Family Neighborhood Guide: Chinatown

Early winter in Chinatown usually means celebrations for Lunar New Year. This year ends the Year of the Rat and welcomes the Year of the Ox. In a typical year, a parade up Wentworth Avenue would kick off the festivities. In 2021, the parade is scheduled for Feb. 21, but be prepared for a change of plans and ways to make the celebration socially distanced.

Chinatown is also a hot spot for great food, architecture, shopping and museums. If you’re new to visiting this side of the city, start with the Chicago Architecture Center’s walking tour of Chinatown, which is ideal for teens and tweens, too. Then, stick around for the parts you can’t wait to see again. In the summer, a yearly dragon boat race on the river launched from Ping Tom Park raises money for literacy.

Getting there: Chinatown is located on Chicago’s South Side, spanning 26th Street as its southern border to Ping Tom Memorial Park to the north, and from Federal and Clark on the east to the South Branch of the river on the west. Wentworth and Canal mark the center of the business district.

Eat

Joy Yee

 

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Chinatown is known for its food, and the top restaurant depends on what you’re looking for. While exploring the neighborhood, stop at Joy Yee to treat the kids to one of the best bubble teas in the city.

Phoenix

 

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Located inside Chinatown Square, Phoenix offers up a unique dim sum dining experience with rolling carts of food that diners can choose from.

MingHin Cuisine

 

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A Chinatown favorite, MingHin has additional locations across the city and in Naperville. While at the original location, be sure to try some of the Chinese staples like chicken feet and barbecue pork buns.

Xi’an Cuisine

 

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Sandwiches aren’t banned from Chinese cuisine, and if your kids love anything between two slices of bread, they can improve their palates with choices like marinated beef, vegetables or pork elbow.

Play

Ping Tom Memorial Park 

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Part of the Chicago Park District, Ping Tom Memorial Park is uniquely constructed with beautiful views of the Chicago River. The playground includes climbing structures for all sizes and ages, and a beautiful pagoda welcomes visitors from the boat launch.

Chinese Lunar New Year Parade

  • Address: Starts at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue and heads north up Wentworth to Cermak Road

Featuring marching bands, colorful floats, traditional lion dances and a special appearance by Ronald McDonald, the parade celebrates the start of the new year. In 2021, the Chinese Zodiac marks the Year of the Ox.

Chinatown Summer Fair

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  • Address: Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road, Chicago

This iconic annual celebration of Far East culture includes the Dragon Lion Dance Procession, artisans, food vendors and more. The event usually occurs mid-July.

Dragonboat Race for Literacy

Families can watch teams compete in a fast-paced race on the South Branch of the Chicago River in decorated dragon boats. Also at the yearly event, enjoy live musical and dance performances, booth vendors and special guest appearances. This event usually occurs in late June.

Shop

Chinatown Square 

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The square is a two-level center of shops and restaurants with plenty of options. In the middle of the vast mall are 12 bronze statues of the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Aji Ichiban

 

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Kids will LOVE a stop at Aji Ichiban, a candy store and more. Pick up candy by the pound or pre-packaged with options that range from sugary sweets to gummies to chocolate.

AJ Housewares & Gifts

This little gift shop is wall-to-wall Chinatown toys, decorations, accessories and even more to bring the best of the neighborhood home with you.

Explore

Chinese American Museum of Chicago

The museum houses the history of migration to the city, plus revolving exhibitions about the Chinese experience in the U.S.

Chinese American Veterans Memorial

 

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Honoring Chinese Americans who served in U.S. armed forces, the monument was dedicated in 2005 and is a short walk from Chinatown Square.

Pui Tak Center

The community center serves more than 30,000 Chinese American citizens that live in and around Chinatown, including in Bridgeport, Canaryville and the South Loop. Volunteer opportunities are open for families who want to spend more time in the community.


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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s January/February 2021 issue

 

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