Chinese New Year for NYC Kids: Top 15 Ways to Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Free Parades & Festivals
Lunar New Year (often called Chinese New Year, though many different Asian nations celebrate it) is one of our favorite times in New York City. It's a great way to get immersed in another culture without buying an airplane ticket. Although the Year of the Horse officially begins on Friday, January 31, Lunar New Year celebrations start in late January and continue through February with many different traditions represented.
This is a wonderful opportunity for families to enjoy Asian food, and learn about Asian culture and stories. And with different Lunar New Year parades in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, it's also a great opportunity to go out and explore a new-to-you neighborhood.
From beloved annual events like parades in Chinatown, Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Lunar New Year festivals at museums and libraries, here are the 15 best ways to celebrate Chinese New Year with kids in NYC. Bonus: Lots of them are FREE.
Lunar New Year Celebrations – Crown Heights
Brooklyn Children's Museum, 145 Brooklyn Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place
Saturday, January 25-Sunday January 26
Free with admission: $9
Throughout the weekend, preschoolers can learn about the holiday and make themed crafts. But the main event is on Saturday, January 25. First, Puppetry In Practice performs the traditional Chinese folk tale The Empty Pot with shadow puppets. Afterward, kids can write their wishes for the world on small red paper squares and feed them to a giant Chinese dragon puppet as it parades throughout the entire museum.
Lunar New Year Family Celebration: The Year of Horse – Corona
Queens Museum, New York Avenue in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Sunday, January 26 1-4pm
Free with suggested admission: $8 for adults, $4 for students, free for children under age 12
If you haven't yet seen the beautifully renovated Queens Museum, this is the perfect excuse to visit. The New York Chinese Cultural Center sponsors a variety of Lunar New Year activities including a traditional lion dance, costumed folk dancing, and holiday crafts like paper cutting and calligraphy.
Lunar New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival – Chinatown
Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Grand and Forsyth Streets
Friday, January 31 11am-4pm
No, this isn't Chinatown's famous Lunar New Year Parade (that happens on Sunday, February 2). This is the nabe's other big holiday bash, which takes place on Chinese New Year proper. Kick off the Year of the Horse with a bang as 600,000 firecrackers explode to ward off evil spirits at noon. Afterward, dragon, unicorn and lion dancers will march through Chinatown's streets, and join in a festival featuring performances and food.
Family Festival: Gallop into the New Year with MOCA! – Chinatown
Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street between Grand and Hester Streets
Saturday, February 1 11am-4pm
$10, free for children under age 2
There's a lot to see at MOCA and this annual family festival is a great time to check out this under-the-radar museum. Kids can ring in the Year of the Horse with a lion dance performance and interactive workshop, create rattle drums and learn the art of paper folding, listen to traditional stories and catch a performance by Chinatown's Red Silk Dancers.
Family Day: Korean New Year – Midtown East
The Korea Society, 950 Third Avenue at 57th Street
Saturday, February 1 at 1 and 3pm
$15 per person, $30 per family
Ring in the Lunar New Year Korean-style by hearing traditional folk tales, practicing your formal bow, playing games, crafting kites and chowing down on ethnic eats.
Saturday Family Program: Chinese New Year – Prospect Heights
Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza
Saturday, February 1 at 1pm
Celebrate the Year of the Horse with a free family performance by Music From China, whose performers play traditional songs on the erhu, pipa, zheng and ruan.
Moon Over Manhattan: Celebrate the Lunar New Year Family Day – Upper East Side
Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets
Saturday, February 1 1-4pm
$12 for adults, $5 for children
This pan-Asian celebration features a lion dance, kung fu demos, Vietnamese Dong Ho folk painting, traditional musical performances and drop-in holiday crafts.
Lunar New Year Celebration – Corona
Queens Zoo, 53-51 111th Street in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Saturday, February 1-Sunday February 2 11am-4pm
Free with admission: $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-12
Celebrate the Year of the Horse by getting up close and personal with the zoo's equines, catching an interactive dance workshop with Chinese Theatre Works, crafting dragon masks and lanterns, and then wearing them in the Dragon Mask Parade.
Chinese New Year Celebration: The Year of the Horse – Upper East Side
China Institute, 125 East 65th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues
Sunday, February 2 11am-3pm
Free for the lion dance; $30 for each workshop or $50 per adult-child pair
Families can enjoy a lion dance and kung fu demos outside the China Institute at no cost. It's a great way to introduce Chinese New Year to younger kids who aren't ready for the big parades. There are also three somewhat pricey workshops on dumpling making, paper cutting and calligraphy inside the institute.
Brooklyn Lunar New Year Parade – Sunset Park
Begins at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street
Sunday, February 2; performances begin at 10am, parade noon-1pm
We've never been to Brooklyn's Chinese New Year celebration, but we've heard from friends and readers that it's a great one to hit since it's a bit under the radar. No wonder: Annual organizer the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association never posts the info on its website, but we called and verified that the parade starts at noon, preceded by appearances from community luminaries, cultural performances for kids and adults, and firecrackers at 10am. The procession ends at 60th Street and Eighth Avenue.
Manhattan Lunar New Year Parade – Chinatown
Begins at Mott and Hester Streets, continues south on Mott Street to Chatham Square, turns east on East Broadway to Forsyth Street, north on Forsyth Street to Broome Street
Sunday, February 2 at 1pm
Approximately half a million spectators line the streets of Chinatown for this colorful pan-Asian procession, which includes Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Malaysian and even Hispanic floats and cultural performances. Arrive early—by noon at the latest—if you want to snag a good spot. It's a very festive and very loud affair that's way too crowded for strollers, so it's probably a bit much for the preschool set. After you've watched your fill, head to Sara D. Roosevelt Park at Canal and Forsyth Streets for an outdoor cultural festival, which begins at noon. If you want to finish the day with dim sum, check out our roundup of family-friendly Chinatown restaurants, which, as you can imagine, will be pretty busy. Be prepared to wait!
Queens Lunar New Year Parade and Celebration – Flushing
Begins at Union Street and 37th Avenue, heads south on Union Street to Sanford Avenue, turns west to Main Street and heads north to 37th Avenue
Saturday, February 8 at 11am
Since Flushing is home to a huge community of Chinese and East Asian residents, it's no wonder its parade rivals Chinatown's. Expect dragon dancers, steel drummers, firecrackers and crowds.
Lunar New Year Festival – Upper East Side
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
Saturday, February 8 noon-5pm
Free with suggested admission: $25 for adults, free for children under 12
A true pan-Asian celebration at the Met, with activities and entertainment from across the continent. Catch live performances by the New York Chinese Cultural Center Dancers, the Chinese Center on Long Island Lion Troupe, traditional Tibetan dancers, the China Youth Orchestra and Indonesian gamelan musicians. Try hands-on crafts like crown making, ink painting, calligraphy and paper folding, and work on a collaborative horse scroll. See Sesame Street puppeteers and Alan in action, and take kid-friendly tours of the exhibit Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom.
Lunar New Year Celebration – Staten Island
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terrace
Sunday, February 9 2-3:30pm
Snug Harbor is one of our favorite Staten Island destinations, especially its serene New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden. See the green space in all its glory as the New York Chinese Cultural Center presents traditional folk dancing, classical and hip-hop-style lion dances, and Asian arts and crafts.
Lunar New Year Dance Sampler – Flushing
Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard between Main and Union Streets
Sunday, February 16 at 1pm
FREE but tickets required
With Flushing's large Asian population, it's no wonder that this local culture spot hosts multiple Lunar New Year celebrations throughout January and February. However, the big bash is this annual fest featuring a diverse lineup of dances from China, Korea, India, Taiwan and beyond. Although the performance is free, tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11am on the day of the show. Other Lunar New Year events of interest to kids include a series of Sunday afternoon Asian art workshops for families in February.
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