This Saturday, February 20th from 5:15 to 8pm, San Francisco's annual two-week-long Chinese New Year festivities will culminate with the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade. One of the top 10 parades in the world, San Francisco's celebration is the largest of its kind outside of Asia.
Established in 1848, San Francisco's Chinatown holds the distinction of being not only the oldest Chinatown in North America but also of having the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. A major tourist attraction, the area covers 24 square blocks in downtown San Francisco, according to San Francisco's Planning Department, it is 'the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan' with 15,000 residents living within its boundaries.
Celebrating the Year of the Monkey, the parade includes elaborate floats, colorful costumes, school marching bands, stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats, martial arts groups and this year's Miss Chinatown USA. The parade's grand finale includes the 268 foot Golden Dragon and more than 60,000 firecrackers. Constructed in Foshan, China, the 29 segment dragon is made of bamboo and rattan and is adorned with white rabbit fur, glittering lights and rainbow pom-poms, and silver rivets. With its 6-foot long head, it takes 100 people to carry the Dragon along the parade route.
Beginning at Second and Market Streets, meandering around the perimeter of Union Square, heading north on Kearny Street, the parade finishes at Jackson Street. Bleacher seats are available for $30 at various points along the route but many attendees opt to stand along the streets. Whether you sit or stand, it is best to arrive between 3:30 and 4pm. Public transportation delivers riders very close to the parade route but if you are driving, parking south of Market is your best option.
Map of the Chinese New Year parade route.
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