Disneyland Shanghai opened on 16 June 2016 - and we were lucky enough to be there. Can you believe it? What an amazing adventure and once in a lifetime opportunity!
This incredible property was in the works for 15 years and is the ultimate magical family park where fantasy meets cutting edge technology and astounding special effects. We LOVED it! So before you think maybe Disneyland Shanghai will be too difficult for you to visit please read on - remember we are just a mum and a six year old and if we can do it - you can too!
We are huge Disney fans - we’ve traveled from Sydney to California six times just to go to Disneyland and we have had the most incredible, magical bonding experience every time. We’ve also been lucky enough to visit EuroDisney in Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.
I was hopeful Shanghai would be just as fabulous and to our delight we had a magical time here too - in fact it’s our second favourite park right behind the original Disneyland in California. The cast members are wonderful, the crowds sparser than we imagined, the rides more incredible than we’d hoped and the magical vibe gave us goosebumps.
So in case you’re worried about visiting as I was before we arrived - about crowds, cleanliness and language difficulties - here are a few things to ease your mind..
Don’t worry about:
The opening day crowd was low which was unexpected and meant we got on quite a few rides and could see the fireworks. Subsequent days the park was very busy but the mornings are easy to grab a fastpass and get on at least one of the popular rides at least once or twice before the lines get too long. And even then for some strange reason there are rides that we loved like Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear that consistently had lines of 10 minutes or less. Often we just walked straight on. I’d been so scared of crowd surges and massive queues and that just wasn't the case at all. The size of the park and its wide walkways also helps to keep lots of space.
A friend of ours visited last week and walked onto every ride. As with every Disneyland it’s pot luck as to the size of the crowds so take a chance, use some strategy and hope for a quiet day.
There was very very little pushing and none of it rude or aggressive. Often it was just the usual Disney space-holding for friends and family or people trying their luck to get a little further ahead. I actually found it less pushy than Hong Kong and felt that the people were all happy and excited and respectful of each other.
Generally the park was clean and a lot of work goes into making sure it's looking spick and span. I think this will be a little bit of a struggle for Disneyland but it’s not too much of a concern for guests. I have to admit we did see a couple of plastic bags of poo and wee left on the ground in queue lines which obviously I can’t comprehend why people would do this but it was the exception rather than the norm. There was a bit of rubbish left around the Park but all Disney would need to do would be to add extra bins to fix this (and they may have already done so).
Everything is sign-posted in English, there are English maps and programs and staff speak English. It’s incredibly easy to get around the Park and there’s no trouble at all with the language. In fact you will find that cast members want to talk to you in English and so you will never be wanting for help and assistance.
The Park itself is so spacious but not too big to wander around. The beautiful castle is incredible - it's so huge but still a delicate pink and blue centrepiece to the beautiful park - and it can be seen from all over the park too, which is unique and makes for an extra special experience. The castle is also known as the Enchanted Storybook Castle, where all the Disney Princesses live. We went to a character lunch here that was really great and the tour inside the castle is also magical.
Oh my gosh I get the vibe just writing this story. Shanghai Disneyland for all its size and technology and differences has the Disney vibe! We felt it - the magical feeling, the happiness and the excitement. People walking around with huge smiles, happy and enjoying the day. We loved it.
Opening Day Welcome.
One of our highlights was definitely arriving on opening day and being welcomed by the the staff to the Toy Story Hotel and then all cast members lined along Mickey Avenue, high-fiving us and yelling ‘welcome’ as we arrived at the Park - they were so happy! It made me teary from happiness. It really was fabulous.
The Disney Parades in Shanghai are incredible. They are huge, energetic and highlight characters that are relevant to the geography, like Mulan who gets a starring role. There is so much dancing so many floats and the usual upbeat, fun music to sing and dance along to.
Ignite the sky fireworks and projections.
Oh my gosh this is just spectacular and I have no words for the amazingness of the projections on the castle and the beauty of this performance. This is what made me realise the power of Disney in letting their Imagineers dream and create because I could never have dreamed such an incredible show. An absolute must-see and worth waiting in front of the castle for a prime spot.
Tomorrowland at night.
Just WOW! Tomorrowland is so amazing at night, it really is futuristic and lit up and dazzling, with a DJ playing tunes from the stage, Tron whizzing by, lights flashing and the Disney night time happiness vibe pulsing through the air.
Character meetings - including Star Wars Launch Bay.
The Chinese people don't seem be too into the character meetings. When we went into the Star Wars launch Bay there was no one around! We met the Sith, Darth Vadar, R2D2 and sat in Hans Solo’s rocket ship without a wait. It’s located in Tomorrowland and is a great exhibit. There’s also a lego play area for kids and a Star Wars montage of all the films which goes for around 15 minutes.
The Premier Tour:
Just to make sure we saw everything we lashed out on a Premier Tour for the day, joining four other people for VIP access to all the rides. We went on every single ride at least once, saw characters and had the BEST FUN! If you have the holiday budget to spend up on this then it's definitely worth it - you'll have the attention of a dedicated staff member and can plan exactly where to go and what to see. This tour will take you either to the front of the line or to the FastPass queue, either way on a busy day you will save a LOT of queue time and if you only have one day for the park then this is a super investment. Find out more here.
Our top rides:
Tron was our favourite ride. It’s an incredible rush of sound, visuals and movement. Strapped onto the bike from the Tron movie you race the other team inside and outside, speeding through darkness and light and twisting and turning on a suspended track. The music, excitement and effects make this ride such an awesome experience - even waiting in line is fun and exciting - Disney’s speciality really. I had never seem Tron before this ride and now I've watched it three times!
Pirates of the Caribbean.
Oh my gosh the special effects in this ride were absolutely jaw dropping. It’s one of the most amazing rides I've ever been on. You ride in a boat through old pirate towns and underground lairs, accompanied by Captain Jack Sparrow and sinking to the bottom of the ocean before surfacing again. It’s just spectacular.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
This is a super fun rollercoaster with great views across the park from the top of the mountains.
Roaring down rapids, whirlpools, waterfalls, climbs and dips. This ride was so much fun, and was one of the longest queues while we were there.
Camp Discovery Challenge Trails.
This activity is so much fun! You are attached to a pulley system for safety and climb on different challenging tracks, across rope bridges, up ladders and rock climbing around caves and sheer cliffs and over river gorges. Em loved it so much we went on over and over again.
Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.
A lovely boat ride that takes you past princess and fairytale scenes with a trip to a secret grotto underneath the Enchanted Storybook Castle.
So many characters! They're everywhere and queues are manageable!
Who doesn’t love Buzz Lightyear! Theses one of my all-time favourite rides and the Shanghai Disneyland ride is extra slick with super fast guns and high scores. Yes!
Garden of the Twelve Friends.
This is a beautiful walkway where the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are illustrated with pictures of Disney and Pixar characters - like Tigger for the Year of the Tiger.
Oh this is so beautiful in the evening to look out over the Gardens of Imagination and the twinkling fairy lights and glowing Enchanted Storybook Castle. And the horses are so cute, Emmie loved them!
Alice in Wonderland Maze.
Wander through the maze and find beautiful life-size creations from the storybook, beautiful gardens and the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the end of the maze. Lots of fun for littlies and big kids too.
Of course all the favourite rides are there, like Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo, Winne the Pooh and more. You can find a complete list of all the rides on the Shanghai Disneyland website.
There’s so many food outlets and everything from American style burgers to Mongolian lamb. There’s no fruit stalls like Anaheim though, well not that we found, but the food is really great quality and easily accessible. There are also bubblers everywhere for filling drink bottles. And bizarrely lots of massive turkey drumstick carts that the Chinese people queue at for ages! We found the food perfectly fine and you can certainly easily get enough food to take you through the day.
However if you wish to pop outside you can take the exit just past Tomorrowland and to the right and head outside to a bunch of restaurants - including the Cheesecake Factory for yummy meals and salads - in Downtown Disney.
You won’t have any trouble finding a toilet and they are clean, cool and have lots of stalls, baby changing areas and lots of sinks.
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Toy Story Hotel - we were the first official guests in the room! You can walk to Disneyland from the hotel if you have to (but you have to cross a couple of main roads) but why bother when its awesome shuttle bus takes only a couple minutes to drop you almost at the door and comes every 10 minutes or so.
As you would expect the hotel is a Toy Story explosion, with huge Woody and Buzz statues in the courtyard and regular appearances by Woody and Jessie. There are gorgeous Toy Story artworks and prints all over the hotel, and lifts have Toy Story sound effects at every floor and it’s a super fun hotel. The rooms are lovely, with cloud wallpaper, fun curtains, themes slippers, notepads, pens, soaps, carry bags and a Toy Story toiletries tin. You can also choose to pay a little extra for a Park view room.
The hotel doesn't have a pool unfortunately - The Disneyland Hotel does - nor does it offer Room Service, but it has a cafe and restaurant downstairs which is sufficient, and a gift shop for all your last minute Disney souvenirs.
There’s a movie channel on the TV - the Grand Californian in Anaheim needs to adopt this - with around 10 Disney movies which is so fab for kids at bedtime to wind down and also give parents a break!
The staff can make a hotel and the staff here certainly do. They are so happy and excited and all of them will say hello and wish you a magical day. their enthusiasm really added to our excitement.
How many days?
Oooh how long is a piece of string! We could stay at Disneyland for weeks! We were in the Park for five days and we saw everything and had an awesome time. I would suggest a minimum of two days to be able to enjoy all the rides and go on your favourites over again. And if you only have one day make sure to look into the Premier Tour.
- We never found the fireworks too crowded but if you do you can watch them from behind the castle at the exit to the Crystal Grotto ride.
- Fastpasses are located together at each land - not at the rides. You can get your next fastpass two hours after the previous.
- Download the app and use it to check queue-times.
- You'll find WIFI around the Park.
- When you arrive in the Park head straight to Tomorrowland and grab a fasts for Tron. Then ride it a couple of times before the queues start. You should then go over to Jetpacks - which doesn't have fastpasses and is very popular and Buzz Lightyear (if the queue is not long, if it is come back later as in our experience it will get less crowded). Then visit the Star Wars area and watch the Baymax and Hero show on the mainstage. You can get your kids involved on the stage even if they don't speak Chinese/Mandarin. They just need to follow Hero’s moves.
- Because of the smog its not likely that you'll get blue sky photos but the air at least is clear and while we were in the heat this visit, we are visiting at Christmas - in a few weeks - and will experience the park in 15 degrees so it will be an entirely different adventure!
If you have any questions or feedback please let me know - and have a MAGICAL TIME!! xoxo