIRST THURSDAYS of each month from (10 am - 8 pm)
There was a Bruce Lee exhibit, which was actually quite awesome to view. A lot of his life in Seattle was presented and also videos of his most famous movies. It also displayed a lot of his personal letters, theories on martial arts, and sports gear that he used while teaching.
The museum also gave us a tour of the general/grocery store that was donated to the museum a few years ago. The tour guide told us that this grocery shop was the place for new immigrants to stay in and integrate into the community. At times, there would be twenty Chinese immigrants sleeping in cots on the upper level of this shop.
The funny thing about the shop is that it looks pretty much like the general/grocery stores in Hong Kong. But, it just seemed so much more intriguingly interesting because it was apart of the museum tour!
The tour also took us to the building right next door to the museum. This was where we could view an exclusive community hall (where patrons of the same surname were invited to join), a mahjong room (where members of the community hall would pass the time), a kitchen (where you could see what was cooked, the old stove, and table setting), and sleeping quarters (where immigrants would settle into while saving money to make their lives better).
The sleeping quarters totally reminded me of Hong Kong: Small, cramped, community kitchen/bathrooms, and many roommates.
There was also a contemporary skateboard exhibit in the Wing Luke Museum, which was a nice change of pace to view.
The main exhibit was probably my favorite because it displayed a lot of the history of the neighborhood and the people who shaped it.
Chinatown, I would say, is a good day's worth of activities. The Wing Luke Museum took us about 3 hours to get through…especially when we went on the tour with the museum's tour guide (highly recommended!!!)
If you are looking to not traveling around the city too much, spending the day in Chinatown is a good idea! Have a little dim sum for brunch, walk around and feel the history of the alleys, head into the Wing Luke Museum for a perusal, have a late lunch at Tai Tung (where Bruce Lee used to eat at), and perhaps spend the afternoon wandering around Little Saigon or Japantown.
Definitely, this is the place to be when looking for dinner too!