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How Disneyland Exhibits World Culture

By November 3, 2015September 11th, 2018One Comment
Disneyland and World Culture with Walt DIsney and Mickey Mouse

Photo by Heather Harvey

Disneyland is a dream vacation for many kids around the world, but parents often seek unique cultural experiences that can’t be had at a Disney park—or so they think. While California’s parks don’t have the World Showcase like Florida’s Epcot, there are still plenty of chances to incorporate world culture into your family vacation.

One Ride, So Many Cultures

Climb aboard for a gentle boat ride through the countries of the world on It’s a Small World, Disneyland’s dark ride that aims to show unity between all nationalities. As you wind through, you’ll visit different sections of the world: England, France, Italy, Africa, China, the Middle East, South America and more. In each area, the animatronic dolls are dressed in representations of cultural clothing and sing the famous theme song in their native languages.

The overall message of the ride is the best, as it culminates in one room where all of the cultures come together—still wearing their cultural outfits, but all in white—as they sing and dance together, demonstrating the importance of world peace and unity among different cultures. This is a great example for children and, if you discuss its significance, it can become a lasting memory that leaves an impression.

Themed Lands

A few of the themed lands have attractions that provide little glimpses into different cultures around the world, be it through architecture, music or content. Adventureland specifically includes Temple of the Forbidden Eye, the Indiana Jones ride set in a temple in the Bengal region of India, which shows off petroglyphs and a sarcophagus stone. The neighboring Jungle Cruise deals with animals (and even some natives) from Asia, Africa and the Amazon. Then there’s the Tiki Room, a Hawaiian-themed show featuring colorful birds and Polynesian-inspired gods.

A Special Show

For the last two years, Disneyland’s Fantastyland Theatre has featured the perfect show for travel lovers. Called “Mickey and the Magical Map”, it involves Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey and a paintbrush that allows him to travel to different worlds via a magical map. As he travels to different worlds, he incorporates different Disney songs from the Jungle Book, Pocahontas and Mulan. While it may not involve a ton of foreign cultures, it does showcase some of the more unique American cultures with finale scenes set in Hawaii and New Orleans.

Rancho del Zocalo Restaurant at Disneyland

Photo by Patrick Pelletier

Good Eats

One great way to experience culture at any Disney park is through the cuisine. A major example of ethnic food at Disneyland is the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Frontierland. The Spanish-style restaurant is designed with plenty of adobe, colorfully painted tiles and trickling fountains. Sit inside under Spanish-style lanterns or enjoy the outdoor patio filled with plants. Their Mexican cuisine, including chicken tortilla soup, enchiladas and flan, is a great way to introduce your kids to these ethnic dishes. The kid’s menu also includes simple burritos and tacos for little ones. Throughout October, the restaurant has a Dia de los Muertos exhibit set up just outside the entrance archway.

In New Orleans Square, restaurants like French Market Restaurant and Pirates of the Caribbeans’ Blue Bayou offer a mix of Cajun and creole-style cuisine like Cajun meatloaf, citrus-marinated chicken, gumbo and seafood jambalaya—another great way for kids to try famous cultural dishes.

Over in Anaheim’s second park, Disney’s California Adventure, guests can get a variety of Asian-inspired dishes at Lucky Fortune Cookery. Choose from chicken, beef or tofu then choose a sauce—orange, spicy Korean, teriyaki or Thai coconut curry. Available sides include mango slices, edamame and seared veggies. Grab a few different things so kids can try it out and see which they enjoy the most.

Although it’s a little more difficult to incorporate culture into a Disney vacation, it can be done.



Ashley Ryan

Author Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan is a southern California native with a background in journalism and anthropology. She loves learning about other cultures and combines her passions for traveling, writing and photography in her professional work. To learn more or get in touch, visit

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