How To Rock The Lunar New Year Up And Down The West Coast
Lunar New Year is a sacred time for many Asian cultures who measure years according to the cycles of the moon phases as opposed to our Earth’s revolution around the sun. This year, February 16 is the day when we turn over new leaves of good fortune with our families by cleaning the house (fun!), sweeping away the dregs of the past, joyfully gifting vibrant red envelopes, and enjoying a hearty meal. So read on for the best ways to celebrate the Year of the Dog across the west coast, from Los Angeles to Seattle to San Francisco.
Chinese New Year in San Francisco is one of the largest celebrations in the world, complete with fairs, a breathtaking parade, and lots of delicious food. Here’s everything you need to know to welcome the Year of the Dog.
Flower Market Fair
The Flower Market Fair takes place the weekend before the Lunar New Year so that shoppers can enjoy a festive atmosphere with traditional dance, music, art, and cultural displays. Live blooming plants symbolize rebirth and new growth, so having them in the home for the New Year is a must. Hours run long, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to pick up a plant February 10 or 11.
Asian Art Museum Lunar New Year Event
On February 18 The Red Panda Acrobats perform circus arts and tumbling, and the day will end with Lion Dance Drumming to scare away evil spirits so that the New Year starts off with good luck and fortune.
Miss Chinatown USA Pageant
Watch women from around the United States compete for the title of Miss Chinatown USA and a chance to represent the Chinese community and promote Chinese culture and heritage on February 22.
Chinese New Year Parade
SF’s Chinese New Year Parade, the largest parade celebrating the Lunar New Year outside of Asia, has been a San Francisco tradition since the 1860s and was named one of the world’s top ten parades. The parade starts at 5:15pm on February 24 and even though the parade route is quite long, it’s a good idea to arrive 90 minutes early to stake out a clear view of the beautiful floats, stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats, lion dancers, and the spectacular 268-foot-long Golden Dragon, which is propelled by a team of more than 100 operators. If you don’t want to fight for a spot, there are bleacher seats available for $35. Bring earplugs, as there will be drums, gongs, and over 600,000 firecrackers; loud noises are meant to drive away evil spirits.
Chinatown Community Street Fair
This two-day fair on February 24 & 25 has over 120 booths and concession stands, as well as activities for all ages. It’s not just about shopping and eating though; there will also be kite and lantern making, Chinese folk dancing, puppet shows, lion dancing, drumming, acrobats, and more.
San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year Concert
Celebrate the Year of the Dog at this family-friendly event that draws on ancient and contemporary traditions. The performance starts at 3pm on February 24, but arrive at 2pm so as not to miss the lion dancing, lucky red envelopes, tea bars, sweet bites, and more.
Chinese New Year Run 10K/5K
Bringing up the rear of the calendar on March 4, this scenic run to benefit the Chinatown YMCA winds its way through Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero, and the Financial District. There will also be an award for Best Dressed Dog.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company
Stop by this tiny shop tucked on Ross Alley between Jackson and Washington Streets to see fortune cookies being made, as well as to buy different shapes and flavors. For $1 you can write your own fortune and have it put inside a fresh cookie. You’re responsible for your own winning lottery numbers, though.
Good Mong Kok Bakery
Order at the counter of this authentic and affordable dim sum spot and enjoy your delicious goodies as you walk around Chinatown. Prices average around $2 for three pieces, so there’s no excuse not to try one of everything.
Hang Ah Tea Room
Hang Ah claims to be the oldest standing dim sum house in America and is a great place to go if you want to enjoy authentic dumplings, noodles, and tea in a kitschy, heavily-decorated environment.
This culinary and cultural destination opened in 2017, but is already a hot spot thanks to its selection of bars, restaurants, and shopping, which range from affordable to very, very expensive (but worth it).
Li Po Cocktail Lounge
This dive bar is known for its dangerously strong Chinese Mai Tais. You’ve been warned.
Sam Wo Restaurant
The oldest restaurant in Chinatown (1907), Sam Wo’s is the place to go for late night jook (rice porridge) and Chinese donuts.
There may be a wait for the authentic Sichuan dishes at this Michelin 2018 Bib Gourmand restaurant where Obama once ate, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Happiness, longevity, and wealth are what we’re going for. Thankfully they’re as widespread as the region and its many cultures.
Lunar New Year in Monterey Park
Can’t wait to kick it off early? On February 3 and 4 you can celebrate the upcoming year of good fortune with thousands of others by browsing tons of tasty food booths (dragon whisker candy!), fun amusement rides, red envelope giveaways, numerous performances (dragon and lion dancers!), and traditional music. Be sure to enjoy more understated pleasures, too, like the calligraphy in the Folk Arts Lane.
City of Beverly Hills Celebration
Head to the Saban Theater on February 11 to enjoy the Charming Jing-Jin-Ji variety show featuring live acrobatics, musical performances, and other acts to wow and please. The fun starts at 2pm.
If you’re looking for a similar experience on a smaller scale, head to Pasadena, where from 10 to 5 on February 17 and 18 the Huntington provides a positively beautiful backdrop for the weekend of activities, from lion dancers to martial arts to live music. Of particular intrigue? The biàn liǎn mask-changing performances.
Golden Dragon Parade
Now in its 119th year, Chinatown’s Golden Dragon Parade on February 17 puts over two dozen floats, a few marching bands, and community leaders front and center -- all behind a huge golden dragon, of course. Be sure to camp out early Saturday morning, it fills up every year.
UVSA Tết Festival
Head down behind The Orange Curtain for the annual Tết Festival, with hundreds of delectable Vietnamese food vendors, a variety of crafts, and carnival games for family-focused fun. The Orange County Fair & Event Center plays host to the three days of celebration from February 16 to 18 at a very affordable entry fee, making this one of the best deals of the Lunar New Year.
Hsi Lai Temple
A pilgrimage out to Hacienda Heights rewards you with the sight of one of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western Hemisphere. Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple’s specially scheduled New Year events and ceremonies start before dawn on February 16 at 5am, but the prayer, chants, and cultural performances 'til noon will be sure to wake you up... as well as bring peace and blessings to the world. The same day kicks off the temple’s two-week lantern festival. But nobody will blame you if you get there the day before for the international candy exhibition.
A lion dance and a chain of firecrackers sets off this long-held Chinatown tradition, with 100% of the proceeds from their kiddie run and 5k and 10k bike rides run going right back into the community’s not-for-profits. After all that celebration, a little exercise sounds just right. Move your feet for a good cause the mornings of February 24 and 25.
There’s nothing like celebrating the New Year with your taste buds. Your duty is to enjoy noodles and mustard greens for longevity, chicken and turnip cakes for good luck, spring/egg rolls and dumplings for wealth, and rice cakes for prosperity. Enjoy this fortune-bringing food crawl at these notorious spots:
Dumplings are the word at this spot in Monrovia, but don’t miss the stewed beef noodle soup for a traditional dish harkening back to the Tang Dynasty.
Rice cakes, dumplings, noodles, herbal chicken soup, and egg rolls can all be enjoyed at Mama Lu’s, making this Monterey Park eatery a one stop shop for beginning what will inevitably be a prosperous -- and delicious -- 2018.
Din Tai Fung
This Taiwanese chain is especially known for their xiao long bao, or juicy pork dumplings, but they’re good at many other things, including Shanghai rice cakes and beef noodle soup. The recent expansion across the city make a trip to Din Tai Fung extra convenient for your Lunar celebration.
Noodles and egg rolls are the name of the game at this popular Vietnamese spot, offering both pho and bun for broth-filled and dry varieties. Spruce that up with some fresh spring or crunchy egg rolls at one of their two Las Tunas Drive locations and you’ll ride prosperously into 2018.
Korean cold noodles, whether buckwheat or hand-pulled, are just the treat for an LA “winter,” and only made perfect with the addition of the kimchi dumplings from this Olympic Boulevard hotspot. The best part is you can buy the dumplings frozen by the dozen at this Koreatown restaurant and have a party of your own at home.
With the Lunar New Year’s jump to February 16th this year, it’s a typically less-than-ideal time weather-wise in Seattle. Luckily, the city has no shortage of places to fill up on unique, hot teas and steamy, pillowy dumplings to combat the conditions after a day of fun outside in the cold and wet.
Wing Luke Museum
The Wing Luke Museum is a crucial institution in Seattle that strives to connect people with Asian Pacific America’s rich culture and history in the area and beyond. $17 gets you into the museum to peruse its 12 exhibits, including one centered around Seattle legend Bruce Lee, at your leisure. The museum’s Lunar New Year celebration takes place on the 10th and includes a lion dance and activities with local artists in addition to the exhibits, but we recommend you drop by before then to avoid the crowd and take your time with the art.
Lunar New Year in Chinatown
The biggest Lunar New Year celebration in the city, the International District’s free spectacle on February 11 features traditional dancing from China, Korea, Thailand, and more. Also on the docket are martial arts demonstrations, taiko drumming, and live music. Feeling hungry? Delta will be hosting a food walk in which local restaurants will be purveying $3 bites, an excellent opportunity to sample the culinary offerings from pretty much every corner of Asia.
Feeling inspired by the Winter Olympics? Stevens Pass hosts an annual Lunar New Year Fest, which will be held on February 18th this year. Festivities at the scenic ski locale just two hours east of Seattle include a lion dance (ever the auspicious creature) and an avalanche dog demonstration (it is the Year of the Dog, after all, and Stevens Pass typically has eight “avy” dogs on site). The Tye Creek Deli has international food specials -- think dumplings and noodles: hot foods with carbs to refuel you after a day hitting the slopes. At sundown there’s a torchlight parade that opens up the slopes for everyone to ski down together, lighting the night with sparklers and flares.
If you’ve never partied at a grocery store before, now’s your chance. This Washington chain celebrates the Lunar New Year from February 7 to 20 by handing out red envelopes filled with all kinds of goodies, a tradition in the Chinese culture, with your purchase of $30 or more. It is said that satsuma oranges are known to bring good luck, so fill ’er up. In honor of the Year of the Dog, the store will also be handing out free calendars adorned with everyone’s favorite breed -- the Shiba Inu. Uwajimaya is the mecca for international food, so stock up on mochi every color of the rainbow and ice cold Tsingtao to keep the party going. Remember, the traditional Chinese New Year typically lasts two weeks and you don’t want to run out of supplies.
Bad news… the annual dumpling crawl is totally sold out, but don’t let this get you down in the dumps -- we have the lowdown so you can skip the single-file line. Check out our guide to the International District here for a crash course in all things hot and steamy, or head straight to these choice picks.
Duk Li Dim Sum
A family owned affair on Weller Street just off Maynard, it touts shrimp dumplings, aka "haw gow," that pack a mean punch and are super cheap to boot ($3.50 for four).
We’re partial to the signature pork dumplings at this hole-in-the-wall right at the entrance of the neighborhood where the matronly owner proudly serves her long-running family recipe symbolizing “family, togetherness, fortune, and prosperity.” While eating dumplings may or may not make you rich, it sure will make your life richly lived. And really, if you gained wealth, wouldn’t you spend it all on dumplings for your family anyway? It’s a delicious cycle.
Szechuan Noodle Bowl
Feeling full yet? Walk it off in the International District. Then compare the fare at another true blue spot known for its spicy dumplings that are sure to kick off the cold in your bones from any fog or mist.
Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House
Located in the bottom of the historic Panama Hotel, this cozy tea shop resplendent with wood floors, exposed brick, and a rustic old Seattle quality is the perfect spot to caffeinate and find a little inner zen before braving the crowds at the Chinatown Lunar New Year celebration. Warm up with their wide assortment of teas hailing from all over the world and pick up a sweet mochi to munch on -- the shop gets a fresh delivery twice a week featuring seasonal flavors from Phinney Ridge’s Tokara. Staples here include a version called Zero Degrees (made with walnut and soy sauce) and chestnut.