I had already been to Tokyo DisneySea before visiting the Shanghai Disneyland. But if I were to choose which one I liked more out of the two, I would honestly pick Shanghai’s Disneyland over Tokyo DisneySea. Shanghai Disneyland is newer, has an awesome companion app and a great park layout. The weather could have played a part in my decision, since it rained heaps during my visit to Tokyo DisneySea.
No matter which park you choose, the world over, all of Disney’s theme parks are incredible. They are unforgettable, because the effort that goes into each park, from the aesthetics, the rides and the props/characters is unreal. Each visit should be magical and special. Even for adults, Disneyland will leave you giddy and excited, and you’ll be talking about it for years to come. (I never visited Disneyland as a child, so that may be another reason why I loved it so much.)
Before arriving, you should…
Before embarking on the journey to Shanghai Disneyland, there are a few things to consider. First, there are many ways to get to the park. The park is accessible by train, bus and by taxi or car. We found it incredibly easy to take a taxi from our hotel straight to the park, because the people at the hotel could book the taxi and the driver knew where to take us. Plus, the hotel staff gave us the hotel’s address on a card so that we could return by flashing the piece of paper to our return driver. (My limited Mandarin could only get us so far…) The other thing to consider is your company. Disneyland is an all-day affair. You want a good partner and a person who is happy to follow your lead (or you can follow theirs). If you have terrible company, I think you should reconsider a trip to Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. It’s a long day, in long queues and it will test your patience. The experience won’t be the same unless you have two or more excitable people. (I say this, because I saw so many families and friends get so fed up with each other when I was waiting in the queue. Their experiences weren’t happy or magical.)
Be sure to have a small backpack to carry your belongings, there are plenty of lockers to place them away before each ride, and be sure to empty it of any food and water. The backpack is good, because all those souvenirs need a home. Before the entrance gates, you will asked to hand over your backpack, and forced back while the contents of your bag are literally dumped onto a table in front of you. Everything that isn’t food or water will be chucked back in. All food and bottles with fluid are tossed into a massive bin. At Disneyland, you need to understand that Mickey will feed you. (So, no to those unopened packet of chips that you thought you could sneak through. That was me… I tried and it didn’t work. Mind you, I only realized these rules when I was lining up.)
We bought our tickets via Klook the night before our adventure. The tickets came digitally (for us to scan on arrival at the entrance gate) and it was completely hassle-free. Originally, we didn’t plan to visit Disneyland, but our tour group leader gave the okay for anyone to do as they pleased on this day, so we did just that.
Throughout our day, we were so enamored by the companion app for Shanghai Disneyland. It was the best thing ever. It made getting around the park super smooth and easy. We could see the entire park layout, look at the wait time for each ride and also reserve Fast Passes (for the popular rides). Planning for the day was so much easier with this app. Mind you, if you reserve a Fast Pass, you have to wait until the designated time to join the ride’s queue. Unfortunately, you can’t queue up several rides at once. Instead, you need to have your Fast Pass scanned before jumping on the ride and then you can select another ride you want to reserve a Fast Pass.
You can never arrive too early to Disneyland…
We arrived super early to the park. Little did we expect that there was already a crowd of people waiting to rush through the front entrance. Gulp… It looked like all the residence of Shanghai was visiting. I cannot emphasize enough how big the crowd was, it was enormous. With the photo below, I do no justice in showing the size of the crowd. The crowd behind this photo was unbelievably enormous. Another point, we noticed that people who visit the park will stay for the entire day. The park only gets busier until the sun sets. Like you, most visitors want to get their moneys-worth.
Everyone was super eager to get in. The excitement was palpable.
The moment we had our tickets to enter the park scanned, we were given another ticket with a QR code. We immediately opened Shanghai Disneyland’s app on our phone and scanned the QR code. This code then opened up all the features on the app, including the ability to reserve Fast Passes. Thankfully, the whole app was in English.
Getting around was easy as well. There were plenty of signs in English and it felt surprisingly like any Western country, bar the occasional sign with Chinese characters. The whole park was well laid out. It was spacious and easy to get around. In almost every corner, there was something to admire or gaze up. Theme parks are fantastic at separating you from reality. Shanghai Disneyland is no different. (And being the newest, it seemed like they had almost perfected how to lay out theme parks.)
We managed to get onto the rapids ride first, Roaring Rapids. We thought it was the Soaring Over the Horizon ride originally. So we were pumped initially. When we got to the front and realized we had waited 45 minutes for a water ride, we sank a little. But it was fun and there was a lot of really nice vistas to see while being hurdled through the various rapids, hitting edges and being splashed. I had about 25% of my body wet by the end of the ride. At no time did I think I needed to protect things from the water. The ride is definitely kid friendly and geared towards them.
Unfortunately, even by the end of the day, we never rode the Soaring Over the Horizon. The queue was at least 180 minutes long and we felt we could do so much more than just wait in line. My regret was not making our way straight to the ride when we entered the park. We chose the wrong ride and joined the wrong queue. To add to the regret, we noticed that the Roaring Rapids’ queue was never long.
In almost every corner of the park are stores. There are heaps of merchandise and toys to see and purchase. They are all expensive. But the range is incredible from Pixar to the Marvel Universe. If you are looking for things, I always recommend visiting each store, because each store tends to sell similar things and some unique things. If you do see something, it is better to buy it then and there, because if you don’t, other people will buy it and there may not be any stock left for you. (Of course, if I saw a young person wanting something and it was the last item, I’d be thoughtful and give the item to them. I am too old to be selfish.)
The Force awaits…
We walked around every corner of the theme park. One of the coolest sections was the Star Wars area. I was shocked to see how big it was. There were statues, replicas of various Star Wars fighters and other trophies from the film series. There were even people in Star Wars costume, who were happy for a snap. It was mostly deserted. So, we were usually the first or second in line for photos with Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2, and Kylo Ren. We also watched a fantastic montage of all the films in the backroom. It was all in English with Chinese subtitles.
There were so many awesome props in the Star Wars area.
There was also a Marvel exhibit as well. There were several Iron Man suits on display, along with the Hulkbuster suit, and all the other heroes on display. We could also get pictures with the Marvel characters, but the lines were always long.
In the middle of the theme park is the Disney Castle. It looks incredible from almost every distance. (I honestly think it looks better from far off. When you get closer, it’s charm is different. Perhaps because I can’t see it all in one glance when I am up close.) The castle itself has several rides and experiences, so I would recommend getting close to see all the action.
As for lunch, you can have lunch inside the theme park or you can leave the theme park for restaurants just outside. You can always jump right back into the park if you leave by getting a stamp on your hand. The restaurants were mostly international restaurants and were much cheaper than the food in the park. We had Japanese ramen at Ippudo.
There is a huge line to meet and greet with Mickey Mouse. The room itself is crowded with people and interactive photo frames. Like most theme parks, looking at the walls or the props inside the room move makes the waiting less boring and tedious. (The other thing to have is a good companion to talk to. Can’t emphasis this enough.)
The photo opportunity with the famous mouse himself, Mickey, was cool. It was set behind an awesome background and if we wanted, we could pay to get the photo with him in a special frame for a few yuan.
You need to ride on the Tron Lightcycle Power Run experience
I think the Tron ride is by far the most interesting ride at the theme park. The whole aesthetics and experience was amazing. You ride on motorbikes on a rollercoaster. (You are not controlling the motorcycle, but you are seated like you are.) The experience is a short one, but it is super exhilarating and fun.
Tron was simply awesome. I would have done is at least another time had the wait been under one hour.
There are calmer, slower rides, yet they are still magical…
There are so many cool attractions and rides that aren’t rollercoasters. There is the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, which is a slow boat ride is still amazing. The ride takes you through various scenes from Disney classics such as Mulan, Tangles, Little Mermaid, etc. The design of each scene is elaborate and colorful. They were incredibly photogenic scenes. If the boat wasn’t always on the move, I would have made an effort to get some really nice photos from various angles.
The food can be expensive at Disneyland. Shanghai Disneyland is no different. Below is what we shared for dinner. We weren’t super keen on anything on the menu. We also ordered a dessert with Mickey’s face. It was just jelly and wasn’t anything special. Honestly, I wouldn’t go out of my way for jelly with Mickey’s face.
If you want to get an idea of the types of dishes you can order at the park, here is one of the menus. You can see that is is heavily Asian oriented, with heaps of rice dishes. You have the option of eating at one of the many restaurants situated just outside the park.
I made the mistake of buying my merchandise at the end of the day. It’s a horrific mad dash at the end and the stores were crowded like you wouldn’t believe. I regret not buying the things I wanted earlier in the day. The prices don’t get cheaper just because the park is about to close. This was just a Wednesday. Imagine if it was a weekend or a public holiday… My advice, if you see something you like, buy it, don’t wait until later. First, you can lose your chance to buy it later and second, you really, I mean seriously, don’t want to join the crowd at the end of the day buying things before leaving, because that’s what everyone else would be doing.
Be sure to stay until the end. Each night there are parades and a fireworks display from Disney Castle. It’s a magical way to end the day.
We managed to do most of the rides that we wanted. I had so much fun. (Just to add, I did ride the Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure and Buzz Lightyear’s Planet Rescue. Both are experiences.) There were so much to like about the whole experience. To give you an idea of how long we spent at the park, we got there early like 7:00 am and didn’t go home until close to 8:00 pm.
Also, if you want to buy merchandise or want to shop generally (even Disney merchandise). There are plenty of stores outside the theme park, e.g. including A Bathing Ape Store.
Shanghai Disneyland Park is located here at 1009 West Shendi Road, Shanghai, China: