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 Dragon.

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 is February 10, 2024, and those born in this zodiac year are said to be smart, naturally lucky, and confident.

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. 

  • Friday, February 2, 2024
  • Happy Hour: 5 p.m.-6 p.m.; Program 6 p.m. and Dinner 6:30 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.

Lion Dances at Jasmine Seafood

The popular Cantonese restaurant also has multiple days where diners can enjoy lion dances during dim sum lunch and dinner service. We’ve been, and it’s quite fun. However, during the dances, food and drink service is stopped, so just be prepared for that.

  • Dates and times for 2024 are TBD.

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 24, and Sunday, February 25
  • 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 San Diego pageant, a pho eating contest, a Step Up Dance 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.

  • February 16-18, 2024
  • 5-10 p.m. (Friday), 11 a.m.–10 p.m. (Saturday) and 11 a.m.–6 or 9 p.m. (Sunday)
  • sdtet.com
  • Free to watch

House of China’s Chinese New Year Festival & Dinner

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.

They’ll also host a separate Chinese New Year dinner at Jasmine Seafood with live entertainment such as lion dances and a drawing. Proceeds benefit the House of China and the Chinese School of San Diego.

San Diego Lunar New Year Festival

Where else in San Diego in February 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 put on by the Little Saigon Foundation of San Diego is back this year at Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park, and they are ready to bring in the lunar new year with style.

  • February 9–11, 2024 
  • 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday, February 9th; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday, February 10th; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sunday, February 11th

Lunar New Year at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcome 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 17-18, 2024

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Storytellers of San Diego: “Year of the Dragon”

Head over to the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum to hear storytellers Jim Dieckmann, Aunt Li-Anne, and Mindy Donner share tales of dragons and other interesting historical narratives, including the fishing traditions that brought many Chinese to San Diego. Appropriate for all ages.

  • January 27, 2024
  • 2–3 p.m
  • Free for museum members, guests with purchased museum admission, and children under 12.

Library Lunar New Year Celebrations

Many local libraries have their own lunar celebrations for the whole family. Some examples include (there are so many more):

  • Poway Library: Year of the Dragon celebration with cultural performances, crafts, and balloon animals. Sunday, February 18, 1:30–3:30 p.m.
  • Del Mar Library: A performance by CK Lion Dancers. Friday, February 9, 11:30 a.m.– 12 p.m.
  • San Marcos Library: Lunar New Year craft for families. Tuesday, February 6, 5–6 p.m.
  • Carmel Valley Library: Lunar New Year celebration with crafts, refreshments, and a lion dance performance. Saturday, February 3, 2024.
  • Point Loma/Hervey Library: Enjoy a reading of “Bringing in the New Year” by Grace Lin and “Lanterns and Firecrackers” by Jonny Zucker, plus a craft afterward. All geared toward ages 3–5. Thursday, February 8, 10:30–11:30 a.m.

For even more options, check the City of San Diego Library Event Page and the San Diego County Library Event page.

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 San Diego restaurants to consider aside from Jasmine Seafood already mentioned above.

  • Emerald Chinese Cuisine: They usually have special Chinese New Year menus for a la carte ordering or set menus for groups. And let’s not forget the karaoke room you can reserve for a small group.
  • Haidilao San Diego: Head to Haidilao, a famous Chinese hot pot restaurant from Sichuan province. Last year when we went during Chinese New Year, performers (like traditional face changing) were handing out lai see to guests.
  • Golden Island Dim Sum: This Mira Mesa hotspot is also popular for Chinese New Year in San Diego as they typically have lion dances.

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.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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2 Comments

  1. If you want to build a deeper understanding of Chinese New Year traditions, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum is offering several exciting exhibits that are fun and informative for the whole family. In the Sun Yat-Sen Extension building, Chris Lowe has installed an exhibit about how to build and refurbish the lion heads used in the traditional New Year’s lion dance. You can see the lions dancing during the Chinese New Year Festival on the street outside, then step inside and see how the costumes are made. The exhibit also includes exquisite hand-painted paper cut-outs of festive New Year designs and traditional Chinese New Year Prints. In the Chuang Archive and Learning Center, you can say goodbye to the Year of the Horse with Jack Liang’s Spirit of the Celestial Horse: Forging Chinese Painting into a New Frontier, an exhibit that puts a new twist on traditional Chinese painting. All of these exhibits are on display now until the end of February and are included in the museum’s regular $2 admission, free for children 12 and under.