San Francisco's
Chinese New Year 2020

Chinese New Year arrives on Tuesday, January 25, 2020.

Celebrate the coming of the Year of the Rat in San Francisco with tips from a local!

The Chinese Lunar New Year falls on January 25 for 2020, and San Francisco celebrates for two-and-a-half weeks, ending with the colorful Chinese New Year Parade on February 8, 2020.

Two rats looking at lanterns, Chinese New year 2020
The rats can hardly wait!

If you're visiting the city around this time, you're in for a treat: parades, street fairs, fireworks and lots of friendly energy!

Chinese New Year Celebrations in the City

San Francisco has one of the biggest and oldest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia. Around 500,000 people come to the events here, so be prepared for crowds!

Highlights of the 2020 Chinese New Year Events in SF:
(details below)

  • Chinese Flower Fair (Jan 18, 19)
  • Miss Chinatown USA Pageant (Feb 1)
  • Chinese New Year Parade (Feb 8)
  • Chinatown Street Fair (Feb 8, 9)

The Chinese New Year Parade 2020

When: Saturday, Feb 8, 2020, 5:15 to 8 pm.

Where: Starts at 2nd and Market, goes down Market to 3rd St, up Geary to Powell, right on Powell for one block, then right on Post down to Kearny, left on Kearny, then along Kearny all the way to Columbus. This year it goes all around Union Square; somewhat different route from last year.

Chinese New Year San Francisco parade 2020 map
2020 Parade Route

The parade is loud and full of life. Group after group of dragon dancers, acrobats, martial arts displays, elaborate floats, costumed marchers and stilt walkers. Lots of pounding drums and firecrackers! Something to be experienced at least once in a lifetime; many people go year after year.

dragon boat in san francisco chinese new years parade 2014
SF New Year Parade, Dragon Boat
(© Kobby_dagan | - Chinese New Year Parade Photo)

Best Places to View the SF Chinese New Year Parade

I scoped out the route the parade will take. See my tips on the good spots to watch from, and photos of the parade route at parade tips.

Bleacher Seating

The three sets of bleachers along the route provide a good view of the parade (and a guaranteed place to sit down).

  • Section A1: $55, in the reviewing stand on Kearny St, between Washington and Jackson (end of parade route).
  • Section B: $38, on Kearny, between California and Sacramento.
  • Section C: $38, onPost, between Grant and Kearny.
To book bleacher seats, go to bleacher tickets.

To see what the bleacher seating looked like in a recent parade, go to bleacher seats.

Tips for enjoying the parade:

  • Get there early (by 4:30 at the latest, 3:30 for front row spots).
  • Dress warmly, and bring an umbrella; the parade goes rain or shine.
  • Bring water and snacks.
  • Book a seat if standing is a problem (see above).
  • Driving and parking? Book a spot in advance in a garage, with a parking app (see below).

If you can, stay till the end, because you'll be treated to the sight of the Golden Dragon. The huge dragon is all lit up, over 200 feet long, and carried by 100 dragon dancers; this is the Grand Finale of the parade. Drums, firecrackers, and magic!

san francisco chinatown dragon mural
SF Chinatown Mural

Can't get there? You can also watch it live on TV. Two local stations will carry it: KTVU Fox 2 and KTSF Channel 26 (6 to 8 pm).

Or watch it online, at or via the KTSF app for mobile devices. The KTSF broadcast will probably be in Chinese.

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!

Getting to the Parade

By car: streets along the parade route will be closed at 4:30 pm, and traffic will be ugly, but you can still drive in and park. But garages will fill up fast; booking a spot with a parking app ahead of time is a safer bet. Caveat: sometimes garages have higher rates for special events; another reason to book ahead.

Parking Garages in walking distance:

  • Sutter-Stockton Garage, 330 Stockton (enter on Bush or Stockton Street)
  • Union Square Garage (Union Square, enter on Geary)
  • 450 Sutter Garage
  • Ellis-O'Farrell, 123 O'Farrell
  • Fifth and Mission Garage, 833 Mission at 5th Street.
  • 550 Kearny Garage (valet, enter 665 Sacramento Street).
  • Portsmouth Square Garage, 733 Kearny at Clay.
  • St. Mary's Square Garage, 433 Kearny (also an entrance on California St.)

Tip: The Portsmouth Square, Union Square, St. Mary's Square, and 550 Kearny garages are all on the parade route, but the last two have access from other streets, so you can still get in and out during the parade. The Portsmouth Square and Union Square garages' entrances/exits will be blocked off after 4:30 p.m. until the parade is over.

Parking tip: if you plan to drive, book a parking spot through one of the parking apps, like, or, well in advance if you can.

A couple of years back, I found a spot through Spot Hero for $10 for the day of the parade at the 550 Kearny Garage, right on the parade route, so it's possible. But I booked it almost a month in advance.

Another good bet is Parking Panda. In the past, I've seen $8 for the day of the parade at the 550 Kearny Garage. The word is, plan ahead!

See SF parking apps for a general review of the parking apps available in SF.

Public Transportation: it's easy to get to the parade by BART or Muni, but the crowds could be fierce. Best to come a bit early, and maybe hang out in Chinatown or North Beach for a late dinner afterwards.

BART and Muni (underground): Get off at the Montgomery or Powell Street stops, depending on where along the route you plan to go.

A number of bus routes go to this area. Check out the downloadable pdf from the city that shows all the bus routes: Muni System Map.

Chinese Flower Market Fair 2020

When: Feb 18, 2020: 10 am to 8 pm.
Feb 19, 2020: 9 am to 6 pm.

Where: along Grant Avenue (Clay to Broadway), and on Pacific, Jackson and Washington Streets (between Stockton and Kearny).

orange tree

This is a pretty tradition: city blocks of flowers, fruit trees, and fruit for sale, to welcome in the new year.

Chinese tradition associates certain flowers and fruits with good luck, so many Chinese families come to purchase these items to decorate their homes before the new year, to bring good fortune to their family for the rest of the year.

Especially auspicious items: orchids, narcissus, peach blossoms, chrysanthemums, and little trees bearing oranges or tangerines.

There will be Chinese opera and lion dancing on the stage as well.

Around 400,000 people attend this fair! Very crowded.

Miss Chinatown USA Pageant 2020

Held in San Francisco annually for almost 60 years!

When: Saturday, Feb 1, 2020, at 7:30 pm.

Where: Palace of fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon Street.

For more info and tickets, see pageant.

The Coronation Ball is Feb 7, 2020.

Chinatown Community Street Fair 2020

When: Saturday, Feb 8, 2020, from 10 am to 4:30 pm.
Sunday, Feb 9, 2020, from 9 am to 5 pm.

Where: Grant Avenue, (California Street to Broadway), and Sacramento, Washington, Jackson and Pacific Streets (Stockton to Kearny).

This is a fun and colorful street fair. Surround yourself in a celebration of Chinese culture: traditional Chinese music and dancing, acrobats, puppet shows, lion dancing, magic shows, lantern and kite-making, Chinese snacks, etc. Tons of people! (500,000 expected)

Walking through Chinatown the night of the parade was magical!

Evening in Chinatown

More Chinese New Year Events

Asian Art Museum. Lunar New Year Celebration. In past years, they've had new year festivities at the museum. Not announced yet.

San Francisco Symphony. Chinese New Year Concert, Saturday, Feb 1, 2020, at 5 pm. Reception with lion dancing and refreshments before the concert, Imperial Dinner after the concert. See SF Symphony Chinese New Year for more info and tickets.

Bay Area Discovery Museum. The museum hosts an annual Chinese New Year Celebration. Celebrate the Year of the rat with lion dancers, calligraphy and Kung Fu demonstrations. Date to be announced. See schedule for more info and tickets.

Hotels Near the Parade

If you're planning to stay in San Francisco for Chinese New Year and want to be in the heart of all the festivities, I've created a list of the hotels on the parade route. See Hotels on the Parade Route for photos and more info.

Chinese New Year Customs

The beginning of the lunar year is an extremely important time in Chinese tradition, because how one begins the year is said to affect one's fortunes for the entire year!

Want a lucky 2020? Here are the Do's and Don'ts...

happy face icon

Do: before the new year, thoroughly clean the house, put up "spring couplets" (two strips of red paper with good luck'll see these sold in the markets), decorate with lucky flowers and plants, buy new clothes for everyone in the family, and have a family reunion dinner. Set off firecrackers when the new year arrives to drive off bad spirits and bad luck.

New Year's day: wear the new clothes, give the children red envelopes with money, listen to the ringing of a large bell, show respect to the ancestors' altar (if you have one!), watch the dragon and lion dancers. Give a special new year's greeting to others.

Carrying New Year's Presents
SF Chinatown, 1912

Gung Hay Fat Choi (Cantonese) is not as traditional as some of the New Year's greetings, but it is one of the most popular and well-known locally. It doesn't literally mean Happy New Year but is wishing the other joy and prosperity.

sad face icon

Don't: Lots of these! Don't sweep or clean house for two days, or you'll sweep away all the accumulated good luck. Ditto for hair and clothes washing. Don't speak unlucky words (say "death" and you'll be sorry!). Don't eat porridge (brings poverty). More No's: crying children, broken dishes, knives, black or white clothing, no hospital visits, and no borrowing or lending money. And don't give any one a clock or a mirror. Whew! Fortunately, after a couple of days, you can go back to normal and it won't affect the entire year.

The Year of the Rat 2020

Chinese tradition divides the year into 12 parts, each associated with one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. A person's character and personality are supposedly influenced by their birth sign.

Who is this rat? He's a lively, clever fellow, kind and well-liked, but he can be a bit stingy, with a tendency to hoard.

The rat does well financially, due to his prudent approach to money; he's smart and optimistic, but cautious.

His health can be delicate, and he may suffer from frequent colds, so he needs to pay attention to his diet and not overtire himself with work, but he tends to live a long life in spite of that.

Will the Year of the Rat be a good one or a bad one? The answer depends on which sign your were born under; Chinese astrology is complex and each animal interacts differently with all of the others.

Unlike most years, it's not a bad year for those born under this year's sign (rat years: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020). But for even better luck, wear a red item given you by an older relative. Or just ignore the whole thing and enjoy the festivities!

Insider Tip:

I've scouted the 2020 parade route for the best viewing spots. Here are the results, with photos.

More to explore...

  1. Home
  2. >
  3. Chinatown
  4. >
  5. Chinese New Year

Scroll down for COVID updates.

COVID-19 Status: at midnight on Monday, March 16, San Francisco was placed under a "shelter-in-place order.

All residents were ordered to stay home, except for necessary trips to grocery stores and essential medical visits, and solo outdoor activities like hiking.

The city has been gradually reopening of many businesses and activities, but others have been placed on hold.

Most recently, SF has been moved to the least restrictive tier (yellow) of the risk tiers in California due to a low infection rate of around 1% of tested residents.

Public transportation options have been cut way back. See SF transit for more info.

See COVID rules for current SF status.

Highlights of changes: everyone in SF is now required to wear a mask when they are outside and within 30 feet of other people.

Parking lots for SF beaches and the Golden Gate Bridge are now open (as well as the beaches and bridge).

Restaurants can offer indoor as well as outdoor dining, up to 50% capacity, and businesses can also allow customers inside.

Muir Woods, the SF Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden and the SF Zoo are now open. The zoo and Muir Woods require reservations.

Alcatraz is open starting August 17, but only the outdoor areas are accessible. Day tours only. See Alcatraz.

Sept changes: hotels, gyms, tour buses, and boat cruises opened (though not all are availing themselves, check individual businesses). Also indoor hair and nail salons/barbershops can open.

Museums Open: de Young Museum, SF MOMA, California Academy of Sciences, Asian Art Museum, and Conservatory of Flowers.

Museums Opening: Legion of Honor (Oct 30).

Exploratorium: spring 2021.

Playgrounds: open.

Schools: many private schools have begun reopening; SF public schools are still on hold, except for a few charter schools.

On hold: indoor movie theaters, and swimming pools.

Last to open will be concerts, live theater, sporting events, nightclubs and festivals.

For info on what's open in other cities and counties of California, see California reopening schedules.

See coronavirus news in the SF Chronicle for details and updates.

Also see site and parking lot closures for the National Park Service (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, etc.)

Plus helpful info on which parks and hiking trails are open in the Bay Area.

And to check the air quality (fires) in SF and the Bay Area, see and the SF Chronicle map showing current tests.

Fog City Mail logo

Get the latest tips on visiting San Francisco.

SF Bus, BART, & Cable Car routes.

thumbnail of SF muni bus map
Muni Route Map

Al Capone and the Alcatraz prison yard, how to get sold-out Alcatraz tickets.
Get Alcatraz tickets.