June 17, 2024

Our Favorite Food & Fun at Lunar New Year 2024

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Disney's Lunar New Year celebration is back for 2024! The festivities feature new characters from Turning Red, plus a Mulan cavalcade, Minnie & Mickey Mouse in gorgeous costumes, special food booths, and a variety of

Disney’s Lunar New Year celebration is back for 2024! The festivities feature new characters from Turning Red, plus a Mulan cavalcade, Minnie & Mickey Mouse in gorgeous costumes, special food booths, and a variety of entertainment. Disneyland Resort’s annual event runs from now until February 18, 2024 at California Adventure.

We’ve had a chance to spend some time at DCA’s Lunar New Year celebration, and want to share some of our favorite foods and fun things to do–both new for 2024 and returning. For those who are unfamiliar with it, this multicultural celebration is a tribute to Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean traditions, and rings in the Year of the Dragon with food and beverages inspired by Asian cuisine, joyous entertainment and more.

As locals undoubtedly know, Southern California has a large Asian population, which is relevant for a few reasons. Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure benefits from that in having local community groups, musicians, and other performers in the entertainment. This also means that Lunar New Year actually strives for cultural authenticity rather than just being a superficial character thing. Finally, Lunar New Year is pretty popular thanks to this demo–plus Disney fans, locals looking for something new to do, and everyone else.

When it comes to any of the DCA festivals, people often tend to focus on food. Lunar New Year isn’t any different, with 6 special booths along with a variety of other dining locations at Disney California Adventure that offer dishes & drinks inspired by Asian cuisines.

The popular Sip & Savor Pass also returns, offering 6 coupons redeemable for select food or nonalcoholic beverages from the aforementioned 6 marketplaces (food booths) and other dining locations around DCA. The main change for the 2024 Sip & Savor Pass is that it no longer has physical tabs–it’s instead scannable (with a 4-digit pin code) and the credits are digitally redeemed.

This is a small but very welcome improvement. The redemption of tabs was always a bit…weird. You couldn’t remove the tabs until a Cast Member asked you to do so, within their view. I learned this lesson the hard way several years ago, when we had the not-so-bright idea to take a divide and conquer approach to the long lines at food booths by tearing off tabs and each going to separate locations.

For reasons beyond me, we weren’t allowed to redeem the torn-off tabs. In the years since, I’ve seen other guests encounter this same issue on several occasions. I don’t know why it was a thing (perhaps a counterfeit tab ring on the Anaheim underground?), but I’m happy to see it change.

Among the flavorful selections this year are the pork banh mi sandwich, kung pao bao, strawberry milk tea macaron and taro Vietnamese-style iced coffee. You can also buy special novelties, such as the Mickey Mouse-shaped macaron straw clip and Lunar New Year stainless steel tumbler.

We’ve “only” managed to try around 75% of the new and returning dishes, so I’m not yet ready to share my comprehensive ‘best & worst of’ list. But with the event already almost half over, I figured I should probably offer some preliminary recommendations. Otherwise, by the time I post the full list, there will only be like a week left.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that we were invited by Disneyland to attend Lunar New Year and given a Sip & Savor Pass. However, we also have Magic Key Annual Passes and would’ve attended regardless–plus, we’ve spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on food at Lunar New Year over the years. That trend will continue this year when we return to buy and eat more.

Two of my favorite items are from the Lucky 8 Lantern Marketplace: Quesabirria Eggroll and Mandarin Orange Mousse Cake.

The eggroll is incredible–flavored similarly to the beloved tacos from Cocina Cucamonga–but the price is $9. It’s very hard for me to say a single eggroll, no matter how delicious, is worth nine bucks. Definitely a great use of a Sip & Savor credit, though.

We also really liked both the Spicy Fried Rice with tofu and crispy peas and Red Spice Fried Chicken Bites from Red Dragon Spice Traders. Unsurprisingly given the name, but these offer a bit of heat. Neither wowed me as much as the eggroll, but the portion sizes are more generous and the value is better.

Similarly, you can’t go wrong with the bowls at Longevity Noodle Co. Of the two, the Shrimp Lo Mein Noodles are the more ambitious and interesting, whereas the Garlic Noodles are pretty plain–exactly what you’d expect based on the name and description.

The one booth we’ve yet to hit is Prosperity Bao & Buns. Frankly, we’ve saved that for last because past experience suggests that the bun-to-content ratio isn’t always the greatest–but the new dishes here do look good.

I know Annual Passholders and locals love the Sip & Savor Pass, but honestly, I might consider skipping it this year. Not because the booths are “bad” (although I think the menus are slightly weak especially given the high standards set by the superlative new menus in San Fransokyo Square), but because lines can be long and there are so many great food options around DCA right now.

This is our favorite menu of the year at Paradise Garden Grill, and the 2024 Lunar New Year offerings there might be the best they’ve ever been. At the very least, the best in the last few years–and I haven’t even tried the Korean-style BBQ Chicken yet! The defining dish here, as always, is the whole fish that is (allegedly) for 2. I still cannot believe this is served at a counter service restaurant, let alone prepared so expertly. It’s the must-order menu item.

If that’s a bit too intimidating, the Pork Banh Mi Sandwich (grilled pork belly with pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, and jalapeño with spicy mayo) is unrivaled. It’s not actually all that spicy, making it an incredible, crowd-pleasing dish. You can use the Sip & Savor Pass for a ‘tasting size’ portion, but just order the full-sized thing.

We also love the Shrimp Lo Mein (tossed with Shrimp, Mushrooms, Cabbage, Corn, Bell Pepper and Chili Peppers) and Bulgogi Fried Rice (with Kimchi, Egg, Pickled Cucumber, Green Onion and Sesame Seeds). Both offer hearty and filling portions with a great mix of flavors and ingredients. In other words, we highly recommend everything on the menu that we’ve ordered thus far.

There’s still a lot of other food we want to try at Lunar New Year. In particular, the festival foods served at Lamplight Lounge, GCH Craftsman Grill, Sonoma Terrace, and Studio Catering Co. (And, I guess, the churro carts. Friends keep raving about the Almond-Cookie and Orange-Ginger Churros.)

Turning to characters, new for 2024 Lunar New Year are Meilin Lee and her mother Ming Lee from Turning Red. These two meet together, ringing in the new year on the pathway between Grizzly Peak and Paradise Gardens Park (on the backside of the Little Mermaid dark ride). They love observing Chinese traditions together, and 13-year-old Meilin is so excited that she has begun to turn into her Red Panda form.

These performers are absolutely top-notch and do a fantastic job of coming to life in-character. So if you’re into great interactions, they’re amazing–you’ll have a great time riffing with them. That isn’t really my jam, though; even as a Turning Red fan, I didn’t really know what to say. Definitely a “me problem,” but I would’ve rather just met the Red Panda fur character. She looks eminently huggable.

Back at the gazebo in Paradise Gardens, a rotating assortment of Disney characters such as Mulan and Mushu, Goofy, Minnie and Mickey Mouse greet guests. When we got in line, Mulan and Mushu were out; by the time we were up, it was Minnie & Mickey. There should be a Cast Member at the line who will give you a (rough) idea of who you’ll meet based on your timing.

I was very pleased to see Minnie & Mickey Mouse. Chinese designer Guo Pei created the beautiful festival attire that the duo wear to honor the celebration; the embroidered wave patterns were designed to suggest the sea and clouds, which symbolize good luck, fortune and fate. This is truly some of the best costuming at Disneyland–unless you really love Mulan, you should make a point to meet Mickey & Minnie. They’re the best.

This was Megatron’s fourth time “meeting” Minnie and/or Mickey Mouse, and fourth time falling asleep for the experience.

She knows of “The Boss” by reputation and representations of him that we have at home, but does not seem to be a big fan. That’s probably fine for now, as the characters she has met while being awake have mostly just generated WTF reactions and brow-furrowing. She saves the wide-eyed wonderment and excitement for us, I guess!

For the Year of the Dragon, Mushu and Mulan once again lead the way in “Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession.” This honors family, friendship, and the potential for a fortune-filled year. As they travel along the parade route from Hollywood Land to Paradise Gardens Park, Mushu and Mulan are joined by dozens of spirited performers.

Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession is a lot of fun, especially if you can catch an evening performance–the lighting is actually quite good, and it beats standing around in the sun. The only differences I spotted in this year’s cavalcade are a lack of drummers on the main float and no Oswald and Ortensia, which makes complete sense with the Year of the Rabbit/Cat being over.

Another highlight of Lunar New Year is “Hurry Home – A Lunar New Year Celebration” the nighttime water show that’s effectively the pre-show for World of Color – ONE. Set to a stirring musical score by Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun, it tells the story of a little lantern’s quest to reunite with family for the annual celebration of good luck and fortune.

Calling it a pre-show undersells “Hurry Home.” It’s 6 minutes long and is really well done. It’s beautiful and moving, with great visuals and effects and excellent score. I actually prefer this to World of Color – ONE, but you should make a point of seeing both. “Hurry Home” is probably my favorite piece of entertainment at Disneyland Resort right now.

The Paradise Garden Bandstand and Sonoma Terrace present a rotation of live entertainment, which is also fantastic and fun. (Another reason to eat at Paradise Garden Grill!) Joining the lineup for 2024 are Korean recording artist Luna Lee and the Vietnamese trio, New Tradition. The schedule also features returning favorites: Korean-American a cappella group Vocal Seoul, plus various community performing groups. One of the groups in Paradise Garden frequently performs the cultural classic, “Shut Up and Dance.”

At the Lunar New Year Wishing Wall, guests can stroll beneath strings of ornamental lanterns and share their messages of hope, healing, health and happiness for this year.

Guests of all ages can enjoy complimentary crafts, while supplies last, and Chinese calligraphy demonstrations by local artisans. Artistic displays educate guests about the unique story of Lunar New Year in each culture, along with artwork featuring 12 Disney characters as the 12 zodiac animals.

New for 2024 is the dragon kite on display at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa that spans 80 feet long and features a custom design inspired by blossoms, symbolizing the rebirth of spring. Three figures of children hold the kite, each representing a culture that celebrates Lunar New Year.

This is awesome, and well worth checking out. I love that GCH is doing more to get into seasonal celebrations at Disneyland Resort. There are also performers from time to time in the little area (far side of the photo above) that’s near Hearthstone Lounge and that cart there that sells stuff.

Wrapping things up, Lunar New Year is once again one of our favorite seasonal events of the year at Disney California Adventure. Coming down from the holiday highs of Halloween and Christmas, it’s not even remotely on par with those celebrations. But it’s also much bigger than the medium-tier events in the first half of the year (I far prefer Lunar New Year to Food & Wine, for example), and is a great way to spend winter at Disneyland Resort.

Lunar New Year is truly the perfect marriage of cultural authenticity and Disney. It’s great to see the community involvement, and it has a fantastic vibe as a result that you’ll only find at this and Viva Navidad. Given the diversity of Southern California, I really think more mini-events like this would be a huge hit with guests, and Disneyland Resort clearly has the ability to pull off this type of stuff. Lunar New Year is popular for good reason–more twists on this formula would be fantastic!

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Excited to meet characters from Turning Red for the first time during the 2024 Lunar New Year festivities at DCA? Anything at the food booths look good to you? Does Lunar New Year Celebration look like a perfect marriage of cultural authenticity and Disney, 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!

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