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Choose Your Culture in Chicago

An ocean away from their homelands, a frenzy of immigrants arrived in Chicago ready to work during the 19th and 20th centuries. These hundreds of thousands of dreamers tried to make the transition to such a foreign location a little easier by creating community enclaves around the city that kept up the traditions of their homeland.

Thus, the plethora of Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods was born.

“You really get a taste and feel of these other cultures while you are in our neighborhoods,” said Jason Lesniewicz, cultural tourism manager for Choose Chicago. “We used to say that you can travel the world in our backyard.”

The indelible mark of these adventurous travelers remains through architecture, museums and cuisine. A group seeking to enjoy an authentic Chinese, Polish, Mexican or Greek experience needs to look no further than the streets of the Windy City.


A step inside the entrance of the elaborately ornamented Chinatown Gate will make visitors forget they are in the Midwest. With more than 65,000 Chinese residents, Chicago’s Chinatown is one of the largest ethnic neighborhoods in the United States.

“It is a fascinating neighborhood with wonderful architecture,” said Lesniewicz. “The Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute gives guided tours, both walking and bus tours. They also have a dumpling-making and an herbalist tour.”

The herbalist tour walks guests through different recipes for Eastern medicinal remedies. If groups would rather focus on Chinese cuisine, the dumpling tour visits various restaurants to sample their versions of Chinese dumplings while teaching the art of making the dish.

The neighborhood’s Chinese-American Museum of Chicago uses exhibits to reflect the experiences of Chinese immigrants to the Midwest. One exhibit called “The Attic Treasures” showcases saved precious items of local residents, such as statues and vibrant clothing.

The Heritage Museum of Asian Art opened in June 2014 to immerse visitors in Asian culture through an extensive collection of paintings, carvings, rare stones and furniture. Some of the art dates back thousands of years.

To fully experience the exotic feel of Chinatown, groups should also explore the restaurants, the boutique shopping and the incredible public art on their own. Zodiac-inspired animal sculptures, twin pagodas and an enormous tile mosaic are all on display in the neighborhood.

Travelers can choose from a number of souvenirs, including Chinese slippers, bamboo plants and Chinese tea.

Group Restaurant Recommendations: Phoenix Restaurant, Triple Crown and Ming Hin Cuisine