The best things to do in Chinatown
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.