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 Mouse
When. The Disneyland Lunar New Year celebration takes place in late January and early February every year. In 2020, the event is being held from January 17 to February 9, 2020. 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 is the year of the rat, but Disneyland decided to go with the Year of the Mouse instead – of course! Mickey and Minnie Mouse are heavily featured in this year’s Lunar New Year Celebration.
Where. The Disney Lunar New Year celebration takes place 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.
Lunar New Year Activities & Free Fun
Special activities abound during Lunar New Year, many of which are totally free. Kid-friendly highlights include:
Character Meet and Greets. Look for Disney Characters celebrating the Lunar New Year, dressed in traditional outfits. Under the pavilion near Paradise Garden Grill, Mulan and Mushu were available for photos with guests during our visit. Mickey and Minnie are available for photos and autographs here too, wearing traditional costumes that are new for 2020.
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. Small tables and chairs are set up along the parade route with complimentary coloring crafts for kids to decorate and take with them.
Face Painting. Lunar New Year inspired face painting is available for guests of all ages. Small face painting designs were free in years’ past. For 2020 the face painting offerings have been expanded and now carry a charge of $19.99.
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 – new to Lunar New Year in 2020 but familiar to anyone who has visited Disneyland’s Food and Wine Festival. The cost is $42 plus tax, but Annual Passholders 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 Marketplace
Four marketplace kiosks and several restaurant locations 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 lagers, a Peach Sojito, and Lychee-Grapefruit Gin Spritzer.
Larger entrees like whole fried tilapia and Korean grilled chicken are available at the Paradise Garden Grill and Lucky Fortune Cookery dining locations. You can also redeem Sip and Savor tabs for smaller portions of popular dishes including the Bánh Mì pork belly sandwich and Mango Mousse dessert.
To celebrate the Year of the Mouse, many Disneyland Lunar New Year dishes have Mickey-inspired details. The Mandarine Orange-Green Tea Tart, Mickey Chinese Hot Dog Bun and Purple Yam Macaron are all delicious Mickey-shaped treats. Even savory foods like the plant-based Orange Tempeh and Pork Belly Bahn Mi have Mickey accents in a whimsical touch!
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 4 marketplace kiosks and not at any of the restaurant locations.
New for Disneyland Lunar New Year is the ability to use mobile ordering for food and drinks at the marketplace kiosks and participating restaurant locations. 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 Year of the Mouse merchandise, which can also be found at Elias & Co. and Seaside Souvenirs.
World of Color Features “Hurry Home” Pre-Show
As night falls, the Pixar Pier area sparkles with a nighttime spectacular. 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.
For your best view of World of Color and the limited-time “Hurry Home” show, be sure to pick up your World of Color FASTPASS early in the day (remember: Maxpass is now available for World of Color!). You can also purchase a dining package that includes a World of Color FASTPASS with excellent standing-room viewing. The World of Color dessert party is available as well, with seating and a delightful array of sweet treats and drinks.
Visiting Disneyland with kids during Lunar New Year or any time of the year? Don’t miss out on major savings from trusted Trips With Tykes partner, Get Away Today, where you can buy any multi-day tickets or Disneyland vacation packages at a discount. Use promo code TYKES10 for an extra $10 off all package stays of 2 nights or more.
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, as well as contributing author at TravelingMom. She and Leslie are two of the four co-founders of the 20,000+ 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!