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Chinatown: A Separate World On Your Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

New York City is a strikingly diverse place, a fact easily recognizable from the top of a double decker bus. While highly traversed areas like Times Square or Central Park always contain a complex mixture of nationalities, ethnicities, and religions, certain parts of the city have developed into rich enclaves for individual cultures. One of the most famous is Chinatown, located in downtown Manhattan between the Lower East Side and Tribeca, and also a standard stop on any hop-on hop-off bus tour. This neighborhood is home to the single largest collection of Chinese people in the western hemisphere, about 100,000. Chinese people first came to this area in the middle of the 19th century, but the neighborhood did not reach its current proportions until certain immigration restrictions were lifted in 1965, after which the enclave grew exponentially. Today, the storefronts and advertisements are all written in the local languages, with Mandarin currently replacing Cantonese as the lingua franca. Even from the top of a double decker bus, this NYC neighborhood is distinctly recognizable. The neighborhood also facillitates the observance of Chinese festivals, such as the celebration of the New Year. A variety of groups collaborate to sponsor the Lunar New Year celebration, typically a week long event. The festivities include a cultural festival, parade, concerts, and fireworks along the Hudson River. In 2015 the city established the Chinese Lunar New Year as a public school holiday. Produce and fish markets dominate the major streets in Chinatown. Street vendors also sell knock-off versions of popular handbag, wristwatch, and perfume brands. The neighborhood has become notorious for this knock-off market. More than 300 local ethnic restaurants also bring in millions of tourists a year. You can Hop-Off the bus and wander the streets for hours, shopping local merchandise, sampling the foreign food, or just tour a culture you haven't experienced before.