Home to the second largest Chinatown on the East Coast and a vibrant Asian population, Philadelphia ranks as one of Thrillist’s 12 Best Places to Celebrate the Lunar New Year in the U.S. Many Lunar New Year celebrations take place in the City of Brotherly Love each year. From authentic Chinese cuisine, traditional lion dances, festivals and events, there’s plenty to do throughout the city to ring in the Year of the Tiger.
Sip cocktails and celebrate the new year in Chinatown
Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) is hosting its annual Chinese New Year Banquet at the Crane Center on Friday, February 25, 2022. An awards ceremony will take place to honor those who have made a difference in the community. The event also serves as a fundraiser to support the Asian American Pacific Islander immigrant community in Philadelphia. All guests are required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend the event.
Enjoy traditional lion dances and a parade
The Philadelphia Suns, a long-time community partner of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, will be performing traditional lion dances in honor of the Lunar New Year. Members of the Philadelphia Suns Lion Dance Troupe practice to perfect and preserve the cultural significance of the traditional lion dance. This year, the Suns will be performing Monday, January 31, 2022 from 10:00 p.m. to midnight at various establishments throughout Chinatown, starting at The Grandview. On Saturday February 5, 2022, head over to The Rail Park for a Lunar New Year Celebration, featuring a lion dance by the Philadelphia Suns and family-friendly activities. The Suns are also set to perform Sunday, February 6, 2022 for the Chinatown Parade starting at 11:00 a.m. at 10th and Spring streets. To learn more about the Philadelphia Suns and the traditional lion dance, click here.
Savor authentic Chinese cuisine and support restaurants in Chinatown
Philadelphia’s Chinatown is a bustling neighborhood with a wide variety of restaurants serving authentic Sichuan, Cantonese, Shaanxi, and other Chinese cultural cuisines, as well as other Asian specialties. Ocean Harbor, Sang Kee Peking Duck House, EMei, and Nom Wah Tea Parlor are just a few of the popular options available throughout the district currently offering take-out, delivery, and, in some instances, outdoor dining, in addition to indoor dining . As of January 3, 2022, all establishments in Philadelphia that offer food and drink for onsite consumption are required to ask everyone who enters to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination.
Search for tigers on display around Philadelphia
This year marks the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac. You can see the courageous animal – a symbol of strength and bravery – in person at the nation’s first zoo, and if you look carefully, you may just find tigers represented artistically throughout Philadelphia.
Get so close to real Amur tigers that you can count their stripes at Big Cat Falls at the Philadelphia Zoo.
A bronze tiger sculpture awaits you along Kelly Drive between Sedgley Drive and Fairmount Avenue, where Tiger at Bay rules the playground.
Even a walk through Philadelphia City Hall will lead you to a likeness of the big cat. Look up inside of the North Pavilion, heading toward the center courtyard, to find a tiger head sculpture serving as a sentinel for a corner of the oversized compass.
Continue your tiger scavenger hunt by heading to Chinatown. As you’re walking, keep your eye out for a tiger medallion on the sidewalk along Vine Street. There is a small medallion for each zodiac between 9th and 10th streets, and along 10th Street, North and South of Vine Street.
While there, scope out Far East Descendant a restaurant featuring a colorful mural depicting a tiger, dragons, and other Chinese images on the building’s Vine Street side.
Also in Chinatown, you’ll find a bubble tea store called Tiger Sugar, serving up handcrafted drinks packed with boba, tapioca pearls and caramelized syrup designed to resemble tiger stripes.
If not bubble tea, how about a cup of coffee? Philadelphia-based coffee roaster and coffee catering company Blind Tiger Coffee has coffee and other goods packed with so much flavor and personality that tiger fans will be clawing for more.
Head over to Kensington where you’ll be greeted by a snarling tiger, part of Sharktown Walls, a mural stretching half a block and featuring the work of more than 20 artists. You’ll find the mural at Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Hancock Street.
Ice skate in Center City
Head to the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink in Dilworth Park on January 29 from 5 – 7:00 p.m. to ice skate beside City Hall and enjoy a series of festive performances by traditional Chinese dancers, a prancing lion, and other Lunar New Year activities. The first 100 guests will receive a lucky red envelope containing secret prizes. In response to COVID-19, ice rink capacity is limited and tickets are available to purchase in advance online. Face masks are strongly encouraged outdoors when not actively eating or drinking and are required when ordering food inside of the Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin. Social distancing guidelines will also be in place.
Experience martial arts, Chinese Opera, and dances from multiple dynasties
Head to the Parkway Central Library for a Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration. Organized by the W.E. Cultural Exchange Institute and the Free Library of Philadelphia, this event will bring the Year of the Tiger to life. Listen to Chinese Opera and watch dancers perform routines from across multiple historical dynasties. Guests will also enjoy martial arts demonstrations and celebrate the beauty and harmony of community collaborations through a Chinese water ink calligraphy demonstration. Tickets are free, but guests are asked to register and reserve their tickets online prior to the event.
Attend a family-friendly festival
In Philadelphia’s Countryside, celebrate the Year of the Tiger at Main Line Art Center’s Lunar New Year Family Arts Festival. Featuring performances by The Philadelphia Suns Lion Dance Troop, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and Wolf Performing Arts Center, the festival will also include festive traditions, games and artmaking for all ages. The outdoor event is set for 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on Saturday January 29, 2022. Registration is required.
TIP: While at the Main Line Art Center for the festival, set aside some extra time to check out the center’s exhibition, Lunar: A New Year, now on view through Sunday, February 27, 2022.
Cover image: 2020 Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown. Photo by A. Lee.