The House of Mouse. The Happiest Place on Earth.
In June of 2016, Shanghai was blessed––blessed I say––with the sixth and newest Disney park in the world, the culmination of decades of Imagineer best practices, stress-tested and reinforced to handle the world's largest population. Occupying 3.9 square kilometers of Pudong wetlands, costing 24 billion rmb and 5 years to build (plus a bit more, if you count the Toy Story expansion), it's the jewel in the crown of the larger complex called Shanghai Disney Resort.
It is a big. EFFING. DEAL.
We spent a combined 36 man (mouse?) hours in the most magical place on the planet to build you a guide to the park and how best to enjoy it.
THE SHORT VERSION
In the interest of time and eyestrain, we've condensed everything we say below into ten tips for getting the most out of the park.
1. Download the app.
Search "Shanghai Disney Resort" on your app store. It's fantastic. |t's in English. It has a hyper-detailed map of the park, with filter, plus wait-time estimates, show schedules, details on premium services, and more. Plus you can buy tickets and get your fastpasses on it. Download it and familiarize yourself before you go.
2. Go early, go on a weekday.
Crowds are thinner earlier in the morning. Under no circumstances go on a holiday or weekend.
3. Bring podcasts and headphones, not books.
Load your phone up with podcasts or audiobooks. Don't bring a book. You're going to need your eyes up in case someone tries to cut, or the line moves and you don't notice, prompting everyone behind you to bay for your blood.
4. Bring your own food.
The food is not great and very pricy. The park recently loosened restrictions, so you can now bring your own food into the park! Maybe not a Tupperware picnic, but you can get a couple of Subway footlongs in to power you through your busy day. Oh, and water. You can refill your thermos at the drinking fountains.
5. Get Fastpass/Concierge Services.
Even with off-day crowds, some of the popular rides like Tron, Pirates and Soaring Over The Horizon can accumulate queues of over two hours. Get your Fastpasses as soon as you get in the park, or buy the Concierge packages along with your ticket to get Fastpasses to nearly every ride.
The Fastpass essentially lets you cut in line on a ride. Any ride has its wait-time reduced to at most 10-15 minutes. Unlike other parks, Fastpasses can only be redeemed once you're inside the park via the Disney app (if you're staying at the hotels, you get priority). They're first-come-first-serve, and they're tied to a specific time.
6. Prioritize Tron, Pirates of the Caribbean and Camp Discovery Adventure Trails.
These three attractions are (in our opinion) the best in the park. Shanghai was the first park to have the Tron Lightcycle Power Run and a revamped, cinematic Pirates of the Caribbean experience, and the Camp Discovery Adventure Trails is just a lot of fun.
7. Don't miss the parade
The longest parade in any Disney Park starts at 3pm and snakes its way through the park from west to east. It’s a half hour of condensed, distilled and fortified Disney joy. Stake out a good spot along the route (check the app) at least half an hour in advance.
8. Go when it's colder.
Yes, there are less crowds on colder days, but also, several of the rides have uncovered waiting lines and you don't want to wait in line under the baking sun. Also, there is a serious risk of getting your eye poked out by the dozens and dozens of sun umbrellas. Aim for late fall (ideally) or early spring.
9. Plan your route in advance
From the minute you step into the park, you're on the clock. You're going to want to maximize your joy. Plan to hit the popular rides early in the morning.
10. Stay for the fireworks
Every night at 8pm, the Enchanted Castle is lit up by a combination of music, light shows, pyrotechnics and fireworks, celebrating the Disneyverse. The whole park gathers in the Gardens of Imagination to watch it. It's spectacular, and it's a hard heart that won't skip a beat when Robin Williams' Genie pops up or the Star Wars fanfare blasts out from the speakers.
What Makes Shanghai Disney Park Special?
Compared to the other parks around the world? Mickey Mouse-shaped baozi. Donald Duck doing Tai Chi in the Gardens of Imagination. Hearing what Jack Sparrow sounds like in Mandarin, which is a joy and a treat. The very first TRON Lightcycle Power Run. Unfortunately, there is no Haunted Mansion, which is a crying shame. Hong Kong gets one! Why don't we? As of 2019, we have also lost our Star Wars Launch Bay.
How much is this going to cost you, spiritually and financially?
The Budget Way
This is for the budget traveller who doesn't mind lines and is more there to soak up the atmosphere.
- Take the metro. Line 11 terminates at Disney Resort, a brisk ten-minute walk from the park entrance.
- Bring your own food from home; we recommend bananas, biscuits and trail mix.
- Pray that Fastpasses are available.
Financial: 399rmb Entry Ticket + 5rmb Metro
Spiritual: You will spend the majority of your day standing in lines.
The Deluxe Way
This is only for travelers visiting Shanghai specifically for the park, or for people for whom money is no object.
- Stay at one of the hotels and take the Wishing Star Lake boat or the shuttle bus to the park.
- Get reservations and eat at Club 33 in the park.
- Get The Deluxe Concierge Service package.
Financial: As much as you want.
Spiritual: Who cares!
The SmartShanghai Way
The smartest way.
- Take the metro there. Optionally, get a taxi back to avoid the late-night crush on the metro. It takes 45 minutes and costs about 130rmb to People's Square.
- Bring your own food or leave the park to eat at one of the Disney Town restaurants. Don't eat in the park.
- Get the Classic Concierge Package for the fast passes, the early park entry, and the reserved fireworks and parade seating.
Financial: 399rmb day ticket + 690rmb Classic Concierge Package + 10rmb metro there and back
Spiritual: None! You're liable to come out with a karmic plus!
Why Get Concierge?
Disney offers a concierge package service, redeemable at the ticket office to the Grande Theatre in DisneyTown. It's an additional 690rmb for the Classic package, on top of your ticket price. It comes Premier Admission via a much shorter line in Disney Town, Early Park Access at 8am instead of 9am, Fastpasses valid anytime to nearly every ride and reserved seating for the parade and the fireworks display.
We're going to go ahead and say that there's not much point going to Shanghai Disney unless you get it.
The valid-anytime Fastpasses alone would be worth the price; if you stood in line for every ride, you'd get may 3 or 4 a day, and spend 90% of your time standing in line. With the Fastpasses, you can get every ride done in a day, and still have plenty of time to wander and see the sights.
Note: The Concierge Service doesn't speak English but they do give you an English language map with all the times and locations you need on it, as well as a mobile number to call if you have any questions or concerns.
What's the Difference Between Concierge Classic and Deluxe Package?
The 990rmb Deluxe includes Fastpass to Rex's Racer, Woody's Roundup, Challenge Trails at Camp Discovery and Voyage to the Crystal Grotto (subject to attraction availability on that day). Classic doesn't.
Let's Talk About Lines
There are a lot of people going to Disneyland to stand in line. If you somehow didn't know that before, now you do.
Here're our tips for queueing at Disney:
- - If you're with others, pace yourself on conversation. Don't rush through all the interesting gossip and discussions in the first line. It's okay to lapse into silence for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.
- Bring water, but drink sparingly. Bathroom breaks will ruin your day if they're not done right.
- Mentally prepare yourself for people standing close to you. Disneyland lines aren't exactly Line 2 rush hour packed, but your personal space is going to be bruised.
Deep breath. Chill. You're not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.
Should you go as an adult without kids?
Yes, so long as a little magic still dwells within you. Our primary researcher for this guide is an embittered 30-year old who never went to Disneyland as a child. Visiting the park rekindled a spark within them they thought had gone out long ago.
Also, Shanghai Disney seems like an incredibly popular date spot. There might even have been more young couples than families.
The Shanghai Disney Resort App
The Shanghai Disney Resort App is a wondrous bit of technology. Not only does it have a high-resolution map of the entire park with up to date wait-times on every ride, they have the full schedule for events, entertainment, premium services, dinner reservations, even a filter for the nearest restroom. It's also how you book and redeem your Fastpasses. Find it by searching for "Shanghai Disney Resort" on your app store.
THE INSANELY DETAILED VERSION
The general crowds enter the park proper under the clocktower of the train station. Unlike the train station at other Disneylands, this one's just for show. It's there because all the other Disneylands have one.
Apart from this, Shanghai Disneyland is not interested in carbon copying the formula from other parks. Your first real taste of Shanghai Disneyland is Mickey Avenue. This is Shanghai's version of Main Street U.S.A. Unlike the folksy American small-town aesthetic of other parks, the shortened Mickey Avenue is lined on both sides by squat, cartoonish buildings. There are no rides here, unless you count the carousel at the end of the Avenue, just restaurants like Mickey & Pals Market Cafe, and the much-gossiped about Club 33. That, and shooooops.
It wouldn't be Shanghai if there wasn't a speakeasy! Shanghai Disneyland does, in fact, have its own Club 33, a secret dining destination that's available by booking only. Originally a genuine secret club for high profile guests, where rich men gathered to smoke, drink and discuss which Disney princess they wanted to be when they grew up, by the modern day, it's an open secret. You won't have much trouble finding it off Mickey Avenue: look for the “33” over the arch.
We haven't been inside: dining at the restaurant is only available to hotel guests, but by all accounts it's a wonderful meal in a lavish, art deco-ish environment, and it has an unparalleled terrace view of the evening Ignite The Dream light and fireworks show.
Dominating the horizon at the end of the avenue is the largest Storybook Enchanted Castle in the world, visible from everywhere in the park. Disneyland's six themed regions fan out in a circle around this pink and blue monument to the Mouse royal line.
We're taking them one at a time, in no particular order at all.
Just kidding, we're obviously starting with the most important one!
Despite being the park's marquee region, Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland isn't as grandiose as you might expect. Unlike the busy retro-futuristic look of other Tomorrowlands, you'd be forgiven for mistaking the huge, sleek wave-shaped building pulsating with neon for Pudong Terminal 3. At least before you get closer and the TRON Lightcycle Power Run comes screaming over your head at nearly 100 km/h.
As you might have guessed, the rides here lean futuristic.
Ages: Mostly young
This is the first ride you'll notice if you're approaching Tomorrowland from Mickey Avenue. Unlike the flying rockets in Tomorrowlands around the world, Shanghai gets jet packs. It's essentially your usual flying carousel type ride, where you go up and down as well as round-and-round. It's tame, meant for kids small enough to be blown away by movement through a whole three axes, but it offers up a great view, as it’s raised and outdoors.
Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
Ages: Young kids and teens
Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue is an on-rails light gun game based on the only good role Tim Allen's ever voiced. Ride goers get into a pod with two zap guns on the dashboard and proceed down a five minute long crawl through a robot warzone, with Buzz popping in every once in a while on screens to provide encouragement. Your job is to shoot as many of the little targets that pop up around you as you can, trying to rack up a high-score. It sounds a little lame, but it's actually great fun. The sound design and the visual effects are almost overwhelming at first, and the zap gun is satisfyingly loud. Zap zap! Blap bloop bzeow!
Another great benefit is that since the pods are moving at a constant pace, the line doesn't stand still long.
The Stitch Encounter is a character meet-up, or more like an intergalactic Skype videocall with the furry blue alien as he's out there, cruising around space. It is the best thing in Tomorrowland, and I'm including the Light Cycles. Stitch, voiced in real-time by an actor in a control room somewhere, banters with members of the audience (in Mandarin), complete with custom animations of Stitch reacting to what's going on. His reaction to a young audience member accidentally speaking the nuclear launch codes is a masterclass in comedic timing.
A few minutes later, Stitch makes a pass at one of the ladies in the audience, and when she points out her boyfriend is sitting right next to her, he asks her why she's going out with a potato. Savage. If your Mandarin is even slightly decent, go see Stitch.
TRON Lightcycle Power Run
Ages: Teens and older
Saving the headline act for last. The TRON Lightcycle Power Run son! This sucker got the most media attention when it first opened with the park in 2016. A roller coaster themed after the TRON movie from 2010, it's Shanghai's answer to Space Mountain. Starting with a drag-race acceleration to 95 km/h that will knock the wind out of your lungs if you're not prepared, it hurls you over the head of before diving inside again to zoom around in the dark with animation and light shows exploding around you. The ride features these motorcycle seats with a plate in your back holding you in place. It's a novel position, even if it mostly affords you a view of someone's ass in front of you, but it can feel a little unnerving the first time around. The second time around, you'll feel comfortable lifting your head up and getting a better view.
The only downside is that the ride is over in a literal minute. The Seven Dwarves Mine Cart might not be as thrilling, but at least it isn't over before you've registered that you're moving at very, very unhealthy speeds.
The lines are long and typically remain long most of the day. However, they're all indoors, and feature some very cool views over the loading bays. Take the opportunity to explain TRON's complicated lore to your partners, or your theory about how The Dude ended up becoming a computer programmer.
Star Wars Launch Bay (Now Closed)
Unfortunately, the Star Wars segment of Shanghai Disneyland appears to have closed in June 2019. Perhaps due to its obscure location in the rear of Tomorrowland, perhaps owing to Star Wars not being as big a thing here in China, it was reportedly mostly empty. As a result, we've lost our chance to see Kylo Ren up close or take a picture inside the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
TRON Realm, Chevrolet Digital Challenge
Might be a good opportunity to mention the sponsorship: Disney is branded to hell. You might not expect the company that trademarked the Western imagination to need cash infusions from other corporations, but most rides and attractions have some sort of corporate sponsor. The degree of their visibility changes. TMALL just gets a little banner after the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, while Chevrolet gets an entire showroom with Kinect games and Chevrolet car models made up to look like they're from The Game Grid. It's actually very well done.
This region, lying across the park from Tomorrowland, isn't themed after any specific Disney property, unless it's the Jungle Book and Tarzan. It's more a loving pastiche of the jungle adventure movies from the early 1900s. A lot of "tribal" elements scattered about. It's a relic from a time before indigenous representation was really on Disney's radar. More Pocahontas than Moana. However, it is home to one of Shanghai Disneyland's best features!
Ages: Young and up
It's really a surprise a bigger deal wasn't made of this attraction when the park opened. It's unlike anything you'll find at other Disney parks. Camp Discovery is a ropes course, with three separate trails weaving their way through caverns, over broken rope bridges and around obstacles. Most of the obstacles have several difficulty options (including an option to just bypass), and while none of them are exactly dangerous, there are a few that get close. Trail 1, for example has a waterfall obstacle that requires you to inch along a very, very narrow and very, very slipper stone ledge.
The queue passes by several instructional videos on how to put on your harness, but staff double and triple-check you before hooking you in. Note that you can only do one Trail per visit: if you want to try another trail, you'll have to wait in line again.
One tip for the queue here: you have to put all your loose items into a locker so you don't drop them on anyone. They have coin and WeChat operated lockers: bring a 1rmb coin with you, and you could skip a couple spaces while the people paying with phones wait their turn.
This ride is effectively the same as it is in all the other parks: splish splash down a circulare log-float and get soaked. A fun ride for a group, with rain ponchos provided, and intermittently timed water spouts so you never really know when you're going to get drenched.
Soaring Over The Horizon
Popularity: Mega Jumbo
Soaring Over The Horizon is a "simulated aerial amusement ride." Basically an IMAX screen, with mechanical chairs that move to simulate movement, plus smellovision. The aerial tour of 13 landmarks around the world, including the African savannah and, natch, the Great Wall of China, comes complete with rousing soundtrack and vertigo. The effect is somewhat ruined by the feet of the people on the row above you dangling just over your head, if you're not in the first row. Apart from the finale over Lujiazui that makes the fireworks ban hurt all over again, it's the same ride as the other parks.
It's impressive. It's not quite 175-minute wait impressive, though. This ride is one of the most popular in the park, and since each ten minute session only seats maybe 100 people, the line moves at a snail's pace.
Meet Disney Jungle Characters
Adventure Island's only other actual attraction is the Happy Circle, where you can meet various Disney characters, depending on the day's schedules. Some, such as Rafiki, make sense. Others, such as Zootopia's fox, seem like a bit of a stretch. They're camping out here until they get their own park extension (construction starting in 2019!)
Disney Pixar Toy Story Land
Opened a year and a half after the park opened, and the park's first expansion, Toy Story Land leans towards younger kids, with the cartoonishness really cranked up to 11 and the rides staying mostly tame. No Slink Dog Dash or the Alien Swirling Saucer here. Notable outlier to that is the Rex's Racer ride.
Ages: Teens and Up
A steel shuttle ride, this is Shanghai's third roller coaster and our version of the RC Racer. Based on the Mattel Hot Wheels line, it's one of those back-and-forth rides. You just seesaw around a massive half-pipe. They never look that impressive the ground, but 25 meters feels pretty freaking high when the cart is nearly tipping over at the top of the pipe.
Slinky Dog Spin
A kid-friendly dog-chase-tail ride, literally, just going up and down and round and round, forever and ever and ever...
Located inside Jessie's Stable, Woody's Roundup is a cartoonish ride that I'd be describe as "what if a merry-go-round saw Tokyo Drift." It'll yeehaw you back and forth, but not so hard that it'll make you sick or anything. The queue for this ride is one of the more interesting ones, starting in sort of a farmyard area and winding its way through a fake-y Western jail cell.
Fantasyland describes the area immediately surrounding the Storybook Enchanted Castle and is probably the largest and most varied part of the park.
Apart from the attractions inside the Castle itself, this is where the larger parks are, as well as all the rides for the... uh. Winnie the–– uh. Hm.
Alice in Wonderland Maze
Alice's Maze isn't much of a maze, despite the three doors you choose from at the start. It's more of a fun walk around in a garden with little set pieces and dioramas from Lewis Carrol's wigged-out fever dream scattered about. Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatters, naturally. Don't feel the blue caterpillar was given a prominent enough appearance though. And no Johnny Depp here. Excellent spot for photoshoots, and there are plenty of visitors taking advantage of that.
Hunny Pot Spin
Ages: Little children
Your every-day tea-cup ride, but with Winnie and friends.
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
A cart ride through stories from the Silly Old Bear himself, like a Pirates of the Caribbean ride but for kids! It's essentially the same ride as the one that debuted at Disney World in 1999. Endearing, but kids only.
"Once Upon a Time" Adventure
Ages: Young children
This is just a walking tour through the Castle's upper floors, which house a gallery of animated story-book elements about Snow White. Although interesting to see how they meld animation with physical objects, it's… let's say kid-friendly. The interior of the castle is stale and lifeless, and the cool fountain at the top of the castle doesn't make up for the fact that you never get a good view from the tower. Missed opportunity, that.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Shanghai Disneyland's other rollercoaster and another mainstay of the other parks, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is much closer to what you'd expect a rollercoaster to be. It only manages to reach a measly 45 km/h, and the acceleration or turns are nowhere near as extreme as TRON but it's longer and still pretty awesome.
Most of the line for this ride is exposed to the elements. We do not envy anyone who has to entertain a child in that environment.
Storybook Court Meet Princesses
The northwest corner of the castle has a little alcove dedicated to opportunities to meet the Disney Princesses, from Belle to Snow White to the girl from Brave. It happens at fixed periods, and it only lasts for about half an hour. Presumably the Cast Member can't handle the throng of humanity pressing in and the same three questions. Each person only gets a few seconds with the princess, basically enough to snap a handful of shots and exchange a few words before they're ushered away.
By the way, shout out to the Princesses. Consummate professionals. Unflappable.
Character interactions are a big draw for Disney, but they operate on a variable schedule. Although the Storybook Court happens every day at set intervals, and certain staged events like Donald Duck's Tai Chi lesson (yes) you're more likely to see characters walking around in the park and interacting with guests during the busy weekends rather than during the week. You can check the schedule on their website or on the app on the day-of to get an idea of who you can see where. With the rare exception of the Princesses and one or two Princes, interactions are entirely in Mandarin.
Voyage to the Crystal Grotto
A sedate ferry ride through the canals near the castle, passing by statues and set pieces dedicated to the Disney classics. Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast. It's a rather dull trip. Little kids appear to love it, though.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Much like the Jet Packs, this is your flying carousel ride, themed after the (cartoon, not CGI) movie of the same name and largely unchanged since it debuted in 1955 in Disneyland. Interesting trivia, the original design was meant to evoke Dumbo's Pink Elephants champagne-induced fever dream. It wouldn't really be an amusement park without one of these but save it for younger kids.
Located at the end of Mickey Avenue, the carousel is a spectacle. It's enormous, beautifully designed and... well, it's a carousel. It goes around and around. As cool as that is, it's for children or nostalgia freaks.
As the name might suggest, this pavilion in the Gardens of Imagination is dedicated to everything Marvel, the gold mine that Disney acquired in 2009, and which has since funded a large portion of Disney's world domination. It's a gaudy marketing stunt, showing all the past movies and occasionally hinting at what's coming next. They've got some activities, scale replicas of all the Iron Mans, a VR game where you play the Hulkbuster, as well as the occasional comic drawing workshop.
But you're here for the dudes in spandex. At set periods throughout the day, the cast of the Avengers will show up to take pictures, strike superhero poses and engage in stilted conversation. Cap's real superpower is dealing with dickhead adults trying to be clever. He keeps a straight face. For the kids.
Black Panther, Captain America, Spiderman, Star Lord and Captain Marvel have all been spotted. The ones who are obviously Caucasian don't speak much Mandarin beyond a couple of stock phrases.
Meet Mickey Tent
The Mouse himself! The right hand of Walt! The four-fingered iron fist! Sit on the lap of the Sorcerer's Apprentice and say something nice, for the crown weighs heavy on that troubled brow.
Treasure Cove is the most atmospheric of all the regions in Shanghai Disneyland. Themed after the Pirates of the Caribbean, it plays host to the Battle for the Sunken Treasure, which is easily in the top three rides in the park. The whole thing is meant to look like Port Royal, and it's probably the most convincing get-up the park has to offer.
Ages: Teen and Older
Take a log canoe across the lake and past the pirate galleon, paddling with about 15 other mugs. The primary purpose of this ride seems to be to give photographers something interesting to shoot against the stunning backdrop of the Camp Discovery Adventure Trails waterfall visible in the distance.
Not a ride, the Siren's Revenge is a three-story, interactive pirate vessel docked at the port. It's in this siloed off dock space accessible by turnstile, where pirates will stage the occasional slapstick comedy routine and Jack Sparrow occasionally appears. They've got some water cannons on the docks as well. That one seems like a hit with the kids. Thankfully the cannons are only on when the weather's warm enough to justify it.
Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure
Easily one of the finer rides in the park, this classic ride was revamped for Shanghai Disneyland to give a whole new experience. Gone are the questionable ethics of pirates pillaging a settlement, and in its place is a ten-minute indoor ferry ride, moving past a combination of physical set design and actual puppet animatronics (Davy Jones' tentacle beard is magnificent) and clever projection work that gives you the impression you're sinking under the sea and getting caught in the crossfire between the Kraken and the Black Pearl. It is, however, entirely in Mandarin, so unless your HSK is up to scratch, you won't be catching any of the witty repartee, and you won't get much in the way of Roaring Rapids drops, but the audiovisual prowess on show more than makes up for it.
Our only regret is that now that we see how good the animatronics on the rides can be, we're disappointed there wasn't more. In one case, they utilize a method where they project a face onto a blank white mask, which gives the impression that the mannequin has a face. Unfortunately, it just doesn't provide the same wow factor as seeing an actual Jack waving his hands and moving his head like he's actually drunk and/or brain damaged.
Jack's Stunt Spectacular
Jack's Stunt Spectacular is a half-hour performance that happens at the theater in Treasure Cove five times a day, featuring the eponymous pirate doing the eponymous spectacular. Starting off, the audience is treated to a funny and tongue-in-cheek skit(all in Mandarin, naturally) across the upper balcony in the cavernous pre-theater waiting hall, made to look like the inside of a governor's mansion.
That's just the warm-up act, though. The real show, starring a cast of rogues, scallywags and ne'erdowells starts out small, with some physical comedy and chit chat before the very, very excellent Jack literally swings in over the audience’s heads. A few minutes later, the stage undergoes a stunning transformation and the whole plot loses its mind. Suddenly there are pyrotechnics, cannon-fire, stunt falls from high scaffolding, sword fighting, musket volleys and a goddamn aerial ballet in a wind tunnel right there on the stage that will leave you gobsmacked. Ten out of ten show, absolutely worth a go.
The Avengers Training Initiative
A "guest experience" taking place five times a day on the Pepsi E-Stage (TM R C) in Tomorrowland, the Avengers Training Initiative is billed as a chance for park-goers to "see if they’re fit to become the next generation of Avengers agents." Translated, it's a choreographed stage play where audience members are led through a "training regime" by "Agent Kay," a SHIELD agent, teaching a punch punch combo like they're extras on Power Rangers. They then help defeat Dr. Zola (they punch towards the screen) before they're cleared off the stage as Agent Kay kicks a double agent's ass with Black Panther. Captain Marvel shows up! That lady eats spaceships for lunch, but did you know she can also speak like four lines of Mandarin?
It'd be cringe-inducing if the cast members weren't so gosh darned sincere about the whole thing. It's not helped by the fact that the average age of the audience participants is about ten years older than they usually were when the show was running in Disney California in 2017, or that that the stage choreography is much less interesting. Barely any extra props, no rope work, no throwing shields, nothing!
Shanghai's edition was launched as a tie-in with Avengers Endgame, and like the California show, it'll probably only stick around for a bit longer.
Later in the evening, that same stage turns into truly the best thing in the park. Shanghai Disneyland has its own EDM festival. They roll out a DJ booth, crank up the sound system, turn on the laser show, and the house DJ pumps out some family-friendly techno music, nodding along and fiddling with the mixers like he's headlining the other Tomorrowland. It's more than a performance; it's a party!
It's hard to put into words how magnificently silly it is. We love it.
Every morning, as the park opens and the crowds start to trickle in, the stage at the front of the Storybook Enchanted Castle plays host to a medley music and dance number called the Morning Fanfare. Dozens of dancers in bright costumes and a bunch of Disney Princesses appear in sequence with some great mechanical stagecraft wizardry (Aladdin and Jasmine's hot air balloon spring to mind) and the appropriate musical fanfare, before they all gather on stage to wave to His Highness, King Micky Mouse, Ruler Of All He Surveys, as he comes out of the Storybook Castle to receive your adulation. The show is the park's opening ceremony and it could be your only chance to see the Disney characters performing musical numbers other than the Parade.
At 3.30pm every day, Mickey's Storybook Express rolls through the park. It's a Mardi Gras street party with a Broadway musical number and the Pope's procession, all mixed up. As the floats pass by, Disney characters wave to the audience and compete to outsize each other.
Mulan rocks in on a giant horse like she owns the place, Elsa and Anna repeat sisterly things to each other along the whole track, and Flynn Rider hits on Rapunzel, in public, like the loveable rogue he is. Around their floats are dozens of dancers and characters in costume, from Toy Story's army men to Mulan's soldiery to the Seven Dwarves, who'll run up to high-five spectators lining the routes.
The parade's path is lined with speakers that shift the soundtrack to match the character passing by, ultimately ending with the Disney anthem "You've Got a Friend In Me." Despite the fact that the speakers are playing different music, they're spaced so effectively that they don't overlap or interfere with each other. If you run along the parade path, you can "rewind" to a previous point in the parade, like the VHS of Lion King you wore out when you were a kid.
As you can imagine, the sidelines are packed cheek to jowl. People start grabbing seats around 2.30pm. If you want to get a spot, make sure to show up with plenty of time. The spot where Tomorrowland meets Mickey Avenue seems the most popular. Sit on the right-hand side, so you can see the castle in the background.
IGNITE THE DREAM
The third big scheduled event is the park's closing ceremony, called "Ignite the Dream." Starting at 8.30pm, the Disney Castle becomes a giant screen as an animation celebrating pretty much everything Disney is projected onto it, accompanied by fireworks (actual fireworks! In Shanghai!) and pyrotechnics so potent that people in the front row get a tan. Lion King, the Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, etc. In a nice touch, they don't dub over Genie in Mandarin. Ain't no one going to out-Robin Robin. If the Ignite The Dream show doesn't pick up your heartbeat even a little bit, we question why you even came to the park in the first place.
As soon as that's done, the crowds start to filter out and the park closes, only to reset and reopen in about twelve hours.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FOOD
Shanghai Disneyland has something like 15 places you can get food, from sit down restaurants to quick service canteens to food stalls selling snacks. Each one is themed differently and serves a handful of different set dishes. The idea is that it would (very) roughly fit its area. Tribal Table in Adventure Isle serves some tacos, while Stargazer Grill in Tomorrowland does burgers.
The highlight of park dining is meant to be the Chinese restaurant Wandering Moon Teahouse, which looks a treat. This is the sort of attention to interior decoration we would've liked to see inside at the Storybook Enchanted Castle. It’s steamed crab and Mickey Mouse shaped baozi. We haven't tried it. We have, however, eaten at four other outlets, and we think we need to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.
The food at Disneyland kind of sucks. Overpriced too, with a bowl of noodles with some chicken costing 85rmb. The famous Turkey Leg coats the inside of your mouth like vaseline. Fortunately, since this year, you're allowed to bring your own. Take advantage of that. There's plenty of picnic space in the Gardens of Imagination, and we guarantee that it will be better than what they serve inside the park.
SHANGHAI DISNEY RESORT
While the Park is the bit behind the entrance gates, the rest of the The Disney Resort is accessible to the general public. No need for a ticket here.
Surrounding the park is the shopping and restaurant area called Disney Town. Think a slightly less cramped Xintiandi or Fengsheng Li and you'll get an idea of what we're looking at. There's a Blue Frog, a Crystal Jade, a Wolfgang Puck and a Cheesecake Factory! An actual Cheesecake Factory.
This is also where the largest merch store in (well, out of) the park is located. While the shops inside the Park tend to be based on what's around them (eyepatches and cutlasses in Treasure Cove, Stitch hates in Tomorrowland), this giant shop outside the park just has it all collected in one place.
Disney Town sports its own Grand Theatre, which is where they stage the Broadway musical based on Beauty and the Beast, and where they used to do the Lion King. It is an absolutely magical showing, in Mandarin. Tickets can be bought on the app.
Wishing Star Park
Located further along the shore of the giant Wishing Star Lake, this park is just that, a park, complete with flowers beds arranged to look like the faces of some Disney characters an.
Unless you're staying at the hotels, your easiest option is Metro Line 11, where the final stop is Disney Resort. It takes about an hour from downtown, and delivers you to within ten minute walking distance from the park gates (and the Disney Resort Shuttle bus to the hotels). The first train arrives at Disney at 7am in the morning, and the last one, going to North Jiading, leaves at 10.30pm.
The metro clears out between six and seven stops from the final destination, and during the day on weekdays it's fairly empty. Line 11 departing Disneyland around 9-10pm rivals Line 2 rush hour for density.
Car or Coach
If you're traveling by car or chartered bus, the gigantic Disney Car & Coach park is about 10 minutes walk from the gates, which costs a flat fee for entry ranging from 50-100rmb depending on the time of day. Re-entry requires you to pay again.
Getting a cab or a DiDi from People's Square will cost you up to 130rmb and about 45 minutes. Ask the driver to drop you at Disney Town (迪士尼小镇).
WHERE TO STAY
Shanghai Disneyland has two options for where to stay near the park. Apart from proximity to the park, the biggest benefits of staying at the hotel are the priority entrance to the park, and the ability to book Fastpasses in advance. Everyone else has to first get inside the park before they're allowed to snap up the precious line-cutters.
The Toy Story Hotel is especially family-friendly, decked out to look like Andy's playroom, with statues of the characters, little recorded messages in the elevators, and exclusive play areas for kids.
The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is the Ritz Carlton of Shanghai Disneyland. Rooms are decked out to look like Mickey Mouse's antechambers. Tinker Bell magic dust is sprinkled across the headboards. If you stay in the suites on the top two floors, you automatically become a member of the Magic Kingdom Club which includes perks like cocktail service and bedtime stories. Bedtime stories! It's also where you'll find the Aurora restaurant, which has a terrace view over the Ignite the Dream Nighttime Spectacular in the distance, or Lumiere's Kitchen, where Disney characters stop by the tables to say hi and take pictures. As part of the stay, there's a complimentary water taxi across the Wishing Star lake, almost directly to the Disneyland entrance.
SmSh's Final Word On Disneyland
Is it the best Disneyland in the world? Online lists from people who have actually been to all or most of the parks tend to rank it above Disney World but below Paris or the one in Anaheim. Three out of five. Tron, Camp Discovery trails and the English-language app versus chintzy castle decor and subpar food.
But it's right there! The happiest place on Earth is at the end of Line 11, and it's ours. Going to Disneyland and having a zippity-doo-dah-day experience, with enough time left over to sit in the Mouse's lap, will cost you a little over one thousand rmb per person (entry and concierge package).
Do it once and you're good for life.