Wow! what a difference between the Chinatown I knew back in early 2000 when I left DC for Europe and the Chinatown in 2006 when I returned to DC. What happened during my absence here in DC? It now feels like you are walking in mini Piccadilly Circus of London – so many lighting, restaurants, movie theater, clubs, bars, large screen size advertising billboards.
Those of you none DCians, our Chinatown is a small historic neighborhood with handful of Chinese and Asian restaurants and other Chinese small businesses. It used to be dominantly all Chinese things there till I think MCI Center (now called Verizon Center) was built about thirteen years ago. The Friendship Arch, a traditional Chinese gate, prominently marks the neighborhood at H and 7th Streets. Chinatown is located near Penn Quarter, a revitalized arts and entertainment district with new restaurants, museums, theaters and trendy stores. Much of the area was torn down in late 1990′s to make way for Verizon Center. Chinatown is most visited for its restaurants and the annual Chinese New Year parade. So, If you are into Chinese parades, you will really enjoy the Chinatown parade. You will certainly feel the vibrant of neighborhood pride!
Since the presence of Verizon Center there, I don’t think you can call the area as home to Asian population anymore. There are only a handful of Asian restaurants and shops left, and that is too bad. The gate stands as a reminder of what was, not what is there today. I think what has also happened is the Penn Quarter which has taken over the old Chinatown. Chains and other popular places have renewed the area around the Museum and the Gallery Place (or better say Vegas-Square these days) has replaced a huge portion of the old Chinatown. So, the area may not be much for Asian American folks from San Francisco or Boston or NYC, but it offers a lot of entertainment and food value for the city.
Regardless, the area is still awesome. All the buildings adjacent to the Gallery Place development have been lovingly restored and filled with places that attract people. The National Portrait Gallery has been restored and renovated and also improved the looks of the area.
Chinatown is located east of downtown Washington, DC between H and I Streets and 5th and 8th Streets, NW. Map
Nearest Metro Station:
Other Major Attractions Near Chinatown:
• Verizon Center map
• National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum map
• International Spy Museum map
• Washington Convention Center map
Interview with Chinatown Arch Designer
Washington, DC Chinatown