Five Reasons To Go Ape Over the 2016 Chinese New Year Celebration

On Saturday, February 20, experience the sights and sounds of Chinatown during the community’s most exciting time of the year, the Chinese New Year Parade.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, I am an Earth Monkey, so I'm super excited to celebrate the Year of the Monkey! Steeped in legends and stories, the parade has been an annual tradition for San Francisco since the days of the Gold Rush. The celebration and parade are always very crowded. To avoid being overwhelmed, here are my personal, well-tested, top 5 recommendations. 

1. Ways To Celebrate The Year Of The Monkey

While most of the people attend just the parade, there are three other events scheduled to celebrate the Chinese New Year in San Francisco. 

Chinatown Community Street Fair is the same weekend as the parade. Discover Chinese calligraphy, fortune telling, and lion dancing.

Chinese Culture Center Spring Festival is a free event on the 3rd floor of its building on Kearny Street on February 20-21, 11:30am - 4pm. Enjoy exhibitions, crafts, demonstrations, performances of lion dancers, martial arts, folk and classic dances and much more.

The Chinese Historical Society of America Museum (CHSA), free, Saturday, February 20, 11am-4pm, 965 Clay Street (between Powell & Stockton Streets), full day of exhibits, programs, and performances including a dragon dance and lessons on the significance and meaning behind the foods of the celebration.

* The wildly popular Treasure Hunt has been postponed this year until September.


2. Explore Chinatown

There are a lot of cool places to explore in Chinatown. Some on my must-do list include a visit to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley just off Grant. Don't miss some of the intriguing herb shops. My favorite is The Great China Herb Company at 857 Washington. Along Grant Avenue is Chinatown Kite Shop which sells a huge variety of kites. At 125 Waverly Place/Washington, look for a little yellow sign reading "Tin How Temple." Climb three flights of stairs to find the oldest Taoist/Buddhist temple in the United States, founded in 1852. Bonus; a sweeping view of Chinatown from the balcony.

3. Enjoy the Parade!

The 2016 Chinese New Year Parade starts at 5:15pm at the corner of 2nd and Market Streets. It then weaves its way through Chinatown and ends at Jackson and Kearny Streets. The parade usually ends around 8pm. Here is a map of the full route.

4. Plan A Chinese Lunch

I could easily rattle of a ton of great places to eat but my top favorites are New Asia Restaurant (772 Pacific) and the R&G Lounge (631 Kearny.)  Reservations are highly recommended.

Then we top off our day with a yummy Moon Cake at the Eastern Bakery (720 Grant.)

5. Other Chinese New Year Celebrations Around The Bay Area

Chinese Lion Dancers, 11am, San Anselmo Library, Sunday February 6

Creative Family Fun: Chinese New Year's Fans, 11am-4pm, imaginative craft-making based on the Presidio’s natural and cultural heritage, registration not required, but preferred, Presidio Officers’ Club, San Francisco, Saturday & Sunday February 5-6

Chinese New Year Concert and Imperial Dinner, San Francisco Symphony, Davies Hall, Saturday, February 13

San Francisco Zoo, Saturday, February 13, features interactive, culturally-themed family entertainment for all ages. Come see Chinese acrobatic performances, traditional Lion and folk dancing, Chinese yo-yo tricks and more

San Francisco Public Library Chinatown BranchRed Envelope Craft, Saturday, February 13

Chinese New Year, 9am-4pm, lion dancers, observe professional calligraphers, sample delicious Chinese food and more all made possible through our partnership with Marin Chinese Cultural Association. Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito, February 15

Chinatown YMCA RunSunday, February 28, 5K RUN / WALK or 10K RUN

Know Before You Go:

  • Chinatown is extremely crowded and driving can be very frustrating. If public transportation is not an option, I recommend parking at the public lot for the Hilton. Safe, convenient and prices are reasonable relative to other options in close proximity and leads you away from the crowd.
  • Dress in layers and bring water.
  • For sensitive ears, The Chinese New Year Celebration is really crowded and noisy. Expect a lot of loud drumming and fireworks.

Don’t miss one of San Francisco’s most treasured celebration, the Chinese New Year Parade. Enjoy the vibrant history that Chinatown offers and usher in the Year of the Monkey.