This post is on behalf of Universal Studios Hollywood
One of the ways amusement parks are reaching out to attract more visitors is by having more annual celebrations outside of the usual holidays. That means bringing in new cultural traditions like the Lunar New Year.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, you will find their celebration of the Lunar New Year at the Plaza, which is located at the heart of the entire park. There you will see that the entire area has been transformed to look like Kung-Fu Panda’s Valley Of Peace, the fictionalized setting for the film.
Based on the Dreamworks’ film, visitors will be able to interact with the characters from Kung-Fu Panda, like Po and Tigress, at the Jade Palace. Together, with the help of some of their assistants, will teach you a variety of martial art skills. Shows are held every hour.
And training tends to work up an appetite, so you’ll have to stop by at Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop. There you can eat some traditional Chinese delicacies. The Dragon Warrior Bao (two for 7.99) is a traditional Pork Bao, which is a steamed bun filled with Chinese BBQ pork, served with soy sauce. You can also have some Westernized versions of Chinese food like Oogways Egg Rolls (one for 4.99), which is chicken and vegetables wrapped in a flour wrap, then deep fried. If you are looking for a slightly healthier alternative, then Po’s Pot Stickers (four for 7.99) are the way to go. It’s ground pork wrapped in wonton and served with a side of soy sauce. Finally, there’s the priciest dish of them all, Secret Ingredient Stir Fry Noodles. They come at a variety of prices starting with Beef, Chicken, and Tofu priced at $9.99, and Shrimp priced at $10.49. It’s your typical Westernized iteration of a Chinese meal that is served with your choice of protein that is mixed in with stir-fried noodles and vegetables.
The baos themselves were probably the most impressive dish of the entire menu. Honestly, it tastes like something you would eat at a dim sum restaurant. The noodles, while tasty, it was a bit of a soggy mess. And they are a bit stingy on the meat. However, you have to remember that they serve these things in mass quantities. The eggrolls and potstickers are pretty tasty as well especially when paired with the sweet and sour sauce and the spicy soy sauce, respectively.
After you eat, you can share a few laughs with Mr. Ping himself, who is located adjacent to the restaurant’s cashier. There, you can ask a few questions or maybe have a small chat with Po’s adoptive father. Don’t forget to take a few photos. Mr. Ping makes an appearance every hour.
If you are looking to practice some of those art skills, then you might want to check out the Feng The Palace Artist’s Stand. There, you will learn to draw Po and the rest of the Furious Five with an artist from the Jade Palace. Shows take place every hour.
And at the center of the Plaza is the Wishing Tree, where visitors can write their wishes for the New Year and hang it on the Plum Blossom Wishing Tree for good luck.
Around the Plaza, you will also find a few other characters getting into the Lunar New Year Spirit. There will be the Mandarin Speaking Megatron, who will strike fear into the hearts of those who will oppose him. But don’t be scared, in fact, take a picture with him, and show that you aren’t afraid of him.
You can also take a photo with the Minions, those yellow pill-bodied creatures who can’t find their leader. They will be dressed in traditional Chinese attire.
I have to say, I usually dread these kinds of things, mostly because of the cultural appropriation and exploitation. But, Universal Studios’ celebration is actually pretty nice and respectful. The entire plaza is decorated in red with traditional Chinese lanterns strung across the whole area.
Banners encircle the center, with each of them having an animal that represents the year of the Chinese Zodiac. On it, you will find the personality attributes for each animal and the year that is associated with it. This is the Year Of The Dog. If you are still trying to figure out what year you are, all you have to do is match the year of your birth with the respective animal. So, if you were, for example, born in 1985, like me, you would be an Ox. Their traits are reliable, strong, and reasonable. The year after that would be the Year Of The Tiger. Every year is a different animal and there are 12 years in the Chinese Zodiac. So what year are you?
There is some nice attention to detail when it comes to some of the aesthetics of the Plaza. The wishing tree was a nice touch, but if you were to look at some of the other overlooked details like the noodle bowls inside of Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop and the paint brushes at the Feng The Palace Artist’s Stand.
The entire experience was fun and somewhat educational if you aren’t familiar with the Chinese Zodiac. Overall, I’d say you should definitely stop by for a visit and do some of the activities.