Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort hosts several festivals year round. One of the lesser known but growing events is the Disneyland Lunar New Year celebration. This yearly multi-day festival of Asian culture features food, entertainment, and merchandise fused with an authentic spirit of prosperity and hope for the new year.
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Disneyland Lunar New Year Basics – The Year of the Rabbit in 2023
When. The Disneyland Lunar New Year celebration takes place in late January and early February every year. In 2023, the event is being held from January 20 to February 15, 2023. Event highlights include popular characters in Lunar New Year traditional outfits, beautiful decor, kid-friendly craft activities and incredible live performances. Guests visiting the Parks should make time in their schedule to experience at least some, if not all, of these celebration events.
Who. As the lunar calendar changes each year to feature a new animal, so does Disneyland’s Lunar New Year mascot. In 2018’s “Year of the Dog”, Pluto’s face graced the banners hung through the area. In 2019’s year of the pig, the Three Little Pigs made an appearance in festival garb. The year 2020 was the year of the rat, but Disneyland decided to go with the Year of the Mouse instead – of course! The year 2022 featured bouncing favorite Tigger for the year of the Tiger, and 2023 puts Oswald the Lucky Rabbit front and center. Disney has also indicated that it will celebrate both the Year of the Rabbit for Chinese New Year and the Year of the Cat for Vietnamese New Year, so Oswald’s rare cat pal Ortensia appears in some of the festival promotions.
Where. The focus of the Disney Lunar New Year celebration is in the Paradise Garden area of Disney California Adventure, starting in front of the red-ribbon wrapped obelisk near Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. You can’t miss the towering gold and red archway and the hundreds of stunning red ornamental lanterns decorating the area. Nearly every inch of the Paradise Garden area has been transformed for Lunar New Year, with traditional decor including firecrackers, flowers and hanging lights. The celebration extends elsewhere in the park and even into the Disney hotels as well.
Bonus in 2023. Note that in 2023, much of the Lunar New Year celebration will overlap with an extra special anniversary – the launch of Disney100. This anniversary event commemorates the Disney Company’s 100th birthday and takes place all over the Disneyland Resort starting January 27, 2023 until the end of the year. The
Disneyland Lunar New Year Activities & Free Fun
Special activities abound during the event, many of which are totally free. Kid-friendly Disneyland Lunar New Year highlights from previous years usually include the following:
- Raya Meet & Greet. Raya from the 2021 movie “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be appearing again, located in a setting inspired by her native Kumandra, recreated in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.
- Character Meet and Greets. Look for other Disney Characters celebrating the Lunar New Year, dressed in traditional outfits. Under the pavilion near Paradise Garden Grill, characters like Mulan and Mushu and Mickey and Minnie are available for photos.
- Find Your Birth Year. Wondering what animal you were born under on the lunar calendar? Find your birth year on the signs posted in front of the Paradise Garden Grill ordering windows. You’ll be able to see which sign you were born under (I was born in the Year of the Ox!)
- Wishing Wall. Visit the Lucky Wishing Wall located just inside the Paradise Garden area. This free activity allows guests to write their wishes onto a provided Mickey-shaped paper and tie it to the wishing wall.
- Kid’s Crafts & Activities. Small tables and chairs are set up along the parade route with complimentary coloring crafts for kids to decorate and take with them.
Trips With Tykes Tip: Note that some of these Lunar New Year activities close early in the evening, so be sure to carefully time your visit. Check the Disneyland app for accurate times.
Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession
If you can only see one thing during the Lunar New Year celebration, do not miss this incredible showcase! Dozens of dancers, drummers and characters travel from the Pixar Pier area to Paradise Garden Park, where they perform in a street party-style show. While waiting in line at one of the marketplace kiosks, I was able to catch the procession as they danced towards Paradise Garden Grill after their show.
Parasol dancers, ribbon-twirlers and impressive dragon dancers celebrate the arrival of Mulan and her dragon friend Mushu to the Lunar New Year celebration. Chip ‘n Dale are a fun part of the celebration. Goofy is here too, dressed as the “god of Good Fortune”. The Three Little Pigs were previously announced to appear, though they weren’t in the show on the day of my visit.
The show (which lasts around 10 minutes) features live drumming and music with exuberant dancing. The combination of beautifully detailed costuming, fantastic music along with colorful flags and ribbons make this a perfect attraction for all ages. There’s a very authentic feel to this celebration; a definite can’t-miss if you’re attending Disneyland’s Lunar New Year.
Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession happens several times daily (check the Disneyland app for exact show times during your visit). This high-energy show is extremely popular so you’ll want to arrive early for excellent viewing as space is limited. I’d suggest grabbing food from one of the marketplace kiosks. Then sit on the stairs in the Paradise Garden park stage about 30 minutes prior to showtime for a view of the action.
Live Entertainment From Across the Globe
Multicultural performances are scheduled at different venues throughout the day during the Disneyland Lunar New Year celebration. I had the opportunity to watch several of the shows and can tell you that they were of excellent caliber. Check the Disneyland app for times and locations during your visit.
International and local artists perform at both the Paradise Garden Park stage and the Paradise Garden Bandstand. Note that the sun can be very intense in the Paradise Garden Park area, without any shade covering. We chose to enjoy an authentic Asian meal from the Paradise Garden Grill, then sat back in the shady area and enjoyed one of the shows!
Sip and Savor at Disneyland Lunar New Year
No special event at Disneyland is complete without some unique and awe-inspiring food. For Lunar New Year, authentic Asian foods are available at various marketplace kiosks and dining locations throughout the festival area.
If you plan to snack your way through the Disneyland Lunar New Year celebration, consider purchasing a Sip and Savor pass. The pass was new to Lunar New Year in 2020 but familiar to anyone who has visited Disneyland’s Food and Wine Festival. The cost in 2022 was $43 plus tax (2023 pricing TBD). Magic Keyholders can save a few dollars off that price when they present a valid pass and identification at the register.
Each of the six pull-off tabs can be redeemed at select locations for one food item or non-alcoholic beverage. The Sip and Savor may be purchased at the Sip and Savor Cart, Seaside Souvenirs, Kingswell, Elias & Co. or at festival marketplaces. To ease the process of choosing what to eat and drink, a food guide with photos comes with your purchase of the Sip and Savor Pass.
Lunar New Year Festive Foods Marketplaces
In 2023, six marketplace kiosks (up from four in previous years!) focus on Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese dishes in a smaller sample size. This allows you to taste several dishes from the various marketplaces including savory, spicy and sweet flavors. There are also alcoholic beverages including several Asian beers and cocktails using traditional flavors and ingredients from various Asian countries.
Larger entrees like sweet and sour whole fish are available at the Paradise Garden Grill. You can also usually redeem Sip and Savor tabs for smaller portions of popular dishes including the Bánh Mì pork belly sandwich. Nearly all the restaurants in DCA have special items on their menus for the event this year, including at Lamplight Lounge.
Menus change each year, but be sure to check out the Official 2023 Disneyland Lunar New Year Foodie Guide for lots of photos and descriptions of each food item, along with the location it can be found
Saving Time and Money
The Sip and Savor Pass can be a money-saver, if used wisely. Peruse the menu options and pricing through the Disneyland app ahead of time. Then only order the highest priced items when using the Sip and Savor to make best use of the cost.
To save time in line, guests may order any of Lunar New Year marketplace items at a single kiosk. The cast member will give you a receipt to present at the individual kiosks for redemption. Keep the receipt in a safe place! This option only works at the marketplace kiosks and not at any of the restaurant locations.
Mobile ordering for food and drinks at the marketplace kiosks and participating restaurant locations is also usually available. You’ll simply use a credit card to order and prepay via the Disneyland app. Then pick up at each kiosk using the special mobile order pick-up line.
Unfortunately the Sip and Savor Pass cannot be combined with mobile ordering. However, mobile ordering is a big time-saver, particularly on busy weekends. During my recent Saturday visit, lines to redeem receipts and pick up items at each individual kiosk were 30+ guests deep. Lines to pick up mobile order only had about 5 people waiting. It’s truly a personal preference whether you wish to save a few dollars using Sip and Savor Pass or save time waiting in line by using mobile ordering!
Lunar New Year Celebration Souvenirs
Commemorate your visit to Disneyland’s Lunar New Year festivities with Lunar New Year themed souvenirs. Guests were lined up during my visit to pick up these limited souvenirs including trading pins, t-shirts, lucky red envelopes, plush and home decor items. A Minnie Mouse Ears headband made over for Lunar New Year and a Spirit jersey celebrating the festivities seemed to be the most popular picks. There are special kiosks in the festival area with the year’s character merchandise, which can also be found at Elias & Co. and Seaside Souvenirs.
World of Color “Hurry Home” Pre-Show Returns in 2023!
As night falls, the Pixar Pier area sparkles with a nighttime spectacular. After several years on pause, the 6 minute “Hurry Home” plays immediately before the first World of Color evening show. This water show combines lighting and special effects. “Hurry Home” features Mulan, Mushu, and a little lantern with traditional elements relating to Lunar New Year celebrations, including all of the delightful foods! The musical composition played during “Hurry Home” was originally played for the opening ceremony of Shanghai Disney Resort.
If you want to see World of Color, reserve viewing areas for the show are available as a Virtual Queue selection in the Disneyland app. Note that this is entirely independent Disney Genie+ service at Disneyland and does not cost extra. The virtual queue opens in the app at noon daily. Guests must have scanned their ticket and physically entered California Adventure (or Disneyland if you also have a park hopper ticket) in order be eligible to secure a spot in the queue.
Disneyland regularly offers other ways to get good views, like with its World of Color dessert party offering seating and a delightful array of sweet treats and drinks.
Although Lunar New Year is fairly short Disneyland celebration, it is well worth your time if a January or February trip to Disneyland fits in your schedule. The food is tasty and unique and the entertainment offerings are extensive for this smaller scale special event.
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About the author: Contributing author Julie Bigboy is a San Diego native who calls Disneyland her second home! She is owner of the site Mom Rewritten. She and Leslie are two of the four co-founders of the 37,000+ member Disneyland with Kids Facebook Group.
Disclosure: Disneyland provided Julie with complimentary tickets in 2020 (as well as complimentary tickets and hotel accommodations during 2018’s event) to cover Lunar New Year as a contributor for Trips With Tykes. As always, all opinions are my own and all opinions are her own too!