Shanghai Disneyland Review Plus 10 Insider Tips

Shanghai Disneyland Review Plus 10 Insider Tips

Shanghai Disneyland is unique among all of the Disney resorts in the world, and not just because of it’s location. We visited recently and there were so many things I wish I would have known prior to our visit, that I decided to review Shanghai Disneyland here to share all we learned.

Hopefully, I can help you avoid the ticketing issues, entrance lines, cultural problems and general mistakes that we experienced. Despite our mishaps and mistakes, we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Shanghai Disneyland!

I’m sure you will, too!

 

 

Shanghai Disneyland Review

Shanghai Disneyland

 

 

Shanghai Disneyland is comprised of the theme park, two hotels, and a Disney downtown entertainment area. We’ll talk about each of them below, starting with how to most easily purchase tickets.

 

Purchasing Your Shanghai Disneyland Tickets

Shanghai Disneyland tickets are pretty inexpensive compared to other Disney properties. Much like with it’s other properties, Shanghai Disneyland has seasonal pricing, with tickets during peak travel times costing more.

It’s a good idea to purchase your Shanghai Disneyland tickets in advance because the park often sells out ahead of time. There are a few ways to buy Shanghai Disneyland tickets online:

  1. Klook.com (a popular Asian site for discounted tickets) sells advance tickets for a small discount. We purchased ours through klook, and we paid about $5USD less than we would have if we had purchased them directly from Disney’s site. You’ll need a passport number to attach the tickets to, and you many only purchase 5 tickets per passport. Klook will email you your tickets, which you can print. I recommend printing them instead of trying to use the digital ticket, because internet in China is flat out wonky. Be sure to bring passports along as well. You will be given an actual paper ticket at the turnstile. Keep it with you at all times
  2. You can purchase your tickets on the Shanghai Disneyland website after logging into your MyDisney account. You’ll enter passport details at the time of purchase and will need to bring your passport to the park in addition to the confirmation number in order to pick up the actual paper tickets.
  3. You can buy Shanghai Disneyland tickets through trip.com, which is a reputable provider of travel services in China. We arranged most of our hotels and train travel through trip.com.

*Shanghai Disneyland Ticket Tips:

  • The paper ticket you will receive at the entrance turnstiles will be linked to your photograph, which will be taken at the turnstile. Shanghai Disneyland tickets use photos to deter counterfeiting. When you use your fastpasses, a park employee will scan your paper ticket to check the photo. So keep those paper tickets with you and don’t lose them!
  • Children’s tickets cost less than adult tickets. But in China, strangely, tickets are deemed children or adult by height rather than by age. I measured my children before purchasing tickets, about two months before we visited Disneyland. My 9-year-old and 12-year-old were too tall for children’s tickets, but my 6-year-old was still under 1.4 meters. Unfortunately, she had a growth spurt, and her sneakers had a slightly thicker heel, so that when we arrived she was too tall. We had to spend a half hour waiting in yet another line at customer service to upgrade her ticket to an adult ticket. Yes, she is a tall 6-year-old, but my goodness that was irritating!

 

 

How Shanghai Disneyland Fastpasses Work

Unless you’re visiting on a holiday or particularly busy weekend, you likely won’t need Disney Premier access and can just get away with using the free Disney Fastpass app. We only used Fastpasses for Soaring Over the Horizon and one ride on Tron. We returned to Tron later in the afternoon and rode it five times in a row while most of the Chinese people were watching the parade.

Then, in the evening, when all of the Chinese tourists invaded Tomorrowland, we headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean and rode it 8 times in a row, just walking on. Here are three ways to use fast passes to skip the lines at Shanghai Disneyland:

  1. You can download the free Disney Fastpass app from the Shanghai Disney resort. All of the particulars are explained at that link. This is the method we used, and it worked fine. Basically, you’ll need to download the app and enter your personal information ahead of time. Then, once you enter the park you’ll scan the QR codes on your tickets, (maximum of 5, though, so we used two apps) all onto one app so they are linked together as a party. You are limited to one Fastpass at a time, so we used ours strategically.
  2. You can purchase the Shanghai Disneyland Premier Tour, which grants guests expedited access to rides, shows VIP entrance, a merchandise discount and much more. I didn’t really look into this because I’m too cheap!
  3. You can purchase Disney Premier Access, which is essentially paid FastPass. For about 600 RMB per person, you get fastpass access to seven rides: Soaring Over the Horizon, Roaring Rapids, TRON Lightcyle Power Run, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight. A limited number of Disney Premier Access passes are sold each day. You can purchase them next to the Avenue M store near the park entrance.

 

 

Shanghai Disneyland Rides and Attractions

Tomorrowland

Similar to other Disney parks, Shanghai Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is all about futuristic and sci-fi fun. The star attraction in Tomorrowland is TRON Lightcycle Power Run. My entire family decided that this was the best roller coaster ever, and singlehandedly made our Disneyland day worthwhile.

Futuristic music and lights, and the way you ride hunched over on a speeding motorcycle made TRON feel electrifying! Like I said, we rode TRON six times in one day. Tomorrowloand attractions also include:

  • Stitch Encounter
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Jet Packs (spinning ride reminiscent of Astro Orbiters)
  • Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue (just like the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride at Disney Anaheim, only far more accurate and fun)

 

 

Stargazer Grill in Tomorrowland (located next to the upstairs entrance to TRON)

Having already spent a week and a half touring China, my kiddos were not going to let me pass by a western-style grill. So we stopped for lunch. It wasn’t cheap, but it never is with a family of ten. They offered an assortment of different burgers and fried chicken (real breast meat), served with large portions of french fries.

We all enjoyed  our meals and laughed over the fact that each meal came with a plastic glove. I guess Asians anticipate burgers being messy?

 

Shanghai Disneyland; Stargazer Grill

 

 

Fantasyland

Shanghai Disneyland’s Fantasyland feels incredibly small compared to Disney’s other parks. Peter Pan’s Flight had a long wait time, so the only ride we went on here was the Hunny Pot spin.

The Enchanted Storybook Castle in Fantasyland is another story, however. It’s huge and incredibly detailed! It is dedicated to multiple Disney princesses, who feature heavily in the gorgeous murals, the ‘Once Upon a Time Adventure’, which tells the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and at the Royal Banquet Hall.

Fantasyland attractions include:

  • Alice in Wonderland Maze (not terribly huge, but beautifully detailed — you should definitely walk through it!)
  • Frozen: A Sing-Along Celebration (we skipped this, it looked very Asian oriented)
  • Hunny Pot Spin (like the tea cups)
  • ‘Once Upon a Time’ Adventure
  • Peter Pan’s Flight (always has such a long wait time)
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (similar to the Big Thundermountain Railroad ride at Disneyland Anaheim)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Voyage to the Crystal Grotto (similar to the Storybook Land ride at Disneyland Anaheim)

Shanghai Disneyland Review: Alice in Wonderland Maze

 

 

Check out this castle — it is absolutely stunning! Disney has outdone themselves in Shanghai. Check other Shanghai Disneyland reviews for professional photos of the castle.

 

 

Here are some of the princess murals in the atrium:

 

Adventure Isle

Our favorite ride in this area of Shanghai Disneyland was Soaring Over the Horizon. It’s almost exactly the same as Soaring Around the World at the other Disneylands, but that doesn’t make it any less exceptional. The one thing that was confusing was the styling of the line.

Anaheim’s styling — a big airplane hangar – makes sense. Shanghai’s styling seemed more appropriate for an Indiana Jones ride, making us anticipate a different style of Soaring. But, nope! The ride was the same. The line and the ride just weren’t congruent.

Oh, well. China doesn’t seem to appreciate congruence much.

Adventure Isle attractions include:

  • Camp Discovery (kind of like the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at California Adventure)
  • Roaring Rapids (a mild, whitewater rafting adventure similar to Grizzly Bear Rapids at California Adventure)
  • Soaring Over the Horizon (use a Fastpass here!)
  • Tarzan acrobatics show (we missed this, but I’ve heard it’s fantastic)

 

 

Toy Story Land

Disney Pixar Toy Story Land is small and the rides are geared to very little ones, so we didn’t stay long. But we all agreed that it was adorable!

Toy Story Land attractions include:

  • Slinky Dog Spin (simple, circular ride for toddlers)
  • Rex’s Racers (U-shaped zippy track for preschoolers)
  • Woody’s Roundup (reminiscent of Mater’s Junkyard at California Adventure)
  • Toy Box Cafe
  • Al’s Toy Barn (retail shop)

Shanghai Disneyland Review

 

Treasure Cove

The main attraction of the pirate-themed Treasure Cove is Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. If you’re expecting something like the Pirates rides at the other Disney properties — prepare to be stunned and amazed.

You sail through scenes from the movie series, complete with shipwrecks, battles with actual cannonball fire overhead, and realistic animatronic characters. But the 3D scenes on the walls are what really make this ride realistic. You feel like you’re on the bottom of the ocean at one point — and my 6-year-old actually cried.

They styling of the line was almost as much fun as the ride itself. We loved looking at all of the different pirate scenes.

Be sure to try Pirates during the evening, when most of the tourists have headed over to Tomorrowland. We rode it 8 times in a row, with zero wait!

Treasure Cove attractions include:

  • Explorer Canoes (similar to the explorer canoes at Disneyland)
  • Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure (hands down my favorite ride at Shanghai Disneyland)
  • Shipwreck Shore (a splash pad for little ones)
  • Siren’s Revenge (reminiscent of the of the Sailing Ship on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland, though it doesn’t actually move)

 

Shanghai Disneyland Review

 

Shanghai Disneyland Review

 

Basically, despite visiting on a busy day, we rode everything before 2 pm, then we rode them again. I think we ended up riding TRON about 5 times, and we rode Pirates at least 8 times! My favorite thing about Shanghai Disneyland might have been that the Chinese crowds were so busy taking selfies, and waiting in line to take selfies, that they left the rides wide open to the foreigners!

I can’t say enough good about the adorable buildings. Check out the Tangled Tavern (the Ugly Duckling) below. There is no shortage of eye candy (or photo ops or shopping!) at Shanghai Disneyland.

 

Shanghai Disneyland ‘Ignite The Dream’ Fireworks Spectacular

We wanted to see the fireworks show, Ignite the Dream, before leaving. But we also did not want to have to stand in the aisles of the metro during the hour-long return trip to our hotel in downtown Shanghai. So we watched the show, ‘Ignite the Dream’ from the main entrance.

That way, we figured we’d be some of the first to catch the metro. It was a good idea to watch from there, but we still had to run like the wind, as Bullseye would say. Seriously, as the show was drawing to a close, this wall of Chinese people, all running and pushing, surged towards us.

So we grabbed our stuff and ran with them. The hubs swung our youngest up onto his shoulders and the rest of the kids kept pace. But we did get seats on the metro. That’s just a warning, if you’re planning to take the metro back into Shanghai after your day at Disneyland.

 

 

Shanghai Disneyland

 

 

Shanghai Disney Downtown

Shanghai’s Disney downtown is similar to the other properties. No tickets are required to visit this shopping, dining and entertainment complex. You’ll find retailers like Lego, Build-A-Bear and Sephora, along with dozes of restaurants and a huge park with a fun playground.

I won’t take the time to review all of Shanghai Disneyland downtown area.

 

Chinese Culture at Shanghai Disneyland

Of course when traveling internationally, you don’t expect the culture to be the same as your own. But China can be shockingly different.

In general, China is very dirty. They seem to be taking steps to clean it up. In fact, if you spend any time at all on the metro, you’re bound to see extensive advertisements aimed at educating the citizenry about the benefits of not littering, not spitting, not peeing or defecating in the streets, elevator and train etiquette, how to stand in lines, and more.

Shanghai Disneyland’s guests primarily hail from this culture, where these things are the norm. So you really can’t expect things to be much different at Disneyland. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be amazed at how clean and organized Shanghai Disneyland actually is.

Even just training their Chinese employees to smile and be friendly in a western way is a monumental achievement for Disney. I’ve heard that they spent something like two years training employees before they opened. They’ve done a fantastic job!

We did still see a couple of guests peeing in the streets and we watched a parent hold a child over a garden bed to defecate. And following the parade, there was an enormous amount of garbage to clean up. But they did clean it up, and quickly, which is more than can be said for other tourist destinations within China.

As for line-cutting, we were actually surprised at how little we saw of it compared to what we saw throughout the rest of our month in China. We were actually very impressed by the relative level of etiquette within the park.

 

Language Limitations

Of course the rides sing and speak in Mandarin, what else would you expect? In my opinion, this isn’t an issue, because the visuals tell the stories very well, and never once did I not know what was going on.

All of the restaurants and snack carts provide photo menus for your convenience. Most signs around the park were in both Chinese and English, and we were given park maps in English as we entered.

Few of the employees speak English well, but in general they speak English a lot better than I speak Mandarin! And they go out of their way to be helpful. I felt like the service was exemplary.

 

 

Helpful Tips For Visiting Shanghai Disneyland

The app

Download the Shanghai Disneyland app to reserve your free fastpasses, check wait times, view the Shanghai Disneyland map, find restaurants and restrooms and more. I had to disable my VPN and use the park wifi to be able to use the app, and for some reason that only worked in the morning.

I don’t know why I was suddenly unable to access Disneyland wifi during the afternoon. I just chalk it up to being China, the land of ‘The Great Firewall’. Other family members still had working wifi, so it didn’t matter too much that I didn’t.

But if you think you’ll need internet, I highly recommend getting Chinese SIM card and a good VPN. We used Express VPN, which worked really well except for that afternoon at Disneyland.

Arrive early

Arrive at the park early. It took us about 45 minutes to take the metro from downtown Shanghai (line 11) to the Disneyland stop, and another 15 minutes, walking quickly, to reach the parks entrance. I’d say aim for arriving 1/2 hour prior to the park’s opening to be near the front of the queue.

Items you’ll need

Bring cash for FastPasses, drinks, and snacks as credit cards are not always accepted. If you have a credit card that says Union Pay on the back, it is more likely to be accepted, but still not a sure thing.

The person who purchased the tickets needs to bring their passport. They will not accept copies.

Bring a filtering water bottle, like the type used by backpackers. There are water fountains at Disneyland, complete with bottle fillers. And they are supposedly safe to drink. But just to be safe, we continued to use the filtered water bottles we used all over the county.

Shanghai Disneyland has a strict no-food policy, but they did allow us to bring in granola bars and small, packaged snacks for the children in our family. You might also want sunscreen and a hat during summer, or lots of Asians travel with shade umbrellas.

Restrooms

The restrooms are refreshingly clean and offer western toilets in addition to squatty potties. They also provide toilet paper, and soap for hand washing. We felt so spoiled by those small amenities!

Transportation

Shanghai Disneyland was easy to get to from the city — just take metro Line 11 all the way to the end and follow the crowds. Of course, the metro might suddenly stop, two stops before the end, and everyone will have to file off and wait for the next train. And the next train might be full to bursting, so that you end up having to wait for yet another train.

But that’s par for the course in China (things don’t always work well) and just to be expected. We stayed right downtown and our metro ride was a little less than an hour with no transfers. Be aware that the metro closes soon after Shanghai Disneyland, though!

The Shanghai metro is very safe, clean and usually punctual and reliable. It’s also incredibly inexpensive! Most places in Shanghai it’s pretty easy to flag down a taxi. But if you’ll also be traveling outside of Shanghai, you may want to download the Didi app, which is like Lyft or Uber.

As a nonresident, you won’t be able to use WeChat Pay, but you can still order a regular taxi with the app, and you can pay regular taxi drivers with cash. Didi drivers require you to use WeChat pay.

Money

China’s currency is called Yuan (Y) or Reminbi (RMB) or kwai. They are pretty much used interchangeably. You can find current conversion rates online. You’ll need cash. We just withdrew it from an ATM while there.

Most Chinese people use WeChat pay instead of credit cards, so you’ll find lots of places that won’t accept credit cards at all, including taxis. If your credit cards have the Union Pay symbol on the back, they are likely to be accepted in China, though nothing is ever for sure. Just make sure your card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and be sure to notify them that you are traveling.

For the most favorable rates and to avoid fees, always pay with the local currency.

 

How May Days Should I Plan at Shanghai Disneyland?

We only spent one day at Disneyland, and we were able to see everything we wanted to. We even rode TRON at least 5 times and Pirates of the Caribbean at least 8 times!

If you’re a serious Disney fan, though, and you want to see all the shows, too, (we didn’t see any shows) you might want to plan for two days. You’ll probably want to try multiple dining options and check out the lesser known attractions. I think you could fit all of that into 2 days with a little strategic planning.

 

 

What Are the Best times to visit Shanghai Disneyland?

Definitely skip Shanghai Disneyland — and all of the rest of China, too — during the first week of October (their national holiday) and Chinese New Year. Practically all of China travels during those times, making the crowds unbearable.

Next, you should avoid the summer. May through August is quite hot and humid, and in conjunction with summer vacation crowds could be unbearable.  We visited on a Friday during early April, and it seemed really crowded to us, but it must not have been because we only used free fastpasses and still rode everything we wanted to multiple times.

We were told that Mondays are the busiest weekdays, because tickets are priced higher on weekends.

 

Shanghai Disneyland Hotels

Shanghai Disneyland has two official hotels: Toy Story Hotel and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, both of which are within walking distance of the park. Both also offer shuttles, and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel also offers boat service.

Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is nicer and located closer to the park. The Toy Story Hotel is less expensive and also less impressive.

We stayed downtown, at the Utels Youth Hostel, because seeing Shanghai was our priority, and we wanted to be in the thick of things. Utels has western style rooms that sleep five (unheard of in China!) so we only had to book two rooms. The price was pretty great, too!

 

 

My Overall Opinion of Shanghai Disneyland

If you’re headed to Shanghai anyway, definitely include Shanghai Disneyland on your itinerary. But don’t travel all the way to China just to visit Shanghai Disney.

It’s a huge, beautiful park, but it caters to Chinese guests in that there are few rides, and a million photo ops and places to shop. The Chinese absolutely love their photo ops!

That was a good thing, in that we were able to ride our favorite rides — TRON and Pirates — several times with minimal waits in line, because so many Chinese guests were spending their time waiting in lines for photos. (What on Earth do they do with all of those photos anyway?) But we wished there were more rides.

Since we were in Shanghai anyway, we are glad we reserved a day for Shanghai Disneyland.

I hope this review helps you as you plan your own trip to Shanghai Disneyland.
 

 

 

 

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Do you have anything to add to this review of Shanghai Disneyland? Feel free to ask contribute, or to ask questions in the comments!


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