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Chinese New Year San Francisco

Events Calendar & What to Expect of the 2016 Chinese New Year Celebration

The Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco is one of the largest in the world. The Grand Parade, the main draw of this celebration, is on Saturday, February 20. However, you will find lots of fun events in both January and February.

2016 is the Year of the Monkey.

chinese new year parade sf

One of the floats in the Chinese New Year's Parade

Brief History of the Event

The Chinese New Year San Francisco celebration first began in the mid-1800s. This is when several immigrants from China came to the US looking for work.

As the word of the Gold Rush in California spread, many immigrants from China decided to stay in San Francisco. This built up a large Chinatown community in this city.

When they planned their first full scale New Year's celebration here, they incorporated both Chinese and American traditions. They loved the idea of having a large, colorful parade which was not done in China at that time.


More Details on the Chinese New Year Parade

Today, this celebration and parade is one of the largest in the world. More than three million people watch the parade every year.

There are more than 100 parade entries. These include participants marching down the street with flags, lanterns and drums.

This also includes several floats. The largest and most popular is the 28 foot Golden Dragon. It takes a team of more than 100 people to operate and walk through the streets of San Francisco.

The 2016 Chinese New Year Parade is on Saturday, February 20. It 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.

chinese parade route

You can either watch it in person or on KTVU Channel 2, a local San Francisco station. People start to line up along the parade route several hours in advance. If you want a front row seat, I recommend getting there at least an hour before the parade starts.

Are you looking for other fun things to do in Chinatown during your visit? Click here for a detailed one day itinerary in this fun SF district.

chinese new year parade

Several people managing one of the dragons during the Chinese New Year's Day Parade and some fireworks going off in front of them

If you don't want to stand, you can also buy bleacher seats. These are along the parade route on Kearny Street. Tickets are around $30 each, plus $8 shipping and handling.

The bleacher seats are not assigned and there is no coverage above the seats. Tickets are already on sale and will be mailed in January 2016. Click here to order your tickets online.

Savings Tip: Are you staying in San Francisco the weekend of the parade? Are you looking for additional events that weekend? If so, then I recommend checking out the list of ticket discounts available for the weekend on Goldstar. I use them quite a bit and often find tickets for events and tours at up to 50% off the full retail value. Save today on Goldstargoldstar!


More Things to See & Do In Chinatown

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Other Events

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

Here are the events planned for 2016.

Flower Market Fair

  • Buy fresh flowers, plants, candies, and fruits
  • Open-air market in the heart of Chinatown
  • Saturday, January 30 from 10am to 8pm
  • Sunday, January 31 from 9am to 6pm

Miss Chinatown

  • Miss Chinatown USA pageant
  • At the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon Street in the Marina
  • Held on Saturday, February 13 at 7pm
  • Tickets are $35, $45, and $65

Basketball Jamboree

  • At the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in Chinatown on Mason and Washington Streets
  • First games begin at 10am on Saturday, February 13
  • Last game starts at 3pm that afternoon

Chinatown YMCA Run

  • Sunday, February 14 at 8am (Registration: 7am)
  • 10k run, 5k run, 5k walk
  • Starts at 8am at Sacramento and Grant streets
  • Runs through Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero, Downtown and finishes again in Chinatown

Miss Chinatown Coronation Ball

  • Crowing of the new Miss Chinatown and her court
  • Black tie dinner/dance
  • Dinner at 6pm, Coronation at 8pm, Dancing from 8:30pm until midnight
  • Hilton San Francisco Union Square at 333 O'Farrell Street
  • $150 per person
  • Friday, February 19
Community Fair
  • Community Street Fair on the streets of Chinatown
    • Grant Avenue from California to Broadway;
      Sacramento, Washington, Jackson, and Pacific between Stockton and Kearny
  • Same weekend as the Parade
  • Fair includes traditional dancing, drumming, and acrobats
  • Discover Chinese calligraphy, fortune telling, and lion dancing
  • Saturday, February 20 from 10am to 4:30pm
  • Sunday, February 21 from 9am to 5pm

Hotels Near Chinatown

Any hotels in Union Square will get you within walking distance to Chinatown. There are also a few that are just steps from the Chinatown gates. Here are my recommendations on where to stay near Chinatown.

Are you looking for a great deal on your hotel for the Chinese New Year parade? Read recent reviews and find the best deals on TripAdvisor today.

Here are some of the best places to stay in in Union Square.

Here are also some great budget friendly options for those looking to spend a little less on their hotel stay. These are spread throughout the city, but most are close to great transit options so you can easily get to Chinatown.


Getting to the Event

Chinatown is just steps from Union Square and downtown San Francisco. If you are staying in Union Square, you can easily walk over to the events or take one of several transit options.

If you are driving into the city or from another neighborhood, here are some of the best parking options. All of these are in Union Square.

  • Ellis-O'Farrell Garage at 123 O'Farrell St.
  • Union Square Garage at 333 Post/Geary
  • Sutter-Stockton at 330 Stockton/Sutter
  • Fifth & Mission Garage at 833 Mission/5th St.
  • Four-Fifty Sutter Garage at 450 Sutter Street

Parking is quite expensive in San Francisco, so be prepared to pay anywhere from $30 to $50 a day. Some of these parking garages also increase their fees for large events.

Public transit is another option. BART drops you off just blocks from Chinatown and/or the parade route. This is a great option if you are coming in from outside the city.

Buses from Marin also drop off just blocks from Union Square and Chinatown.


Prepare for the Weather

The weather in San Francisco in February is often cool and rainy. Most of the celebrations, including the parade, are all outdoors.

If you attend any of these celebrations, dress warm and bring along your umbrella or rain gear. It often rains during this parade, but they rarely cancel. The festivities will still be running strong, so plan ahead for this celebration.

Find out even more tips on what to wear - all year around - in San Francisco.


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