Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure Tips

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Lunar New Year Celebration occurs January 20 – February 5, 2017 at Disney California Adventure, and celebrates Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultural traditions. This post offers some photos from the annual event, plus tips for visiting if you’re heading to the event this year or in the future.

For 2017, the celebration is bigger than ever! For the first time, there will be a special World of Color pre-show for Lunar New Year Celebration called “Hurry Home.” This will tell the story of a lantern’s journey home to join its family. The show will feature animated appearances by Mulan and Mushu in “dream sequences” inspired by traditional Chinese paper cut-out style animation. The score will feature an original arrangement of the music created for the Grand Opening of Shanghai Disneyland (if you read our Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Trip Report, you know we loved this music!).

Another new-for-2017 offering will be three new Asian marketplaces offering foods inspired by Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures. Expect these to be similar to Food & Wine Festival and Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure. We’ll report back on this new entertainment for Lunar New Year Celebration once we have a chance to see it, but otherwise, here’s what you can expect during the Lunar New Year Festivities at Disney California Adventure…

Culturally, Lunar New Year is a multi-day annual tradition that is the customary time to reflect on the past and step into a new life of hope, prosperity, and happiness. Much like ¡Viva Navidad!, which felt like an event straight out of circa-1982 EPCOT Center, Happy Lunar New Year also combines authentic culture with Disney fun.

It’s not simply characters from Mulan and Mickey Mouse in traditional Lunar New Year garb and Disney saying because ??? that somehow equals a reflection of hope and prosperity. Rather, there is actual entertainment and and educational component that feels inspired by actual Lunar New Year celebrations, that give guests an authentic slice of culture alongside the fun of the Mulan processional and special character meet and greets.

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It doesn’t feel like it’s simply a ruse to sell some expensive event merchandise and overpriced menu items to locals (although that’s part of the equation). There’s a genuine effort to make this an enriching and entertaining experience for guests, and this is exactly the kind of thing that belongs in EPCOT.

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There are lots of cool decorations up around Paradise Garden…

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The main draw for Happy Lunar New Year is the Lunar New Year Procession that occurs 4 times per day. Two of the processions are hosted by Mulan and Mushu. Both processions feature a group of performers in elaborate costumes that dance and drum along with the music.

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Mulan and Mushu are the leaders of the event, but there is also a huge cultural component.

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This dragon is undeniably awesome.

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These are some of the performers who take center stage in the Mulan & Mushu show.

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This is the other show, which basically consists of these dragons (that behave like dogs) and drummers.

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Performers in the Mulan and Mushu show.

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The costumes are stunning in the processions. If you can go to a late afternoon show, do that, as the light hitting the performers makes for some really nice photos.

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There are a ton of performers in the Mulan procession–probably about 20-30.

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All of the performers at Lunar New Year were invited by Disney to participate in the event.

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Given this and the high quality of the performances, I’m surprised Disney doesn’t try to extend the Lunar New Year celebration a bit longer. It’s a really nice draw, probably not that expensive to put on, and is really popular with guests.

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Dancers in the Mulan show.

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These guys come out during the Mulan procession…

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The beat of the drums is constantly building as the dragon-dogs run around…

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This show had far fewer performers, but it was really fun and high energy.

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You can see the dragon-dog’s tail here. They actually wagged!

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The meet & greets rotate between Mickey & Minnie, Chip & Dale, and Mushu.

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The lines hover from around 30 minutes long to 90 minutes long, so ask the Cast Member outside the line who will be appearing next before you jump in line–that’s likely who you’ll be seeing.

I didn’t really do a good job photographing the other stuff, but there’s live entertainment on the band stand stage that you can enjoy while eating (no special menu at either restaurant, but there are a few overpriced snacks I didn’t try), plus stations where guests can get their faces painted, art stations for kids, and several spots set up with educational info about Lunar New Year in the various cultures that celebrate it. It may not seem like it from the photos here, but there’s a lot to see outside of the procession.

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Overall, Happy Lunar New Year is an event that’s well worth experiencing if you’re a Disneyland local, really into cultural experiences, or are thinking of an early-year Disneyland Resort vacation.We were really impressed by the overall quality of Happy Lunar New Year, and ended up spending about half the day over in Paradise Garden enjoying it. It seemed very popular with other guests, and we’ve never seen Paradise Garden this busy–it’s even busier during this than during Viva Navidad.

As an added bonus, January and February are generally great months to visit (if you don’t mind some refurbishments) as the crowds are at their lowest points of the year, and “winter” in Southern California has air quotes around it for a reason. The event itself is a very high quality little offering you could spend a couple of hours experiencing, and is a nice gesture for locals and those who want something new or unique. For most people, it isn’t going to be something around which a trip should be planned, but considering that it’s only running for 4 days, it’s excellent.

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As for figuring out the rest of your Disneyland trip, including what to pack, whether you should stay off-site or on-site in a Disney hotel, where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland trip planning guide!

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Your Thoughts…

Does Lunar New Year Celebration look like a classic “edutainment” experience, or does it look uninteresting to you? If you have been, what do you think of Happy Lunar New Year? Any tips to add?  Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you have additional thoughts or questions, please share them in the comments!

7 Responses to “Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure Tips”
  1. Rachel G March 12, 2015
  2. Kayla March 1, 2015
    • Kayla March 1, 2015
      • Tom Bricker March 2, 2015
  3. Mi Mi 5 February 21, 2015
    • Tom Bricker February 22, 2015
  4. Tim February 21, 2015

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