At Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, Lunar New Year become its own holiday, filling the parks with stunning decor, themed experiences, and traditional entertainment.

By Carlye Wisel
Updated January 31, 2019
Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

California locals know the end of winter is the best time to visit theme parks. January and February bring smaller crowds, shorter waits, and cheaper tickets — but also an exciting celebration vacationers don’t often take notice of.

At Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, Lunar New Year become its own holiday, filling the parks with stunning decor, themed experiences, and traditional entertainment — all with a friendly twist.

From a Kung Fu Panda noodle shop you won’t believe is real to a full-fledged festival of culinary delights, it’s an under-the-radar experience most park-goers don’t know about that just happens to come at the perfect time to visit.

Take part in these one-of-a-kind Lunar New Year festivities from Feb. 2–18 at Universal Studios Hollywood and Jan. 25–Feb. 17 at Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort.

Experience character interactions not offered any other time of year.

Character meet-and-greets abound for special one-of-a-kind mementos during Lunar New Year celebrations: Disneyland Resort hosts photo ops with Mulan and Mushu, as well as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Pluto sporting red Lunar New Year attire. Universal Studios Hollywood’s Master Po and Tigress from "Kung Fu Panda" will pose for photos with guests, as will Minions wearing traditional Chinese New Year outfits and Hello Kitty in a new custom-designed look.

Dine on Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean delicacies.

Hungry revelers can enjoy traditional and modern Asian cuisine at both parks, with Universal Studios Hollywood offering specialty sweets, dumplings, bao buns, and Banh mi sandwiches, and Year of the Pig-themed doughnuts at the famed Voodoo Doughnut within Universal CityWalk.

Disney California Adventure launches its own mini food festival for Lunar New Year, with themed kiosks and tasting-sized portions to enjoy. Come for the three-cup chicken and shumai dumplings but don’t miss the showstopper: a whole fried fish for two, served with soup and rice, at the park’s Paradise Garden Grill. (There are even special Mickey-shaped eats exclusive to the celebration, including a Chinese-style hot dog bun, ube macaron, and green tea tart.)

Universal Studios Hollywood also brings an experience straight from the big screen to the parks, with Mr. Ping of "Kung Fu Panda" helming his own noodle shop on-site. Chat with the humorous goose and snap a photo together before ordering the “secret ingredient” stir fry noodles and Po’s dumplings — just like in the films.

See a live show that puts Lunar New Year traditions on display with fanfare.

Universal’s Dragon Warriors Training Show allows kids to learn how to become a warrior like Master Po alongside characters from "Kung Fu Panda," while Megatron — yes, the "Transformers" character — will speak Mandarin outside Transformers: The Ride 3D.

At Disney California Adventure, Mulan leads a procession of characters and performers multiple times each day, culminating in a colorful choreographed show with drummers, ribbon dancing, martial artists, and a firecracker finale. Prepare your cameras for special appearances by the Three Little Pigs in honor of Year of the Pig, as well as Goofy and Chip ‘n’ Dale.

Enjoy celebratory entertainment and decor, included with admission.

With red lanterns strung above, plum blossom wishing trees, and zodiac touches, the parks embrace the excitement of the holiday in beautiful displays. At Disney California Adventure, guests can also make their own paper lanterns, add a message to the Lucky Wishing Wall and, on Mondays and Tuesdays, receive custom Chinese calligraphy from on-site artisans.

Disneyland Resort will host the Melody of China ensemble for performances throughout the week, while Universal Studios Hollywood welcomes groups specializing in martial arts and traditional lion dances on select dates.

This Story Originally Appeared On Travel + Leisure