How To Have an Epic Weekend At Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Ali Sullivan
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Discover an insider’s look at the best way to experience the Chinese New Year in San Francisco. 


This year, we are embracing prosperity and inviting all of the good vibes in by attending the Chinese New Year Festival in San Francisco! If you are looking for some good luck, you’ve come to the right place. 


We are here to give you first-hand recommendations and tips for having the best experience at the Chinese New Year festival in San Francisco. From where to stay, what to eat, and things to see, we are here to give you all of our best tips! 


Be sure to keep a watchful eye for the Golden Dragon, and let’s begin! 

chinese new year in San Francisco

Why You Should Celebrate Chinese New Year in San Francisco 

What better time to visit San Francisco than the Chinese New Year, with good luck and delicious food surrounding you in every direction? Can you imagine? The streets are lined with beautiful decorations, lanterns glowing in the night sky, and the sound of drums and firecrackers filling the air with energy. You can watch dragon dances, cool parade floats, and taste delicious Chinese food. It’s a chance to experience the culture and spirit of the Chinese community in San Francisco. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the iconic Golden Dragon, the symbol of good luck and prosperity. I am keeping my eyes peeled, and so should you! 


What is the Chinese New Year 

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is a celebration marking the beginning of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. It’s one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture, celebrated by millions of people around the world. The date of the Chinese New Year varies each year, falling between late January and mid-February, and is determined by the lunar calendar. 


During the holiday festivities, families come together to share meals, exchange gifts, and honor their ancestors. Symbolism plays a big role in the Chinese New Year, with customs such as red decorations, dragon dances, fireworks, and giving lucky red envelopes filled with money to bring good fortune in the coming year. It’s a time for renewal, reflection, and looking forward to the blessings of the year ahead.


Where to Stay for Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Staying at the ITH Pacific Tradewinds Hostel during the Chinese New Year Festival in San Francisco is the obvious choice, thanks to its ideal location. The hostel is located right in the heart of Chinatown, making it super convenient to enjoy the celebrations and parades. It also offers affordable accommodation options, which is great for travelers on a budget. Additionally, the hostel has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for meeting fellow travelers and experiencing the festival together. Lastly, the staff are knowledgeable about the local area and can provide valuable tips and recommendations for finding the best sesame balls in town! 

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The Chinese New Year Parade 

Besides the food, which we will get to in a minute, the most iconic event at the Chinese New Year Festival in San Francisco is the Chinese New Year Parade. It features marching bands, traditional lion dancers, and massive floats with lanterns and fireworks weaving through the heart of Chinatown. The air is filled with the beat of drums while spectators line the streets, waving red envelopes for good luck. It’s one of the biggest events in the city that showcases culture and pride, and it all happens right around the corner from ITH Pacific Tradewinds!


Things to Eat at the Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Now for the best part, the food, of course! Be sure to try these tasty treats during your visit to the Chinese New Year in San Francisco:


Dumplings (Jiaozi): Dumplings are a traditional Chinese New Year dish, symbolizing wealth and prosperity. They are typically filled with a mixture of minced meat, vegetables, and seasonings, then steamed, boiled, or pan-fried.


Spring Rolls: Crispy spring rolls are a popular appetizer during Chinese New Year celebrations. They are filled with ingredients like shredded vegetables, shrimp, and sometimes pork, then wrapped in thin dough and deep-fried until golden brown.


Nian Gao: Also known as “New Year cake” or “sticky rice cake,” nian gao is a sticky and sweet rice cake made from glutinous rice flour and sugar. It symbolizes progress, growth, and prosperity in the coming year.


Fish: Eating fish during Chinese New Year is believed to bring abundance and prosperity. Whole fish, steamed or fried, is often served to represent surplus and wealth.


Longevity Noodles: Longevity noodles, also known as “yi mein,” symbolize long life and good health. These uncut noodles are typically stir-fried and served with vegetables, meat, or seafood.


Tangyuan: Tangyuan are sweet glutinous rice balls filled with sweet fillings like sesame paste, red bean paste, or peanut paste. They are often served in a sweet soup flavored with ginger or pandan leaves.


Sesame Balls (Jian Dui): Sesame balls, also known as “jian dui” or “fried glutinous rice balls,” are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They are typically filled with sweet bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep-fried until golden brown. Sesame balls symbolize wealth and prosperity due to their round shape, which resembles gold coins.

Check out this article for some of the best restaurants in Chinatown!

Other Holiday Highlights 

Whether you are coming for the food or the events or just happen to be around at the right time, there are plenty of things going on around Chinatown for the Chinese New Year. Here are some of the other top holiday events you can enjoy: 


Flower Market Fair: Explore the vibrant Flower Market Fair, where you can find an array of beautiful blooms and traditional decorations to adorn your home for the New Year.


Chinatown Community Street Fair: Experience the lively atmosphere of the Chinatown Community Street Fair, featuring arts and crafts, cultural performances, and delicious street food.


Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt: Join in the fun of the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, a scavenger hunt through Chinatown filled with clues and challenges for participants of all ages.


Chinese New Year Concert: Enjoy a night of enchanting music and performances at the Chinese New Year Concert, featuring traditional Chinese instruments and contemporary interpretations.


Chinese New Year Run: Participate in the Chinese New Year Run, a festive race through the streets of San Francisco, celebrating health, wellness, and the spirit of the Lunar New Year.


Chinatown Night Market: Wander through the Chinatown Night Market, where you can browse stalls selling unique gifts, souvenirs, and traditional New Year’s treats under the glow of lanterns and twinkling lights.


Check out this article for other cool events happening in San Francisco soon!

We hope you have enjoyed this guide through the streets and beats of the Chinese New Year Festival in San Francisco. Be sure to refer back here when planning your holiday celebration and book your stay at ITH Pacific Tradewinds Hostel. Oh, and don’t forget to come with an empty stomach! Safe travels, and Happy New Year! 

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