Shanghai Disneyland: Magical and most memorable

The main reason for our December holiday to Shanghai was to visit Disneyland. It’s the final stop in our family’s Disney adventure that started with Disneyland Paris in 1999.

Dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth”, Disneyland has never ceased to amaze us with each visit — to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Orlando, and Anaheim. The atmosphere makes one feel really young and fresh again and the rides are exhilarating.

We thought we had done the whole Disney thing when we completed the Anaheim leg but who would have guessed that another magical kingdom would be built in Shanghai, the business capital of the Middle Kingdom?

In the run up to our trip, reviews on the China edition were mixed with some giving it five-star ratings while others rambled about the long queues and lack of toilet facilities.

But, that did not deter us as we were just one short of having a full deck.

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Affordable transportation
The train ride to Shanghai Disneyland itself was the first surprise. Our journey covered 17 stops yet we paid just six Chinese yuan each. That’s S$1.20 or under US$1.00. It’s the cheapest transportation to any Disney resort that we’ve been to.

What’s best was that the train wasn’t packed. We were secretly hoping that that’s the sign the theme park won’t be either. Incidentally, we went on a Friday because most reviews said Saturdays were the most crowded.

Like most other Disney parks, the walk to the entrance was long but the adrenaline within us was enough to melt the tiredness away.

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And soon, the all familiar tune was heard and we saw the entrance that marked the beginning of our adventure.

Ticket and photo taking
Our tickets bought through Klook was cheaper than the walk-in entrance fee so do buy in advance if you can. Getting in was just a matter of scanning the QR Code and being issued with a ticket.

The sneaky part here was that our photos were taken when we placed the ticket in the slots at the turnstile. This is how the park ensures that tickets are not misused as tickets are needed for entering the rides.

Nearly everybody headed to the front of the Mickey Mouse Garden to capture that first Disney shot for posterity. Needless to say, we did likewise.

Disney entrance.jpg

The walk down Main Street was nostalgic — it’s the same as any other Disney Main Street. The only difference is that the announcements are primarily in Chinese with a smattering of English inserted occasionally.

Thrilling rides
With the downloaded app, we managed to secure Fastpass to our must-go rides. Top of our list were:

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  1. TRON Lightcycle Power Run: We were early for our Fastpass and noticed that the walk-in queue wait time wasn’t long so we queued for it. The futuristic motor bike-style ride was thrilling. It’s a roller coaster with a difference so it gives the perception that you are in control. After our first run, we strolled in a second time using our Fastpass.
  2. Soaring over the Horizon: An Imax-type experience where we were taken on a flight over different parts of the world. The best part was that it’s not just a visual, audio and motion experience but also olfactory with the scent of grass as we travelled over the African jungle.
  3. Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue: This dodn’t set the heart beating as fast but was just as fun as the ride involved blasting away at Emperor Zurg’s abominable bot army.
  4. Roaring Rapids: This is our perennial water-drenching favourite. We were prepared for this ride — we brought our ponchos. It’s wise to buy one from the entrance if you do not have one because you can get wet while going down the rapids.
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure: Not much to do here other than just to sit in the boat and enjoy the trip to an underwater world where Captain Jack’s swashbuckling band of buccaneers duel with monsters.

There are milder rides for younger children and the faint-hearted but these were our favourites.

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Best Disney food
Beyond the rides, I must say that the food at Shanghai Disneyland was the best I’ve ever had in any Disney park. OK, I admit, I have a penchant for Chinese food but the braised pig’s trotter’s was tender, tasty and terrific!

The food fully justified the ban of outside food from the park. It’s really good and fairly affordable — unlike the outrageous price of less palatable food at other parks.

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Tips on having a great experience at Shanghai Disneyland

  1. Buy tickets online: It’s cheaper and saves time on queuing at the ticket office when you arrive.
  2. Go on a weekday: We went on Friday, which wasn’t crowded. Our friends went on Tuesday and reported likewise. The day to avoid seems to be Saturday when the locals take a break and turn up in force.
  3. Be early: Go before the park’s opening time if you can to avoid the crowd.
  4. Plan your rides: Decide which rides you want to take and get the Fastpass on your app. This helps greatly instead of waiting in long queues for the more popular rides.
  5. Eat early or late: Though the park wasn’t crowded, the food establishments filled up quickly during meal times. Plan to have your lunch before 12pm or after 2pm so that you can snag seats for you and your group. No outside food is allowed in the park.

More than just another tick on my bucket list, this trip to Shanghai Disneyland has been simply magical and most memorable. It turned out much better than I had expected and left me longing for more. If asked which Disney park I’d like to visit again, this would be it.

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