{Weekend Break}: Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Chinatown CNY paper decs

Happy Saturday! I’m going to start using the weekends to share some of my favorite places to go and things to do around the Bay Area. I did this for a while under the “Sweet San Francisco” category in my navigation bar, but I’m trying to get back to doing this more regularly. I’ll be mostly spotlighting bakeries, restaurants, and other sweet spots both longstanding and new, and sweets-related events, so if you’re looking for recommendations for when you visit the Bay Area, I hope you find some of these suggestions useful!

This first event I want to share isn’t exactly about dessert, but it’s very San Francisco. I was invited by AT&T to attend the Chinese Lunar New Year festival and parade in downtown San Francisco last weekend. Here are some of my favorite shots from the day.

Chinatown CNY Festival

Grant Avenue, the heart of Chinatown, and the location of the Chinese New Year Festival.

Chinatown Festival ATT
Chinatown CNY stuffed animals

Plenty of cute things for sale, like these animal plushies, or the good luck charms below.

Chinatown CNY good luck charms
Chinatown ATT booth

At the AT&T booth there was this cute game where people had to choose from cards printed with the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. There were different questions printed on the back and they could win prizes if they answered correctly. I got a selfie stick (although I didn’t figure out how to use in time to try it at the festival!)

Golden Gate Bakery

If you go to Chinatown, there’s one obligatory stop for dessert: Golden Gate Bakery, the classic choice for the best egg custard tarts (dan tat) ever. Lines of people impatiently waiting for the next fresh batch of tarts are a regular sight.

Golden Gate Bakery
1029 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

Chinatown golden tiger
Chinatown Kites
Chinatown Old Shanghai shop

I love this old fashioned storefront.

Chinatown lanterns
Chinatown sheep

A lineup of sheep for the Year of the Sheep.

Chinatown year of sheep

The highlight of all the Chinese New Year festivities is the parade: nearly 3 hours of elaborate floats, adorable costumed kids, marching bands, dancing lions, and cavorting dragons winding through the downtown streets. This parade has been an annual tradition since 1858, and has been named one of the top ten parades in the world. We were lucky enough to have bleacher seats right at Union Square and got a great view of all the color and noise.

Chinatown parade lions
CNY parade lion head 

Dancing lions up close.

CNY parade dragon
Chinatown parade float
Chinatown parade ATT float

The route is so long that you can usually find a good vantage point somewhere. I like standing on Market Street or on Post Street, in front of Union Square. Don’t miss the end of the parade, which features a 200 ft long dragon and over 600,000 firecrackers going off to scare the evil spirits away for the new year (bring earplugs or ear protection for your little ones!)

Chinatown parade dragons

This was Isabelle’s first time at the parade and she loved it, especially the dancing lions and dragons. It’s a beautiful slice of a unique part of San Francisco’s culture and a very entertaining way to spend a lovely springlike day (Final tip: typically the weather is chilly and drizzly so be prepared. We got lucky with some gorgeous warm weather). Happy Year of the Sheep!

Disclaimer: I received tickets to attend the New Year’s Eve parade from AT&T. All opinions in this post are my own.

CNY parade firecracker


  1. 7


    What a fun celebration! I’ve actually only been to San Francisco on very quick trips and have yet to make it to China Town. My parents went when I was a kid and I remember it being my mom’s favorite place in San Francisco. She even brought me a beautiful silk dress she found in China Town. I think it’s time I finally experienced it for myself!

  2. 9


    I have never been to San Francisco, but have a really good friend that moved there not long ago. I think a trip there, and to China Town, is in order!!

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