While I love any day at Disneyland, I have to admit that Lunar New Year is one of my favorite times of the year!! I start counting down to it almost as soon as it’s over. Most years in the past have been somewhat simple affairs. The Mulan Lunar New Year Procession has always been the main focal point with one new food cart popping up. This year I was so excited to see the vast expansion of the Lunar New Year Celebration!!!
The decorations for the celebration started next to the Little Mermaid ride, barley further than the entrance to Paradise Pier. This year welcomed the arrival of new food booths, similar to the ones available during the Festival of Holidays and the Food and Wine events last year in Disneyland California Adventure. There are three new booths and then my favorite from years previous making a return. Each booth represents a different country with one for Vietnam, one for Korea and one for China. In addition, the Paradise Pier Garden Grill was turned into an asian adventure for this celebration.
I started my day at Paradise Pier’s Garden Grill. Mainly I was waiting for my favorite booth to open, but we’ll get to that later. First it was time for Mango Pudding.
I’ll be honest I was interested to try this one but was not really sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised when the soft creamy pudding touched my tongue. The chopped mango topping was soft enough to blend perfectly with the texture of the pudding but firm enough to be an enjoyable coexisting texture. As I took my first bite my lips puckered with a slight tart glaze that is on top of this beautiful dessert. The balance in this dessert is wonderful. Overall, I found it to be very refreshing with a nice full body. After eating it I was ready to take on the rest of the booths!
Second up was my favorite!!!!! I had been waiting since last year to come back to my favorite booth…craving…desiring them…. PORK BAO!!!!!!! Ok, if you have never had them, the Pork Bao in DCA is amazing!!!! I tried it about 2 years back, as it was the only booth available, and fell in love with a soft steamed bun and the heavenly roasted pork inside.
I seriously think I bought like 4 of these!!! They’re not too filling, so it’s the perfect snack! The Pork Bao comes with a chili sauce and it’s great either way! I’ve tried many other Pork Bao since, hoping to find something good enough to tide me over till I can have these small slices of perfection again, but nothing has even come close!! These Bao are just too good!! They pair perfectly with the Almond Cookies also sold at the booth. There are 3 per box and are a soft and chewy cookie with a light almond and I can swear theres this tiny hint of lemon.
There are a lot of fun things to do in between snacks. The complementary Face Painting and Lantern Making Booths have been moved from the tiny area by Garden Grill out to the larger walkway by the Zephyrs.
By the Garden Grill in the Pavilion there is also Calligraphy Demonstrations and the New Years Wishing Wall. Every year I place a wish on the wall and so far, they have all come true!! Guess that Disney magic works wonders!
As usual there is a meet and greet for characters but definitely get there EARLY!!!!! I was there right when they opened the line, they had to move a group that had started lining up before the characters got there and it was the shortest I have ever seen that line!!! It often can be more than an hour, but the characters outfits sure are cute!!
This year also features an extra special little something for AP members!! Near the entrance to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, there is a little area roped off where you can pick up an AP Map, Sticker and there is a private wish wall and a photo op area.
After grabbing my little bit of AP Swag I decided to go and get some snacks from the Vietnam Booth. I grabbed the Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer and a Vietnamese Iced Coffee. I kept seeing a bunch of people walking around with the Iced Coffee and despite not being a “coffee” person, thought it would be interesting to try.
The Skewers were an interesting texture. I couldn’t quite tell if they were each one whole shrimp or if it was ground shrimp molded to a round at the end. It was a little odd to me but I still tried it. They were ok. I can be a little bit of a simple eater, and I couldn’t put my finger on it but I kept feeling like the shrimp was missing a little something. The sauce definitely adds a little bit of a tangy flavor which I though complemented them very well. While I thought this one was good, I had other dishes I tried that I preferred.
Again, I am not a “coffee” person. I don’t drink. I have rarely ever had it. I find coffee pretty bitter, but I though hey why not. I tried this one and… it’s definitely coffee. I liked that it comes with like a sweet creamy sauce on the bottom and your encouraged to shake it up like some bubble teas! I still found it bitter, but like I said I’m a poor judge. Even though I wasn’t too keen on it, a lot of people walked away from the booth with it and seemed to really enjoy their choice. So overall, it’s probably better than I realize. I thought about trying the Purple Sweet Potato Macaroon but am glad I didn’t, ITS HUGE!! The couple in front of my bought one and it was like the size of a small hamburger bun! I originally order the Sticky Rice Cake with Pork but it had sold out, if I get the chance to go back, this one is on my list!!
Disney decided to really up the activities this year by bringing small day shows like the Acrobats of China. I went to a brief showing early in the morning but wasn’t really able to see much so I thought I’ll just catch it later and get here earlier. BIG MISTAKE! I didn’t realize the acrobat perform multiple routines, so when I went later it was a different set of routines, and the one I had seen that morning wasn’t performed. This made me want to watch all the shows, because it was fantastic!! The show I saw included a Lion Dance, a balance routine with barrels the women performed, a routine with rope lassos the men performed and slow high pole balance act performed solo. At the end everyone gathers for a short dance and bows. This is a performance you NEED to arrive early for. Also keep in mind you’ll be directly in the heat!! I had to buy a shirt because I got way to hot during the first show to keep standing there. And don’t forget the sunscreen or you’ll cook!
After the show it was my favorite time of the day. Anytime I can get more food. I decided to head back to the Garden Grill. The Kalbi Beef Short Ribs sounded too good to pass up and they did not disappoint!!
The ribs are grilled to perfection. The meat is somewhat sweet and soft. Tough enough to not all off the bone but succulent enough it almost falls apart in your mouth. While there isn’t much meat on them, it was an excellent light lunch. The sticky rice that accompanies the meat is like small perfect clouds that cleanse the pallet with every bite. This is probably the best rice I’ve had and the combination between the pillowy rice and the savory meat was divine! I’m not a fan of Kim Chi so I did skip trying this part but it definitely seemed like everyone else was enjoying it.
Along with the Beef Ribs I tried the Cassava Coconut Cake and the Almond Milk with Assorted Jellies.
The Cassava Coconut Cake was interesting. I had no idea what Cassava was, but quickly deduced once starting to eat the cake that it is the little yellow pieces. Those piece were hard and it was not at all what I was expecting. The cake itself is almost like a soft shaved coconut, pressed into the round shape with what seems like milk to bind it. It was probably the least sweet dessert I tried the whole day. The body of the cake is kind of a crumbly texture, very moist and lots of more subtle flavors. I think I did like it, but after trying so many things throughout the day, I can say it wasn’t my favorite. A side note that is super relevant though is that I am not a huge fan of coconut. In my book it reminds me of the parent candy from Halloween, and has never been my thing.
I LOVED the almond milk! The almond milk was very sweet though. Oddly enough the jellies in the milk are a strong fruity flavor, almost like a fruit punch! I was expecting something closer to Boba but the jelly were awesome! The drink was a creamy flavored milk with this shot of sweet and fruity in every sip. I’m still kind of craving it now!! I can honestly say I’ve never had anything else like it. I was luck enough to catch Jei Ma performing right before I sat down. She is wonderful and the tradition music really brings together the whole environment.
After Lunch I walked around and have to say something that always disappoints me is the Merchandise. Like most years there are 3 main souvenirs, (an improvement from last years 2). A Shirt, Red Money Envelopes, and what looked to be Small Containers.
One year Disney had a bunch of Disney Pins that were for the 12 signs of the calendar, I loved those and unfortunately they are still selling them, so I’m guessing they haven’t done as well. This year it didn’t seem like they even did a rooster solo pin or a Chinese New Year pin for 2017. Unfortunately, the merchandise is always a bit lacking. The shirt is nice, but very basic, and I would love something like this on a nicer more flattering cut of shirt or bag. I would seriously buy so much merchandise but every year there is rarely much to choose from. I feel like Disney can do so much with Chinese New Year but it’s been very neglected for the most part. Perhaps with this expansion, next year will bring more merchandise. I really hope so…
The last item on my list was the Passion Fruit Green Iced Tea with Popping Boba at the China Booth.
Out of everything I had all day this was the most refreshing thing. The tea has this soft flowery hint at the end. The fruity popping boba combined with the overall subtle flavors of the drink were incredible. It was quite warm and I really wanted to just sit somewhere and enjoy this sweet drink. I had planned to get an Egg Tart also but they were sold out, so better luck next time I guess.
I was fortunate to get to stay until night and see everything lit up. I missed the last Mulan Processional but was still happy to get the chance to see how beautifully decorated everything was at night.
I loved that my drink lit up to. I didn’t realize until later that it actually changed colors!!! BEST PIECE OF MERCH FOR THE WHOLE CELEBRATION!!!! I’ll try to include the video at the bottom.
This was probably the best day at Disneyland I have had in a little while. I had hoped to stay for the Hurry Home show before the World of Color but wasn’t able to. If you have never been to the Lunar New Year Celebration, you do not want to miss it!!! There is plenty to do to fill at least one day and I wish I had two just so that I could do everything I wanted to!! The Celebration ends February 5, 2017, so HURRY while you still can!
Glowy thing… Watch it glow!!…totally worth the like 5 bucks…