Ah, Disney parks. They are my forever happy place. As a former Disneyland Cast Member, I have an unhealthy obsession with all things Disney, and if I don’t make it to a Disney park at least once a year, I begin to wilt. When I heard that Shanghai Disney finally had an official opening day and it would be only days before my holiday began, I quickly decided that had to be a stop on my trip. I quickly bought tickets, booked a hotel, and the plans were made. Here’s what happened at the spankin’ new Disney park.
The park officially opened in June 2016 and is the largest Magic Kingdom park in the world. I can now say that I have been to every Disney park in the world, sans Paris.
The park is located in the heart of Shanghai, China in the Pudong area. It is located close to the Pudong International airport and it would be wise to try and fly into that airport if possible. Although Shanghai is a huge city, you never feel that once inside the park, it is tucked away enough that you can still get lost in the magic even while being surrounded by a city. The park is located on metro line 11 which gives easy access.
Tip: If you arrive by metro in the morning, buy your return ticket right away. Once the park closes, the lines at the ticket machines are crazy because so many people are leaving at once.
Tickets can be bought online or on site. I bought the two day pass and although it is doable in one day, it is a big enough park that two days would allow you to really appreciate it. The prices are as follows in RMB:
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If you don’t know what fast passes are, you need to get on the level – now! Fast passes are special tickets you can get for selected rides which give you a specific time to come back to the attraction and go through a faster que. You can only get one at a time, or two after a certain amount of time has passed. Keep track of that time (written at the bottom of your ticket) and get a second fast pass as soon as you can!
In Shanghai, the fast passes are located in three or four locations in the park (marked on the map) and you can line up for a number of rides in each location. This caused a HUGE que, which I hated, but it is what it is. I thought that strategy was stupid, rather than having the fast pass by the specific ride like in all the other parks, but alas I didn’t get to make the decision. First thing in the morning get a fast pass for Soarin’ Over the Horizon. Do it. Don’t ask questions. This ride has the longest que by far and it never goes down. The other rides with Fast Passes are: Tron, Buzz Lightyear, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Roaring Rapids.
Single Rider Que
Single rider is my love. I always go to parks alone, so I live for single rider lines. Shanghai has a surprisingly high number of rides that offer this que, well, more than some. (Looking at you, Tokyo Disney.) Single rider lines are special ques where cast members can fill up the random empty seats where larger groups leave empty. If a group of four take up four of the five seats on Pirates of the Caribbean, a single rider can use that last seat. This usually means a much shorter wait time for the single rider but you won’t be able to ride with your group if that’s important to you. It’s great for people like me who come alone or for a person who might be the only one in their party who want to ride an attraction.
Sometimes the que is marked and open, and other times you have to ask the cast member at the entrance que to use it. Don’t be afraid to ask. I had to ask a number of times in Shanghai. They keep them closed a lot because people abuse the system, but if you mention it, they’ll let you through. The single rider ques are at Tron, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Roaring Rapids, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
I had a negative experience with how the Tron single rider que was handled at one point, but I’ll go into that at another time and also the Roaring Rapids never opened their single rider que which seriously pissed me off. I didn’t get to ride it at all because the line was always 2+ hours long and the fast passes were gone. I may post a Good & Bad of Shanghai Disneyland post, if that’s something you guys would like to read. I have some thoughts on the matter.
Upon entering the park you are greeted by the usual Mickey shaped flower arrangement and train station. The train station is a bit disappointing as there isn’t a train currently and I was slightly underwhelmed by it, honestly. That’s why my photo is pretty pathetic, I just wasn’t really impressed. It’s here that you can grab a park map and times guide – make sure you do this! The guides are available in a plethora of languages, but only at this spot. You can ask any cast member for a map throughout the park but they will probably only have the Mandarin version.
You are then led into the area called “Mickey Avenue,” China’s version of Main Street, USA. I much, much prefer Main Street, although Mickey Ave. is plenty cute and gives a nod to some classic Disney like “Flowers and Trees” and “Tony’s” from Lady and the Tramp. This is a great place to grab some food or do some shopping. This is also your first look at the Storybook Castle.
The Storybook Castle is the largest Disney castle in the world, and boy, is it big. It’s also not designed for one specific princess but has nods to each one in its design. It’s worth going up and just studying for a bit, the details are incredible and a special treat for Disney connoisseurs. Inside the castle is a restaurant, the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, and a walk through story of Snow White. The center of the castle is flanked with beautiful murals of the princesses and a gorgeous chandelier. In front of the castle is the Golden Fairytale Fanfare show, however it was cancelled the whole weekend due to rain, so I don’t have much to tell you about it.
If you choose to walk through the castle you will find yourself in Fantasyland. Fantasyland is home to rides such as:
The Seven Dwarves Mine Train, a Big Thunder Mountain type roller coaster and the same ride which they have in Orlando. Peter Pan, almost identical but just a smidge better than other parks due to newer technology. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Spinning Honey Pots, and Journey to the Crystal Grotto, a boat ride that takes you past music and displays of famous Disney scenes, round out the very kid friendly area. The Alice and Wonderland Maze is another walkthrough attraction, based on Tim Burton’s Alice. It’s cute and great if you’re a fan of the movie. The maze features silly mirrors, a tunnel with the Cheshire Cat, and the Queen of Heart’s rose garden. I, however, much prefer the classic Alice, so it wasn’t anything special to me.
The Snow White story walk through in the castle is called “Once Upon a Time” Adventure and is absolutely adorable! It’s a combination of special effects and animatronics which takes you through the entire Snow White film. It is much more well done than the castle walkthroughs of other Disney parks, although is totally in Mandarin. Hearing Snow White sing in Chinese is pretty spectacular, however. Snow White is my favorite Princess (tied with Mulan, to be fair) and I love how she is featured in Shanghai. I feel like no one likes her in America because she’s portrayed as “weak” in some people’s eyes. (Which is so NOT TRUE, I could rant for days on that subject, but I digress.) But she is deservedly appreciated and loved in the Asian parks.
You know how when you step into Tomorrowland it actually feels like you’re stepping into what they thought the future would look like in the 70s? Yeah, that’s not the case at Shanghai, it feels truly futuristic. Tomorrowland is very spacious but is jam packed with activities including a stage for a Big Hero 6 show, a rocket ride (Jet Pack), a Star Wars building, and the main attraction, Tron.
Tron is, no joke, the best roller coaster I’ve ever been on, and that is saying a lot. It is truly in a class of it’s own and worth all of the hype. I was a big fan of Tron Legacy when it came out a few years back and was always disappointed that a ride was never made out of it. I feel like most Disney parks thought it wouldn’t be a success because the film did just ok in theaters. Well, I’m calling it now, I can almost guarantee the Tron coaster is going to show up in Orlando or Anaheim. It’s too good to pass up.
The coaster’s train is unique in that you lay forward like you’re on a fancy-shancy motorcycle (the light cycle racers if you’ve seen the films). In all honesty, now that I’m back in Indonesia with my scooter, I imagine that I’m driving around one of these bad boys instead. If only I looked so cool. Anyway, the entire track features a cool score and visual effects that make it really feel like you are racing and just avoiding a collision. The front is to die for but the back allows you to really take in all the effects. You really can’t go wrong on this ride. Also, you MUST RIDE IT AT NIGHT AT LEAST ONCE. That’s an order. The que is a bit of a mess and the single rider line frustrated me, but overall I still rode it about eight times in two days. You must put all your belongings in a locker beforehand, but the lockers are free for up to three hours. If you decide to bring your phone or something small, there is a small compartment in the train that you can place an object like sunglasses, chapstick, or a phone. But it’s small, so be aware.
Tip: See Tron Legacy before going if you truly want to appreciate the beauty of this ride.
The Star Wars building was a real treat because I wasn’t expecting it. I purposefully didn’t look to much into this park because I wanted to be surprised, and this was one of those cases. The building featured props and costumes from the films and a ten minute movie that summed up the entire saga. You could also meet Darth Vador and Kylo Ren, neither of who had a line, so I totally chatted it up. Hearing Darth Vador speak in Chinese is just as intimidating, btw. For massive Star Wars fans you’ll be pleased to see how much it’s featured throughout the park and I have a feeling that will continue in the future.
Side note, there is also a Marvel building between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. It is very similar to the Star Wars building, with props and film memorabilia. You can also meet the likes of Captain America, Spiderman, and Iron Man. There is an Iron Man interactive motion screen where you can fight badies with the use of Iron Man’s suit. I wasn’t as thrilled with this building as with Star Wars, but if you’re a massive Marvel fan, I think you’ll appreciate it.
I loved Treasure Cove straight away because the score from the Pirates of the Caribbean films was constantly playing in the background. None of that “yo ho yo ho” stuff. Treasure Cove is home to Pirates of the Caribbean, a walk through pirate ship, restaurants, shops, and a Jack Sparrow show.
Honestly, the only thing that matters in this land, and one of the only things that matters in the whole park is Pirates of the Caribbean. Literally, one of the greatest Disney rides of all time! There is no comparison between it and the “classic” ride, sadly. It leaves them sinking beneath the waves. The Pirates ride in Shanghai is based solely on the films, but in the best way possible. It takes the best parts of the movies and turns them into a ride that is truly innovative. You are placed in a boat similar to the classic ride, but this time it spins, goes backwards, speeds up and more. The attraction features huge screens that make you feel like you’re falling, flying, and floating. The animatronics are also on point. On fleek? I only wish I knew what was being said by Jack and Davy Jones, who knew they were fluent in Mandarin? Honestly, I could go on and on and on and on. Between Pirates and Tron, you need to get your butt to Shanghai. Also, take advantage of the single rider line, it was the best in the park.
Adventure Isle is where you will find Soarin’ Over the Horizon, the most popular ride in the park. This is the reimagining of the ride Soarin’ Over California, which used to be located in Anaheim. This ride is bananas and is not to be missed. It simulates being in a hang glider and witnessing the most spectacular places around our globe. If you’re afraid of heights/get motion sickness, beware, you may need to close your eyes at points. As a traveller, it made me feel rather unaccomplished in the amount of places I’ve been but also motivated to see more. It was a strange sensation. The line will never ever be short, so grab a Fast Pass for this one at the beginning of your day.
Roaring Rapids is the other large ride in this section. It is your typical wet ride where you get in a large raft and unsuccessfully avoid getting drenched. I didn’t get to ride this one because of the 2+ hour wait and it being closed one of my days, but it’s a sure fire way to cool down.
This is also where you can take a canoe ride, catch the Tarzan show (more on that below), and do a rope course (more on that in my next post). Overall it’s one of the smaller areas but is packed full to do.
Sadly, due to rain, I only got to see the parade one time all the way through, and I took video rather than photos expecting that I would see it again later. In general, it’s a strong parade and is very in line with other Disney parks. I love how Mulan got her own float. When I worked in Hong Kong, none of my students even knew who Mulan was let alone liked her the best. She’s THEIR PRINCESS! Gosh, it was so frustrating. However, Shanghai Disneyland seems to be putting much deserved focus on Mulan. I loved that. And not only that, but she is in her Ping costume which is amazeballs!!
Tip: The guests were very, very, very, very pushy to see the parade, so even though I began at the front of the line, I ended up in the forth row by the time the parade arrived. Stand your ground!! Position yourself near a light post or rubbish bin so no one can get in front of you. It’s survival of the fittest in Shanghai.
Tarzan – The Stunt Show! It’s awesome, and you don’t want to miss it. This is the stage show not to be missed out of all the options. All the shows are in Mandarine, but this has the least dialog so it’s fine if you don’t speak Chinese. It’s also a treat to hear the music sung in Chinese as a bonus. The stunts are grand and the performance in general is along the lines of The Lion King show in Orlando and Hong Kong. It’s located in Adventure Isle and fills up fast, so be sure to go early. I’ll talk more about other shows in my next post.
Let me just start off by saying, this is in China, the fireworks are guaranteed to be off the chain. And they are. Shanghai has one nightly show, a fireworks display/castle projection production. If you’ve never seen one of the famous “Disney projects beautiful and magical things onto the castle” shows, then you are in for a treat. It is mesmerizing and unforgettable. How it’s done, I still have no idea. Shanghai’s was great because it featured Mulan, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and my favorite (and rarely used) Finding Nemo & Frozen song, among many others. All the songs apart from “Let it Go” were in Chinese. I would say it was probably the best fireworks/castle show I’ve seen yet.
Stay tuned for my Day 2 post coming soon. I shall delve into Disneytown, food & accommodation options, the goods, the bads, and the few uglies. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments!
Which Disney park do you dream of visiting?