We’ve put together a selection of fun San Diego Lunar New Year events worth attending for those who would like to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.
Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year if you are of Chinese heritage) is a holiday recognized in China, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, Singapore, and Tibet and by many emigrants from all over the world from these Southeast Asian countries.
The date is based on the lunisolar calendar, which this year is January 22, 2023, and those born in this zodiac year are said to be calm, prosperous, and agile.
The holiday is incredibly important in our home as my daughter is proud to have been born in Hong Kong during the Year of the Golden Pig. It is by far the most important celebration there, lasting 15 days, though typically only three of those days are public holidays. During that time, the whole family often gathers together to celebrate the lunar new year with events like traditional performances and other fun activities.
Without further ado, here is a list of Lunar New Year San Diego events — get ready to discover fun activities you won’t want to miss.
Lunar New Year Charity Gala at Jasmine Seafood
The San Diego United Lions Club’s Lunar New Year Charity Gala is an annual event that many in San Diego look forward to. Proceeds support the San Diego United Lions Club charitable projects worldwide.
- Sunday, February 5, 2023
- Happy Hour: 5 p.m.-6 p.m. and Dinner Gala: 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
- Buy Tickets: $65 or $600 (Table of 10)
The popular dim sum restaurant also usually hosts lion dances throughout the month, which are fun for families. We bring lai see (traditional red envelopes with dollar bills inside) for good luck and to support the student lion troupe and their organization.
Annual San Diego Chinese New Year Food and Cultural Fair
The annual San Diego Chinese New Year Fair hosted by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association spans two days. It’s held on Third Avenue and J Street in downtown San Diego’s old Chinatown.
Attendees shop handicrafts, eat tons of traditional food and enjoy live entertainment ranging from acrobats to traditional Chinese music performances. You’ll also be treated to a lantern parade and children’s crafts.
- Saturday, February 4, and Sunday, February 5
- 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday
- Free to enter
Annual San Diego Tet Festival
This annual Tet festival hosts several competitions, including a Miss Vietnam of San Diego pageant, a pho eating contest, a Golden Voice competition, and kids’ opportunity to share their knowledge about Vietnamese culture.
Guests can also look forward to Vietnamese food, carnival rides and games, firecrackers, a kids’ art contest, Taiko drum performances, and lion dances. The location is Mira Mesa Community Park.
- January 27-29, 2023
- 5-10 p.m. (Friday), 11 a.m.–10 p.m. (Saturday) and 11 a.m.–6 or 9 p.m. (Sunday)
- Free to watch
House of China’s Chinese New Year Fair
Join House of China, part of the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park, for a Chinese New Year celebration complete with dancing lions, Chinese performances, Chinese food, crafts, calligraphy, and more.
- January 21-22
- 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
- Free to enter
San Diego Lunar New Year Festival
Where else in San Diego in January can you find dragons, lion dances, firecrackers, live music and performances, arts and crafts, and more?
At the San Diego Lunar New Year festival, of course. This free and family-friendly event is back this year, and they are ready to bring in the lunar new year with style.
- January 20-22, 2023
- 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday, January 20th; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday, January 21st; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sunday, January 22
Lunar New Year at the San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo welcomes the whole family to celebrate the good fortune of the new lunar year at the zoo. Take on crafts, engage wildlife care specialists, enjoy Flavors of Asia, or take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about iconic species like the snow leopard and other incredible wildlife.
A visit to the San Diego zoo is also an investment in future generations. Your visit supports groundbreaking conservation efforts for endangered wildlife worldwide, such as orangutan families, and combats illegal trafficking of orchids and other endangered wildlife.
- February 4-5
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Lunar New Year Celebration at the Bill & Marcia Collins Community Room
Enjoy a presentation by the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum followed by a craft after. Recommended for ages 5-11.
- January 19: 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Lunar New Year at Village Faire
Ring in the new year at Village Faire in Carlsbad with Chinese wooden flute music to celebrate the lunar calendar year of the Rabbit.
- January 22: 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Library Lunar New Year Celebrations
Many local libraries have their own lunar celebrations, including:
- Balboa Library: Held at Olive Grove park, all ages are welcome to witness the magnificent lion dance. January 21 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
- Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa Library: Check out the gravity-defying stunts of the GDPT Chanh Kien group as they perform the lion dance. January 21, 12 p.m.-12:30 p.m.
- College Rolando branch library: Mixing crafts with culture, the library will use a craft to make connections with the lunar new year. Registration recommended. January 28, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
- Powell Library: The entire family can join in the celebration with crafts, balloon animals, and lion dancers. January 28, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Be sure to check your local library for events as well.
New Restaurants to Celebrate the Lunar New Year
Why not enjoy a delicious Asian meal in celebration of the Lunar New Year? Here are a few new San Diego restaurants open just in time for the new year.
- Haidilao San Diego: Head to Haidilao, a famous Chinese hot pot restaurant from Sichuan province. During our most recent visit, performers (like traditional face changing) were handing out lai see to guests.
- QiWest Noodles: Quick service and casual is the name of the game at this popular Chinese chain from L.A. Noodles are often eaten to celebrate the new year and to represent long and uninterrupted prosperity and life. With classics like chicken chow mein, beef noodle soup and cold noodles with cucumbers, your meal will bring good fortune for the rest of the year.
- White Rice Bodega: This Filipino rice-bowl chain has made a splash on the San Diego foodie scene not only for its crispy pork belly, tofu sisig and ube milk tea, but the fact that every meal purchased means one donated to San Diegens facing hunger. Mixing delicious food with a fantastic cause is the definition of winning in our book.
- Market on 8th: This food hall hosts a variety of food genres, including a Filipino kitchen, Thai street food, ramen, and poke. No matter what you choose, there is something here for everyone.
Celebrate Chinese New Year on Your Own at Home
Chinese New Year is an important holiday in our house. In fact, I’m headed to 99 Ranch for our usual stash of candy and dried fruit, part of a traditional eight-part Tray of Togetherness to snack from throughout the season (I’ll share details for what to include shortly).
You can also celebrate at home with crafts. In addition to the resources provided in the link to the Japanese Friendship Garden above, I have easy instructions for how to make a paper lantern and a list of free Chinese New Year printables.
You can also use the opportunity to leave bowls of citrus on the table for the family to eat or even put Chinese New Year citrus trees on each side of your doorstep.
It’s also fun to put together Chinese New Year red envelopes for the kids in your life. You can order red envelopes on Amazon or find them at markets like 99 Ranch.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
How do you celebrate Lunar New Year in San Diego? If there are activities that I’ve missed, please leave them in the comments.