A Visitor's Guide to Celebrating Lunar New Year in San Francisco | San Francisco Travel
Family in Chinatown
Chinese New Year is a time of year when the entire community comes out to celebrate.

A Visitor's Guide to
Celebrating Lunar New Year in San Francisco

This winter, San Francisco will welcome the Year of the Dragon with tournaments, pageants, a parade, fireworks, and more. 

There's a strong argument to be made that the biggest "new year" celebration in San Francisco doesn't happen at the stroke of midnight on January 1. Here in our city, with its large, vibrant, and multi-generational Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean communities, the Lunar New Year is when we pull out all the stops.

While most of the festivities will be concentrated in Chinatown and San Francisco’s downtown area, there are activities scheduled throughout the city. But let's get started with the basics...

Year of the Dragon

The Year of the Dragon symbolizes strength, vitality, and good fortune in the Chinese zodiac. Those born under this sign are natural leaders with the qualities of courage, intelligence, and a charismatic presence. They bring vibrant energy to the community, fostering innovation and progress. Dragons are highly respected and revered in Chinese culture and are often associated with power and authority. Many celebrities and influential figures like John Lennon, hometown hero Bruce Lee, Martin Luther King, Jr., Adele, and Dr. Seuss showcase the characteristics of the Year of the Dragon. 

Hunt for Dragons

San Francisco is celebrating the Year of the Dragon with five unique dragon statues hidden throughout the city. Explore and find all five from January 28 to March 2.

  • Blue and White Porcelain Dragon - Union Square
    Powell St. & Geary St.
  • Gold Luck Dragon - Rose Pak Station
    943 Stockton St.
  • Heavenly Jade Dragon - Thrive City
    1725 3rd St.
  • Rainbow Dragon - Lucky Supermarket
    1515 Sloat Blvd.
  • Ping An Dragon - Stonestown Galleria
    3251 20th Ave.
Map of dragon sculptures for 2024 CNY

Dim Sum and Then Some

There is little doubt that Chinese food as we know it in America started in San Francisco in the mid-1800s. The adaption of Chinese cuisine has gone through countless transformations and has produced some of the best restaurants on the West Coast. Head to popular places like China Live, Mister Jiu's, and Yank Sing for some of the best Chinese cuisine in the city.

A variety of dim sum dishes at San Francisco's Yank Sing restaurant.
Yank Sing is one of San Francisco's most celebrated dim sum palaces. Credit: @yanksing

Explore Chinatown and Union Square

Most Chinese New Year activities will be in Chinatown, the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States. On Saturday, Feb. 24, the parade will start on Market Street, snaking through downtown and Union Square to its end in the heart of Chinatown. This year's Grand Marshal is Golden Globe-winning actress Awkwafina, who starred in Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," filmed right here in San Francisco.

It will pay to get downtown early on parade day. While you're scouting out the best viewpoint, check out the Lunar New Year festivities at The Crossing (250 Main St.) This family-friendly event will last from 1 to 4 p.m.

Night Moves

No New Year’s celebration is complete without nighttime libations. Find the best places to have a drink in Chinatown or any other San Francisco neighborhood with our guide to the city after hours.

Walking Tours

Chinatown’s rich history is difficult to condense. Luckily, San Francisco City Guides, Wok Wiz Tours, and All About Chinatown Tours are reliable ways to get educated about this storied neighborhood. Be sure to include a visit to the Chinese Historical Society of America for a deeper understanding of the community, too.

Chinatown Walking Tour

Ladies looking down Grant Street in Chinatown

Here Be Dragons (And Lions)

Be sure you know the difference between a dragon and a lion when you’re talking about lunar wildlife.

The dragon mascot of the annual Chinese New Year parade measures more than 200 feet long and takes a team of more than 100 men and women from martial arts group White Crane to propel along the parade route. While there are some smaller versions, there’s no mistaking the behemoth that climaxes the parade amid a fusillade of firecrackers.

Lions, on the other hand, usually only require two performers, one to handle the head and another for the tail. In most cases, the tail extends about 12 feet!

What’s All the Noise About?

Firecrackers, beating drums, gongs and crashing cymbals drive away evil spirits. Throughout the Chinese New Year celebration—and especially on parade night—the festivities will be preceded by a loud outburst of firecrackers. Bring earplugs.

Tyler Cohn headshot
Tyler Cohn

Tyler is the Sr. Manager of Global Content & Communications at San Francisco Travel. He has lived in San Francisco since 2015 and has been part of the San Francisco Travel team for just as long. He enjoys splashy production numbers and outdoor sporting events equally, which means you can usually find him at one of San Francisco’s many great theaters or at Oracle Park, cheering on the Giants.