Lunar New Year at California Adventure

Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure is a celebration of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese traditions that runs January 17 through February 9, 2020. It’s the first big event of the year at Disneyland Resort, and in this post, we’ll share tips & info for visiting, plus photos from the annual event. (Updated January 4, 2020.)

This is an especially meaningful Lunar New Year for Disney, as 2020 is the Year of the Mouse! During Disney California Adventure’s 24-day long event, Disneyland Resort will welcome Year of the Mouse with special entertainment like Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession, popular Disney characters appearing for meet & greets, commemorative merchandise, and a variety of Asian-inspired cuisine at four Festival Marketplaces.

For Lunar New Year 2020 at DCA, the special “Hurry Home – Lunar New Year Celebration” pre-show will once again be performed before World of Color. “Hurry Home” tells the story of a little lantern’s quest to reunite with family for the annual celebration of good luck and fortune…

These four Festival Marketplaces are Longevity Noodle Co., Lucky 8 Lantern, Prosperity Bao & Buns, and Red Dragon Spice Traders. As with other DCA festivals, the Sip & Savor Pass will also be available (and is a good way to save money if you use it on the most expensive menu items).

These food booths are the same stands used for DCA’s Food & Wine Festival and its Festival of Holidays. While Lunar New Year’s culinary component is not as fleshed out as those events, it’s starting to expand and come into its own. We’re looking forward to giving some of these savory snacks and desserts a try!

Additionally, Paradise Garden Grill has a special menu for Lunar New Year, and a few other options can be found at the Festival Food and Beverage Cart.

Our favorite tends to be Paradise Garden Grill, as it serves full meals that are ambitious and delightful. Last year, we joined Guy Selga of TouringPlans.com to devour the Whole Fried Fish, which tastes so much better than it looks. I’m also a big fan of the Bánh Mì, if you want something a bit more…conventional.

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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 is like an event straight out of circa-1982 EPCOT Center, Happy Lunar New Year also combines authentic culture with Disney fun.

It’s a great little celebration, and really makes me wish that Disney went through with its plan for a series of “Small World Celebrations” that began several years ago with Opa! A Greek Celebration. Perhaps now that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open, DCA will start offering some counter-programming to draw locals away from Disneyland.

The Lunar New Year entertainment is great. There’s an educational component that feels inspired by actual Lunar New Year celebrations. This provides guests an authentic slice of culture alongside the fun of the Mulan processional and special character meet and greets.

Thankfully, it’s not simply characters from Mulan and Mickey Mouse in traditional Lunar New Year garb–there’s actual substance to this.

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Of course, character meet & greets are part of the event, which is a nice touch for families.

There’s also complimentary arts and crafts, including dragon’s pearl coloring craft and Chinese calligraphy with local artisans. Plus, new face painting opportunities have been added to the celebration, available for purchase.

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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.

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

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This dragon is undeniably awesome.

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.

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, Mushu.

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.

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It may not seem like it from the photos here, but there’s a lot to see outside of the procession.

In addition to this, there’s other live entertainment on the band stand stage that you can enjoy while eating, 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.

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.

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!

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!


11 Responses to “Lunar New Year at California Adventure”
  1. Prateek Choudhari January 4, 2020
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  5. Mi Mi 5 February 21, 2015
    • Tom Bricker February 22, 2015
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