Guided by the moon phases, Lunar New Year marks a significant annual celebration for many across the Asian diaspora. Here in the US, the Asian American population has doubled in the first two decades of the millennium—and this year, cities across the country are preparing some of the most elaborate Lunar New Year festivities yet.
From ornate decorations coloring casinos in Las Vegas to lively parades with lion dancers from New York City to San Francisco—and even an iconic celebration at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California—American cities are celebrating Lunar New Year by decking themselves out in fortuitous red hues and indulging in auspicious foods, like dumplings, whose gold ingot shapes are said to usher in prosperity.
This year, the holiday starts on February 10, and is typically celebrated for 15 days from the new moon to full moon. But 2024's revelries promise to come on an even grander scale since it ushers in the Year of the Dragon, the most favored animal of the 12 on the Chinese zodiac.
One thing the fates can also tell us: American cities sure know how to celebrate Lunar New Year. Here are a few of our favorite destinations ringing in the Year of the Dragon.
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New York City
With 17.3% of the population identifying as Asian, New York City is home to nine Chinatown communities, with the one in Manhattan being the marquee attraction. Here, the Lunar New Year Parade and Festival kicks off with a Firecracker Ceremony and Culture Festival in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on February 10 and culminates with the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival throughout the neighborhood on February 25. Run for Chinatown will hold its third annual Lunar New Year Bridgeathon run on February 17 and Think! Chinatown is hosting events all month, from a workshop on rituals to a mahjong party. Celebrate year-round, by exploring the curated highlights on Welcome to Chinatown’s interactive map or taking a food or history tour with the Mott Street Girls.
Over in Queens, Flushing’s Chinatown has two different parades during the first weekend, an indoor celebration on February 10 at Tangram Mall and an outdoor one on February 11 from Glow Cultural Center to Flushing Town Hall. Brooklyn’s Sunset Park’s Chinatown is always enticing with its food selection along Eighth Avenue, be it dim sum, egg tarts, or roasted pork.
But it’s not just the city’s Chinatowns that are rolling out the red decor. Long Island City is welcoming the dragon early with its third annual LIC Lunar New Year Celebration, a month-long celebration launching January 31 with more than 80 activities. (Don’t miss the Yelp Lunar New Year Boba Bonanza, where you can win JetBlue tickets by checking off five of the area’s 10 bubble tea shops). Brooklyn is launching its first NYC AAPI Lunar New Year Night Market on February 2 at Hana House, and on February 17, Bryant Park's morning celebration includes a ribbon dancing class and the Seaport's day-long activities includes nautically-themed Chinese Lion Chain craft—and both have lion dancing.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will also hold a full day of programming on February 3 with poetry readings from Asian American bookstore Yu and Me Books and a Sesame Street Muppeteers show with Japanese American actor Alan Muraoka, who plays Hooper’s Store shop owner.
San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco, home to North America’s first and largest Chinatown, hosts one of the largest parades outside of Asia as part of its Chinese New Year Festival and Parade. As proof, the grand marshal for this year’s February 24 procession will be Crazy Rich Asians and Awkwafina is Nora from Queens star Awkwafina. Events also include a Flower Market Fair on February 3 and 4, Basketball Jamboree on February 17, Miss Chinatown Pageant and Coronation Ball on February 23, and a Chinatown YMCA Run on March 3.
Oakland holds a Lunar New Year Celebration at Jack London Square on February 10, and is also bringing back its Lunar New Year Parade in Wilma Chan Park for the second year on February 18, while the Oakland Museum of California returns for the 23rd year with its February 17 celebration designed to uplift the AAPI community.
In the South Bay, San Jose is brimming with Lunar New Year spirit, from the kid-friendly Children’s Discovery Museum event melding both Chinese and Vietnamese traditions on February 3, to the San Jose Lunar New Year Festival at History Park on February 3 and 4, and the Santana Row Lunar New Year Celebration on February 10 with lion dancing and red envelope surprises. For Asian cuisine of all types, Cupertino never disappoints, whether it’s joining in the hours-long wait at Chicha San Chen for tea honored by the International Taste Institute, or the modern dim sum at Koi Palace Contempo.
With its first Asian American mayor, Michelle Wu, in office and 1 in 10 Bostonians being Asian, the New England hub proudly celebrates its AAPI community throughout the celebratory season. A Lunar New Year Flower Market runs from February 2 to 9 at China Trade Center, while the Vietnamese 35th Annual Tết in Boston Day Festival takes place February 4 at Flynn Cruiseport. Both MIT’s LEAP Lab and the Peabody Essex Museum hold events on February 10, while Berklee College of Music puts on a 2024 Chinese New Year Concert on February 13, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has special $5 pricing on February 15 to enjoy brush painting, martial arts demos, and Vietnamese dancing.
It all culminates on February 18 with the Chinese New Year Lion Dance Parade in Phillips Square. For a deep dive, join the Boston Chinatown Tours special tour that morning at 9 a.m. before the parade to learn about the importance of the holiday and the lion dance, followed by a dim sum meal after the procession. Also that day, the Lunar New Year Cultural Village at China Trade Center focuses on kids' activities like calligraphy, origami, and lantern making.
To seal in good fortune for the dragon year, join Mei Mei Dumplings for its dumpling-making classes, for a hands-on experience of how to perfectly craft pan-seared dumplings.
Seattle’s diverse population has been spurred on by the growth of its Asian population, now accounting for about 18% of the city—and its Lunar New Year activities reflect that with a vibrant line-up all month long.
On February 3, a pair of museums host festivals: the Wing Luke Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate pan-Asian Pacific American museum, in the Chinatown-International District, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which will spotlight its Asian art collection, in the art deco in Volunteer Park building. That weekend, Seattle Center also will transform into the site of the Vietnamese celebration of Tết in Seattle, complete with an ao dai fashion show and cultural performances.
The following weekend, an adults-only Lunar New Year Night Market runs from 4 to 10 p.m. on February 10 with stands from 35 makers and eateries along with live performances, a dance party, and, of course, a boozy boba bar. On February 18, downtown’s Westlake Park steps up with all the traditions, including lucky spring rolls from Asean Streat Food Hall and a spin on good luck tangerines in the form of lattes flavored with the citrus from Bloom Coffee.
For the final weekend, Sea-town pulls out all the stops with its entire Chinatown-International District getting in on the action February 24 for a Lunar New Year Celebration spotlighting every animal in the Chinese zodiac, as well as commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s passing. Also that day is the Seattle Chinese Garden Lunar New Year Lantern Festival.
For a double dose of excitement, kick off Lunar New Year weekend in Las Vegas, which also happens to coincidence with Super Bowl weekend, when the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Even with the thrill of the city hosting the big game for the first time, it’s still going all out for the Asian holiday, in only a way that Vegas can.
Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens has already unveiled one of the most impressive exhibits, “Infinite Prosperity: The Year of the Dragon,” which will be on display through March 2. Driven by large-scale floral arrangements, the imagery captures the “rich tapestry of Asian architecture, folklore, and culture, with each element meticulously designed to symbolize the promise of a favorable new year,” the hotel described in a release. All of Caesars Entertainment’s resorts—including Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, and Nobu Hotel—will also be decked out, from hangers and banners to firecrackers.
The roars from the lion dances will rival those from the football fans at Allegiant Stadium February 11, with shows on February 10 at Palace Station and Durango, February 12 at Red Rock Casino and Green Valley Ranch, February 16 at The Cromwell, Flamingo Las Vegas, The LINQ Hotel + Experience, and Harrah’s Las Vegas, and February 17 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Horseshoe Las Vegas, and Caesars Palace. Dragons will join lions for the dancing at Resorts World Las Vegas on February 10, ARIA on February 15, Bellagio on February 16, and MGM Grand on February 17.
Even the shopping center Fashion Show Las Vegas will get a new touch with musical lanterns from February 10 through 25. With all that prosperity in the air, perhaps a jackpot is also in the cards.
Settled by Cantonese immigrants in the 19th century, Philadelphia’s Chinatown now represents cultures spanning from Fujianese, Sichuan, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Burmese, and Vietnamese.
The city’s own Philadelphia Suns lion dancing troupe anchors many of the celebrations, including a pair of parades. First they count down with a New Year’s Eve Midnight Parade that starts at 10 p.m. on February 9, followed by a daytime procession on February 11, starting at 11 a.m. The busy revelers also will perform at The Rail Park’s February 10 celebration and both Franklin Square and Dilworth Park’s February 17 festivities.
Landmarks in the birthplace of America all host their takes: The Philadelphia Museum of Art highlights Chinese culture in a February 11 event, where Chinese artisans from the Zhejiang province will host demos on sugar painting, rice sculptures, puppetry, and tea whisking, as well as invite visitors to make woodblock prints, while The Fashion District’s February 17 event includes a BalletSunMi show and K-pop dance lessons.
One favorite is the Dumpling Academy’s Chinese Lunar New Year Handmade Dumpling Making party, which also includes making sweet tangyuan and indulging in dim sum.
Greater Los Angeles Area
With about a third of all of the Asians in America living in the Golden State, the diaspora is spread out across the greater Los Angeles area. Chinatown, just north of downtown L.A., springs to life during the holiday, especially its historic center, where tens of thousands will line the streets on and around North Broadway and Hill Street on February 17 for the 125th Golden Dragon Parade, where the new Miss Los Angeles Chinatown will make her debut public appearance. The weekend of February 24 and 25, the streets become a racing zone for both runners and bikers—and even dog walkers—for the Firecracker 10K.
While the Asian American suburb of Monterey Park to the east already toasted the Year of the Dragon with a two-day festival on Garvey Festival drawing thousands, the neighborhood remains festive throughout February. Nearby Alhambra shuts down Main Street on February 18 for its celebration with traditional performances and artisan stands, plus cooking demos and even augmented reality activities.
But one of the area’s most iconic celebrations has become Disneyland Resort’s Lunar New Year Celebration in Disney California Adventure Park, ongoing now through February 18. Catch Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession and the Hurry Home—A Lunar New Year Celebration pre-show water spectacular, while enjoying specially created Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean food menus for the season. Even Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Mulan, Mushu—and for the first time Raya and the Last Dragon's Raya—get in the spirit with holiday attire.
Houston's six-square mile Chinatown represents its Indochinese population, the second largest in the country after Los Angeles. Since its Asian community is so broad, the city is also apt to call the area Asiatown to reflect its significant Vietnamese community, as well as Korean, Malaysian, Pakistani, and Indian cultures.
The Texan celebrations are plentiful, starting with a day-long celebration on February 4 at POST Houston, hosted by Washington Ho and the Ho family from HBO Max's House of Ho. Then on February 10, there are festival hops through the Asia Society and Chinese Community Center's events, as well as the Texas Lunar Festival. The following weekend, the festivities continue with Lunar New Year Houston, two days filled with dance, martial arts, and treats of every kind, on February 17 and 18 at Viet Hoa Center.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler