The Inside Scoop on the 2013 Chinese New Year Parade

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Get your shoulders prepped – a parade is coming to town, and chances are good that your little ones are gonna want a good seat for all the action. In San Francisco, the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade is to Chinese New Year what fireworks are to the 4th of July. A tradition in the city since the 1860s, the parade is one of the largest in the world, and a wonderful way to welcome the Year of the Dragon this February 23rd. Besides, when’s the last time you took the kids to an evening parade to see the streets lit up with floats, dancers, and marching bands? Here’s the scoop on how to get a great view of the 250-foot-long Golden Dragon and have the most fun at the parade.

parade 2

Getting there:
Downtown is crowded enough on a regular day, let alone for a parade. Safe to say, traffic won’t be pretty, especially when the show’s over and it’s a race to get home. Public transportation’s the way to go. If you’re BARTing in, choose your exit based on where you want to be on the parade route. Which takes us to…

Where to go:
The parade extends from Market and Second Street to Kearney and Columbus. The closer you get to Chinatown, the thicker the crowds will be. If you want a great view without the masses around you, try herding the fam somewhere along Post Street, where the parade passes through just before turning on Kearney. If you wish to be in the heart of the crowd, head to Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. Print out a copy of the parade route from the parade website before you take off.

When to go:
The Chinese New Year Parade takes place in the evening from 5:15 pm – 8:00 pm. The best bet with little ones is to come early and if you need to, leave early. Try getting to the city by early afternoon to sightsee or meander through the Chinatown shops– a visit to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is always a big hit with kids. For a good seat, try to line-up for the parade by 4:15 pm. If you don’t plan on buying knick-knacks, pack some distractions to keep the kids busy for an hour. And if your little ones are not in good spirits for an evening out, there is always the Chinese New Year Community Street Fair on February 23rd and 24th for some daytime fun.


What to see:
Stilt walkers, elaborate floats and costumes, Chinese acrobats, martial artists, and lion dancers will be there on over 100 floats. This year’s zodiac sign is the Snake, so look for several snake-themed floats, banners, and costumes that reflect this year’s animal. Prepare the little ones for loud sounds and sights, since the grand finale is going to be accompanied by more than 600,000 firecrackers staving off evil for the coming year.


What to bring:
The parade is coming rain or shine – so plan accordingly. This means umbrellas, stroller covers and rain gear. With or without wet weather, San Francisco gets awfully chilly at night, so dress warmly and remember to wear comfy shoes. Also, the parade is 2.5 hours long and takes place around dinner time, so sandwiches and snacks will help prevent a potential meltdown. Don’t forget the camera!


Got any tips for tackling this year’s Chinese New Year Parade? What’s your secret for taking your kids to the parade?

— Renee Macalino Rutledge

photo credit: Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade & Festival facebook page