As one of the largest and most vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods in the U.S, Chicago’s Chinatown is worthy of a visit to get a sense of where the Chinese community in Chicago live, eat and work. While traditional urban Chinatowns in Manhattan, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston are fading due to gentrification and changing cultural landscapes, Chicago Chinatown’s population reverses the trend with an increasing population. If you feel curious about this particular Chinatown, be sure to pop by when you are in Chicago! Read on to check out the must-eats and must-dos in Chicago’s Chinatown.
Take a water taxi to Chinatown
A single “L” train ride costs slightly over 2 USD, whereas a single water taxi ride starts as low as 4 USD. The water taxi ride service is provided by Wendella and there are six stops for you to board the water taxi to Chinatown.
However, do check the schedule of the departure times of the water taxis in advance to ensure that you don’t miss it. The ride brings you to the south branch of the Chicago River right in the middle of the beautiful, 12-acre Ping Tom Memorial Park, which is a good starting point for exploring Chicago’s Chinatown.
Take a stroll in Ping Tom Memorial Park
Other than admiring the flora and fauna, there is also a children’s playground for the kids to occupy themselves. For the more sporty ones, you can also rent a kayak from the boat house and row in the river during summer.
The serene Ping Tom Memorial Park is located at 300 W 19th St, Chicago, IL 60616.
Shop and eat in Chinatown Square
Chinatown Square is located at 2133 S China Pl, Chicago, IL 60616.
Indulge in dim sum and bubble tea
As you walk around in Chinatown, you will notice that many restaurants in Chinatown sell beverages like smoothies and bubble teas. Joy Yee’s smoothies are a hit with locals and tourists, and you can almost always see long queues outside the restaurant. As for me, I am an avid bubble tea lover, and the bubble teas from Saint’s Alp Teahouse and Kung Fu Tea really hit the right spot and can satiate my longing for authentic milky bubble tea whenever my craving comes.
If you are visiting during the cold seasons, which means about two-thirds of the time in Chicago, warm yourself up with piping hot Mongolian hot pot from Little Lamb Hotpot. Definitely get the Mongolian spicy herbal broth, you won’t regret it!
Admire the architecture of the award-winning library in Chinatown
The library is located at 2100 South Wentworth Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616.
Visit over the weekend for a more bustling atmosphere
As one of the top Chinatowns in the U.S, I feel that Chicago’s Chinatown is surprisingly non-commercialised. While there are of course tourists visiting the place, it is still very much frequented by locals doing their grocery shopping and having their Chinese food fix. In fact, even shops that sell souvenirs do not have that clean and bright atmosphere that you will expect touristy destinations to have. As such, some of the oriental costumes and trinkets you see being sold might even look slightly worn and dusty.
It can be quite deserted during weekdays, so if you are hoping to see a bustling Chinatown, it is best to visit during the weekend to get the best atmosphere. It is also a good place to indulge in authentic Chinese food for supper as a couple of restaurants are open till late in the night.
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