Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year)
The San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration is the largest outside of Asia, and its capstone parade is one of the few surviving lighted night parades in the U. S., making it an event that draws visitors from many places. We recommend it as one of San Francisco's top festivals, well worth a weekend trip to enjoy the goings-on.
Chinatown is especially photogenic at this time of year. Red is a lucky color and also photographs well. Dragons and lion dancers may be in the street to scare away evil spirits and they make fun subjects - if you can endure the firecracker noise and confusion surrounding them.
Chinese New Year in San FranciscoBecause Chinese New Year is a lunar festival, its date determined by the moon's phases, the date varies. In addition, dates are determined by the day of the week, with the parade always happening on a Saturday.
For the Year of the Snake, 2013, San Francisco Chinese New Year festivities kick off February 2, with the Flower Fair and the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade is scheduled for Saturday, February 23 at 5:15 p.m. You'll find more details about watching the parade below.
How San Francisco Celebrates Chinese New YearThe annual festivities includes:
- Chinese New Year Flower Fair which takes place the weekend before the lunar new year so families can buy traditional plants and flowers to decorate their homes and give as gifts.
- Chinatown Community Street Fair, which takes place the same weekend as the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade and features traditional arts and performances.
- Miss Chinatown USA Pageant, where a bevy of beautiful contestants view for the crown.
- Chinese New Year Run, a 5K/10K race that benefits the Chinatown YMCA.
- Occurring at the same time as the the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade, the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is described as an "urban sleuthing adventure." Treasure-hunting teams must solve sixteen clues leading them on a tour of San Francisco's colorful past. If you've never seen the parade, we'd recommend going to it instead, but if you're looking for something different to celebrate the New Year, try it.
San Francisco's Chinese New Year ParadeThe piece de resistance of the San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration is the annual Chinese New Year Parade, featuring more than 100 floats, bands and other participants.
See It Now: Photos of the Chinese New Year Parade
The parade takes off from Second and Market Streets, loops around Union Square on Geary, Powell and Post Streets and then runs up Kearny Street to Columbus. Be there about an hour early for a space by the curb, but even late-comers can usually see just fine.
If you'd rather sit than stand, paid grandstand seating is available along the parade route. Reserve in advance. They usually sell out.
You can also enjoy the mini-parade which starts at 10:30 a.m. on the first day of the Flower Fair at California and Grant, following the original parade route down Grant Avenue.