Alright, let's see if I remember how to do this... It's been a while, folks! My theme park visits haven't been so frequent in recent years but the opening of Shanghai Disneyland last year had me desperate to figure out a way to get over there and see it for myself. So in March this year my girlfriend, Paula and I hopped on over to Shanghai for a few days to check out the new Disney resort and see if it was as cool as the reports and photos made it out to be.
I should probably add the disclaimer up front that I visited China back in 2012 on TPR's awesome China tour and while that trip was really great I was not a huge fan of China at all. I totally respect that it's a different culture and things are different there and that's fine but I'm just not a fan of visiting the place. Everything and everyone just seems a little shiftier in China and it leaves me uneasy in a way that no other countries I visit really do. I remember thinking back in 2012 on that trip "man, I can't believe I need to come back here some day to visit Shanghai Disneyland". But come back I did but it maybe says a lot that we literally visited the country to do a quick day of sightseeing in Shanghai (it was Paula's first visit to Asia) and then two days at the new Disney resort before getting the hell out of there (the new Visa free travel options offered by Shanghai also make doing a trip like this more appealing!).
That all said - while a lot of the elements in and around the place aren't my cup of tea, Shanghai Disneyland itself is a pretty great park - and I'd even go back some day (just not as often as I'd go back to Tokyo or Orlando!). There's some absolute top tier E-tickets, the park looks fantastic, the hotels are really nice and the food options are pretty decent for China (anyone who has been to China will know the Russian roulette you often play with food options over there).
We stayed at the Toy Story Hotel - Toy Story is very near and dear to me so the opportunity to stay in a brand new hotel themed solely to it was pretty exciting. The hotel itself totally delivered on my expectations - it was very clean and everything felt new. The the design of the building and lobby isn't anything too exciting but have nice Toy Story elements around them but the rooms themselves are very cool, from the "Andy's Room wallpaper" to the Rubik's cube bedside table! Next time I visit I'd probably opt for the fancier Shanghai Disneyland Hotel but I wasn't let down at all by this being a "value hotel".
The park itself is impressive - it's weird going into a castle park and not seeing Main Street USA but I really liked Mickey Avenue. There's loads of cool Easter eggs and nods to Disney's past that you could spend an age taking in. It's not that long but it serves its purpose well.
The castle is HUGE. It's pretty insane how big it is and it looks impressive from the front. From behind it kind of looks like a big box with some turrets on it but overall it's cool to see a new unique Disney castle.
So, the rides...
There's obviously two here that get talked about a lot and they definitely deserve the attention. I thought Tron was really excellent and Disney have once again succeeded at taking a semi-decent Vekoma ride and turned it into something very special. I would not be sad to see this cloned at any other Disney resort in the world. There's nothing quite like seeing that bike launch from the station for the first time with the Daft Punk soundtrack blasting in your ears!
But even better than Tron for me was Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. OMFG. I had avoided videos and spoilers for this one and I was just blown away. This is up there with any of the best Disney e-tickets. It's really nothing like your "classic" Pirates (which I love) and takes the concept of a theme park indoor boat ride to a whole new level! Seriously, some of the effects and animatronics on this ride are amazing AND they utilise screens in a way that blends them in with the physical sets so that they enhance the ride experience rather that BE the whole experience. I can't wait to see how and where Disney utilise this ride system next because it's just awesome. We rode it eight times in two days and I could easily rode it that many times again.
Also, more people need to know about the Camp Discovery ropes course! Jeezo - this was probably the most messed up ropes course I've ever done. There's a part where you have to navigate around a cliff face/waterfall where I genuinely feared for my life. It's so messed up. I get the feeling that this attraction might not last so long - a lot of the different trails were blocked off and the line got really long, really fast. I wouldn't expect to see this in any other Disney park so if you're in Shanghai don't miss it!
The other unique attraction that I should mention is Roaring Rapids - it looked like it might have been closed for our visit but it opened later on our first day and so I got to ride it at night. I wasn't that impressed - first of all, it spins A LOT (not my thing) and it also has a REALLY long lift hill that none of the drops or elements ever pay off. Of course the big star of the ride is supposed to be the Qarag animatronic but really it was kind of a let down. It doesn't actually move all that much and you're moving and spinning so fast as you pass by it kind of feels like a waste. Lava monster it is not.
The other real negative about the park is how some of the more undesirable aspects of the local culture seem to have taken hold in the park. We saw a lot of shifty looking men in and around the park selling counterfeit Disney merchandise and Fastpasses. In the queue to enter the park one morning we witnessed a group of these men rather intimdatingly sell a bunch of counterfeit Minnie ears to a group of younger girls. We then saw them pick their precise moment to run through the metal detectors so that security wouldn't stop them. It was quite disconcerting. It also had the knock on consequence of creating a huge line just to get in to the Soarin' Fastpass line as Castmembers had to check that admission tickets and Fastpasses matched up.
In the days following our visit Disney seemingly have tried to combat this by offering their own version of a paid Fastpass. Now I'm all for a paid Fastpass in a park like this but I'm not sure if it will totally eliminate these people and their practices but it's encouraging to see signs that Disney are aware of these issues and are trying to combat them.
Alright, I've rambled on quite a bit. To sum up - I really like the park. It's not my favourite Disney resort by a long shot but I look forward to going back when they start building and opening their expansions in the future! Okay, here's some photos...
Paula has no idea what she's letting herself in for at this point...
Yup, we're in Shanghai! (And of course, we had to visit the huge Disney store!)
New Disney hotel credit!
These rooms are pretty effing cool for Toy Story fans!
First stop (after getting Soarin' Fastpasses) is Shanghai's super Pirates! I cannot put into words how much I loved this ride. It puts every other boat ride in the world to shame.
Seriously, it's freaking huge.
This is the kind of sight you'll see on the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto. It's kind of a weird fusion of the Storybook Canal Boats and Jungle Cruise. Perfect Fantasyland ride.
Park entrance photo! Look at those blue skies! This place already looks great!
I always like when a Disney park puts some sort of walkthrough in their castle and Shanghai's "Once Upon a Time Adventure" based on Snow White is pretty decent. Was interesting that none of the Chinese visitors had any interest in watching the scenes play out and just walked through it as quick as they could. China.
We're here! Oh man, that castle is BIG!
YES! Give me some Tron!
Pre-show room to myself! There's an effect with the glass in here which is just fantastic.
I can feel Daft Punk just looking at this.
Hey, Mickey! Looking good!
Shanghai certainly fulfills its quota of Mickey shaped food items.
Weirdly, unlike the other Asian Disney parks I've been to the meet and greets really had minimal lines!
We walked into the Star Wars Launch Bay and there was literally no other guests there. Just Kylo Ren shouting at us in Chinese!
The Alice in Wonderland maze was a bit of a letdown. Aside from being themed to the newer Tim Burton movie the whole maze is a level below the rest of Fantasyland so you can see into the maze before you enter it. You probably get a better view of the stuff in the maze from outside it! It all felt a bit pointless.
It's not quite the Tangled toilets but here's the Toy Story Toilets! To be joined next year apparently by its accompanying Toy Story Land.
Make sure you go inside the castle - it's pretty incredible!
Wandering Moon Teahouse - probably as close we came to doing any "traditional" Chinese stuff on this trip!
You may be surprised to find that the teahouse actually only offers one variety of tea but you can get dumplings and other assorted Chinese foods if you so desire!
Tron looks pretty awesome at night but you probably already knew that!
Here you can see Adventure Isle - it's home to the Rapids and messed up ropes course. That's Soarin' building on the left. If you want to ride it you need to get a Fastpass first thing, the lines are insane.
Back for our second day and some tasty intellectual properties for breakfast!
What a way to start the day! Love the lack of lines to meet characters here!
Here those more "traditional" Chinese grey skies.
Oh yeah, they have Seven Dwarfs Mine Train here too. It's also quite popular (though not quite on Orlando levels).
Tron, it's pretty great from any angle.
This is about my level as far as spinning rides go.
I'll be honest, we did ride a decent chunk of that second day reriding Pirates.
It may look like your bog-standard Pirates ride when you're looking at the boats pass you in the restaurant but not long after this point the boats are moving backwards and forwards and side to side. It's quite amazing.
There's a few scenes to look at as you wait in the Pirates line. Though it moves pretty fast so you won't spend too long looking at all this.
The whole Treasure Cove land is pretty incredible.
I almost forgot Peter Pan! It's a very cool update of the classic ride.
Did I mention that Tron at night is just awesome?
The castle projection/fireworks show was alright. I kind of expected better with such a large canvas to use. Adding in live action clips from Star Wars and POTC didn't quite work for me either but it wasn;t bad by any means. (Just not as good as some of the other shows you might see in other resorts).
While not quite as cool as Main Street USA at night, Mickey Avenue certainly holds it own.
Sadly the Donald waffles are not quite up to par with the Mickey waffles elsewhere.
Well I think we can say that Shanghai Disneyland has been well and truly conquered! Two days is just enough.
Maybe not REAL soon but I'll certainly see you again Shanghai Disneyland! (For Pirates if nothing else)
Oh crap, I hardly took any photos of myself in portrait mode so I guess I have to end with this one... I'm really out of Trip Report shape!
Shanghai Disneyland is cool - just prepare yourself to deal with China beforehand and you'll be all good!
(It also helps if you have another cool place like Hong Kong to go to immediately after visiting mainland China...)