Formerly known as Chinatown, the International District lies just south of the Downtown business district and is a rich cultural center with a vibrant atmosphere.
Since the 1880s, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants have called this area their home. At several points throughout history, the community faced challenges caused by racial prejudices and encroaching settlement. For example, after the bombings in Pearl Harbor in 1942, the entire Japanese American population was removed to internment camps, and in the 1960s, the construction of I-5 literally cut the neighborhood in half.
Luckily, many leaders stepped forward to protect and preserve the neighborhood’s people and culture. Wing Luke was the first Asian American to be elected into the King County Council in 1962, and the Seattle Chinatown-International District Public Development Authority was formed in 1975 to improve housing and services in the area. Today, the neighborhood remains a hub for the Asian American population.
This is arguably one of the most unique and proud neighborhoods in the city. Festivals and events are easy to come by, and there are year-round opportunities for exploring the cultural heritage of the people here. Visitors and residents often join together for celebrations and the prevailing attitude is that, no matter what, everyone should feel welcome here.
Activities and Attractions
One of the major draws to the neighborhood is the Uwajimaya market, a huge specialty store with every type of food imaginable and tons of Asian-inspired trinkets. You can also let someone cook for you and sample dim sum, bubble tea, Chinese tea, and bakery goods from traditional restaurants.
We mentioned festivals before, and there are almost too many to list. Some of the main events featured on the neighborhood website include the Lunar New Year celebration, the Moon Festival, and Bon Odori, one of the most important Buddhist holidays of the year.
Immerse yourself in the history of the neighborhood by visiting one of the local museums or art galleries. You can even take a guided historical tour through Chinatown Discovery Tours.
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