The Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco is one of the largest in the world. The main draw of this celebration, the Grand Parade, will be held on Saturday, February 24.
In addition, you will find lots of fun events for the lunar new year in both February and March.
2024 is the Year of the Dragon.
What I love most about attending this event is that you get a unique opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year with a wide community.
I try to attend this parade every year and have been to it more than a dozen times. Each year is different, but full of colorful floats, costumes, and an engaging atmosphere.
In order to get front row seats for the parade, which is the main event of this celebration, I try to arrive a couple of hours in advance.
The audience watching is usually anywhere from four to 10 people deep, so I arrive this early in order to make sure I get a good spot in the front row.
Believe me, it's worth it to be able to see this amazing event!
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The Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco first began in the mid-1800s, when many immigrants from China came to the US looking for work.
As the word of the Gold Rush in California spread, many Chinese immigrants decided to stay in San Francisco. This built up a large Chinese community in this city, forming the famous Chinatown district that is still very much alive today.
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, though that was not done in China at that time.
Today, this celebration and parade is one of the largest in the world. More than three million people watch the parade every year. Because it draws in so many people, I try to arrive at least two hours in advance to get my spot in the front.
There are more than 100 parade entries. These include participants marching down the street with flags, lanterns, and drums.
The parade also includes several floats, the largest and most popular of which is the 28-foot-long Golden Dragon. It takes a team of more than 100 people to operate and move it through the streets of San Francisco.
The 2024 Chinese New Year Parade is on Saturday, February 24. It starts at 5:15 pm 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 8 pm.
Here is a map of the full route.
I will usually grab a spot along Geary or Post.
I find that the area along Kearny is typically more crowded since it's just a little closer to Chinatown, where the busy community street fair wraps up shortly before the parade begins and dozens of people tend to float out of the fair and onto the parade route.
You can either watch it in person (which I highly recommend at least once) 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 don't want to stand, you can also buy bleacher seats. These are along the parade route in three different locations. Tickets are around $41 - $70 per person.
The bleacher seats are not assigned and there is no coverage over the seats, so if it's raining, there will be no shelter to protect you from the rain. The tickets are also non-refundable. Click here to order your tickets online.
If you plan to explore SF before or after the parade, here are some great ideas.
While most people attend just the parade, there are several other events scheduled to celebrate the Chinese New Year in San Francisco.
Here are the events planned for 2024.
Flower Market Fair
Miss Chinatown & Coronation Ball
Community Street Fair
Chinatown YMCA Run
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.
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 public transit so you can easily get to Chinatown.
You can also learn more about Chinatown on these fun tours around this colorful district. These are two of my favorites.
Tour Length: 3 Hours
Tickets: Find tickets for all tours
I love this tour as you get the chance to sample some of Chinatown's best treats. It includes a stop at a dim sum restaurant, the local fortune cookie factory, and a tea and herb shop.
I also love the visit to the Buddhist temple.
It lasts three hours and the walk is slow with some hills.
Tour Length: 2 hours
Tickets: Find tickets for all dates
The reason I love taking this tour is it offers a great insider's look at this city within the city. It's more focused on the history and cultural aspects of this district.
However, I like that the tour visits the fortune cookie factory and the guides also talk to you more about the diverse food available in the district.
This one leaves daily at 10 am and you will be done around noon.
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.
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.
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.