Shanghai Disneyland in a far far away land
I thought some of you might find it interesting to hear about my latest trip to China where I had the chance to visit the Shanghai Disneyland Park with Mom.
I am lucky enough to travel to China twice a year for work. As an added bonus, I work with Mom so I always have a travel companion. Now that Air Canada has introduced direct flights to Shanghai, we are often passing through Shanghai to get to the Canton Fair in Guangzhou.
|Mom and myself waiting for our flight|
This year, it turned out that we were flying in a day before my boss so it gave us the opportunity to visit Shanghai Disneyland. I had wanted to see the Park since its opening a couple of years ago but never found the time on our previous trips.
My boss flied in two days after us so we had almost a full day to visit. The only problem was that we needed to meet one of our suppliers before we left Shanghai. Luckily, he agreed to come to our hotel so that we could still have time to go to the park earlier in the day.
We obviously chose to stay onsite at The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel for convenience so I went online to book but had a ton of problems doing so. Their site would not let me create an account without a cell phone number and it would not accept my phone number, maybe because it was a Canadian phone number.
I sent an email to the resort explaining my technical difficulties. Their solution was for me to call the reservation office. After a 20 min. phone call, I was supposed to receive the resort confirmation by email and unfortunately it never came. I finally had to call again to get the issue sorted out. Not very impressed with their website and reservation office, especially when I had to spend a small fortune on 2 phone calls to China.
I went online and printed out the hotel address in Chinese characters so that I could give it to the taxi driver. Most taxi drivers do not speak English and I have been caught more than once looking up addresses on my GPS for them to understand where I wanted to go.
After a 2 hour delay and a long 16 hour flight ,we landed in Shanghai airport exhausted and a little nauseous. Once we passed customs and got our luggage, we made our way to the taxi stand and saw a long lineup of people waiting for a ride. After another 45 min. we were finally in our taxi on our way to the resort. Like I had predicted, our taxi driver did not speak English, so the address I had printed out came in handy.
It was already dark out and raining so our 20 min ride ended up taking 35 min. We finally pulled up to the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel tired and frustrated. Luckily, a very friendly bell boy greeted us and took our luggage while we went to check in. We walked into a grand lobby that kind of reminded me of a little of the Grand Floridian in Florida. It had beautiful marbles floors, high 40 foot ceilings, stained glass chandeliers, and a beautiful bronze statue of all the classic Disney characters. The back of the lobby had a grand seating area with a back wall lined with floor to ceiling windows. The windows looked out onto the garden and the Castle in the distance.
|The bronze statue in the lobby|
We checked in and were quickly given our room key. We made our way down the hall to our room which was located on the first floor. We had booked a garden view but were disappointed to find that our view was that of a large concrete ledge filled with rocks. For the price we were paying a night I found the view to be unacceptable so we headed back to the reception to see if they could put us on a higher floor with a view of the actual garden. The man at front desk was very kind and quickly change our room for us. As we walked into our new room, now located on the third floor, we were pleasantly surprised to find that they upgraded us to a theme park view. Yay!
The room itself was very nicely decorated and quite large by Chinese standards. It had two large double beds and twin murphy bed hidden under the TV. The headboards had a neat feature, a LED light show of fireworks. There were subtle Disney touches throughout the room with hidden Mickeys everywhere. The best part was of course the view of the gardens and the castle in the distance.
|Mom resting on the pull down murphy bed|
|The view from our room with the Castle in the distance|
We were really tired but also quite hungry so we decided to make our way down to the lobby to see if we could find some food. We found a little café on the main floor that serves quick bites, coffee and pastries. We ordered a couple of won ton soups, some tea and a Mickey shaped pastry for dessert. We then sat and waited for our order. The soups took quite a long time to arrive so we ended up eating out pastry before our main course arrived. The pastry was really amazing: flaky and not overly sweet with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Despite the wait, the soups were also really delicious and quite filling. We could have easily split one soup.
|Mom enjoying her Mickey pastry!|
After our meal, we went to the concierge desk to book a breakfast reservation at Lumière's Kitchen. Since it is a character meal, we were told it booked up pretty quickly. Then it was off to bed.
The next morning we made our way to Lumière's Kitchen at 7:00AM. We were really hungry since it was really 7PM for us and had not adjusted to the time change yet. Lumière's Kitchen is themed after Disney's Beauty and the Beast. As you make your way down the spiral staircase you are greeted by a beautiful sculpture of Belle and the Beast dancing. As we check in there is as a beautiful metal trellis with roses lining each side of the entrance and murals depicting scenes from the movie. The restaurant is quite large with a massive buffet area in the back and a row of curved windows looking out to the garden on the opposite side.
The food offered is pretty basic breakfast fare. It also included some chinese breakfast dishes such as congee and dumplings. The character interaction, on the other hand was excellent with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy making their rounds to the guest sitting at the tables.
|Mickey, the star of the show|
|Minnie and me!|
|The buffet area|
After breakfast, we went back to our room so my mom could to rest for a while until park opening. I grabbed my rain coat and headed outside to check out the grounds. It was drizzling a little bit but not enough to be uncomfortable. The gardens were quite pretty with fun little play areas for the kids. It had a walking path that was intertwined to create an easy maze for the kids to have fun in. There was also a splash area that I'm sure would have been functional in the summer months.
|Play area for kids|
|Outside of hotel flocking out from the gardens|
After exploring the hotel a little longer I went back to the room to get ready for the park. It was a weekday and the weather was iffy so I knew crowd would be reasonable low today. We grabbed what we needed not forgetting to bring our passports which we needed to purchase tickets and went straight to the bus stop. The bus ride was not longer than 5-8 minutes. We headed towards the ticket office enjoying the Halloween decorations along the way. We quickly got our tickets and had to line up with a huge crowd zigzagging to the front turn cycles. After a good 20 min of waiting we we let into the park.
|Halloween decorations in Downtown area|
|A pumpkin Goofy greeting guests at entrance of park|
Instead of Main Street, Shanghai has Mickey Avenue where one can find shops and restaurants similar to Main Street but also where there are lots of meet and greets with Disney characters. Because it was October, all the characters we saw were dressed in Halloween costumes which I though was really fun for the little kids. As you walk down the avenue, it is hard to miss the park's centrepiece, the Enchanted Storybook Castle, which is much bigger than any other Disney castle ever built.
|Instead of the City hall, we have Mickey's Bank|
|Meet and Greet with Goofy dressed for Halloween|
|In the distance the Enchanted Storybook Castle|
Since we were on a tight schedule, we headed straight to Adventure Isle to grab a Fast Pass for Soaring. Our return time was for 2:00PM. Adventure Isle is really well themed with its landscape reminding me somewhat of Animal Kingdom.
We quickly made our way to Treasure Cove with one goal in mind, to try out the new Pirates Of the Caribbean. My kids would have absolutely loved Treasure Cove. It is a young pirate's paradise. It has Shipwreck Shore which is a fun interactive play area for the kids with a splash area and a pirate ship. There is also the Explorer Canoes where you can embark an adventure around the lake in a canoe lead by your own pirate tour guide.
|Shipwreak shore on the left and Explorer Canoes on the water|
|Very immersive battle on 3D screen|
|Mom, supreme ruler of all pirates!|
Next we made our way to Fantasyland to ride the Seven Dwarf Mine Train. The wait time already displayed a 50 min wait so we decided to separate and take the single rider line. Fifteen minutes later we were being boarded onto different carts. It was my mom's first experience riding this roller coaster and she enjoyed it quite a lot despite not liking thrill rides in general. I had already experienced it at Magic Kingdom many times and can asses that it is exactly the same ride as the one in Florida.
Our Next goal was to ride Peter Pan's Flight. The wait time was only 20 min so we didn't bother getting a Fast Pass. The line is located outside under a covered area and is decorated with sculptures of the various characters from the Disney Movie. The ride itself is an upgraded version of the one in Florida, relying better ride vehicles and fun projections to enhance the experience.
As we exited the ride, we were debating going to find somewhere to grab a bite to eat but ended up instead trying to fit in one last ride before lunch. We decided to check out Voyage of the Crystal Grotto as I was excited to see the secret underground chamber located beneath the Enchanted Storybook Castle which I heard so much of.
Unfortunetly my experience on this attraction was not a good one. First off, we first entered the line with a displayed time of 20 min but it ended up taking a good 50 min before we boarded. Then, we were shoved into a boat with way too many people pushing to get better seats. As the ride progressed my excitement slowly faded. The ride is basically an "enchanted storybook" version of the Jungle Cruise except without the live entertainment (it is a prerecorded track). Instead you cruise along the water and look at different fountains each representing one Disney's classic Movies. Not only were some of the fountains broken but the "secret chamber" at the end of the ride, contained nothing but an oversized crystal :(
|Beauty and the Beast fountain|
|Tangled Fountain (not working)|
|Little Mermaid Fountain|
|Secret Chamber doors about to reveal the big finale!|
|The secret is out: an oversized crystal!|
It was time to check out The Enchanted Storybook Castle. The castle itself was inspired by renaissance architecture and includes some Chinese detailing such as the jade elements and golden peonies to top its finials. Peonies are the flower of China.
We stepped inside, the castle, where we were surrounded by four mosaic murals representing each season: spring, summer, fall, winter. Each mural depicts a different Disney Princesse. You have scenes from : Frozen, Tangled, Brave and The Princess and the Frog. As you look up from the centre, point, you can see a golden chandelier hanging from a star shaped dome that represents a starry night sky. As a whole, the effect is quite stunning.
|Rapunzel in Spring|
|Merida in Fall|
|Tiana and Naveen in summer|
|Elsa and Anna in winter|
|Beautiful Dome representing a night's sky.|
The castle itself houses a restaurant: Royal Banquet Hall, a makeover boutique: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and a walk through attraction: Once Upon a Time Adventure. Mom and I even checked out one of the stores located in the castle where beautiful Swarofski crystals were being sold for exorbitant prices.
|Check out this Disney Castle adorned in thousands of sparkling crystals|
|Beautiful crystal figure of Elsa.|
By now, Mom and I were really hungry and desperate to find a sit down restaurant so we could refuel. We checked the park map but had trouble finding a restaurant within the park so we decided to venture outside to see if we could find a more suitable restaurant. Luckily there is a side exit just beside Tomorrowland that leads straight to Disneytown. We found ourselves in a mini version of Downtown Disney surrounded by a ton of shops and restaurants. Disneytown is quite charming with its brick buildings especially all decorated for Halloween.
We first made our way to The Boathouse restaurant which I spotted on our way in closer to the water. Unfortunately, they do not have an "à la carte menu" like at Disney Springs in Florida. They were serving a set lunch menu which did not appeal to us very much. So we decided to head back the way we came, but not before checking out the "Star Wars" themed store. located right beneath the restaurant. The store also has a Marvel section that was pretty cool. My kids would have loved it.
With so many restaurants to choose from, we finally settled on the Cheesecake Factory. Mom and I rarely eat American food in China usually opting for Chinese or Thai but today was a perfect day for some good old American comfort food. The restaurant was bright and cosy and we were quickly seated in a 2 person boot. Mom ordered a Thai lettuce wraps, while I ordered the fried shrimp platter which was served with fries and coleslaw. Both our plates were ginormous and we could have easily spit one of the two, but both dishes were well prepared and delicious. Were we so full we could not even bring ourselves to try one of the many cheesecakes on the menu. Oh well, maybe next time!
After a filling meal, we decided to walk around and check out some more stores. The most impressive had to be The LEGO Store which featured some amazing LEGO sculptures, my favourite being the dragon that adorns the interior wall. I was also really enamoured by the Snow White sculpture.
|The coolest lego sculpture ever|
|Adorable, isn't it?|
After having our full of Disneytown, we made our way back into the park using that side entrance we found earlier. We slowly made our way to Adventure Isle, taking in the beauty of the park as we went along. The park was decorated with signs for the Halloween party taking place most nights. There was also a huge Mickey Pumpkin displayed in front of the Castle making the centre plaza feel festive. I found the Shanghai Disneyland to be much prettier than the Hong Kong's Disneyland beautiful with tons of green spaces scattered throughout and very beautiful detailing everywhere. It felt much more immersive.
It was now time to use our Soaring Fastpass. The entrance is conveniently located right next to the Tarzan theatre. The Soaring attraction was reimagined for Shanghai and it is immediately apparent as you walk-in and are led through a maze of rock walls which look like they were inspired off a temple in "Indiana Jones". The prettiest feature is the illusion of a night sky above. The ride itself is pretty similar to the one in Florida with the addition of some scenes from China and ending with fireworks in Disneyland Shanghai. This ride is one of my favourite rides of the day after Pirates Of the Caribbean.
After the ride we decided to head back towards the hotel as we were getting closer to our meeting time. On the way out of the park we caught the end of the afternoon parade. I have to say the parade blew me away. There were some really beautiful floats with my favourite being "Mulan".
|Finding Neemo float|
|Snow monster from Frozen|
|Mom watching the bakers decorate Mickey treats|
|Yummy chocolate covered apples|
|Some more meet and greet characters in costume|
|Mom looks good as a princess!|
|Pulling up to our Hotel|
|Beautiful flowers in front of the entrance|
|Our meeting with our supplier|
After dinner, my boss and my mom were tired so they headed back to the hotel while I went back into the park to do a couple more rides and watch the evening festivities. The park is really pretty at night as everything is light up for the evening.
|The Castle all light up|
I then made my way to the front of the park for the firework show. I have to say that this was the most unpleasant experience I had at a firework show Guests were pushing and shoving and cutting in front of me to better see the spectacle. I've been traveling to China a long time so usually don't get mad were the Chinese do such things as it seems to be part of their culture but tonight, it was really getting on my nerves. I ended up watching the castles projection but missing out on the fireworks because of this. In the end, I ended up leaving the park quite frustrated.
|Right before the show.|
|During the castle projection.|
And that marks the end of my experience with Disneyland Shanghai. Overall I would say that I really enjoyed Shanghai Disneyland and would recommend anyone visiting Shanghai to plan a visit. I would however say that it is a "one day" kind of park. I don't think I will be visiting again for a while unless I had kids in tow.
Hope you enjoyed my review!