Where are the best places to watch the SF Chinese New Year parade? Inquiring minds want to know, so here they are...
Last year, I walked the parade route for the Chinese New Year Parade to see what the best viewing spots would be and they are using the same route for 2017. Here's what I found.
Best Places to View the Parade:
Good Spots on the Map (red pins)...
The parade starts at Second and Market Streets, downtown and works its way past Union Square, ending up in Chinatown at Kearny and Washington.
As I went along the route, I looked for good places to stand, and also for spots on the second floor or above: basically, any position that would make for better views above the heads of the crowd. Result: slim pickings, but there are some good spots! Here are the highlights.
The parade begins at Second and Market.
Turns right onto Kearny after one block.
Short trip down Kearny, then left on Post Street.
Down Post Street to Union Square, past all the fancy stores: Gucci, Cartier, Brooks Brothers, Armani, etc.
Along the north side of Union Square (past Saks).
Right on Powell, around the corner at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Great views from the second and third floor corner windows of Saks, but they close those areas off the day of the parade.
One block down Powell, then right on Sutter Street. The Sir Francis Drake Hotel is on that corner.
The first real find! The Sutter/Stockton Garage overlooks the parade route and has several open levels above the street (that aren't blocked by those trees).
Note: the streets on the parade route will of course be blocked off for the parade starting at 5:00 pm, but the garage also has an entrance on Bush Street in back, and Stockton Street on the side. As far as I can tell, this garage doesn't do reserved spaces like some of the others, so it may not be a great place to park, unless you get there really early. Even so, you can still go up there and watch the parade as a pedestrian.
This actually turned out to be a great place to watch from in 2016. Very few people were up there, almost no one until right before the parade started.
The parade route continues down Sutter to Kearny, and left on Kearny. All the way down Kearny to Washington Street where the judging stands will be.
The parade judges will be at Kearny and Washington, near the City College campus on the corner.
The glass walls of the City College campus offer a view of the end of the parade near the judges stands; I don't know how good of a view it will be, or how crowded, but it's a possibility. The second story is the library; I don't know if it will be open during the parade.
At various locations on the parade route, viewing stands like bleachers will be set up. You can buy a ticket for a seat in one of the stands.
This year, the stands will be set up at two locations:
To get tickets for the Sutter Street stands and Kearny Street stands, you can purchase them through the official parade site, at chineseparade.com. $30 each plus $8 shipping and handling fee for less than 10 tickets. 10% off for 10 or more tickets. Under 2 yrs free.
You are reserving a seat in the bleacher area, but there are no assigned seats.
Here is what the stands seating actually looked like in 2016:
The Hilton Hotel on Kearny in past years has had viewing stands set up in front of the hotel, as well as on the bridge that connects them with Portsmouth Square, but for 2017 they won't be doing it.
The bridge will be closed to the public during the parade.
This spot is free, and would give you a place to sit down if you get there early-ish. At the corner of Kearny and California, there are two buildings on the parade route that have a series of steps going up to them.
During the 2016 parade, the steps at 600 California were blocked off, but the 601 steps were popular. The top two or three rows should have a great view.
Opinions vary as to whether it's better to watch from a spot towards the beginning of the route (performers have more energy) or towards the end (less crowded); difficult call!
Staying in the city on February 11, 2017? A number of major hotels are right on the parade route. But only some rooms look down on the parade.
The Westin Saint Francis Hotel on Union Square is on the corner of Post and Powell, where the parade makes a turn. Your room would have to be looking down on that corner (northeast corner of the hotel).
Check out the Saint Francis Hotel on TripAdvisor.com.
The next hotel on the route is the Kimpton Sir Francis Drake, at 450 Powell Street. It's on the corner of Powell and Sutter, where the parade makes another turn. Rooms facing Powell or Sutter should look down on the route.
Check out the Sir Francis Drake on TripAdvisor.com.
The San Francisco Marriott Union Square is at 480 Sutter, right at Powell, just across the street from the Sir Francis Drake. The rooms on Sutter Street look down on the parade route.
Check out the Marriott on TripAdvisor.com.
Also, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, at 345 Stockton Street, faces the parade route on its Sutter Street (north) side.
Check out the Grand Hyatt on TripAdvisor.com.
The Hilton is near the end of the parade route, right across from Portsmouth Square. The hotel entrance faces Kearny Street where the parade passes, but this year they are not setting up the bleacher seating in front. The rooms don't face the parade area, but you would staying right in the heart of it.
Check out the Hilton Hotel on TripAdvisor.com.
It's back, but only through June 30, 2017.
(But it might become permanent.)