For those of you who don’t know me so well, I am a massive fan of all things Disney. The Lion King is my favourite film of all time and if I am ever having a rubbish day a Disney classic is sure to put a smile on my face. So when planning the trip, I found out that Disney were planning to open a new park in Shanghai in 2016. What luck! Having already visited the park in Hong Kong twice I was keen to try the new Shanghai one with promises of the biggest castle and a whole host of new rides. So we woke up at 8a.m and headed to the subway station just a 3 minute walk from our hotel. Another tip, pretty much every large Asian city has a metro system and it is the easiest way to navigate the city. I always pick hotels that are in easy walking distance to a station to make getting around huge metropolises a piece of cake. Anyway, we took the subway, having to change line and arrived at the Disneyland Station in around an hour. We were welcomed with the usual Mickey and Minnie branding and a lovely fountain outside the park with the usual mouse shaped gardening. It looked great and I was itching to get inside.
We had pre-purchased our tickets from their website which was great as we just took print outs on the day and got allocated our Disney character ticket at the turnstile entrance meaning we skipped the queue for tickets completely. The price was around £56 for the day and so fairly similar to each of the other parks, of course getting cheaper the more days you buy. The park is set up similar to the traditional Disneyland park and has a variety of lands each centred around the main fairytale castle in the middle. We walked up the very short Main Street which is mostly full of shops and decided to try Remy’s Patisserie for a breakfast snack. I had a mickey branded mooncake which I actually wasn’t a fan of (more because I just don’t like mooncakes than this one specifically) and a Tigger tale which was very nice as well as an iced salted caramel latte. We ordered too much as usual and were feeling full as we set out to explore.
Fantasyland was our first stop, not before stopping by the castle where we managed to catch the second half of the Golden Fairytale Fanfare where different princesses came out and sang their ‘famous’ song with lots of dancing and the usual Disney frivolity. The songs were in English with all of the talking in Chinese so it was easy enough to follow along. Feeling of a Disney high after our impromptu show we headed to our first ride of the day – Voyage to the Crystal Grotto. I had never heard of this ride and so wasn’t sure what to expect. The queue didn’t seem to move very quickly and we were there for around 45 minutes before getting onto a boat and sailing around to see different characters dance and spin to music and a water show. It was actually pretty nice, similar in a way to A Small World but focussed on the characters and their songs rather than the world and different cultures. It soon became clear what the queue hold up had been when around half way round we saw some men fixing the wiring and from that point in had no music. It was a shame as the ride was actually pretty good and if it had been broken I don’t think they should really have let people on but with the park being so new teething errors are to be expected. The next part of fantasyland was the Frozen sing-a-long show. I haven’t been to any other parks where Frozen has a big presence other than in the parades with the film being quite new and so I was looking forward to this one. Unlike the first show we had seen this one was entirely in Chinese including the singing which made for an interesting watch. I managed to follow the storyline because I have seen the film but it was quite strange hearing the famous ‘let it go’ being belted out as ‘suf ta ba’ instead but I was soon singing along in Mandarin. Our final stop in fantasyland was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which was kind of similar to Rocky Mountain Railroad of other parks and was our first bigger ride. We went on as single riders to skip the long queue and it was worth it, the ride was a lot of fun.
Luck was again on our side as we managed to by chance catch the daily parade just as it happened to be passing. It was quite a lot shorter than the parades in other parks but still fun and the floats were impressive as always. The Finding Nemo jellyfish were definite favourites along-with the usual classics and some more unusual characters such as Bob from The Incredibles. From Fantasyland we headed over into Treasure Cove a sort of ‘pirate themed’ land where they had a lake with pirate ship in the centre. We waited in a really long line for Pirates of the Caribbean here which was a fun ride again in a boat whereby you went on a pirate adventure with sort the 4D making you feel like you were actually underwater and then fighting pirate battles. It was much less scary than the rollercoaster Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Paris and was worth the wait as it lasted quite a long time which was nice. The other pirate themed rides here didn’t really intrigue us too much, there is a ship for kids to explore and a pirate show but we thought this would probably be in Chinese and without subtitles might be quite difficult for us to follow so we headed straight over into Adventure Isle which was in the usual location of Tomorrow land.
Here we were keen to try Soaring Over the Horizon, a ride I have never heard of before as well as Roaring Rapids. Unfortunately, when we arrived both had really long queues of 2 hours with no single rider options. None of us fancied these waits and so we opted to get some lunch at the Tribal Table restaurant instead. Not before some cheeky selfies, one of which was photobombed by a Chinese lady! I went for the Kung Po Chicken which was really nice, my dad had a beef dish with rice and Gillian got the free prawn kids meal since we had bought 2 mains. The food was good and nice to have more of a selection than you get at the American parks. I also had this really amazing iced matcha green tea drink which was really nice. Feeling nice and full we went for some pictures with Rafiki since there was no queue and we were passing before making our way to the Tarzan theatre for the most beautiful acrobatic show. The stunts were so impressive and with the Phil Collins soundtrack the show was really spectacular. I was wowed. The long waits were still there for the rides and so we headed over to Tomorrowland after having some pictures with Baloo.
The ride with the most buzz around it at the park has to be Tron Lightcyle Power Run. It is the fastest rollercoaster at any Disneypark and unlike usual coasters you are half kneeling, half lying down for it to simulate riding one of the Tron lightcycles. As we approached it, I was quite taken aback by the sheer size of the dome it was housed it. Luckily there was a short 30 minute wait for single riders and I managed to convince my dad to do this one with me while Gillian waited with the bags. Even the queueing experience was amazing, with you being instructed to join a team and race from a computer screen with the pulsing Tron music vibrating around you. The single rider queue was probably longer than 30 minutes since they only took someone when there was a single rider of group of 3 or 5 in the main queue and it was mostly made up of couples. I made a friend with this young Chinese girl who wanted to practice her English and so the time went pretty quickly. I have to say I was a little nervous strapping myself in to the bike but it was a fantastic ride and definitely my favourite from any Disney park. My dad was less impressed and had to sit for a bit to recover, had the queue not been so long I would have jumped right back on for another go. We met back up with Gillian and headed to Gardens of Imagination.
It was time to meet Mickey Mouse, the star of the show. There was a short queue where you waited to be called but it was surrounded by lots of Mickey and Minnie themed paintings that interactively moved based on some famous pieces such as The Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It made the wait go so quick looking at each of the pieces before they danced off to only be replaced by another set. We got our pictures taken with Mickey before heading to the Wandering Moon Teahouse for some iced tea to sit with on a bench. We had been on our feet all day and were starting to flag so we had a rest before checking out the shops on Mickey Avenue. The fireworks at Shanghai take place a lot earlier than anywhere else I have been at 8.30p.m and so we found a good viewing spot and I took a short nap on the nicely warmed ground (it was like sleeping on a heated bed), before watching Ignite the Dream, the fireworks spectacular with lights beaming characters onto the castle. I love this part, it’s one of my favourite things about Disney and really makes you feel the magic of the place. Given our strategic position after it had finished we were near to the exit and made our way back to the metro station and back to the modern metropolis of Shanghai leaving the magical world of Disney behind for another day. Is it the best park I have ever been to, no. But it does have the expected Disney magic and made a great day out for us all. Even my dad said he thought it was much better than expected, which is truly praise indeed.