Luckily, you don’t have to catch an airplane to explore the rich cultural heritage of China. Chicago’s unique Chinatown is the 3rd largest in the United States, and offers a wide array of fun sights, activities, shops and tasty treats that both kids and adults will appreciate. Grab your (pretend) passports and fly on over to Chinatown!
Ping Tom Park
300 W. 19th St.
Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk
This 12-acre park is located along the South Branch of the Chicago River, making for a green space with outstanding river views. My kids always get a kick out of watching the drawbridge occasionally rise up to let boaters through the river here. The Asian-inspired landscaping and structures make for a more interesting park experience. Named after a renown Chinese-American civic leader, Ping Tom Park plays center stage for many outdoor, cultural activities, including the Dragon Boat Races, held here every July and featuring some of the most whimsically menacing boats and canoes you’ll ever see. The playground is large and contains elements to keep all kids—from toddlers to tweens—amused.
Chinese Zodiac Square in Chinatown Square Mall
2100 S. Wentworth Ave.
store hours vary
Send your kids off to search for their representative animal among the twelve Chinese Zodiac animal statues, located in the middle of this outdoor mall. A short description of each zodiac animal’s personality traits as well as corresponding birth years are inscribed at the base of each statue. Kids will also enjoy climbing the stairs of the two pagodas located on opposite ends of the mall.
2159 S. China Place
(Chinatown Square Mall)
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to midnight
Bright and Colorful, Joy Yee’s is the perfect spot to sit and watch the world pass by in Chinatown Square. Outdoor café-style seating is available. While the menu features a long list of pan-Asian delights, don’t miss a sample of Joy Yee’s specialty, Bubble Tea, a.k.a. Boba Tea, a fruit flavored tea dotted with tapioca pearls that will remind your kids of mini balls of Jello.
Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road
Wentworth Avenue is the bustling hub of Chinatown. Gift shops galore, mini-grocery stores, cafes, restaurants and more line the avenue on both sides. You’ll find the one of the finest and most extensive selections of tea at Ten Ren Tea (2247 South Wentworth). Be sure to pop into a bakery: our family won’t leave Chinatown without a box of coconut stuffed buns from Chiu Quon Bakery (2242 S. Wentworth).
Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute
2145 S. China Place
The Chinese Cultural Institute offers Chinese classes for both children and adults as well as events and occasional special workshops for children on everything from kite making to traditional, decorative paper-cutting. The “Chopsticks Club” meets once a month at an area restaurant for an authentic Chinese meal with discussion led by an Institute member who will explain more about the highlighted region. The Institute also offers guided tours of Chinatown.