San Francisco's Chinese-American community, continuing a tradition begun just after the Gold Rush, once again makes Chinatown one of the most exciting places to be outside mainland China. Although by press time Year of the Rooster celebrations will have already begun (some of you now know who Miss Chinatown U.S.A. is, for example), the most public event is today. The Chinese New Year Parade is a big tourist draw, but it's also an integral part of the city's cultural life for townies, with its colorful spectacle of acrobats, marching bands, and the 201-foot-long Golden Dragon. You shouldn't be anywhere but here. (The parade is so big it's on TV; catch Ben Fong-Torres and Julie Haener's Emmy-winning telecast on Channel 2 the same night.) The procession begins at 5:30 p.m. at Market and Second streets, then continues up to Kearny and Columbus in S.F. Viewing is free; visit www.chineseparade.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Cars as Art
Owning a car in the city can be a burden -- think tickets and traffic. But those pesky inconveniences are eclipsed by the sheer studliness that comes from possessing a customized hot rod. At the Historic Fisherman's Wharf Classic Car Exhibit, collectors show off 150 of their finest specimens, from a 1914 Model T Speedster to a Starsky & Hutch era Ford Torino. The V8-powered strutting kicks off Friday at 11 a.m. with a 50-car parade to City Hall. Peek under the hood at 1 p.m. at Pier 45 at Fisherman's Wharf, Taylor & Jefferson, S.F. Admission is $5; visit www.onlysf.sfvisitor.org.
-- Jane Tunks
Just Trucking Around
It's a cliché of human behavior: Whenever we see one car smash into another, we stop to gawk. Unfortunately, such actions can lead us to wind up in the same situation, with others gawking at us. So if you want to stare (and even cheer) such collisions without causing a 10-car pileup, check out the USHRA Monster Hot Rod Jam. This spectacle combines the elegance of dance with the pure destruction of, well, giant trucks meeting head-on, and features some of the biggest (literally and figuratively) in the business, including Grave Digger, Monster Mutt, and Scarlet Bandit. The evening also offers racing, stunts, transformer tanks like Megasaurus, and the obligatory "car crush." The mechanized mayhem begins at 7:30 p.m. at SBC Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza (at Third and King streets), S.F. Admission is $10-42; call 478-2277 or visit www.ushra.com.
-- Jack Karp