Chinese New Year falls on Monday, February 8, 2016. We can expect lots of playfulness this year — it's the year of the monkey! One of the best places to celebrate the Chinese New Year is Chicago's one-of-a-kind Chinatown, where the sights, the sounds and the (mouthwatering!) smells will transport you directly to China, but you'll find plenty of festivities around town. Here are eleven ways to kick off the Year of the Monkey in Chicago.
Find your Chinese Zodiac Sign.
The newer, outdoor Chinatown Square Mall, located just north of the main Wentworth Avenue District, features numerous cafes and boutiques. Send your kids off to search for their representative animal among the 12 Chinese Zodiac animal statues located in the middle of the mall. Kids will also enjoy climbing the stairs of the two pagodas.
Learn how to make traditional Chinese New Year dumplings.
To celebrate the incoming Year of Monkey, families are invited to participate in the 12th Annual Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Dinner on Saturday February 13 at 3:00pm. There will be story telling, dumpling making, authentic Chinese cuisine, and lots of surprises and fun. Seating is limited, and this event often sells out quickly so register in advance.
Enjoy the Chinese New Year Parade.
The Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade kicks off on February 14 at 1:00-2:30pm, at the corner of Archer and Wentworth Ave. Expect dancing dragons, music and more at this exciting Chinatown parade.
Shop for fun souvenirs at one of the many gift boutiques.
For just a few dollars, your kids will be sure to find something uniquely Chinese, from miniature tea sets to character stamps. Check out A J Housewares & Gift, at 2125 S. China Place located just off the Zodiac Plaza at the center of the Chinatown Square Mall, for an especially extensive and inexpensive selection.
Enjoy a bright, delicious Boba Tea.
Bright, colorful and kid-friendly, Joy Yee (2139 S. China Place), also in the Chinatown Square Mall, is the perfect lunch spot. The menu displays a long list of delights accompanied by pictures, so even nonreaders can place their orders. The noodle and rice dishes are sure kid pleasers. Don't miss a sample of Joy Yee's specialty, Bubble Tea, aka Boba Tea, a fruit-flavored drink dotted with tapioca pearls that will remind you of mini balls of Jell-O.
Pick up some Chinese language learning books for kids.
Be sure to pop into the Pui Tak Bookstore (2216 S. Wentworth), located in the historic On Leong Merchants Association Building, built in 1927. The center features books and DVDs in English or bilingual English/Chinese on a variety of China-related topics. The building itself features gorgeous, terracotta accents crafted by Chicago-born Norse architects Christian S. Michaelsen and Sigurd A. Rognstad.
Pick up some sweet treats for the road.
Chiu Quon Bakery, located on the original stretch of Chinatown at 2242 S. Wentworth, has cases filled with sweet Chinese pastries. For an out of the ordinary dessert, try a coconut crème-filled cocktail bun or a sweet red bean-filled pastry.
Kick off the Chinese New Year at the Chicago Cultural
Officially kick off the Year of the Monkey with the annual Chinese New Year Day celebration at Chicago's beautiful Cultural Center on February 8, from 12:00-1:00pm. Featuring a colorful and entertaining array of artists and entertainers, this free event will start your New Year off with a bang!
New Year fun with the Flowers at the Garfield Park
The Year of the Goat is coming to a close, and the Monkey is on its way in! February 8 marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year and the Garfield Park Conservatory is celebrating on Saturday, February 6 from 12:00-4:00pm. Put a wish up on the money tree, dance like a dragon and make your own Monkey Mask in this free, fun-filled afternoon. Kids and adults alike will learn all about customs and traditions associated with this holiday as they engage in hands-on activities and more!
Head to Navy Pier for the Lantern Festival.
Every Sunday from February 21 - April 17, Navy Pier will be celebrating the rich tapestry of Chicago's diverse communities at Neighborhoods of the World, an annual cultural tribute, presented in collaboration with community arts organizations, consulates and museums. The Lantern Festival will celebrate the Lunar New Year with on February 21 with crafts, music and more. This event is free and open to the public.
Enjoy a Chinese New Year Tea at the Waldorf Astoria.
Beginning in February, the Waldorf Astoria Chicago will launch a year-long series of traditional and eclectic afternoon teas to celebrate seasonal occasions. The series will debut on February 5 with an authentic Chinese Afternoon Tea created in collaboration with renowned pastry chef, Hsing Chen, and the chefs of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago. The Chinese high tea service features sweet and savory delights paired with a selection of freshly-brewed loose leaf teas.
Choose from a variety of customary small bites including, Chinese Dim Sum with Char Siu Pork in Puff Pastry, Bean Curd Vegetable Roll and Crab Salad on Wonton Chip as well as Chinese-inspired desserts such as Egg Custard Tart, Black Sesame Cake and Candied Ginger Orange Scones. The hotel has also curated a bespoke tea menu to complement each of the dishes, comprised of signature blends from Rare Tea Cellar. Featured teas include Magnolia Blossom Oolong, Emperor's Jasmine Pearls, 2001 Vintage Oaked Barrel Aged Pu-erh and Emperor's Dragonwell. Guests can also enjoy Dom Pérignon, Ruinart and Moët & Chandon by the glass or bottle. The Chinese Afternoon Tea is available through February 15 in the Lobby Lounge from 1:00-5:00pm, and priced at $45 per person. Champagne is available at an additional cost. For more information or to reserve your tea seating, call (312) 646-1300.
For more 2016 Spring Festival holiday events and cultural celebrations, visit choosechicago.com/chinesenewyear. Learn about Chinatown and plan a visit with the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the interactive maps on the Choose Chicago neighborhood guide.