The Chinese New Year Parade is one of the best parades in the world, giving you the perfect opportunity to enjoy another culture while having plenty of fun!
The Irresistible Chinese New Year Parade
When you stand on the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown and watch the Chinese New Year Parade go by, you are witnessing one of America's most historical events, even if it takes its roots from an Asian nation. Going strong since the California gold rush, this parade is an event that Chinese-Americans greatly look forward to. It is one of the largest exhibitions of their culture's unique activities, beliefs and traditions, wrapped up into one big night. In fact, the parade is not simply just a parade at all - it is rather a community joining together to put on one amazing party, complete with fairs, shopping, and even a 10K run during the month of February.
The parade began in the 1860s by San Francisco's Chinese population as a way to educate the residents around them about their unique culture. Now it is considered the largest celebration of Asian culture outside of Asia. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce was appointed as official director of the parade in 1958, and ever since, the streets of Chinatown have been filled annually with the sights, smells, and smiles of the greatest Lunar New Year celebration around.
In the parade itself, you will see over 100 entries, including elaborate costuming, stunning floats, and the most famous of all - ferocious Chinese dragons including the 201-foot long Golden Dragon, which takes over 100 people to navigate it down the parade route. Miss Chinatown U.S.A. and her royal court are also always on hand for the parade route, as are various Chinese children's groups and street performers exhibiting the stunning cultural traditions found in China today.
Seeing the Parade
General viewing of the parade is always free. You can also get tickets for bleacher seating by calling the Parade Office at (415) 986-1370. You can usually have these tickets mailed to you if you reserve them far enough in advance. As the parade date looms closer, you can have your tickets held for you at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce booth.
Being an early riser will enhance your parade experience, as the streets will be crowded and it helps to put in a good attempt toward beating the rush. The parade begins on Market Street, winds up Geary, down Post, and ends where Kearny and Columbus meet. Various route maps are available on parade day, which will help orient you once you arrive in San Francisco.
Take advantage of BART if you don't want to worry about parking. This is especially true if you are local to the Bay Area and understand just how difficult it is to drive a car in San Francisco on an ordinary day, let alone parade day!
If you must drive, there are parking garages located at Union Square, as well as at various other points throughout the tourist portion of the city. Again, plan on arriving early. Most structures charge a flat all-day parking fee anyway, so you may as well get your money's worth and explore the rest of the city before and after the parade.
More Than Just a Parade
One of the biggest draws of the Chinese New Year Parade, is that fun is found beyond the parade itself. During the weekend of the parade, the city is full of related activities for you to enjoy. Check out the Chinatown Community Street Fair, full of shopping and exploring related to Chinese New Year. There are also various events happening in the weeks prior to the parade, including a 10K run and a gorgeous flower fair.