Hong Kong to welcome Year of the Rabbit

HONG KONG -- The pinnacle of Hong Kong's festival season, Chinese New Year, will dazzle visitors with a number of festive events in mid-February.

The Lunar New Year, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit, falls on Feb. 16 next year, with Hong Kong marking the change of the calendar with its Chinese New Year Carnival.

Hong Kong The celebration will see buildings and streets -- most notably along the harborfront of Kowloon's Tsimshatsui and central Hong Kong Island -- festooned with light displays depicting rabbits and other holiday motifs.

Major restaurants throughout the city will present special menus featuring symbolic foods for more than two weeks after the New Year, and shoppers can look for bargains of up to 50% off at stores ranging from street stalls to boutiques on the days preceding Feb. 16.

The highlight of the celebrations will be a massive Feb. 16 Chinese New Year Parade, featuring colorful floats, marching bands, roving performers and local and international dance troupes, proceeding along the waterfront of Hong Kong Island.

The parade occurs between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and begins at the waterfront Tamar Site in central Hong Kong Island. The procession continues through Tim Wa Avenue, Lung Wui Road, Fenwick Pier Street, Harbour Road, Fleming Road and Convention Avenue.

Tickets cost approximately $26 for a grandstand seat inside Tamar Site and $13 for a seat in the spectator stand along Tim Wa Avenue. Viewing from the street is free.

Another popular New Year event is a giant fireworks display launched from barges moored in Victoria Harbor on the night of Feb. 17, with some of the best views traditionally afforded from the Peninsula Hong Kong hotel. Another popular fireworks option is a 90-minute nighttime Harbor Tour organized by Watertours of Hong Kong. The cruise costs $32 for adults and $21 for children and includes an open bar. More information is available by contacting Watertours of Hong Kong at (011) (852) 2730-6171; fax (011) (852) 2721-6215.

On Feb. 14 and 15, the city's teeming flower markets will fill with bargain hunters seeking seasonal flowers and flowering tree branches. Traditional New Year favorites include kumquat trees, narcissus and peonies, with peach and plum blossoms signifying good luck. Major flower markets are open from noon to midnight in Victoria Park, Hui Park, Mongkok and Kowloon.

One of the biggest events of Hong Kong's horse racing season is the Feb. 18 Chinese New Year meeting, held at Sha Tin Racecourse.

The Hong Kong Tourist Association offers two Come Horseracing Tours. The Classic Tour, which includes a buffet meal at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's visitors' box and admission to the Members' Enclosure costs $63. The EZ Race Tour, which includes admission to the Betting Lounge within the Jockey Club's Members' Enclosure along with a food and drink coupon that costs $32.

The price of the tours also includes transportation and materials to help bettors wager.

For more information about various Chinese New Year events or to inquire about the horseracing tours, contact the Hong Kong Tourist Association at (212) 869-5008 or (212) 869-5009.

The HKTA can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected] and maintains a Web site at www.hkta.org.

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