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How to See the SF Chinese New Year Parade (And More)

Parking! Transit! Routes! Activities! Read our tips for San Francisco's celebration of the Year of the Snake, which comes to a crescendo Saturday night, but is a lot going on during the day, both in San Francisco and elsewhere.

 

Headed to San Francisco Saturday for the big Chinese New Year celebration? Here's how to plan ahead.

The night-time parade is the finale to a two-week celebration and there are plenty of activities during the day if you want to play first in the East Bay or the mid-Peninsula. There is also an entire community fair in Chinatown including special free events at the Chinese Historical Society of America, if you want to make a day of it in San Francisco.

The parade is a tradition that dates back more than 100 years in San Francisco, one that adopted a heavy dose of Americana in the 1950s. It's one biggest events in the city, one that attract both tourists and locals alike. 

"A lot of families come," Karen Eng, Chinese New Year parade spokeswoman, said, including visitors from outside the Bay Area and from around the world.

With more than 100 contingents, the parade includes lighted floats, marching bands from around the country, scores of lion dancers, more than a couple of dragons, and characters in costume. It's at once familiar and unlike most parades you've seen (look for the unit from Cupertino Union School District's Meyerholz and Miller schools, where the Chinese Immersion Program are run). Crowds will be big, and the vibe family-friendly and festive. Step lively and be ready to cover your ears for the firecrackers.

Here's some critical things to know:

  • TV: Can't go? KTVU Fox 2 and Channel 2 and KTSF Channel 26 will be live-broadcasting the New Year parade in English and Chinese, 6-8 p.m.
  • Route: The parade steps off at 5:15 p.m. from Chinatown Second and Market streets, north up Post Street then wraps around to Sutter Street before making its way up Kearny Street through Chinatown. The route has been modified to avoid construction near the Union Square area for the Central Subway project.
  • Parade Strategy: Eng suggested finding a viewing spot on Market Street or along Sutter Street for the parade. Chinatown streets will be very crowded. Market Street is the widest boulevard.
  • Transportation: To get to the festival, which is expected to draw as many as 1 million attendees, public transit officials suggest ditching private cars. If you must drive, park in garages outside of Chinatown and downtown. Anything north of Market Street will be a snarled mess with road closures and any trapped traffic. Chinatown groups have paid for a free shuttle service from the Golden Gateway garage in the Financial District, is open until 10 p.m.
  • Caltrain will be offering hourly service into San Francisco at Fourth and King streets with San Francisco Municipal Railway transfers available into downtown. The last Caltrain leaves San Francisco at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning toward San Jose.
  • BART is ready to accommodate large crowds that will be exiting at the Powell and Montgomery stations. 
  • Muni will reroute several downtown buses, and Metro lines will rerouted around closed streets. Cable cars will shut down during this time period.
  • The Stockton Tunnel in Chinatown will be closed between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday.

More information about the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade is found at www.chineseparade.com.

See Patch's updated guide to all Lunar New Year activities during the daytime before the parade.

 

—Bay City News contributed to this report

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