The best attractions and things to do in Chinatown

Cultural museums, historic buildings, a riverside park and more of our favorite Chinatown attractions
Chinatown: Chicago
Photograph: Marina Makropoulos The Chinatown arch.
By Zach Long |
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With breathtaking architecture and an abundance of cultural attractions, Chinatown is one of Chicago's most exciting neighborhoods to explore. Begin your journey with a trip to the Chinese-American Museum, where you'll learn about the history of the area and its residents. Relax next to the river or rent a kayak at the scenic Ping Tom Memorial Park. Celebrate with fellow revelers at the annual Chinese Lunar New Year Parade, where dragons and drummers take over the streets of Chinatown.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Chinatown

Museums, Natural history

Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute

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

Chicago Public Library, Chinatown Branch
Photograph: Martha Williams
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Chicago Public Library, Chinatown Branch

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With a pair of lion sculptures guarding its doors, the Chicago Public Library's Chinatown Branch offers Chinese-language materials, in addition to English resources, public computers and meeting rooms. The current location of the Chinatown Branch will close in 2015 and move to a new building at 2100 South Wentworth Avenue.

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Chinatown Square
Photograph: Martha Williams
Attractions, Public spaces

Chinatown Square

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

Chinese-American Museum of Chicago
Photograph: Martha Williams
Museums, History

Chinese-American Museum of Chicago

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

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Ping Tom Memorial Park

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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.

Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Pui Tak Center

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As the first piece of traditional Chinese architecture to be erected 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.

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Sun Yat-Sen Park
Photograph: Martha Williams
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Sun Yat-Sen Park

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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 find a bust of Yat-Sen located near the center of the park.

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