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Visit Chinatown in New York City
New York City is the most culturally diverse city in the world and that means something for pretty much everyone no matter where they come from. Whether you’re first generation Italian or just got back from an extended stay in Asia and are looking for some food to fight back the homesickness, chances are you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for. After spending so much time in Asia, we were itching for some truly authentic cuisine and there’s no better place to find it than the city that never sleeps.
Visit Both Chinatowns
For starters, did you know that there are actually two separate Chinatowns in New York City? The first one is probably what you initially think of, and it’s found in Lower Manhattan. The other Chinatown is in Flushing Queens and is the second-fastest growing Chinese community outside of China. The Queens Chinatown has also been a feature of popular food and travel programs, like Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations,” so you know it has strong recommendations. Many people enjoy visiting the Chinatown in Queens because you still get all the incredible food and culture but deal with half of the crowds you would in Manhattan.
Jing Fong Restaurant
In the Manhattan Chinatown there’s no shortage of incredible restaurants, markets and vendors that are more than happy to to help you with some of the best prices on the highest quality products you’ll see in the city. At least, when it comes to food, we won’t promise anything about that less than legitimate handbag. People swear by the dumpling soup at Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant, but personally we have to recommend visiting Jing Fong. It is New York’s biggest Chinese restaurant, which you can imagine is pretty huge. According to Lucky Peach, the dining room alone is practically the size of a football field and can seat up to 800, so go ahead and bring the family for some delicious, authentic dim sum. Be prepared to potentially wait for an hour, though that’s not really too extreme for New York. The humongous restaurant has been open for over 43 years and is a staple of Chinese food and culture in the Big Apple. For people who want the real deal when it comes to Chinese cuisine in the Big Apple, this is the place they come.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
While you’re in Queens, it’s worth checking out the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in the same neighborhood. This annual festival takes place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens and features dancing, martial arts, food, live music and much more. According to the festival’s official website, the tradition of dragon boat racing comes from the ancient legend of a Chinese poet from around 278 BC. The tragic story goes that the tradition began when loving local fisherman raced their boats to save the poet after he threw himself in the river upon hearing of the destruction of his hometown. The festival has been held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month ever since. Rituals around this summer holiday include eating rice dumplings, seeing traditional dance and theater shows, martial arts demonstrations and, of course, exciting boat races. BritishAirways reports that over 170 different teams compete in the race, which takes place on Aug. 8 and 9. Can you think of a better way to beat the heat in the dog days of summer than to get on the water and take in an exciting boat race?
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
If being by the water isn’t enough to cool you down, you can wrap up your Sino-summer vacation at the Chinese Ice Cream Factory back in Manhattan. Experience traditional Asian tastes like lychee, red-bean, mango and the infamous durian fruit from this nearly 40-year-old store. The durian is well known for its odious smell that some have compared to rotting onions. You aren’t even allowed to bring the fruit inside certain hotels and taxis in Asia. However, the flavor is a fan favorite when available, according to The New York Times. “Some people can’t get enough of it,” 65-year-old owner Philip Seid said. Don’t worry though, they still offer new-school American favorites like chocolate and vanilla, but you can get that anywhere.
These are just a few of the awesome things we recommend for those who can check out Chinatown for a weekend. There’s much more to see and do, from open-air markets to fireworks, so don’t miss out on the most authentic experience you can get without leaving the States.