This year Disneyland parks in California feature a multicultural celebration to welcome the Year of the Dog. The festivities, a tribute to several Asian cultures began on January 26 and will go through February 18, 2018! The festivities started back in 2011 as a weekend event and have expanded this year to three weeks filled with fun activities for park goers.
On weekends the event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily but on weekdays the park does close earlier. The celebrations feature several Asian cuisines, entertainment as well as arts and crafts. We went on the week it started since the final weekend falls on President’s Day weekend and we figured the parks are bound to be crowded.
The event takes place in Disney’s California Adventure park though you will see some beautiful banners around Cinderella castle in Disneyland too. As we approached the area in the California Adventure’s Paradise Pier, we entered a Chinese gate adorned with red lanterns and the two-Foo Dogs on each side. Furthermore, there were red lanterns and decorations all over the designated area. Since this year is the Year of the Dog, Disney included its two popular canines Pluto and Goofy as part of the celebrations.
Since we had skipped breakfast we were eager to try the different foods. So we made a Bline and headed to the north side of Paradise Pier next to the Little Mermaid ride. The makeshift marketplace was distributed along several carts each serving foods from a specific country. We saw three main carts with Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese specialty drinks appetizers and desserts.
At the Korean cart my son and I shared the Yachae Mandu – Steamed vegetable dumpling with sesame-garlic soy sauce, theYang Gaeng – Sweet red bean and raspberry jelly along with the Banana Ooyu a banana milk. The dumpling and jelly were delicious but we both found the banana drink a bit too sweet. I did want to try the Mae Shil Ju – Plum wine cocktail but it was too early in the day for alcohol.
In front of the Golden Zephyr ride, we briefly stopped at the Chinese stall. My son loves dumplings, so he had the Xiao Long Bao – Pork soup dumplings with black vinegar and ginger. I went for the sweet Dan Ta which is the egg tart dessert. It was a good thing the portions were small so we could try a couple of items.
But our favorite spot turned out to be the Vietnamese cart food. The Chao Tom – Sugar cane shrimp skewer with sweet and sour sauce was not greasy and well-balanced tastewise.
My son ended his culinary exploration with a giant Banh Khoai Lang Tim the purple sweet potato macaroon that looked straight out of Alice in Wonderland’s kitchen. I chose the Ca Phe Sua Da , the Vietnamese iced coffee, which tasted like an espresso on steroids.
Arts and Crafts
After our food tasting experience, it was time to check out the arts and crafts section.
We started with the design your own paper lantern table. After coloring a paper, volunteers from the Chinese Cerritos School help my son transform it into a lantern.
We stopped by the calligraphy desk where calligraphy artist translated our names into a custom artwork. While watching her paint the meaning of our names we got to chat with the artist Agnes Eng. Turns out she knew a family with autism and was interested in our site. I loved the way the translated AutisticGlobetrotting into inspiration for families with autism.
Next, we headed to the makeshift Lucky Wishing Wall where we got to write our message on a Mickey ear card and hang it on the wall. This turned out to be my son’s O.T. lesson of the day. He struggled to tie the string on the wire but managed to do it after practicing for a few minutes.
After trying out some of the activities ( we skipped the face painting and character meet and greet) we were ready for Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession.
Beautifully staged it is a beautifully orchestrated affair with talented performers and gorgeous costumes! We sat in the sun for thirty minutes and surprisingly my son was so riveted he didn’t even complain about the heat!
Lunch and Performance at the Paradise Garden Grill
When the performance was over we sought a place to sit down in the shade. So, we headed to the Paradise Garden Grill for a late lunch.
My son ordered the Japchae – sweet potato noodles with sauteed tofu accompanied by vegetables. The dark brown noodles almost turned my son with autism off. But after one bite he was hooked and polished the plate!
I got the spicy Banh Mi Thit Nuong sandwich which had marinated pork belly, pickled carrots with cucumber, seasoned mayonnaise, and jalapeno. The Banh was tasty but a little too lavish on the mayo side.
While dining we were fortunate to catch a delightful performance by Korean musician Luna Lee who is quite the celebrity on YouTube. She played Beatles and police songs on a gayageum an old Korean stringed instrument.
We stopped briefly at the annual pass holders area to check out the current giveaway. This time it was a special pin and an exclusive photo opp.
The Gu Gu Drum Group
It was time to watch another Lunar Year Celebration performance.
The Shanghai-based Gugu drum group somewhat reminded us of the Blue Man Group. The unique show is a high-energy mix of drumming athletic performances and storytelling.
Autism Tip: If your kid is noise sensitive make sure you stand away from the drums to enjoy the show.
Hurry Home Little Lantern – Lunar New Year Celebration
After a short interlude in Disneyland, we returned to watch the fabulous World of Color with the specially added Hurry Home Journey of the Little Lantern. Honing on two of Disney all time favorites themes of friendship and family the mini show was a fun addition to the nighttime extravaganza.
Make sure you grab tickets early in the day at the kiosk near the little mermaid ride. If your kid can’t stand during the performance ask to sit in the disability allocated spots when you arrive for the performance.
No Disneyland visit is complete without getting some souvenirs! So, of course, we HAD to gawk at the souvenirs.
There were t-shirts, plush animals, and pins. My son had his heart sold on a t-shirt and was disappointed they were all sold out in his size. We ended up getting an adorable small plush Mickey key chain.
Overall attending the Lunar New Year celebration was a great add-on to our Disneyland visit. We were impressed by the variety of dishes offered and the performances. It is a fun introduction to Asian traditions and customs for visitors of all ages.