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The best things to do for Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Chinese New Year)

Ring in the Year of the Rat with these fun and colorful cultural events happening all over the city

By Jennifer Picht and Shaye Weaver |
15th annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival, Chinese New Year
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Just as the partying dies down and we settle deep into winter, Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year) is here to lift us up with bursting firecrackers, lion dances and delicious cuisine. Starting on January 25, New Yorkers can head to Manhattan's Chinatown for the Firecracker Ceremony and later, on February 9, the Chinese New Year Parade. The parade is hands down one of the best events in February. If less raucous revelry is more to your taste, sit back and fill your belly at one of the best Chinese restaurants in NYC.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Lunar New Year in NYC

Things to do for Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year Pearl River Mart
Photograph: Courtesy Pearl River Mart
Things to do

Lunar New Year at Pearl River Mart

Pearl River Mart, Tribeca

NYC's favorite Asian-inspired emporium has a full line-up of ways to celebrate the Year of the Rat.  On Saturday, January 18, between 5 and 7pm, check out its Chinatown Odyssey art exhibition of Jerry Ma, a novel artist whose illustrations tell the classic Chinese tale of the Monkey King and his minions as they journey through 1980s Chinatown. Then on January 25, its Tribeca location is having a tasting of Lunar New Year treats (1–5pm), a dumpling-making demo and tasting (1–3pm), a dim sum tasting and happy hour (3:30–5:30pm) and a lantern procession (4–4:30pm). On January 26, its Chelsea Market location is hosting a ribbon dance performance (3–3:30pm), a lion dance with drumming and acrobatics (4:30–5pm) and a dumpling tasting and happy hour (5–6pm). All locations will offer a 15 percent discount on that day.

Overstep Comedy
Photograph: Courtesy Ricardo Horatio Nelson for Overstep Comedy

First Annual Asian Comedy Festival

The PIT, Flatiron

Celebrate by seeing the first-ever Asian Comedy Festival at the Peoples Improv Theater and Underground. The new event celebrates the Asian comedy scene in NYC and highlights Asian performers and teams from around the world, including Asian AF, Asian Not Asian podcast, AZN Pop, Overstep Comedy, Bryan Yang, Jes Tom, Karen Chee, Usama Siddiquee, and more over two days.

Listen closely to New York Philharmonic
Photograph: Chris Lee
Music, Classical and opera

New York Philharmonic: Lunar New Year Concert

David Geffen Hall (at Lincoln Center) | Manhattan, NY, Upper West Side

The New York Philharmonic is known for its exceptional New Year’s Concert and, for a ninth year, the renowned symphony kicks the Lunar New Year into high gear as well. The evening's schedule includes the US Premiere of Zhou Tian’s Gift, the New York Premiere of Texu Kim’s ping pong–inspired Spin-Flip, Haochen Zhang's take on Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and Gil Shaham in Chen Gang and He Zhanhao’s The Butterfly Lovers, the violin concerto.

madison avenue wishing tree
Photograph: Courtesy Andrew Werner

Madison Avenue's Wishing Tree

Madison Avenue,

Liven up your shopping experience on Madison Avenue by trying your luck. By placing your New Year's wish on the stretch's Lunar New Year Wishing Tree at 710 Madison Ave, participants will be given an event passport that they can use at any five participating retailers to get a red envelope gift and free refreshment at the Philippe by Philippe Chow restaurant at 33 East 60th Street until 4pm. Only one person will be given a red envelope containing a $488 gift. Check out the Madison Avenue BID's website for stores that are participating.

Model Majority
Photograph: Courtesy Nancy Choi

Model Majority: Live!

The PIT, Flatiron

NYC's first Asian-American sketch team has come to rule, and we're giddy to join the fandom. Witness a fast-moving variety of sharp, self-aware sketches from the team of rising stars who have appeared on network TV, film and on Broadway, including Veronica Dang, Kevin Chew, Carol Lee, Betsy Abraham, Alex Chester-Blank, and more. Andre Kim will also do stand-up. The February edition promises a jumbo-sized blowout to kick off the year of the Rat. 

Things to do, Festivals

Lunar New Year at Brookfield Place

Brookfield Place Winter Garden, Battery Park City

Ring in the year of the Rat at Brookfield Place in partnership with the New York Chinese Culture Center. Get ready for energetic dance and music performances, as well as demonstrations of Chinese customs such as a martial arts demo and theatrical players in full traditional makeup-up and regalia. Guests of all ages should show up early: there will be a dynamic, colorful Lion Parade led by lion dances throughout the space before the show begins.

Chinese New Year Family Celebration
Photograph: China Institute 2014
Things to do, Cultural centers

Chinese New Year Family Festival

China Institute, Financial District

Take your friends and family to the traditional lion dance and kung fu performance, along with zodiac-themed arts and crafts, including lantern-making and paper cutting, at the China Institute. You can also learn how to make dumplings from the best! Workshops for adults are $20 and $10 for kids.

Things to do

Chinese New Year Spectacular at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall, Midtown West

Carnegie Hall celebrates "Wealth and Surplus" in the Lunar New Year with a well-curated annual concert. This year's lineup includes Pianist Cong Bi and Kunqu performers Jiehua Shi, Min Cheng and Qinglin Cai, as well as featuring returning headliners including soprano Quan Chen, and American violinist Deni Bone.

Chinese New YearFireworks and confetti rained down on Chinatown during a celebration of the New Year.
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
Things to do, Festivals

Chinatown's Lunar New Year Parade

Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Lower East Side

Steel drums, acrobats, martial artists, dancers, ornate floats and, obviously, the iconic dancing lions and dragons snake through Chinatown’s crowded streets for the 21st annual Chinese New Year Parade. The mouth-watering smells from the neighboring restaurants and the sounds of the traditional music meld to create a joyous, immersive experience. Begins at Mott and Hester Sts. But before you get lost in the bang of firecrackers, check out what you need to know to take part in celebrating and some fun things to do in the neighborhood, including the best karaoke in Chinatown.

Looking for some grub?

han dynasty dry pepper chicken wings
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Restaurants, Restaurants

The best Chinese restaurants in NYC

New York has a long lineage of Chinese restaurants showcasing the culinary traditions of nearly every province in China, as well as the fusion fare created by immigrants in the United States. Whether you're looking to sample fiery Szechuan fare or experience a classic weekend dim sum brunch, the city has got you covered. From white-clothed Midtown restaurants to hole-in-the-wall Chinatown restaurants, find the best Chinese restaurant NYC has to offer. RECOMMENDED: See all of the best restaurants in NYC

best dumplings in nyc
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lori L.

The very best dumplings in NYC

No need to stick to one borough—the best dumplings in NYC can be eaten throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Head downtown to get your soup dumpling fix at one of the best Chinatown restaurants in the city. Exploring new neighborhoods? Take the train to Sunset Park for some of the best dim sum outside Hong Kong. And if you're really on a budget, there are plenty of options for cheap dumplings along the way. RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best restaurants in NYC

Moon cake at Lung Moon
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Restaurants, Bakeries

The best Chinese bakeries in NYC

New Yorks Chinatown is packed with amazing dim sum restaurants, fun-loving karaoke bars and top-notch Chinese bakeries offering a dizzying array of pastries. Most are known for one exceptional item, however, whether thats a buttery egg tart, a fluffy sponge cake or a lotus-filled hopia. It doesnt get much sweeter than this. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to best restaurants in NYC

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