The SF Chinese New Year
Parade Route 2020

All the the best viewing spots for 2020!

San Francisco greets the Year of the Rat with its historic Chinese New Year Parade on February 8, 2020.

Where are the best places to watch the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade in 2020? Inquiring minds want to know, so here they are...

Costumed ladies, San Francisco Chinese New Year ParadeSF Chinese New Year Parade
(© Kobby_dagan | Dreamstime.com - Chinese New Year Parade Photo)

I walked the parade route for the Chinese New Year Parade to see what the best viewing spots would be and here's what I found.

Best Places to View the Parade:

Good Spots on the Map (red pins)

Map of SF Chinese New Year's Parade with Best ViewsParade Route 2020
Map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA

Scouting the Parade Route

The parade starts at Second and Market Streets, downtown and works its way past Union Square, goes down Kearny Street, and ends up in Chinatown at Kearny and Washington.

San Francisco Chinese New Year parade map 20182020 Parade Route

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.


Traveling the Parade Route

The parade begins at Second and Market.

San Francisco Chinese New Year parade route 2018, Market StreetMarket Street, Between Second and Third

At 3rd and Market, it veers onto Geary St. Down Geary a couple of blocks, to Union Square.

SF Chinese New Year Parade route 2018, Geary StreetGeary Street

The route goes past Neiman Marcus, on Geary just before Union Square. They have a little cafe with windows that look out on the route. There is a counter with stools facing the window; could be a prime spot, if it will be open during the parade. They also have tables on the sidewalk, but I don't know if they'll be there for the parade. Might be worth checking out, but you would have to be early.

Cafe at Neiman Marcus store, San FranciscoNeiman Marcus Cafe

This year, the parade goes all the way around three sides of Union Square.

SF Chinese New Year Parade route 2018, Powell Street, Union SquareUnion Square, Powell Street

The route goes around Union Square on Powell St, then right on Post St, past Saks Fifth Avenue.

San Francisco Chinese New Year parade route 2018, Saks window viewDesigner Gowns View Windows... Sorry!

Great views from the second and third floor corner windows of Saks, but they close those areas off the day of the parade.

Union Square is a prime view spot this year. There some steps on the southeast corner (Geary and Powell) that could give a bit of a view, plus there is a slight hill on the western end of the square (near Powell) that gives a little altitude.

Union Square, San FranciscoUnion Square, western end, near Powell St

The route continues down Post Street, down to Kearny St, past all the fancy stores: Gucci, Cartier, Brooks Brothers, Armani, etc.

SF Chinese New Year parade route, Post StreetPost Street

At Kearny Street, the route turns left, and goes all the way down Kearny to Washington Street, where the judges are waiting.

Below is one of the three viewing stands along the route. Scroll down to see another viewing stand.

SF Chinese New Year parade route, Kearny Street standsKearny Street Stands (near California)

At the end of the route, the parade passes the Hilton Hotel and ends near the Chinatown City College campus. This year they've got a third set of bleachers here, by the judges' reviewing stand.

SF Chinese New Year parade route, Hilton HotelEnd of Parade Route, by the Hilton Hotel

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 in 2017 they stopped doing it.

The bridge will most likely be closed to the public during the parade.

The parade judges will be at Kearny and Washington, near the City College campus on the corner. 

The glass walls of the Chinatown 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.

SF Chinese New Year parade route, view of judging stands, City CollegeView from inside City College, near the judging stands.

Seats in the Stands

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 three locations:

  1. On Post Street, between Grant and Kearny.
  2. On Kearny Street, between California and Sacramento.
  3. On Kearny Street, between Washington and Jackson, near the judges.

Buying Tickets for the Stands

This year, they are selling tickets via Eventbrite; you'll get the tickets via email, or you can use the Eventbrite app on a mobile phone. They're available for purchase now; they sell out, so it's a good idea to book early.

Ticket prices:

Section A: $55. Kearny between Washington and Jackson, at the end of the parade route where the judges are.

Section B: $38. Kearny between California and Sacramento.

Section C: $38. Post, between Grant and Kearny.

To get tickets for the viewing stands, you can purchase them on the Eventbrite site, at new year parade tickets.

You are reserving a seat in the bleacher area, but there are no assigned seats. Children under 2 are free. They advise you to be at the bleachers by 3 pm. The seats are first-come, first-served.

Visitors stands on Sutter Street, Chinese New Year Parade, San FranciscoSutter Street Stands, at Grant

This year, these seats will be on Post Street, instead of Sutter, but they should look about the same. See photo of Kearny Street stands above.


Last, and Probably Least

These spots are 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.

SF Chinese New Year parade route, 600 California600 California Street, on Kearny

600 California didn't work out, but 601 California turned out to be pretty good.

Sf Chinese New Year parade route, 601 California601 California Street, on Kearny

During a previous 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.

SF Chinese New Year parade, view from 601 California steps601 California steps during the parade.

Beginning or End? 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! 


Hotels on the Parade Route

Staying in the city during Chinese New Year? A number of major hotels are right on the parade route. But only some rooms look down on the parade.

Note: I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through some of the links on this page, at no extra cost to you. This helps me provide all the free information I post on this website. Thank you for your support!

Westin Saint Francis

The Westin Saint Francis Hotel flanks the entire western side of Union Square on Powell Street, giving a great view of the parade coming and going. Your room would have to be on side facing Union Square.

Check out the Saint Francis Hotel on TripAdvisor.com.

Westin Saint Francis Hotel, front view, San FranciscoWestin Saint Francis Hotel, Powell Street

Hilton Hotel, Financial District

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.

Hilton Hotel, San Francisco Financial District, Kearny Street entranceFinancial District Hilton, Kearny Street Side

Check out the Hilton Hotel on TripAdvisor.com.

A number of popular hotels are close to the parade route, right near Union Square, if you want to stay nearby. 

You can explore these on TripAdvisor.com:


Will 2020 be a lucky year?

See Chinese New Year for more information on:

  • The SF New Years parade
  • Events in Chinatown
  • Chinese New Year customs
  • The Year of the Rat 
Two rats looking at Chinese lanterns, Year of the RatYear of the Rat

For tips on where to park for the parade, see parade parking.


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