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Won Kow in Chinatown
Photograph: Courtesy CC/WIkimedia Commons/Daniel Schwen

The best attractions and things to do in Chinatown

Play a game of mahjong, see ancient jade art and find more fun things to do in Chinatown

By Zach Long
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Once you're done enjoying the best restaurants in Chinatown, it's worth sticking around the area to explore nearby attractions. Learn more about the neighborhood's rich culture by visiting the exhibitions on display at the Heritage Museum of Asian Art. Spend an afternoon in one of Chicago's most beautiful parks at Ping Tom Memorial Park, where you can admire the view or rent a kayak and float along the river. No trip to the neighborhood is complete without a stop in Chinatown Square, where you'll discover statues depicting the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Find more amazing things to do among some of the best attractions in Chinatown.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Chinatown

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The best things to do in Chinatown

Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute

Museums Natural history Armour Square

Offering immersive experiences, Chinese language classes and tours of Chinatown, the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute strives to foster a community between the U.S. and China. A diverse selection of programs—including dumpling-making dinners, Chinatown food tours and tai chi classes—allows anyone to experience a foreign culture without leaving the city.

Chicago Chinatown library night
Photograph: CC/Flickr/Smart Chicago Collaborative

Chicago Public Library, Chinatown Branch

Attractions Libraries, archives and foundations Armour Square

This South Side Chicago Public Library branch is unlike any other in the city system. The 16,000-square-foot interior is split across two floors and features a feng shui-influenced design, as well as striking views of the Chicago skyline. The branch also includes Chinese language materials and a mural by CJ Hungerman entitled “Universal Transverse Immigration Proclamation,” an ode to the neighborhood’s history and character.

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Chinatown Square
Photograph: Martha Williams

Chinatown Square

Attractions Public spaces Armour Square

Serving as the neighborhood's hub, Chinatown Square features a two-level mall housing a variety of local businesses, including restaurants, beauty shops and candy vendors. The design of the area was inspired by Chinese Imperial Court and features statues representing each of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.

Heritage Museum of Asian Art

Museums Art and design Armour Square

The nonprofit Heritage Museum of Asian Art showcases a variety of different Asian artforms, with a collection assembled by art dealer Jeffrey Moy. Inside the Chinatown institution, visitors will find jade and pottery that dates back to the Neolithic period, porcelain, snuff bottles, textiles and more. There are also exhibitions devoted to ojime beads (part of a small toggled cord that was attached to kimonos) and Chinese puzzle balls, which date back to the 1700s.

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Chinese-American Museum of Chicago
Photograph: Martha Williams

Chinese-American Museum of Chicago

Museums History Armour Square

Located near the heart of Chinatown, the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago hosts a small collection of exhibits that allows visitors to learn more about Chinese culture. The museum's permanent exhibit explores the journey taken by Chinese immigrants traveling to the Midwest, including stories submitted by individuals currently residing in Chicago's Chinatown.

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Armour Square

Originally a railroad yard, Ping Tom Memorial Park is named for the Chinatown resident who was the leading force behind the creation of this community space. Thanks to its location directly next to the Chicago River, the park is a popular spot for kayaking. The most recent addition to the park is a state of the art fieldhouse, which houses a gymnasium, fitness center and an indoor pool. Get there by water taxi in the warmer months.

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Pui Tak Center

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Armour Square

As the first piece of traditional Chinese architecture to be built in the area, the Pui Tak Center is a cornerstone of Chinatown's community. The building was restored in 2010 after being purchased by the Chinese Christian Union Church, which offers ESL classes and immigration services to area residents.

Sun Yat-Sen Park
Photograph: Martha Williams

Sun Yat-Sen Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Armour Square

On a nice day, you'll find a bunch of older men playing mahjong in this small park, located directly to the south of Chinatown. The area is named for Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen, who helped overthrow the country's ruling dynasty and acted as China's first provisional president. Visitors will discover a bust of Yat-Sen located near the center of the park.

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