A friend of ours once said that visiting a Disney park in a country outside of the US is a surreal experience because it feels like someone snuck into the park at night, picked it up and dropped it down some where else.
The first thing that strikes you entering Hong Kong Disneyland is that it looks almost exactly like Disneyland in Anaheim, especially the entrance. But as you explore, the minor differences get you more than the similarities. English is still the prominent language as far as signage goes – English heading, Chinese often as subheadings.
The shows, rides, parades and street parties incorporate both languages as much as possible, often repeating everything. The Jungle Cruise offers separate cruises for English, Cantonese and Mandarin. We did the one in English which lacks a little something – a commendable effort for a cast member from whom English is likely a second language but the delivery is just a little off. Comedy is hard!
If you’re like us and haven’t spent much time in Asia, you will also notice the difference in the way the crowds move and behave. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you’ll find you’re just out of sync with the crowds and it is harder to naturally weave and move than you usually do.
The restaurants offer a wide range of dishes from across Asia, as well as a selection of more western dishes. Every restaurant has the main dishes (if not all of them) displayed outside in a case. Most places you get a meal by default with a soup and drink and it’s always great value and tastes great.
You really only need one day at Hong Kong Disneyland, especially if visiting on a weekday. There are only a selection of the rides you’d find at other parks, mainly Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Small World and a couple of unique ones to this park, which we’ll discuss in a later section below.
The wait times for rides are extremely low on weekdays, usually not more than 5-10 minutes (5 minutes for Hyperspace Mountain? Yes please), but picking up a bit in the evenings. The longest queue we saw for a ride was 15 minutes for Winnie the Pooh. The more popular attractions appear to be character spots – Mickey and Minnie and Chip and Dale we saw a few times, both in normal and mining attire (at Grizzly Gulch) always looked to have at least a 30 minute queue. We met Aurora who only had a 5 minute wait but it was still early in the morning. R2D2 and Chewbacca are also around at the Star Wars Launch Bay but these too didn’t appear to be incredibly popular – we walked straight in and got a photo with R2D2.
Unique things to experience here include:
- Mystic Manor: this is the local answer to The Haunted Mansion with trackless technology that is the future of dark rides. It lets them do things like reprogram the ride and have more dynamic ways of moving through the space. At one point, the cars rotate around a fixed point multiple times – something that would be difficult with a fixed physical track.
- Mickey’s Storybook: A half an hour live show presented in a mix of English and Chinese (with supporting subtitles for spoken dialogue). A unique story that focuses around Olaf from Frozen falling out of a storybook and Mickey has to go in to find where he came from…and meets some other interesting friends along the way! Very high quality performance as always. Though interestingly, many lead actors playing princesses appear to be cast members from the US parks.
- Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars: at first, this appears to a rebranding of Big Thunder Railroad but takes a few interesting twists that are reminiscent of another ride (no spoilers though). The Asian influence is evident here with the focus on bears as a feature of the theming.
Also worth highlighting is Toy Story Land. They’re currently in the process of building this at Walt Disney World and if it’s anything like the one here, it will be amazing. The theming is perfect and there’s a few small rides – Slinky Dog Spin, a mini roller coaster style track; Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, a small drop tower style ride; RC Racer, a slightly more intense U shaped track for those wanting more of a thrill ride.
With Halloween a month and a half away, Hong Kong Disneyland was already decorated for Halloween. Trick or treating booths were set up (but not in use at the time). As always, they were beautifully incorporated so they looked like they’d always been there and not just a temporary fixture tacked on.
We stayed only one night at the Hollywood Hotel but were impressed – it had the fixtures of a pretty standard value resort hotel, like what you would find at WDW, but the Hollywood theming made it feel a lot fancier. We even got a room with a king bed, something you can almost never get at a WDW value resort.
Overall, Hong Kong Disneyland, because of its location and size, is a perfect spot to visit if you need to have a stopover in Asia and many passport holders get a 3 month visa free entry. Hong Kong is a major transit hub and the park is a short taxi ride (150 HKD = approx. $20 USD) and even a half day is enough to see plenty. And at a ticket price of 539 HKD (approx. $70 USD), you really can’t go wrong.
We had a great time at Hong Kong Disneyland and considering we regularly transit through HKG going to Australia from the US, we will very likely return in the near future.