Lunar New Year is one of our very favorite holidays to celebrate with kids.  Fabulous food, an animal theme, a variety of amazing acts, crafts suited to all ages, plus some very cool traditions.  But where to celebrate?  This year we’re highlighting two of our favorite festivals, with very different vibes.  One is ‘Easy Breezy’ one is ‘All Day/All Out’, so pick the one that fits your family – or go to both!

Fear Factor Zero: Lunar New Year Festival
This is the perfect festival for those with younger kids — it’s completely contained within the Pacific Asia Museum and the tented parking lot.  No craning your neck to see if your little walker (runner) made a break through the crowds and crush.  No standing for hours, wandering streets, soaking up the sun and heat.  So if you’ve got kids that won’t be contained in a stroller or carrier, may we recommend celebrating at this fear free safe space?

There’s a good amount of seating in front of the stage itself so it’s easy to keep the family together, and inside the museum the courtyard, auditorium and galleries are well contained. Because it takes place in various areas of the museum, it’s easy to get to a quieter space in the galleries if the kids are getting riled up, or have them focus on a craft for a bit.  Kids get the chance to see other kids perform, and there’s always the Koi pond – a road tested favorite of all pint-sized visitors.

Another great aspect of this festival is that it’s one of the few in the area with a pan-Asian focus, which means you get to see acts from Japan, Korea and other Asian countries, as well as China. The outdoor stage will host performances including a lion dance, taiko drumming, Taekwondo, Vietnamese and Korean dancing, a theatre company and more. Be sure to check the detailed performance schedule online so you don’t miss your favorites (we’ll meet you at the Taekwondo demonstration –kids love the board breaking).

LUNAR NY1For hungry little ponies: You can only fit so many cheerios in the diaper bag, and you’re not ready for a sit down meal.  Food trucks, perfectly themed food trucks, to the rescue, ready to serve up a tasty, quick snack.  Among those present will be Mighty Boba, India Jones, Mandoline Grill and Paradise Cookies.  Today you can leave those neon goldfish at home.

When: January 18, 2014
Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: Free!
Where: Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena


All Out/All Day Adventure: Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Festival
On the other hand, if you have kids content to sit back and stroll in style, snuggle and snooze in a Bjorn, or are old enough to understand that hands are for holding, we highly recommend hitting one of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations in the country.   Los Angeles’ Chinatown kicks off the Year of the Horse in a big way with cultural performances, kid’s activities, a live music stage, a singing competition and plenty of hands on (and ingestible) fun for all ages.

The festivities get underway with a parade that’s been around since the 1800’s – Golden Dragon Parade (which starts at Hill & Ord Streets at 1:00 pm on Saturday).  There will be hundreds of spectacular floats, decked out cars, dancers and bands parading through the heart of Chinatown. The Lunar New Year Festival starts after the parade with cultural performances by some of the nation’s best Chinese acts and continues all weekend with live music, storytelling, face-painting, art demonstrations and hands-on workshops, magic acts and singing competitions.  And you’ll be in the heart of Chinatown – the perfect place to deck the whole family out in lucky red and gallop into the Year of the Horse.

For hungry little ponies: Come hungry and nosh on dim sum and other traditional treats at one of the fantastic Chinese restaurants in the area (our favorite for kids is the dim sum palace Ocean Seafood) or snack on street food served up at tasty trucks. Tip for tired and thirsty parents: there will also be a craft beer garden featuring local breweries.

When: February 1 & 2
Hours: Saturday from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: Free!
Where: Chinatown
951 N. Broadway, Los Angeles


And here’s a bonus list of more great Lunar New Year celebrations going on around town:
The Asian Lunar New Year Celebration at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.
Chinese New Year fun for kids at Kidspace in Pasadena.
Pretend City’s Chinese New Year Celebration for little littles in Irvine.
Chinese New Year in the Huntington Garden’s Chinese Gardens in San Marino.
Happy Lunar New Year Celebrations at Disneyland.
The San Gabriel Valley’s Lunar New Year Festival takes place in the heart of the LA Chinese-American community.
Check out the Peking Acrobats or the New Shanghai Circus, both performing in town this month.

And for more horsey ways to celebrate the Year of the Horse, check out our guide to local pony rides. How will you ring in the Year of the Horse?  Let us know!

— Meghan Rose

Photo credit: Pacific Asia Museum photos © Pacific Asia Museum, Chinese New Year Dragon courtesy of Al Pavangkanan via Creative Commons and Dim Sum kids courtesy of Meghan Rose.