Chinese New Year Around Washington, DC

Lion Dance

Mikhaella Ismail Prem / Getty Images

Most major cities across the United States celebrate Chinese New Year, usually with a large parade, traditional lion dances, fireworks, and lots of delicious Chinese food, and Washington, D.C., is no exception. But if you aren't in Washington or prefer to avoid the crowds of a big-city event, you can attend one of the many celebrations occurring all over the D.C. metro area, including in nearby Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Chinese New Year starts with the beginning of the new year of the lunar calendar, which falls sometime between late January to mid-February, and is celebrated for the following two weeks. The 2020 Lunar New Year, which is the Year of the Rat, begins on Friday, January 25, and most area events take place during that weekend.

In Washington, DC

Chinese New Year Parade and Festival in Washington, D.C.

Washington's biggest Chinese New Year event is its parade, on January 26, 2020, at 2 p.m. The parade route goes directly through Washington's Chinatown, starting at Sixth and Eye streets. Get a front-row seat to watch the dragon dances, kung fu demonstrations, live music entertainment, and the firecracker grand finale around 3:45 p.m. Since you'll already be in Chinatown, arrive early and eat lunch at one of the many restaurants along the parade route for a full New Year culinary experience.

Chinatown Community Cultural Center

To complement the parade, the Chinatown Community Cultural Center hosts its own New Year's party at the Gallery Palace, also on January 26, 2020. Before and after the parade, stop by to listen to Chinese pop songs, play some traditional games like mah-jong or ping pong, or even learn a little Chinese in a language crash course. The event concludes with a special lion dance performance, in case you miss the one at the parade or want to see more.

Kennedy Center Lunar New Year Celebration

During Lunar New Year, the Kennedy Center puts on display over 100 illuminated sculptures to celebrate the holiday. These impressive and life-size lanterns include over 10,000 LED lights and are all crafted by Chinese artisans, displaying traditional images such as the zodiac signs, pandas, and other Chinese symbology. The exposition is free to attend and open to the public, January 22 to February 2, 2020.

Taiwanese American Professionals' New Year Gala

The local organization Tawainese American Professionals, or TAP, hosts a Lunar New Year gala each year to celebrate with dancing, special performances, delicious food, and an open bar. The 2020 gala, on February 1, celebrates with the theme "1920s Old Asia." All guests will receive a hong bao, or typical New Year red envelope, upon entering with a raffle ticket to potentially win prizes.

In Maryland

MGM National Harbor Lunar New Year Celebration

Chinese New Year arrives at MGM National Harbor on January 26, 2020, when the lions are "awakened" at the casino entrance and perform their lion dance around the resort. During the entire New Year season, the resort will also be offering a special menu at its restaurant, Ginger, including braised abalone, crispy pig feet, and Chinese garlic chicken. If you're at the casino on February 16, play the New Year "Money Tree" for a chance to win $88 of free play or up to $8,888 in cash, all very auspicious numbers in Chinese lore.

Gaithersburg Chinese New Year

Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg celebrates Chinese New Year with a week-long event. The opening ceremony kicks off with dragon and lion dances, martial arts demonstrations, and live music on January 25, 2020. Throughout the week, stop by to see an exhibit about acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other traditional Chinese medicinal methods. The closing ceremony on February 2 wraps up the whole event with more live performances in case you missed out on the first day.

Rockville's Lunar New Year Celebration

This joint celebration is put on by the City of Rockville along with the local Asian Pacific American Task Force, as a way to celebrate Rockville's Asian community and also as an educational opportunity for neighbors to learn more about the Lunar New Year. Visit Rockville High School on February 1, 2020, to take part in interactive performances and witness traditional dragon dances.

Chinese New Year at Clarksburg Premium Outlets

Like many of Maryland's shopping centers, the Clarksburg Premium Outlets will also be celebrating Lunar New Year with their own festivities of dragon dances, music, and interactive activities. Clarksburg celebrates Chinese New Year after the holiday, so you can continue with the festivities while other towns are wrapping up on March 8, 2020.

Chinese New Year at Montgomery County Public Libraries

Thirteen branches of the public libraries in Montgomery County welcome the new year with a variety of programs, including lion dances, Chinese painting, musical performances, and more. These kid-friendly events are a fun way for the whole community to celebrate and also learn more about the Chinese New Year. Each library hosts its own event sometime between January 25 and February 8, 2020, so find out when it is at your local branch.

In Northern Virginia

Fall Church Chinese New Year Festival

The Fall Church Chinese New Year Festival is organized by the Asian Community Service Center, and while it's open to all, the event places a focus on connecting Chinese Americans with their heritage and roots. The 13th annual festival is January 25, 2020, at Luther Jackson Middle School, and participants can experience the magic of live lion dance, taste traditional New Year dishes, and take part in activities such as learning to write Chinese characters.

Fair Oaks Mall Lunar New Year Celebration

Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax puts on a full-weekend Lunar New Year festival which highlights traditional dance and performance from countries across Asia. Of course, you can see the traditional Chinese lion dance, but guests can also witness Polynesian dancing, Korean drum shows, Japanese Daiko, Filipino folk dance, and more. All performances take place in the Grand Court of the shopping center during the weekend of January 25–26, 2020.