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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 30 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Laura Kiniry

San Francisco is home to North America’s oldest Chinatown – and the largest Chinatown outside Asia – so no surprise then that their Chinese New Year Festival is something to behold.

The annual multi-week event typically occurs in January and/or February, coinciding with the new year of the solar Chinese calendar, and includes everything from a flower market fair to the crowning of Miss Chinatown.

Thousands of people line downtown San Francisco’s streets to catch sight of the Chinese New Year Parade, a lengthy procession of floats, marching bands, costumed dancers, and even a 28-foot-long Golden Dragon that culminates in the heart of the Chinatown neighbourhood.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 6+
Frequency: annually
When: Late Jan/early Feb
Duration: 2.5 weeks

Getting there & doing it

Most of the events are held in Chinatown, with the Chinese New Year Parade starting in downtown San Francisco and culminating in the Chinatown neighbourhood.

To reach Chinatown, take MUNI’s new T Third metro line from Union Square, the Cable Car Powell-Hyde line or Powell-Mason line to between Bush and Jackson, or the 30 Muni bus.

Arrive a couple of hours early to get the best spot along the parade route. If you don’t fancy standing for hours on end, purchase a seat on the bleachers. The parade is free to watch, though bleacher seats cost £35-60.

It’s often cold and rainy in San Francisco during February, so dress accordingly.

When to do it

The festival typically takes place over 2.5 weeks in late January and February, in accordance with the Chinese New Year.

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

San Francisco

California, United States of America (USA)

Early morning low fog at Golden Gate Bridge

Beautiful bayside city with home-grown authenticity, charmingly unique neighbourhoods and excellent locally-driven food.