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14 photos inside Universal Studios Hollywood's Lunar New Year celebration where there's a pop-up 'Kung Fu Panda' restaurant

Published by Business Insider on Sat, 25 Jan 2020

From now through February 9, 2020 Universal Studios Hollywood in California is celebrating Lunar New Year.I previewed the event as it opened to the public Thursday.The park has a lot of characters for guests to interact with, drawing sessions, and a "Kung Fu Panda"-themed restaurant pop-up called Mr. Ping's Noodles.I was thoroughly impressed with the number of characters available to greet fans all at once in different areas.Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.Universal Studios Hollywood transformed its plaza into a festive garden with activities, performances, and a pop-up restaurant to celebrate Lunar New Year for the year of the rat."We value different cultures and Chinese New Year's celebration is one of the examples where we don't only want to entertain the ones who are already celebrating Chinese New Year, we also want to bring this tradition and also this spirit to other people who maybe didn't experience it before," Universal Studios Hollywood ambassador Amy Tang told Insider of the park's annual tradition, which is now in its fifth year at USH.A lot of guests were on hand for the kick-off day to watch traditional lion dances, check out a pop-up restaurant themed around a character from "Kung Fu Panda," and take photos with a Mandarin-speaking Megatron from the "Transformers" franchise.There's no extra cost to enjoy the Lunar New Year festivities. It's included with the price of regular admission (one-day tickets start at $109) to the park. If you're planning on going to USH from now through February 9 while the festivities are in place, here's what you can expect to see and do.The Lunar New Year celebration takes place in Universal Plaza, near the park's entrance.If you're coming from Universal's City Walk, you'll see event decorations before arriving at the park entrance. The store outside the park is decorated for the occasion.Finding the celebration hub once you're inside isn't difficult. After walking past the main stores through the park entrance, you'll come face to face with the plaza.You can enter the plaza from various sides of the park.The more than two week celebration doesn't just celebrate the year of the rat, but is aimed to celebrate all 12 of the zodiac signs of Lunar New Year.Heading under that main arch feels most enchanting because it opens into a garden area filled with plum blossom wishing trees.With the way the light and shadows move throughout the morning to early afternoon in the plaza, this was a great spot to capture a photo of the hanging lanterns and blossoms.Park guests are invited to "share their wish for the new year" and then hang it from one of the trees.By the time I left the park in the early afternoon, the several trees that surrounded the plaza were full of red cards.As I went around reading some of the cards, there was a common theme among many of them. People just wanted happiness and peace. Of course, some others wished for good luck to get through nursing school.Depending on which day you attend the park, you may see a traditional lion dance or choreographed martial arts.Performers who will appear in the park during the celebration on select days includeCamarillo Kung Fu (January 25-26),UCLA Wushu (February 1),Tyun Yee Tong (February 2, 8-9), andAne Thanh Lion (February 8).While I was there, a few dragons were dancing for the crowd. They didn't just dance, but also interacted with the crowd. One of them playfully went over to two young women writing on the wishing trees.In the same space, Po from "Kung Fu Panda" posed in one of six stances with guests.Guests could choose to pose with Po in a few stances, including viper, tiger, and dragon stances.Po wasn't out just once or twice either. I was impressed with how frequently he returned in between dragon performances to stand with guests. Typically when heading to parks, you need to wait to see a character or maybe get a glimpse of a big one every few hours. But the rotation here was well-handled.If I was a young child heading to the park, I'd be ecstatic to see so many of my favorites out at once and in a capacity larger than just being able to take a photo with them.It wasn't just Po that guests could meet. I was impressed with how many characters the park brought out for the event that were, sometimes, all out at once.After Po was done showing guests how to pose in different stances, he would go for a photo op with Tigress, another character from the film."Transformers" villain Megatron only speaks in Mandarin with guests. I didn't know what Megatron was saying, but he must have said some funny quips because he not only amused those who snapped a photo with him, but also passersby.One of the best moments I saw all day was the young woman above run over to Megatron and wave her "Harry Potter" wand at him in attempt to defeat him. I'm not sure what spells take down a Transformer, but I'm sure Shia LaBeouf would have liked to know. A "Despicable Me" minion and even Hello Kitty herself were located just outside the square in their own spots.People were especially excited to meet Hello Kitty, who was also dressed for the occasion. I saw two people run over to the Sanrio character to eagerly get their photos taken.Hello Kitty was recently was added to Universal's Animation studio store so she's a bit newer to the park than some of the other characters fans may be used to seeing in person.You would think these five characters would be enough for people to mett and greet, but in the same area Beetlejuice, Frankenstein, and every member of the Scooby Doo gang were also out and about.When you're done meeting all of your favorites, you can grab some grub at Mr. Ping's Noodle Shop. The pop-up restaurant isn't usually at Universal. It's not a stand-in for any other restaurant. This was specifically added for the Lunar New Year festival.The menu has four main entrees, which include beef pho, pork ramen, glass noodle soup, and a secret ingredient noodle soup that's vegetarian.Po's dumplings, Oogway egg rolls, and Asian sausage on a stick make up the three side dishes. Cherry cheesecake and sesame balls are available for dessert. And, yes, Mr. Ping, is also there for you to say hi.The sassy goose is pretty chatty and took his time speaking for a few minutes with guests. It wasn't a quick photo op to move people along.Per Ping's suggestion, I tried the secret ingredient noodle soup.I asked him about this "secret" ingredient. He told me he'd tell me if I didn't share it with millions of people. He claims it's nothing.Sorry, Ping. This conversation was on the record. Secret's out.How was it'The soup itself was fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. I also tried the sesame balls and I'd highly recommend those. They were filled with just the right amount of chocolate so they weren't too sweet.My only complaint' I wished they had more traditional green tea than just a bottled Honest Tea. It felt a bit inauthentic. There was also an option to get hot jasmine tea, but I spotted a man who had ordered it and it looked like I was just going to wind up with a tea bag.When you're all filled up, you can walk across the way for a drawing session. One of Universal's artists will walk you through how to draw Po.Instead of just having paper and pencils, Universal laid out pretty sturdy drawing folders holding multiple papers in case you needed to start over. I figured I'd try it out to see how easy (or difficult) it was to follow along.I'm a bit of a slow drawer so I found myself playing catch-up here and there. But as someone who grew up sketching freestyle, I found the steps simple enough to make it so that anyone could draw a successful sketch of the "Kung Fu Panda" character. I think I did all right.Given that we did the entire drawing in only a few minutes, this was satisfactory. I decided to hang the work along a few other drawings for display. By the time I left there were four more on display.I found it to be a pretty satisfactory day. Universal's Hollywood park is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. local time. You can easily run through everything in this area in an hour or 90 minutes and have plenty of time to hit up the rest of the park's attractions.Universal's "Lunar New Year" celebration runs from now through February 9.
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