The 12 Best Places to Celebrate the Lunar New Year in the U.S.
Usher in the Year of the Tiger in style.
Lunar New Year is a sacred time for many Asian cultures. February 1st marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger, a time that promises radical change in all areas of our lives as we feel driven to take risks, be adventurous, act bold, and uplift one another. From joyful gifts of red envelopes to energetic traditional dances and meals symbolizing good luck—pork dishes, dumplings, heaving bowls of sticky rice—there's no one way to celebrate the Lunar New Year. If you want to get in on the fun, here's a smattering of domestic celebrations to help you usher in a year of goodwill and fortune.
(Heads up: Due to the ongoing pandemic, some cities have significantly pared down their Lunar New Year events compared to years past. Before you head out, always be sure to familiarize yourself with local Covid-19 restrictions and check event websites for updates and scheduling changes.)
Seattle’s diverse and rapidly growing Asian-American population means an embarrassment of cultural riches this time of year. Each year, Seattle's Chinatown hosts a (free!) Lunar New Year Celebration, with vendors, music, and dancing; that same day, the annual Food Walk will get you all the dumplings and sticky rice snacks you crave from participating local restaurants. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year's event will be postponed until Saturday, April 30th. In the meantime, you can hit the Wing Luke Museum's outdoor Lunar New Year Fair, which takes place on January 29th with themed storytimes, Lion Dance Talks, crafts, a scavenger hunt, and more.
New York City
Lunar New Year in New York City and its five boroughs has the distinct honor of boasting not just one Chinatown, but several. Travelers and tourists can easily access Manhattan’s Chinatown, where the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival lights up the night on February 1, followed by the Lunar New Year Parade and Festival later in the month on February 20. Over in buzzing Flushing, Queens, celebrate with a Lunar New Year Chinese Documentary Film Festival (February 5-6) or Reconcile: Begin Anew, an exhibition featuring eight immigrant artists, each coping with and confronting recent aggression toward the Asian community with their art. And at Brooklyn's Conservatory of Music, an outdoor festival on January 29th will feature traditional music, dancing and more.
From February 4-6 in New Orleans, the place to be is the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church for Tet Fest, the city’s free celebration of the Vietnamese New Year. Between the lion dances and the live music and the acrobatic stunts and the raffles, you can fill up on classics like sticky rice cakes, banh mi, and pho. At dusk, close out your celebrations of Vietnam’s biggest holiday with the firework show and dragon dance. The Year of the Tiger is a bold one, and you’re in for a joyful (and delicious) time.
Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in San Francisco go strong for nearly one month straight. There are loads of events, from the Flower Market Fair on January 29 right up through the city’s official Chinese New Year Parade on February 19—one of the biggest, most iconic illuminated nighttime parades in the country and the largest Lunar New Year celebration in the Western world, with about half a million people joining the festivities downtown. On top of the firecrackers, pageants, and vibrantly colored, painstakingly ornate dancing lions, you can chow down on Chinese food from the city that made Americans fall in love with it in the first place.
The City of Brotherly love goes all out for the Lunar New Year, with an impressive showing of cultural activities around town. Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Galleries of Chinese Art, home to more than 7,000 items from furniture and costumes to jade and sculptures. On March 5—better late than never!—the Parkway Central Library will offer martial arts demonstrations, folk music, Chinese opera, calligraphy demonstrations, and dances from across dynasties.
It should surprise no one that the pageantry, spectacle, and general sensory overload of the Lunar New Year has found a thriving home in Las Vegas. To celebrate 2022’s Year of the Tiger, the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (free to visit!) filled its entire 14,000-square-foot space with more than 8,000 flowers,100 bonsai trees, 40 koi fish, four 3D-printed hanging jade medallions, an 8,000-pound bronze tiger, and more. (Yes, more!) The display, whose theme is "Eye of the Tiger," will be on display through March 5. The Venetian has on an equally impressive art installation featuring a 10 foot tall, 1,500-pound tiger sculpture, while Resorts World Las Vegas will feature singers, folk dancers, lion blessings, and a fashion show during their festivities from January 28-February 4.
Chicago plans to celebrate Year of the Tiger with event after event after event. There's the Chinatown parade on February 13, a procession of lion dances, colorful floats, and music. While there, hit up traditional dim sum spots and bakeries for treats like crab dumplings at Cai or buns at Chi Quon Bakery, the oldest bakery in Chinatown. For contemporary interpretations of traditional fare, celeb chef Stephanie Izard’s Duck Duck Goat rings in each Lunar New Year with “reasonably authentic” dinner specials and red envelopes, which symbolize good fortune and well wishes.
Boston is home to the country’s third-largest Chinatown, and it shows. On February 13, the Chinese New Year Parade kicks off at 11am in Phillips Square, while the Pao Arts Center's festivities—featuring both in-person and virtual activities!—will run from February 8-12. For a more hands-on experience, stop by the Museum of Fine Arts on February 5th. Along with the usual opportunity to check out an enormous collection Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese artwork, you'll also be able to pick up a take-home art kit and watch as a Lion Dance parades through the halls of the museum.
If you will be in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 20, you will want to be at the one-day-only Lunar New Year Festival in the heart of the Chinese community in Alhambra. You’ll be able to catch lion dances, kung fu demonstrations, taiko drummers, fan dancers, and more—not to mention a smorgasbord of food and activities.
The beloved free performances at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center really shine come Lunar New Year. From January 27-February 6, catch the REACH Winter Lanterns, a dazzling display of more than 100 illuminated lanterns created by Chinese artisans. Throughout late January and early February, the center will also feature a series of musical acts, including the Asian American Music Society's Prelude to Lunar New Year Young Musicians Concert (January 29) and Sound of Korean Soul performed by the group G – Hwaja (February 3). This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Lunar New Year Parade will take place virtually from February 1-3.
In San Jose, California, the open-air Tet 2022 Vietnamese New Year Festival from January 29-30—this year, with the theme Culture and Human Rights in Vietnam—will highlight different regions of the country through cultural music, songs, dance, food and traditional performances. The Vietnamese community in San Jose is among the largest in the country, and tens of thousands of people are expected to show out for this year’s festivities.
Houston turns out for Lunar New Year. Over two days (February 5 and 6), the city’s various Asian American groups converge to celebrate a new year of openness with this free, family-friendly event. Boasting demos of Korean and Vietnamese folk dances, lion dances and martial arts performances, and vendors serving everything from baked goods to bubble tea, Houston’s gathering was years in the making, after many starts and stops due to local politics. But with more than a decade to its name—with as many as 80 lion and dragon performers, nearly a million red firecrackers, and 40,000 annual attendees—this event is not one to miss.