Chicago’s neighborhoods burst with cultural prowess

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Tammy Matthews

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Approximately 2.8 million people live in Chicago. Host of cultures bring life to the city with celebrations, festivals and parades as well as sundry restaurants, markets, small businesses and museums. The enriching diversity of an urban population provides an opportunity for children to marvel at the incredible contributions of culturally rich ethnic groups. Got a free weekend? Suit up the kids, pick an area and explore one of Chicago’s 77 distinctive neighborhoods.

Chicago’s Chinatown, which is the second largest Chinatown in the U.S., has delicious restaurants and many shops. Check out Chinatown Square, a hub for entertainment, celebrations and festivals as well as the home of the Pan Asian Cultural Center.

“In addition to high-quality restaurants, we have lots of landmarks, old and unique buildings and a diverse community,” said Steven Lu, Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. “Children love seeing the Chinatown Gate, The Nine Dragon Wall, Ping Tom Memorial Park and the Chinatown Square Zodiacs.”

For beautiful domed Orthodox churches, colorful murals, art galleries, museums and tree-lined streets, visit Ukrainian and East Village. The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art is a mecca for modern and contemporary art. In addition to exhibits, this museum hosts concerts, films, readings and lectures.

“We display six or seven exhibits a year-group and solo shows,” said Andriy Hudzan, Ukrainian Institute for Modern Art. “Our museum also has a children’s art exhibit once a year. We reach out to local schools and children submit their art.”

Devon Ave. in West Ridge is the heart of Chicago’s vibrant Pakistani and Indian communities. Dine in one of the delectable restaurants, shop boutiques for a multihued sari, get a temporary henna tattoo or buy goods at one of the ethnic grocery stores or bakeries. Jewelry, book, music and textile shops fosters bustling eye-candy for children and families. Strolling the sidewalks in this sparkling community is an inimitable way to feel like you’re venturing abroad.

The historic Pilsen neighborhood is an art-filled community with residents bonded together with community pride. Theater and art thrive, and the dominant Hispanic culture keeps this community alive.

One of the most popular attractions is the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), which is the only major Chicago museum that is free to the public everyday. Weekend, after-school and summer classes, with thematic lessons, are offered.

According to the NMMA website: “Since 2004, the Education Department has been offering high quality, year-round after-school classes through grant partnerships with Chicago Public Schools. Classes include visual arts, dance, theater and music, and integrate reading and writing.”