14 best places to celebrate Lunar New Year

(CNN) — Want to strut your stuff in the Year of the Dog?

If you’re in Hong Kong — or Vietnam, South Korea or anywhere else in the world with a Chinese diaspora — it’s time to don that tacky red jacket, gamble until you lose and eat till you burst.

Yes, it’s the Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival. It usually lasts for 15 days from the first day of the lunar calendar (February 16 in 2018), and is the time when families get together to ring in the changes.

While most will go to any lengths to get home to see the family, for some it’s a chance to travel — if only to get away from nagging relatives and red packet-hungry colleagues and friends (in China it’s customary to dispense red paper envelopes filled with money at this time of year.)

But traveling doesn’t have to mean forgoing the festivities. Here are 14 destinations where you can celebrate Lunar New Year in your own way.

Sha Tin Racecourse, Hong Kong

15 places to celebrate Lunar New Year

Not just for professional punters, Sha Tin’s Chinese New Year race is a family-friendly activity.

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Gambling is as close to a religion as it gets in Hong Kong and Lunar New Year is an auspicious time to try your luck.

Held on the third day (February 18, 2018) of the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year Race — hosted at Sha Tin Racecourse — is one of the most popular race days of the year.

Even if you’re not passionate about horse racing, the racecourse hosts live performances, a talk from a feng shui master and lucky draws to keep you occupied.

February 18, free entry for tourists; first race at 12:30 p.m.; Sha Tin Racecourse, Sha Tin, Hong Kong

Quang Ba Flower Market, Hanoi, Vietnam

One essential must-have for Vietnam’s Lunar New Year, or Tet, is a bunch of flowers and Hanoi’s Quang Ba flower market works at a frenetic pace during the festival.

Shoppers seek out the most eye-catching bouquets (usually peach blossom or ochna integerrima, the bright yellow blossom favored during Tet) amid the whirr and screech of the city’s ubiquitous motorcycles, all transporting bright bunches of flowers on their pillions.

The sights and sounds mixed with the fragrance of street food makes for a heady New Year sensual overload.

Quang Ba Flower Market, Au Co Street, Tay H, Hanoi, Vietnam; open daily from about 3 a.m.

Nuanquan Town, Hebei province, China

15 places to celebrate Lunar New Year

Steel yourself. Nuanquan welcomes the New Year with a shower of molten metal.

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With a population of less than 20,000 — making it pretty much a tiny hamlet by Chinese standards — Nuanquan usually flies below the tourist radar for most of the year.

But on the 15th day of the Spring Festival, the sleepy town literally fires up with a spectacular grassroots “firework” display that has been UNESCO-listed as one of China’s great examples of intangible cultural heritage.

The da shuhua (translated as “beating tree flowers”) tradition is believed to be more than 500 years old and culminates in a jaw-dropping display where the local blacksmith hurls ladles of molten iron at the city gates, producing a shower of sparks.

March 1, Nuanquan Town

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

Dating back to 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of Seoul is the most impressive royal palace in the city — both historically and architecturally.

On the first day of LNY, Gyeongbokgung Palace will hold celebrations that include traditional folk games and performances.

Entry is free on that day.

Chinatown, San Francisco

For sure, Chinatown can be a tourist trap most of the time — but what better time to embrace it than at Chinese New Year?

As the largest Chinatown outside Asia, and the oldest in the United States, San Francisco’s Chinatown knows how to turn on a show during the buzz of Chinese New Year.

A series of events are lined up for the 15-day festival, including a parade featuring more than a 100 floats and assorted performances including a 28-foot-long Golden Dragon float.

Check its website for more information about the Grand Parade and other LNY activities.

Ditan Park, Beijing

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Ditan Park doesn’t just throw the biggest CNY party in China’s capital city. Its annual Ditan Park Temple Fair also transports visitors back to a bygone era.

The highlight of the fair is the reenactment of an imperial ceremony from the Qing Dynasty in which an “emperor” leads a crew of more than 100 performers to the Temple of the Earth to worship the gods.

The performance will take place daily from Lunar New Year’s eve to the seventh day of Lunar New Year. The park will also be the venue for that great Chinese tradition, a food market complete with steaming cauldrons of delicious dumplings and spicy stews.

Around the city, Sydney

15 places to celebrate Lunar New Year

Sydney Town Hall will be lit up red during the Spring Festival.


Home to one of the biggest overseas Chinese populations, Sydney is going all out during Lunar New Year.

Many of the city’s iconic landmarks including the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be illuminated bright red during the festival.

Fireworks will be launched on the first day of the festival. Lunar Lanterns in the shape of the Chinese zodiac signs will be installed around the city.

Raohe Night Market/Wu Lao Guo, Taipei

For many, the Spring Festival is just another name for a two-week eating marathon and as a city famed for its street food, Taipei is an ideal place for a gluttonous holiday.

Raohe night market is flanked by street food stalls and nostalgic sideshow games along its 600-meter length.

Pepper cakes and fresh seafood skewers not your bag?

Then why not share a bubbling hotpot with friends and family? Elixir Health Pot (or Wu Lao Guo) is a trendy hotpot restaurant chain specializing in — either spicy or creamy — herbal broths with added medicinal benefits.

Raohe Night Market, Taipei

Wu Lao Guo, 36-1, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Central London, London

15 places to celebrate Lunar New Year

Lionizing London. The British capital throws the biggest Chinese festival outside Asia.

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San Francisco may have the biggest Chinatown outside Asia, but when it comes to doing the festival right, London claims to throw the biggest Chinese New Year party outside Asia.

The day begins with a colorful Chinese parade that winds its way through the streets of the downtown West End district, followed by stage performances in Trafalgar Square.

There are traditional dance troupes, acrobats, dragon and flying lion dances, opera and martial arts acts.

The grand finale in Trafalgar Square ends with a fireworks spectacular.

Studio City, Macau

Macau may be best known as a gambling mecca — the Las Vegas of the South China Sea — but the city has been upgrading its family-friendly entertainment offerings in recent years.

Studio City is one of the latest integrated resorts to open in the gaming capital and features a 4D Batman simulator ride and a 40,000-square-foot Warner Bros-themed amusement center.

The number eight in Chinese holds a special significance since the word has a similar pronunciation to the word for “wealth.”

Talk about auspicious.

Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki

In Chinese culture, the preparations ahead of Lunar New Year are almost as important as the day itself. During this period cleansing is an important ritual.

What better way to usher in the Year of the Rooster than a deep cleansing spa and sauna?

Allas Sea Pool is a public Finnish sauna complex offering an amazing view of Helsinki.

You can take a dip in one of the sea-facing pools before enjoying a steaming sauna session indoors.

Before taking to the showers, why not get a friend or even a stranger to whip your back with birch twig bundles to get the circulation going.

Maggie Choo’s, Bangkok

Looking for a few digestifs to followup the massive Lunar New Year blowout in Bangkok’s Yaowarat (Chinatown) neighborhood?

Maggie Choo’s, a 1930s Shanghai-themed bar in the heart of Bangkok, is a great way to celebrate the Spring Festival in style.

Situated in the basement of Hotel Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom, the bar — with an understated wooden entrance, private rooms and dim lighting — oozes secrecy and swagger.

Los Glaciares, Patagonia, Argentina

15 places to celebrate Lunar New Year

Boost your stamina this Lunar New Year.

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If getting outside your comfort zone is one of your New Year’s resolutions, the Spring Festival is a great time to make the first step.

Stamina strengthening can be achieved by trekking the stunning Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina’s Patagonia.

The park is famous for its dramatic landscapes, including 47 large glaciers and three big lakes.

January and February lie in the warmer summer months and are considered the ideal time to visit.

Disney California Adventure Park/Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles

Imagine Megatron from “Transformers” greeting you with a cheery “ni hao” (Chinese for “hello”). Or Mickey Mouse fully kitted out in Chinese attire.

No, it’s not one of China’s numerous copycat theme parks. This is how two of Los Angeles’ most famous amusement parks — Universal Studios Hollywood and Disney California Adventure Park — are celebrating the Lunar New Year this year.

Both parks are offering specially themed Lunar New Year activities, including parades, musical performances and special cuisine.

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