Happy Lunar New Year, friends! We didn’t do much more than make stir fry this year to celebrate, but in the past we have made the trek down to Chinatown for Chinese New Year in Manhattan, for their awesome Firecracker Ceremony and Lunar New Year Parade. They’re both amazing cultural events with a lot going on (and a lot of people, which I can only take so much of). These festivals are also a photographer’s dream, as there’s so much color and a bit of craziness.
My kids loved visiting Chinatown in Manhattan for Lunar New Year – we explored all kinds of shops, ate incredible food, and spent a good deal of our day just watching people. Here’s a bit about our experience – in photos, of course.
Chinatown, Manhattan – New York City
Chinatown is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s home to the largest population of Chinese in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 100,000 people calling this neighborhood home. It’s a lively place no matter when you choose to visit, but Lunar New Year in Manhattan is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Venice. Be prepared for some excitement!
Getting to Chinatown in New York City:
We chose to drive into Manhattan and use a Chinatown garage for parking, but you can certainly take the D or B subway line to Grand Street.
The Firecracker Ceremony in Chinatown, Manhattan
This is a formal New Year’s Day ceremony and cultural event in Sarah D. Roosevelt Park, complete with drumming and dances, a parade through the streets, and lion dancers all over. The festival always takes place on New Year’s Day, starting at around 11 am and running late into the afternoon. Although there’s always a crowd, it’s a great event for children. Here are some tips for attending.
- Be prepared for noise and smoke. Strings of firecrackers are ignited to kick off the ceremony.
- Dress warm. This is really important. We did a lot of standing around, and you just never know what the weather will be like in February.
- Make dining reservations. Many restaurants are closed on New Year’s Day, and the one’s that open are a bit of a mob scene, so be sure to plan ahead. As an alternative, there are awesome places to eat outside of Chinatown, but still within walking distance on the Lower East Side.
The Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown, New York City
Unlike the Firecracker Ceremony, the Lunar New Year Parade is held on a different day each year, usually the weekend after New Year’s Day. This awesome spectacle features, floats, magicians, lion dancers, dragon dancers, acrobats, and musicians totaling more than 5,000 people. The parade begins in the afternoon and winds its way through Chinatown (Mott Street, East Broadway, and Division Street). Afterwards, head to Roosevelt Park to visit the food vendors (our favorite part), plus check out the lineup of performances by martial artists, dancers, and musicians.
A trip to the big city is a great way to break up a long winter — at least for us, and while February is kind of grey and dreary in New York City, this is definitely the most colorful event of the season.
Have you been to a traditional Lunar New Year Celebration in America? Tell us more in the comments!
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