Shanghai Disneyland Tips and Tricks Part 2
By Juliette Gustavsson
It may be a small world after all, but Shanghai Disneyland is huge; with a 5-mile long oval perimeter, and an area spanning over 1,000 acres, the park can be overwhelming. On one of her first trips to Disney, wearing her finest princess gown, my daughter had a royal meltdown, her bejeweled tiara thrown to the ground. Ah, Disneyland, the most magical place on earth!
Sure, Shanghai Disneyland is nothing short of fantastic, with state-of-the-art attractions and over-the-top shows, but like the other Disney properties, it is massive. And especially since it’s in a foreign land, it can be a bit tricky to navigate. I’ve compiled the second part of my two-part Shanghai Disneyland tips and tricks series based on my research and multiple visits to the park, and I offer Courier readers my advice because “you’ve got a friend in me!”
In the May/June 2018 Courier, I explained how to get your park tickets and seasonal passes, and efficiently set up your Fastpass to avoid waiting in line for the most popular attractions. In this article, I’ll focus on maximizing your time once inside the park and providing advice for a more enjoyable visit.
Shanghai Disneyland is reachable within three hours by car or train to 330 million people.
That’s a lot of competition for a Fastpass! According to my source inside Disney, Chinese
New Year and the Fall holidays see record high attendance levels. I advise not visiting during the Mid-Autumn Festival (September 22-24, 2018) or National Day and Golden Week (October 1- 7, 2018).
With my season pass last year, I experimented with arriving to the park at different times during the day. Despite the ever-present long lines for security, once inside the park, the early morning hours seem to be the quietest. Hit the rides like Camp Discovery that you can’t schedule with a Fastpass.
A Whole New World Having visited all the Disney parks worldwide, I can confidently
say that Shanghai Disneyland, the company’s sixth park, is truly unique. The $5.5 billion
investment—50,000 hours of construction completed by 100,000 workers—has surely paid
The grandeur is evident with the centerpiece of the park, the Enchanted Storybook Castle—the tallest and largest of any in the Disney parks and the only castle dedicated to every Disney Princess.
There are seven magical lands, the latest of which, Disney·Pixar Toy Story Land,* just
opened in April. The grand entrance, Mickey Avenue, is shorter than the original Main Street
in Florida. Look for the building on Mickey Avenue with the address 33, this is a super
secret supper club by invitation only! You may be surprised to learn that 70 percent of the rides in Shanghai Disneyland premiered in Shanghai, so even Disney super fans will find plenty that’s new and awesome.
I have been on every ride in the park except TRON Lightcycle Power Run—my five-year-old
doesn’t meet the 122 cm height requirement. According to the park’s visitor and fan blogs,
TRON is the unanimous favorite; it’s even Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger’s favorite ride. The two-wheeled adrenaline rush is Disney’s fastest roller coaster ever and the crown jewel of the reimagined Tomorrowland. My research advises riding TRON at dusk or at night for the maximum effect. Clothing selection is important; see the “What to Wear” sidebar.
My favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. My husband and
I always joke that the Pirates of the Caribbean “Imagineers” must have had the biggest “ride
budget” because this is an epic, action-packed ride. Even the waiting area is a Caribbean treat with pirate-life details everywhere. Maybe my expectations were low based on my memories of this ride at Disney World, but the Shanghai Disneyland version has spectacular visual effects with come-to-life-characters—you really feel at times as though you have just plunged underwater and became part of the story. Unlike most rides, for this sea battle you want to be in the back of the boat. The ride utilizes many gigantic projection screens which are best seen from the boat’s rear seats. To be fully immersed in the adventure, try to sit on the side of the boat. You’ll exit though the giftshop, which has a great assortment of special Disney souvenirs.
For something unique to Shanghai Disney, try Camp Discovery's Challenge Trails. This
attraction, literally a trail-blazer for Disney, is physically active ropes course that takes you
high over the treacherous terrain of Adventure Isle and goes behind one of the tallest manmade waterfalls in Asia. Rest assured, this is the safest mountaineering you can encounter and knowing you are at Disneyland gives you the added confidence to climb to new heights. This attraction can be experienced at a beginner (was fine for my five-year-old), intermediate, or experienced level, so you will never feel like it is too physically demanding. Having proper
footwear is essential (see “What to Wear”
Just like in other Disney parks, Peter Pan’s Flight and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attractions are a real treat. Peter Pan’s Flight is the classic story but in an innovative setting using modernized flying pirate ships. Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train is perfect for kids who want to try a roller coaster for the first time; there is nothing upside-down or too scary.
The Alice in Wonderland Maze seems like an attraction you could skip, but it’s a good option
for the little kids (preschool and under). After having been confined in a stroller, they can get
out and run around safely. Older kids can hunt for the hidden Mickeys in the rock wall. This is
the best place to get your Instagram photos in front of a backdrop of beautiful rose bushes with the magnificent castle spires in the background. And there is rarely more than a five-minute wait to get in!
Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue doesn’t usually have a long line and the kids love this one because it’s so interactive. Jet Packs offers its riders great photo ops of the Enchanted Storybook Castle. Go on this ride early in the day; it’s not worth an hour wait in the afternoon.
Finally, Roaring Rapids is another fun ride for the 107 cm or taller family. Keep in mind, you will get wet, but not a lot—certainly not wet enough to justify the rain ponchos you’ll see some guests wearing. One downside of this ride is that there are long lines for the lockers. If you want to keep your belongings dry, use the lockers at Camp Discovery. The two rides are next to each other so do them back-to-back.
Be Our Guest My daughter’s goals include meeting as many princesses and Disney characters as possible, so I’m on a constant character hunt. Unlike the other properties, the characters don’t often roam around the lands. At Shanghai Disneyland, you can find the characters and princesses in designated areas clearly marked on the map and in the Shanghai Disney Resort app (see last issue’s article). Mickey Avenue has the most characters and they are on a 20-minute rotation. You can also see Lion King, Jungle Book, and Zootopia characters in Happy Circle in Adventure Isle. If you are stalking Mickey, you can find him in the Gardens of Imagination. You’ll enter a cleverly built house with multiple doors. No matter which door you choose they all magically open to reveal Mickey Mouse (clearly, there’s more than one Mickey in this house but the kids don’t catch on and it moves the line along faster).
If it’s princesses you are seeking, there is always one holding court behind the Enchanted
Storybook Castle but there is typically a long line. To guarantee a meet-and-greet, I recommend booking dinner at the Royal Banquet Hall. This is a fairytale dining experience inside the Enchanted Storybook Castle. Each guest has a chance to take a photo with a Princess, and other Disney characters will visit you at your table. You’ll need a reservation. Call the Shanghai Disney Resort reservation line well in advance at +86-21-31580000. You don’t have to have your tickets ahead of time to book a reservation, but it is more efficient to link your reservation to your ticket number so I suggest purchasing your tickets first.
Eats in the Park Restaurants in Shanghai Disneyland are a mixture of Chinese, Western,
and International cuisine. They range from buffets to quick service, The Royal Banquet Hall is the only on-site table-service option. The restaurants all have different themes and menus depending on their location in the park. I highly recommend looking at the menus (posted in English on the Shanghai Disney Resort website under Dining) ahead of time and planning out where you’ll eat. I recommend Pinocchio Village Kitchen in Fantasyland for Mickey-shaped pizza and Stargazer Grill in Tomorrowland for Western-style cheeseburgers and chicken fingers.
There are many snack options around the park— maybe the hardest thing you’ll do is resist the caramel popcorn cart. But don’t, it’s amazing. If you hold a Seasonal Pass, get the popcorn refill tub and bring it back the next time for a discount on your popcorn purchase. Bring some snacks from home; the food is pricey, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything healthy. You can bring food into the park, but not liquids.
Let it Go If you are like me, you probably don’t prioritize going to the shows (again probably
based on past memories), but don’t miss Tarzan: Call of the Jungle. It’s an acrobatics show in
Cirque-du-Soleil-style with minimal dialogue; the Mandarin-only isn’t a problem for those who can’t speak the language.
Another show to see is Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack's Stunt Spectacular in Treasure Cove. It’s full of pyrotechnics, amazing stunts, and interactive sets. The language is hard to decipher, but the action is enough to impress.
The Frozen Sing-Along Celebration can be missed. It’s not so much a show, but more a
replaying of the movie. For those who can’t stand hearing “Let It Go” played over and over, I’m sorry to say, it’s not any better in Mandarin.
Ignite the Dream A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light is the perfect ending to your
day. The fireworks portion has been minimized (smog concerns) but the light show and video
displays more than make up for it. Where’s the best place to view the show? I prefer booking a table in front of the panoramic windows of the Aurora inside the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. You can dine while watching the show and leave the crowds behind. Note, it will take you about 45 minutes to get from the park to the hotel.
The combustible combination of sky-high Disney expectations, an unreasonable agenda
for the day, unpredictable Shanghai weather, and massive crowds can make marriages splinter, friends chafe, and toddlers melt down. But here you have my best advice to pull off a harmonious day at Shanghai Disneyland!
What to Wear
• Comfortable shoes are imperative. You will do a lot of walking. Just the walk from the
parking area and Metro trains to the front gate is incredibly long.
• Dress comfortably. You can’t ride TRON Lightcycle or participate gracefully in Camp
Discovery wearing a dress or skirt. Getting on carousel horses and in and out of mine cars is
not easy with short hemlines.
Juliette's Never-fail Lunch Plan
1. Spend the quiet hours in the park in the morning doing the rides in Fantasyland and
Gardens of Imagination
2. At about 11:40 am, head over to Mickey’s Film Festival, it’s located in the ride-free area
between Mickey Avenue and Tomorrowland.
3. Be on the side of the walkway towards the EXIT to Disneytown.
4. At noon, watch Mickey’s Storybook Express parade
5. As soon as the last float passes, slip out the back of the park and exit through the gate to
Disneytown. You are leaving the park so make sure you have your tickets for reentering later.
6. Enjoy a lovely lunch at Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar, they have a nice lunch set with
steak frites or try The Cheesecake Factory with a vast menu of choices. Note, I’ve never had to wait for a table at Wolfgang Puck’s.
7. Use the nice restaurant restrooms to refresh. There are western toilets in the back of all the
Shanghai Disneyland bathrooms but they do not have towels to dry your hands.
8. After lunch, recharge with a Starbucks, the only location in the resort is in Downtown. You
won’t be able to bring the drink back inside the park so grab an Espresso shot.
9. Head back into the park through the small gate in Disneytown (if you are heading to
Tomorrowland) or the main park gate (if you are heading to Adventure Isle or Treasure Cove).
The line at the main gate should be shorter now, but the Disneytown gate is much more efficient because the security is minimal.
Guests With Food Allergies
The restaurants in the park are very accommodating; ask for the allergy binder to
see the menu for the following common food allergies:
• Gluten or wheat
• Lactose or dairy
• Peanuts and tree nuts
About the author:
Juliette Gustavsson is Mrs. Jet-set, a provider of luxury and unique shopping tours of Shanghai. Gustavsson has a Master’s Degree in Luxury Brand Management from the Instituto Marangoni in Shanghai and has traveled to over 42 different countries. An American, Gustavsson lives in Shanghai with her Swedish husband and world-traveling five-year old daughter, Mini Jet-Set. www.Mrsjet-set.com
Original Courier publish date: July, 2018