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Did you know that Chicago is home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the country, with roughly 65,000 residents? Year round, the neighborhood offers unique ways to learn about the culture and history of China. From the Chinatown Gate welcoming you into the neighborhood, to the educational Chinese American Museum of Chicago and even the Ping Tom Memorial Park, which offers visitors a pool, gym and kayak rentals; there is a lot to do in Chinatown for any traveler.

Find lots of authentic Chinese gifts and goodies at the two-level outdoor Chinatown Square Mall. (Instagram photo by @mightymiao87)

Of course, the biggest thing to do coming up is the celebration of the Chinese New Year which starts January 28 and runs through February 12. During that time, you can experience celebrations, parades and fun events to ring in the Year of the Rooster. The festivities don’t stop outside Chinatown though; there are things to see and do throughout the city of Chicago as well.

With strong roots tying back to the old country, the Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood continues to follow the history and culture of China in celebrating the Chinese New Year with a massive celebration; from colorful parades to preparing some of China’s most traditional – and tasty – meals. Not many cities celebrate the way Chicago does and it shows with the abundance of activities around the city.

The entrance to Chinatown, located on the west side of Chicago. (Instagram photo by @rachface.13)

Begin the Chinese New Year by learning how to make an authentic Chinese dish – dumplings! In its 13th year, the annual Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Dinner, hosted by the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, invites newcomers and veteran dumpling-makers to Hing Kee Restaurant on January 21 and February 4 to learn the art of the dumpling, or jiaozi. This traditional dish dates back more than 1,800 years and continues to live on in Chinese culture today.

Delicious dumplings from Hing Kee Restaurant. (Instagram photo by @smallgirlbigplates)

Chinatown isn’t the only neighborhood that gets in on the fun. The Garfield Park Conservatory and the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier also host celebrations that are entertaining for the whole family.

Enjoy an afternoon of activities and cultural learning at the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory on January 21 for its Chinese New Year Celebration. Visitors will make festive Chinese lanterns, learn about their zodiac sign, attend a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and participate in a dragon dance.

At Navy Pier, enjoy Neighborhoods of the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year. During this nine-week event, the Crystal Gardens are ornately decorated with colorful lanterns and feature a unique and intricate dragon dance.

Colorful dancing dragons at the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier. (Photo provided by Choose Chicago)

What’s a New Year celebration without a parade? End the Year of the Rooster festivities with two incredible spectacles; one parade in the heart Chinatown and the other on Argyle Street in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Light up the day at the Argyle Street Lunar New Year Parade on February 4 with an amazing kick off near the Argyle CTA Red Line station where firecrackers explode while Chinese culture-inspired floats and large dancing dragons pass by.

Local community groups near Argyle Street participate in the annual parade. (Photo provided by Uptown United)

The following day on February 5, make your way down to Chinatown for the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Each year, more than 30,000 people attend the parade to help start the New Year off with a bang. Make sure to be on the lookout for the 100-foot-long paper dragon and stunning fireworks show at the end.

Bring the whole family to see the beautiful dragons at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown. (Instagram photo by @jonfromchicago)

The list of fun-filled activities for Chinese New Year never ends! Here are some other educational and awesome events happening around the city to celebrate the Year of the Rooster:

The Citywide Chinese New Year Kick Off at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Photo by Choose Chicago)

There are so many ways to learn about Chinese culture in Chicago, especially during the Lunar New Year. For more information about Chinatown and what there is to see and do throughout the year, check out Things to Do – Chinatown on EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Did you know Chicago is home to 116 different skyscrapers?  It is currently ranked 8th out of all cities in the world! This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share their best shots of those sky-high structures. Check out a few of our favorite captures below and be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

8.29 Willis Tower and Skyscraper (at)tat_ventures

What a shot! We started off the week with this perfectly timed capture of the John Hancock Center by @tat_ventures

View of Downtown (at)e4rlyr1ser

Bright lights, big city! We just love this shot from Hard Rock Hotel rooftop by @e4rlyr1ser

Chicago Skyline (at)mldsphotography

There’s nothing quite like the skyline all lit up against the night sky. Thanks to @mldsphotography for sharing with us.

Full Downtown (at)firsthandaccount

The city looks like it was made out of blocks in this one. Thanks to @firsthandaccount for sharing!

Hancock and Trump (at)mmcurtis73

You’re truly living above the clouds in the Hancock Center and Trump Tower. (Photo: @mmcurtis73)

Hancock Center (at)ernest_deo

We’re in awe of this capture of the Hancock Center at sunset by @ernest_deo.

Lake Front Trail (at)stufotog

Go for a run along the Lakefront Trail for a great view of Chicago’s skyline. Now that’s motivation to get moving! (Photo @stufotog)

NBC Tower (at)rummdog

Located right in downtown Chicago, the NBC Tower reaches a height of 627 feet! (Photo @rummdogg)

Willis Tower (at)jbhay

No matter what you refer to it as, the Willis Tower is one mammoth structure! (Photo: @jbhay)

Wrigley Building (at)themagmile

One of Chicago’s original Skyscrapers, the Wrigley Building has been A Magnificent Mile staple since 1927! (Photo @themagmile)

Wrigley Building from rooftop (at)tashka87

We just love the unique angle @tashka87 captured of the famed Wrigley Building.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

This is a big year for Route 66, and people around the world are celebrating the historic highway’s 90th anniversary. First designated as a road in 1926, Route 66 – often referred to as The Mother Road of America – is known for its nostalgia, charm and classic American appeal. While driving the route in Illinois, plan to see kitschy murals and monuments, quaint and historic towns, and people who can tell you all there is to know about Route 66.

Route 66 is a global attraction, and to celebrate this historic year, the Illinois Office of Tourism is spreading our love for the Mother Road with events in Germany, the UK and right here in the states.

London, England

To kick off this year’s 90th anniversary celebration, Illinois brought a taste of the Mother Road to London with a street party and pop-up mural. Well-known street artist Will Vibes created a 52-foot mural depicting iconic attractions along Route 66, which starts in Chicago.

The mural was accompanied by a pop-up party in Central London and included a food truck with Chicago-style hotdogs, a blues band and a classic car.

Ofterdingen, Germany

A bit further away in Germany, Route 66 fanfare was in full effect at the first ever Route 66 Festival in Ofterdingen, just outside Stuttgart. Enthusiasts of the Mother Road from all over the globe came to the festival to share their excitement and celebrate this year’s anniversary. Festival goers even got to experience the Illinois stretch of the road through an interactive photo booth with fun props and by speaking with tourism experts about Route 66 in Illinois.

Chicago, Illinois

And right here in the U.S., Bow Truss Coffee Roasters recently opened a new shop right at the start of Route 66 in downtown Chicago! A pop-up party brought the Illinois Route 66 experience to Chicagoans. Here, they sampled the new Bow Truss Route 66 Blend, interacted with authentic memorabilia from the Berwyn Route 66 Museum and watched a live mural depicting classic Route 66 stops in Illinois – like the Gemini Giant and Cozy Dog Drive In – come to life before their eyes.

The event featured a 1944 red Ford Coupe, pictured here, and authentic memorabilia from the Berwyn Route 66 Museum. Visitors could even enter to win an official Route 66 road sign.

There are even more celebrations in the works as we move closer to the Mother Road’s official anniversary date this November, like these upcoming events in Illinois:

Stay tuned to Enjoy Illinois’ social channels for updates so you can join in on the fun! And if you’re looking to start planning your Route 66 trip, be sure to visit EnjoyIllinois.com for inspiration.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

As warmer temperatures roll in, so do bikers, eager to get their wheels back out and put in miles towards another season. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a leisurely afternoon ride, there is always somewhere new to explore. Bike trails around the state offer experiences that range in difficulty, from the easy ride to the intense climb, there’s a trail for every rider. So what are you waiting for? Hop in the saddle and get going!

Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Vienna. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one. But if you’re up to the challenge, don’t pass up this Southern Illinois gem.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 1

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 2

Tunnel Hill State Trail

 

And in the opposite direction of Tunnel Hill, head up north to the Fox River Trail in St. Charles, 32 miles of biking, hiking and, in the winter, cross-country skiing featuring the scenic trails of the Fox River. Make this ride as easy or difficult as you like. There are plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy the scenery or snap a selfie, like the Carpenters Dam, Fox River Shores, Tyler Creek, Voyageur Landing, Shoemaker Nature Center and Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Fox River Bike Trail

The Fox River Trail in St. Charles

 

In Chicago, one the most popular outdoor spots is The 606, celebrating its first birthday this summer. This 2.7-mile rails-to-trails path is one of the newest additions to the city’s green space with gardens and parks lining the trail. Enjoy a more leisurely ride along this path, and in the warmer weather, expect to see lots of dogs, children and people enjoying the trail and various summer events.

The 606 - Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The 606 in Chicago (Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land)

 

Along the western edge of the state, cyclists nationally and internationally ride the 62.5 mile stretch the Great River Trail that runs from the Illinois Quad Cities to Savanna, Illinois. This trail isn’t just for the biking enthusiast. The whole trail system measures 10 feet in width to allow bikers and walkers plenty of passing room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ben Butterworth Parkway

 

From panoramic river views and wooded trails, to prairie areas, backwaters and marsh areas, riders will also enjoy the scenic view and unique towns that call the banks of the Mississippi River their home.

These trails are also part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a 10-state network of bike trails and bike-friendly roads that lines the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

This week we asked our Instagram followers to share photos that surround the theme “sculpture.” Check out a few of our favorite shots from around the state below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured.

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

Mt St. Mary Park - St Charles - (at) yoga.gal

We kicked off this week’s challenge with this unique black and white shot of Mt. St. Mary Park in St. Charles by @yoga.gal!

Star-Crossed Pollinators Sculpture - (at) sam_morehead

How cool is this shot of the Star-Crossed Pollinators Sculpture in Bloomington? Thanks @sam_morehead for sharing!

Lincoln Statue - (at) debsfarmstand

Illinois is known as the Land of Lincoln, and almost anywhere you go, you’re bound to find Lincoln history. Instagramer @debsfarmstand captured this shot of the Lincoln statue in Dixon!

Art Institute Lion - (at) c.kopeckyck1

Instagramer @c.kopeckyck1 shared this shot of the famous bronze lion statue outside the Art Institute of Chicago.

Federal Plaza Flamingo (at)secondcityginger

We love the contrast between the angular, black buildings and abstract, red sculpture in this shot by @jibasaur. This piece called “Flamingo” by Alexander Calder is located at Federal Plaza in Chicago.

Flamingo (at) mrrogers82585

Here’s another shot of “Flamingo” by @mrrogers82585!

-Illinois Office of Tourism