Celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year at Universal Studios Hollywood

Looking to celebrate the Chinese new year? Universal Studios Hollywood has a new showcase, Lunar New Year, for the next couple of weeks for that purpose. Intertwining the Chinese new year with characters from its Kung Fu Panda franchise, Universal Studios has transformed its Universal Plaza into a celebration space into one celebrating this new year.

Gorgeously decorated Universal Plaza

Gorgeously decorated Universal Plaza

After passing through the park’s entrance and the art deco-y 1930s Hollywoodesque opening street, one turns to the Universal Plaza to be greeted by a peculiar sight. Towering over a crowd is a very animated Megatron from Transformers. What makes this Megatron peculiar is not only his height, but that he is speaking in Mandarin. While speaking in Mandarin, he keeps the audience very engaged. While walking into the area, I heard him interacting with guests and having them light up in laughter.

Guests interacting with a Mandarin-speaking Megatron

Guests interacting with a Mandarin-speaking Megatron

Passing the engaging Mandarin-speaking Megatron, one enters the Universal Plaza, a circular mini-arena, which has been festooned entirely with Chinese new year decorations. The most striking of these decorations are Chinese lanterns coruscating out on on lines from a centrally-located plum blossom tree towards the edges of the circular plaza.

Centrally-located plum blossom tree

Centrally-located plum blossom tree

In addition to this centrally-located plum blossom tree are a half-dozen other such trees, all pleasingly blooming with pink flowers. On all seven of these plum blossom wishing trees, guests are invited to write wishes on red cards and hang them on the trees for good luck.

At the far end of the plaza, as one enters, is the striking performance stage. This all-new Jade Palace Performance Stage is home to three engaging guest activities: a photo-op with Kung Fu Panda characters, a storytelling activity, and a kung fu training show. The photo-op is with both Tigress and Po from DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda franchise in an all-new recreation of Po’s Village.

Guests can meet and take pictures with Po and Tigress

Guests can meet and take pictures with Po and Tigress

The other two shows seek to engage children by incorporating them into the activities. The first of these, the Tale of the Lunar New Year, is a storytelling show, led primarily by a storytelling young woman, who reads aloud from a gorgeous-looking scroll. While there is some appropriate background music playing, children guests are invited to get involved with the storytelling experience with musical instruments, led by another crew member.

The Tale of the Lunar New Year engages children and other guests through storytelling accompanied by music

The Tale of the Lunar New Year engages children and other guests through storytelling accompanied by music

The second show involves children even more. The Kung Fu Academy, based on the beloved Kung Fu Panda franchise engages guests in an interactive martial arts demonstration performed by Master Po and friends. Led by another young lady, The Kung Fu Academy involves Master Po and a lively young man helping lead children volunteers in learning several basic moves, based off of characters from the Kung Fu Panda franchise.

Guests can learn basic kung fu moves with Master Po at the Kung Fu Academy

Guests can learn basic kung fu moves with Master Po at the Kung Fu Academy

Both of these latter two activities last about ten minutes each and take place back-to-back seven times throughout the day, so guests can conveniently remain in their place for both shows.

Also taking place multiple times throughout the day is Feng the Palace Artist’s Studio, where guests can learn how to draw Po and the Furious Five with an artist from the Jade Palace. This event takes place six times throughout the day, roughly every hour or so, with guests provided with drawing materials, learning to draw a different character each time – Tigress, Viper, Crane, Mantis, Monkey, and Po. And, of course, guests can keep their drawings as mementos of their experience.

Artist demonstrating how to draw Monkey

Artist demonstrating how to draw Monkey

If you get hungry, there is food. At Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop, not only can you order authentic Asian fare, but guests can also interact with Mr. Ping, himself. At his shop, guests can order food from one window and interact with Mr. Ping at another. At this latter window, guests were noticeably having a blast interacting with him, as he has brought his own sense of humor to the conversations.

Guests interacting with Mr. Ping

Guests interacting with Mr. Ping

Food available at Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop includes Po’s Pot Stickers, steamed pork served with spicy soy sauce; Oogway Egg Rolls, chicken with sweet chili sauce; Dragon Warrior Bao, BBQ pork bun served with soy sauce; and Secret Ingredient Stir Fry Noodles. The stir fry noodles came with four options – Beef, Chicken, Shrimp, or Tofu. The tofu stir fry noodles were the only vegan option. I elected to try these and they were tasty – with soft (but not too soft) noodles accompanied by soft tofu and a mix of vegetables, including bell peppers, carrots, and other vegetables, along with some appropriate oily liquidiness. And, yes, these tofu stir fry noodles are prepared separately from the meat options (according to the crew member assisting me at the service window).

Tofu Stir Fry

Tofu Stir Fry

As one exited the Universal Plaza, there was also the opportunity to meet Illumination’s Minions dressed in traditional Chinese attire at the Minion Character Photo-Op.

Minion dressed in Chinese attire

Minion dressed in Chinese attire

While it may sometimes get unreasonably hot at Universal Studios, we were lucky to have the weather in the 50s in the morning, then 60s in the afternoon, getting no warmer than the low 70s, with entirely clear blue skies. So, the weather was absolutely fantastic, and it should hopefully remain so for the duration of this Lunar New Year celebration.

Entrance to the Universal Plaza flanked by golden lions

Entrance to the Universal Plaza flanked by golden lions

DISCLOSURE: The author was invited to attend the Lunar New Year festivities on behalf of Adventures By Daddy and enjoyed Universal Studios, with parking, the theme park experience, and the lunch provided gratis. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on InstagramTwitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

 

About Drew Kaplan