Each year in the last week before school starts the kids and I take a day to hang out in Chicago. This year I decided to take them exploring in a new part of the city: Chinatown.
I found a walking tour online that showed where all the highlights of this ethnic neighborhood were. I heard from a friend of mine that you could take the water taxi there which sounded like a fun way to get two adventures out of the day. I invited Grandma & Grandpa to join us for the day. And off we went! The highlights:
This is not the cheapest way to see Chinatown but it is very fun. The water taxi isn’t expensive but parking in the loop to catch the water taxi is. (FYI The cheapest way to go to Chinatown is to park in the parking garage at Archer & Wentworth and have your parking validated in the next door market.) We caught the water taxi just under the Madison Street bridge. Tip: if you have five people or more, and you’re visiting on a week day, get the 10 ride pass. You can use it for multiple riders on the same trip and it’s by far the cheapest way to go. We had a lovely 15-20 minute ride to Ping Tom Memorial Park. Seeing Chicago from the river is a special viewpoint and even though we’ve gone on river tours from Navy Pier, Chinatown is further down the river so we were seeing new sights and views.
We walked the easy two blocks from Ping Tom Memorial Park to Chinatown Plaza because we all wanted to find our Chinese Zodiac statue. Mine is ugly so I didn’t take a picture next to it – stupid Year of the Rat.
After wandering up & down Wentworth and getting our fill of shops. We had lunch at Phoenix Restaurant because I wanted to have dim sum. I’ve never had it before but the tradition is based around tea tasting and snacking. Small portions of a variety of foods, including an assortment of steamed or fried dumplings, are served in succession. We had a place mat with approx 30 selections. We marked off those we wanted to try and every three minutes or so a plate or two was brought out and checked off our list. We could have ordered more items at any time. And they said that if we were in China, instead of a marked list – they would push around prepared items on a cart and we’d just flag them down and take what we wanted.
We had such a fun experience! We picked 14 different items to try and were all surprised at how easily you can fill up on small plates. I think the steamed pork buns might have been the overall favorite but there was lots of sharing and fun. I was afraid it might be expensive (there are no prices on the menu, or if there are they were in Chinese) but all seven of us ate lunch for $61. The plates ranged in price from $3- $4.15 per plate. It was a great deal!
Best of all the kids were adventurous in trying new things. Admittedly we kept most selections pretty tame but there were some crazy choices. Unbeknownst to me – these two were more adventurous than I realized when they marked chicken feet on the menu. I’m not sure what they were expecting but props to them because they each ate one. (Which is more than you can say for me.)
We also saw the Dragon Wall, walked into a few shops and a Chinese market which was a big eye-opener for my kids. Whole, dried fish in a bag? Bins of dried shrimp open for the scooping? Vegetables and fruits we couldn’t identify? Crazy. We spent four hours learning a bit about a different culture and appreciating the fact that people have this strong cultural identity just 45 minutes away from our driveway.