3 Days | 21 Miles | in Arts & Culture & History, 1-3 Days
Year-round, you can discover the Chicago Chinatown community’s vibrant roots on a walking tour or take your taste buds on a trip through the spicy, savory, and sweet sides of China’s diverse regional dishes. You can explore cultural exhibits in nearby museums & galleries. If you’re in town during the Lunar New Year, celebrate alongside lion dancers with festive floats and streets decked out in red and gold. And don’t forget to pick up a keepsake at one of the many small, independent shops.
Make sure to check with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date operating hours, travel policies and health and safety information.
There is no better place in Illinois to ring in the Chinese New Year than in Chicago’s Chinatown — home to beautiful centuries-old Chinese architecture and unparalleled dining and shopping experiences.
When you arrive, be sure to snap a photo with Chinatown’s Guardian Lions at the entrance of Chinatown Square, a two-story outdoor mall dotted with striking bronze zodiac figures. If you’re hungry, meander a few blocks to grab a mooncake or any other delicious treat from Chiu Quon Bakery, the neighborhood’s oldest bakery.
Whether you’re a frequent visitor or a first-timer, the Chinatown Walking Tour is a great way to take in the community’s top attractions. You’ll see the Nine Dragon Wall, a replica of the wall built in Beijing in 1756 — one of only three replicas in the world outside China. The tour also includes a visit to the Pui Tak Center, the former “Chinatown City Hall,” which today provides services to help new immigrants acclimate to Chicago.
Now that you’ve walked up an appetite, it’s time to indulge in some grub from one of the many area favorites. Golden Bull Restaurant may not look like much from the outside, but the service is impeccable, and the locals love it for tasty dishes like sweet and sour pork and potstickers. Emperor's Choice Restaurant has a similarly cozy vibe, with authentic offerings like salt and pepper soft shell crab or mapo tofu.
Following your meal, peruse art pieces and the mural on the second floor of the Chicago Public Library Chinatown Branch. Built in 2015, the library incorporates modern design elements both inside and out that have helped make it a local landmark.
Just steps away, spend the rest of the afternoon taking a stroll through Ping Tom Memorial Park, which is home to nearly three acres of native prairie and wetland habitat within Chinatown. Enjoy a blend of Chicago and China’s cultures, from the Ping Tom Portrait Bust to the Boathouse with glorious city views.
For dining in the evening, enjoy out-of-this-world dumplings and Chinese dim sum at Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings, or seek out a pan-Asian experience at Joy Yee, where you’ll find dishes like Korean BBQ short ribs and Singapore-style noodles.
After a full day of exploring, you’ll be ready for a comfy place to unwind. If you’re hoping to stay near all of the Year of the Rabbit celebrations, book a room at Springhill Suites by Marriott Chicago Chinatown. In the nearby South Loop, you can opt for Home2 Suites By Hilton Chicago McCormick Place, which offers a rooftop bar with sweeping views of the skyline and lake. Or perhaps you’d prefer a five-star experience on the Magnificent Mile, in which case The Peninsula is your ticket to luxury. It also just happened to be named one of the top five hotels in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Located on the North Side of Chicago, the West Argyle Street Historic District is home to many Southeast Asian and Chinese immigrants. Check out the diverse collection of restaurants, shops and markets to get a feel for the culture in this thriving community, which also goes by the nicknames Asia on Argyle, New Chinatown, Little Saigon and Little Vietnam.
When you’re ready, wander to the center of Chicago Chinatown Square to feast on a hearty lunch at Ken Kee Restaurant, where you can order classics like orange chicken or create your own customized Hong Kong Cart Noodle dish. Vegetarians and carnivores alike can find something to savor!
Next, expand your knowledge of Chinese American culture and history in the Midwest at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago. Before your visit, check the museum’s event schedule to target specific exhibits and educational events for all ages.
Foodies can get to know today’s Chinatown and feed their passion at the same time with the Chicago’s Chinatown Food and Walking Tour by Viator, which lasts about three hours. This experience will open your eyes to the great diversity that exists among traditional Chinese dishes, all within the neighborhood. Remember to tip your guide!
Before heading out for the evening, make sure to stop by and pay your respects at the Chinese American Veterans Memorial, a tribute honoring those of Chinese descent who fought to protect the United States.
For dinner, leave the warm embrace of Chinatown to sample some Chinese cuisine elsewhere in the city. Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula boasts sophisticated Cantonese dishes such as Peking duck and Chinese-style beef tenderloin — as well as remarkable city views. Or try Duck Duck Goat in Fulton Market, an ornately decorated oasis that serves up creative Chinese dishes from celebrity chef Stephanie Izard.
Or, if you’d prefer dinner plus a night out on the town, try TAO Asian Bistro, where you’ll have your choice of everything from curated omakase to triple pork fried rice. If you visit on Friday or Saturday, you can keep the party going at the TAO Chicago Nightclub. Either way, make sure you and your traveling companions adhere to the dress code.
On your final day, savor one last meal in Chinatown. You can’t go wrong with brunch at MingHin Cuisine, an award-winning establishment where you can experience authentic Cantonese dim sum and Hong Kong cuisine in a friendly, modern space. This restaurant has been recognized by the famous Michelin Guide five times, so your taste buds are in for a treat.
As your afternoon activity, squeeze in a few additional morsels of Chinese culture before calling it a trip. At the Field Museum, peruse the Cyrus Tang Hall of China exhibit, where you’ll see centuries-old stories come to life amid rare artifacts that shed light on what daily life was like in China hundreds of years ago.
Or check out the Art Institute of Chicago’s Asian collection, which encompasses nearly five millennia and all of the continent’s major artistic traditions. You’ll see examples of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, Chinese jades and ceramics, Japanese screens and prints, and Indian and Persian paintings.
If you have time to make a trip to the North Side, be sure to pick up some locally made tofu from Illinois Made Maker Phoenix Bean Tofu. Located in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, Phoenix Bean creates several varieties of tofu, each with its own unique delicate taste and texture.
If you’re in town for the new year, be sure to watch the Chinatown Lunar New Year Celebration. This year, the Chinese New Year falls on February 10, 2024, with the parade being held on Sunday, February 18, 2024.
On Saturday, February 17th, you can also head north to Argyle Street as Uptown continues its annual tradition with the 2023 Argyle Lunar New Year Celebration. The parade kicks off at 1:00pm sharp at Argyle & Winthrop!