How to Best Spend Your Chinese New Year in Chicago

How to Best Spend Your Chinese New Year in Chicago

If you are in Chicago during January or February you will not be able to avoid some of the Chinese New Year festivities. For more information on 2016 events have a look at some suggestions below.

With Chinese New Year quickly coming around the corner, each big city in The United States is getting very excited! There is a huge number of events and activities in store throughout the entire country. Although Chicago may not be as well known for its celebration of the Chinese New Year as San Francisco or New York, the city still puts on a hell of a party! The end of January and the entire month of February is booked up with events for just about anyone. From museums and theatres to restaurants and bars, venues across the city are putting on something special to celebrate the event. Below are some of our top picks that you need to attend if you are in Chicago for the Lunar New Year in 2016.

About the Chicago Chinatown

Before we start unveiling the many events, activities, restaurants and bars that you just have to visit during your time in Chicago in January and February, let’s have a quick look at Chinatown, Chicago, Illinois. Chinatown Chicago is the ethnic, Chinese neighbourhood in the city. Very similar to any other American Chinatown, Chinatown Chicago is situated on the South Side of the city. The special thing about Chinatown Chicago is that it is actually the second oldest settlement of Chinese people in America after California.

Aside from the traditional, or should we say first Chinatown, there is a new district named West Argyle Street Historic District which is also known as the New Chinatown, Little Saigon or Little Vietnam by many people in Chicago. This area is a historic district in Uptown Chicago. In the 1960’s Argyle Park took a turn towards New Chinatown. A number of new Chinese restaurants and stores as well as a Chinese cultural group named Hip Sing Association moved to Argyle Street and it quickly became a new community for Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian people.

The first Chinese families arrived in Chicago to avoid the anti-Chinese violence that was occurring in 1869. Since then, Chinatown Chicago started thriving. A number of shops, restaurants, bars, banks, gift stores, grocery stores and Chinese medicine stores started opening. It is not only thriving because of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the community but also the large tourist appeal.

Some of the main attractions in Chinatown Chicago include: the Chinatown Mural, Chinatown Square, the Chinatown Gate, Pui Tak Center, the Chinese American Museum and many more. There are also a number of schools and libraries that serve the purpose of educating whoever wants to learn about the Chinese or Cantonese languages and anything to do with Chinese culture and history.

Top Chinese New Year 2016 Events you Just Can’t Miss in Chicago

Now, let’s get to the amazing events and activities taking place in Chicago during the Chinese New Year. There are so many to choose from it is hard to fit them all in one list! Below are some suggestions for events to attend, restaurants to eat at, and bars to enjoy a few drinks with your friends.

Kick off the Chinese New Year 2016 at the Chicago Cultural Center

If you love the arts and want to experience Chinese performances on a grand scale then you may want to head to the Chicago Cultural Center. It is kicking off the Chinese New Year in style with some incredible, traditional performances, music and other forms of visual arts. Chicago Cultural Center is working in partnership with Choose Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events as well as lion dancers with incredible drumming skills to scare away any negative spirits. The Chinese New Year 2016 will be celebrated in full to welcome the year of the Monkey and encourage good luck and happiness.

There is no reason to not join the Chinese Fine Arts society in their 32nd year as the event is completely free and open to everyone wanting to enjoy Chinese culture. The Chinese New Year Kick Off is taking place at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 8, 2016 from 12pm to 1pm. The Chicago Cultural Center can be found on 78 E Washington Street.

Join the Lunar New Year Parade in Argyle Street

You may already know this but the Lunar New Year Parade in Argyle Street, Chicago is one of the most popularly visited and exotic Chinese events of the year. There is so much to do on this magical day. As dancers, acrobats, stilt walkers, musicians and everything in between gather in the New Chinatown, Uptown chicago, you will not be able to stay away. The combination of traditional Chinese music and performances will leave you completely speechless. It is a great day whether you are on your own, with friends, with your other half or have small children.

The event will take places in Argyle Street, New Chinatown, Uptown Chicago (obviously) on February 13, 2016. The procession will start at 1pm and will continue throughout the afternoon with some great acts, activities, face painting, workshops related to Chinese culture and so on. Not only this but you will be able to witness the 100 foot Mystical Dragon that will roam through the streets. Other acts include Lion Dancers, a variety of floats and some traditional Chinese music. Make sure you do your research as it is the Year of the Monkey this year and some of the decorations may have spiritual or religious significance.

Listen to a Free Tour in Mandarin at the Art Institute in Chicago

Although the art itself is very much of European or American descent you may want to explore a new language. This may sound quite strange but in honour of the Chinese or Lunar New Year 2016, the tours of the Art Institute Chicago will be in Mandarin. Those of you who know a little Mandarin or want to improve their knowledge of the language can explore a variety of collections of art. All of the highlights of the museum will be given in Mandarin. These include: a tour of the impressionist galleries which feature works from Monet, Degas, Renoir and many more as well as a tour of American Modern and Contemporary art with works from Matisse, Picasso and many more artists from the 20th and 21st centuries.

These tours given in Mandarin are free with the museum admission and are taking place on February 13, 14 and February 20 and 21, 2016. The tours start at 12pm and are taking place at the Art Institute of Chicago, Griffin Court on 111 South Michigan Avenue.

Take in the Chinese New Year Concert at the Symphony Center

The Chinese New Year Concert is not just about traditional Chinese music. The concert will feature both traditional and modern Chinese artists who have been flown over all the way from China for the event. Acts such as internationally renowned China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra will be hitting the stage with a big bang for anyone attending as they perform their Spring Festival Prelude. In addition to this amazing news, it is in actual fact the orchestra’s debut in Chicago and they will be accompanied by solo artist Katinka Kleijn who will be performing Hauer Caprice with the orchestra.

The performance by China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra and Katinka Kleijn will be taking place at the Symphony Center on February 21, 2016. The event starts at 3pm and tickets are currently starting at $20 per person. These may not include any added fees and will most likely go up in price the longer you wait to book. The Symphony Center can be found on 220 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Don’t Miss Out on the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival on Navy Pier

Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most beautiful and popular landmarks. With its opening in 1916, Navy Pier has just not stopped thriving. It originally opened as a shipping a recreational facility and continued to provide a number of services throughout its history. It was taken over by a not-for-profit organization called Navy Pier Inc to redevelop and maintain one of the most important landmarks in North America which is also known as one of the most visited destinations in the Midwest of the country.

This year Navy Pier takes its history a step further as it hosts the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival. The event run by the Chinese Fine Arts Society will see the Crystal Gardens transform into a world of Chinese art and culture. It will be filled with vendors, craftspeople, entertainers and of course the general public. The site will invite a number of exotic performers with all sorts of talents, from dancers to singers and more. Each performance will bring something unique to the festival.

The event is taking place on the February 21, 2016 between 12pm and 3pm. Navy Pier, more precisely, Crystal Gardens can be found at 600 East Grand Avenue (you can’t really miss it!). It is completely free to attend and 100% child friendly. If anything we advise you to bring all your family and friends as it is bound to be a lot of fun!

Experience Traditional Chinese Works at The Field Museum

The Field Museum will be hosting a very special exhibition by Qiao Xiaoguang. Qiao Xiaoguang is a famous artist and professor from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. As part of the Chinese New Year 2016 he has created beautiful and striking panel pieces in the ancient art form of the Chinese paper cutting or also known as Jianzhi.

You may wonder what Chinese Paper Cutting is but in actual fact you have probably already done it yourself! Although Chinese Paper Cutting was thought to have originated in the 6th century in continues to be a popular form of art. The basics are to choose a design, fold a piece of paper and cut the design into it. This form of art creates mostly linear, symmetrical shapes. Although this may sound very simple it can become a very complex form of art that requires years and years of practice and a high level of expertise.

Qiao Xiaoguang created fifteen large scale panels that portray amazing places across Beijing and The United States. Some of the locations depicted in his art include: The Forbidden City in Beijing and Navy Pier in Chicago. The City Windows Exhibition is on display from now until May 27, 2016. The exhibition is free as it comes with the price of the museum admission. The Field Museum can be found on 1400 South Lake shore Drive.

Go for a Special Dinner to Celebrate the Chinese New Year

Nothing says Happy Chinese New Year more than an amazing meal at a Chinese restaurant. This year in Chicago the bar has been raised as there is not only an abundance of awesome Chinese restaurants but there are also special events put in place that introduce especially designed menus for everyone to enjoy. Have a look at some of the dining events and great restaurants we have listed below for some inspiration on where to go for your Chinese food in Chicago.

Attend the 33rd Annual Lunar New Year Celebration

The 33rd Annual Lunar New Year Gala is organised by the AACC. The AACC was founded in 1963 and is run by over 16 Asian American Communities. The whole point of the event is to celebrate the heritage, culture, arts and history that Asia, and in particular, China has to offer. The Annual Lunar New Year Celebration is a great excuse to get your glam rags on and toast to a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year. The celebration is in fact one of the biggest in the Midwest part of America and is an honour to attend.

The Hyatt Regency Chicago will be hosting the event this year on Saturday 6 February 2016. The Lunar New Year Celebration will include a delicious gala dinner, an array of entertainment and awards ceremonies. Although the exact schedule has not yet been disclosed the celebration will start at 5pm and will end at 9pm. Black tie is optional although highly recommended and tickets are $85 per person. Guests are able to book tables of up to ten people, these will be priced at $850 per table. The Hyatt Regency can be found on 151 East Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago.

Experience a Special Lunar New Year Menu at Ming Hin Restaurant

For another special occasion why not head over to Ming Hin for the annual Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce 2016 Lunar New Year Celebration Dinner. This may sound like an official dinner but actually it may be a great opportunity to get in there with the big names. It's a great networking event with some opportunities to taste some of the greatest flavours of China. The menu will be especially designed for the evening and will include some amazing Chinese cuisine.

The event will not only include dinner and some entertainment but a raffle prize, “Lai See” and red envelope cash draws. The dinner is taking place on Wednesday 10 February 2016 from 6pm to 9pm. Tickets to this Special Lunar New Year Dinner with the Chamber of Commerce are for sale at $75 per person and tickets can be purchased now online. Ming Hin Restaurant can be found on 2168 South Archer Avenue, Chicago.

Try Lao Sze Chuan for some Spicy Food

Lao Sze Chuan is part of the Tony Gourmet Group. The Tony Gourmet Group is owned by celebrity chef Tony Hu. He is one of the first graduates from China’s first culinary schools so we are sure you will not be disappointed by the food! Lao Sze Chuan was his first restaurant which opened back in 1988. He is now the proud owner of six renowned Chinese restaurants in Chicago.

Lao Sze Chuan is a must try in Chinatown. Known for serving amazingly spiced food, this restaurant may be quite a confusing medley of tastes for those with no experience with Chinese cuisine. The restaurant specialises in food from the Sichuan region which is renowned for its spicy dishes. Everything on his menu has a kick so if you are not into hot food it may not be the place for you although every dish is truly cooked to perfection! Lao Sze Chuan is not overly expensive and can be found on 2172 South Archer Avenue, Chicago.

Visit the MingHin Cuisine for a Modern Take on Traditional Food

So you may have seen MingHin mentioned above, but I felt it was worth the double mention. The option above was for a specially designed dinner however for a random meal out in the week it also merits a mention. MingHin restaurant really stands out from the rest of the Chinatown restaurants as it is a very modern version of what we all know and love. The restaurant received the 2016 Michelin Bib Gourmet distinction and is really the whole shebang. You will be able to indulge in incredible food in a beautifully modern space. MingHin offers traditional Cantonese cuisine as well as a wide variety of well executed Dim Sum.

The MingHin Restaurant is not expensive and is great for large and small, intimate groups. Whether you are wanting to take friends out for a nice meal or looking for a romantic meal for two, MingHin is the perfect location. The restaurant can be found on 2168 South Archer Avenue, Chicago.

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“Dumpling delight! #dimsum”

Share with your Family and Friends at Cai

Cai is perfect for fine dining and banquets. Decorated in traditional Chinese decor with a modern touch you will not even feel like you are in the United States. If you are a fan of Dim Sum you probably shouldn’t bother going anywhere else as this is one of the dishes that Cai have mastered down to a T. Not only have they mastered the art of dim Sum but they offer such a large variety of amazing spices and ingredients your palette will be blown away! Cai is a really nice place for a larger party. And because of the nature of the food, all meals are fantastic for sharing. Everyone can just dig in and enjoy trying out a little bit of everything.

If you are not really into sharing your dish then there is also another menu to choose from which offer regular sized meals of very good quality. Aside from the usual Chinese dishes you will be able to order some more unusual meals. For those of you who are a little bit more adventurous with your food you may want to get your flippers on because Cai’s shark fin soup is famous. Cai is a very affordable restaurant and can be found at 2100 South Archer Avenue, Chicago.

As you can see from the huge list of events, activities and restaurants you will not be lost for things to do if you decide to visit Chicago during the months of January or February. There is a variety of events for all types of people and every single one is family friendly. For more information on great event in The United States during the Lunar or Chinese New Year period why not have a look at some of our other Daring Penguin articles.

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