2022 welcomes the year of the Tiger, specifically the Water Tiger. This Chinese zodiac sign ushers in prosperity and definitive energy for the New Year; however, the week of Spring Festival may not be a fortunate time to go sightseeing.

It’s now the New Year! Officially! In China, it’s celebrated shortly over a month later and through Spring Festival. It is THE occasion of the year! While living abroad in China, I experienced Lunar New Year firsthand in Shanghai, China.

Excited, thinking the city would be empty, I found my plans sadly spoiled. I would not be able to explore the city as easily as I thought would. It was nowhere near empty! Sure, the local spots were not overrun, but the tourist destinations certainly were.

There are two things that must be considered when wandering around Shanghai during the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival–weather and crowds.

It’s still wintertime, and that means it’s cold and wet for the most part. Also, destination hot spots must be strategically planned to avoid the influx of crowds. While I would not recommend this as the time to go visiting Shanghai’s top ten must-sees or most of the country’s major cities for the most part, if you’re in Shanghai for Lunar New Year, here are some places to avoid:

Photo taken by Miranda during the Year of the Dog

Yuyuan Garden. Don’t expect deserted city feeling vibes. When you step outside the metro, pop out of your car, or unload from a bus, you hit the multitude of people stuffed and shuffling to see the classical garden that has been enchantingly decorated. There will be a fenced off line that wraps around into the market streets for the garden entrance. Sure the lantern decorations on the inside might be worth it, but if you go during this time, you’ll need a tent and three days’ worth of food as you wait.

For reference, here are a few photos taken in Yuyuan Garden in the off-season.

Photo on the Bund by Miranda, mobile capture

The Bund. Just no. Maybe you can get a nice shot on the East Bund, but definitely not the West Bund which gives you the iconic scenic backdrop. It will be a fight for a spot on the railing. You can literally feel the herding increase with each step closer to the anticipated place. Everywhere is full! Everyone is trying to get the classic skyline shot or three tower shot, and it’s just not as enjoyable. Also, there will probably be a random person in your shot.

Photo by Miranda taken Wuyi, China

Any temple in Shanghai. Any of them. Jing An Temple, the Jade Buddha Temple…. Nope. They are all full and you will be competing with everyone’s smart phone and selfie stick for a decent picture.

My honorable mentions, as I did not even try to go to these places include: Shanghai Zoological Park (zoo), Shanghai Disney Resort, Nanjing Road, and the Shanghai Natural History Museum.

If you want to see these locations, I suggest you make plans a few days before or after Spring Festival. The decorations will still be out, and you will not be competing with city residents to see them. Shanghai is huge city, over a small space, but with millions of people. You don’t want to be stuck in it. Trust me.

Have you ever traveled somewhere and there were unexpected crowds, or it was peak season? How did you manage? Let us know!

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