When the thought of Disneyland comes to mind, the initial impression is often fun, yet long, hot days full of marathon walking, soundtracked by active children and punctuated with long lines and dancing characters. At least that was the direction my mind went.

As a childless adult, I wasn’t sure what a family destination billed as “The Happiest Place on Earth” for youngsters and the young a heart could truly have to offer to keep me entertained for longer than an afternoon. But as I learned while attending their June Black Music Month Celebrate Soulfully event series, there is a slew of fun, food, festivities – and yes, costumed characters – that can keep unattached adults even more entertained than the tiniest of Mouse-fanatics.

In a continuation of their Black History Month initiative, Disneyland is celebrating and highlighting the achievements and contributions of Black creators during the month of June in recognition of Black Music Month. Dubbed Celebrate Soulfully, it’s an opportunity for park-goers to honor Black heritage and culture while enjoying the magic of Disney.

Offerings include daily live entertainment, including the newly-launched Tale of the Lion King show, performed each Thursday through Monday at the Fantasyland Theatre, specialty food, art, and more.

Joe Chea

I was pleased to attend a preview of June’s offerings, starting with specialized food items from the Celebrate Soulfully menu. At the Disney Theater, we were treated to a feast of braised short ribs, ceviche and pasta salad, all hand-crafted by Black Disneyland chefs. The same was true once we hit the Troubadour Tavern right next to Fantasyland Theater to enjoy The Tale of the Lion King, with the chicken-coconut curry sweet potato topped with crispy kale and complimented by berbere-spiced popcorn, crafted by Chef Natalie Willingham. Finally, we were treated to a special meal at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney, complete with an appearance by Princess Tiana herself and featuring NOLA BBQ shrimp & grits (that I am still having dreams about) and a dessert of traditional beignets crafted by Executive Chef Darrin Finkel and complimented by a peach pie old fashion created by bar manager Jake Kerr.

On top of all these, Disneyland brought Black-owned food trucks to the Downtown Disney District for added cultural flavor. From June 1 through July 4, Bred’s Nashville Hot Chicken truck will serve up spicy fried chicken options (with a delicious southern-style banana pudding dessert option), while Happy Ice is rolling through with ultra-premium Philadelphia Italian Ice treats to cool down from the Anaheim afternoon heat, starting at 3pm daily.

But of course, you can’t spend all your time eating. On to the experiences.

Joe Chea

From Galaxy’s Edge to Avenger’s Campus, there’s sure to be something to make you feel like a kid again. For a Star Wars fan and Marvel enthusiast like myself, each was a dream come true.

After having a chance to meet with Chewbacca in front of the Millenium Falcon, we were whisked away to “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.” What I assumed to be a quick roll-through ride with some screens paying a nod to the source material turned out to be a completely immersive experience that I couldn’t even quite wrap my head around, thrusting us straight into a tense altercation between the Resistance and the First Order. Get captured, plot a high-speed action-packed escape, and face off with Kylo Ren and hundreds of Storm Troopers aboard the First Order’s mothership.

Over on Avenger’s Campus, we quickly trained in defense and self-assuredness with the Dora Milaje before meeting with his highness himself, King T’Challa, the Black Panther. From there, we went on to assist Peter Parker with a crisis in Stark Labs during the WEB SLINGERS Spiderman Experience. By the time we grabbed a quick bite at Pym’s Test Kitchen, it was time to bounce to new heights on “Guardians of the Galaxy –MISSION: Breakout!” a ride that provides a unique experience combination each time, featuring big fun and even bigger freefalls set to the 70’s soul soundtrack that Star-Lord keeps spinning in his walkman.

Joe Chea

When night fell, we were treated to attractions like World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park, featuring projections and pyrotechnics that tell some of Disney’s most beloved stories with little more than water and light, the Once Upon a Time Castle Show which features updated sing-along renditions of Disney animation favorites, and the 50th Anniversary of the Electric Parade through Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

Between the rides, food, and shows, all focused on immersing you in Disney’s various long-beloved stories, there’s plenty to enjoy regardless of what age you happen to be. If you can make it to Anaheim before July 4th, be sure to take part in some of the cultural experiences celebrating Black culture and creative contributions at this fun-filled destination.

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