Thursday, 10 December 2015

Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report

Hong Kong Disneyland may be smaller than all other Disneyland parks, but it still one of the top 10 most popular theme parks in Asia. In fact, having visited multiple theme parks, some focusing on big roller coasters, others on marine life, I personally still think that Hong Kong Disneyland offers the best theme park experience. In this blog post, I will give you a little glimpse of this beautiful park and explain to you why I think Disney continues to dominate the theme park industry.

Update June 2017: Experience the NEW Iron Man Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland

About Hong Kong Disneyland

When Hong Kong Disneyland opened 10 years ago in 2005, it was the single smallest theme park in the Disney resort chain. In spite of overcrowding in the early years, the resort was still struggling to make money. That changed in 2011, when Hong Kong Disneyland opened the first of three new themed lands, and even today there are new rides and hotels under construction, and even rumours of second theme park there.

Today, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort boasts 2 hotels and the theme park has 7 themed lands. The easiest way to access the resort is by MTR, for there is a dedicated Disneyland Resort Line which you can take from Sunny Bay station. Tickets are expensive at HKD 539 but you can get discounts from online sites like Klook Travel (HKD448) or purchase all inclusive packages with Disneyland Resort Hotel.

Disneyland Resort MTR Station. Note the beautiful turn of the century Victorian architecture.

I'm not sure you call this creative or ridiculous.

Main Street USA

Main Street USA is a staple of every Disney Theme Park. It is a actually a close replica of the kind of town the Walt Disney himself lived when he was a kid. From the start, you will notice the attention to detail in each of the buildings, and even the lamp posts are themed. There are also a couple of attractions: Animation Academy and Art of Animation, but most people will simply skip these attractions for the more "entertaining" ones.

However, what I really love about main street is the beautiful lighting at night. The path is very wide so it allows many guests to enjoy the space without feeling too cramped. However, there appears to be a shortage of toilets at the area near Sleeping Beauty Castle, where most people will wait for the fireworks and parade.

[tip] If the toilets, especially female toilets, are too crowded near to fireworks, the nearest ones are at Adventureland and near the Park Entrance. I recommend Adventureland as the route there is less crowded.

Hong Kong Disneyland Main Street at night
It is at night that Main Street USA really comes to life!


Adventure is one of the 4 original themed lands of Hong Kong Disneyland. In my previous visit, the area will close as early as 6pm. However, the park now opens the area all the way till fireworks time, and I must say that the area is completely different at night. 

In particular, the area's centerpiece ride, Jungle Cruise, is mediocre during the day. But add in the darkness, you really feel like you are on a dangerous expedition and it adds a lot to the excitement factor. Festival of the Lion King is a good show, just that the actors often repeat the same phrase in Cantonese after the English narration, and I think it really slows down the pace of the show.

[tip] Hong Kong gets dark as early as 6.30pm, so you do not have to worry about missing the fireworks if you want to experience Jungle Cruise at night.

This is the Adventureland restaurant. I was quite surprised that they served Chicken rice there - i was expecting more like African Cuisine. After all, Disney is quite well known for themed dining.

Grizzly Glutch

Grizzly Glutch is one of 3 new themed lands that was part if Hong Kong Disneyland's transformation in the early 2010s. It contains what I believe to be the best roller coaster in all of Disney: Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Some people think that this area is an extension of Adventureland. Although both lands are outdoor and adventure based, Adventureland focuses more on the African experience while Grizzly Glutch actually showcases the American West.

The moment I entered, I was immediately hooked by the beautifully carved Grizzly Peak. You can also hear screams coming from all directions (serious! ALL directions), courtesy of the roller coaster.

This is one jail you can enter without a "Get out of jail free" card.

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars

I think that this ride deserves a separate section. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars is my favourite attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland, and I think it can be the best overall Disney roller coaster. Here's why: The ride runs through some of the best artificial landscape in the entire theme park industry. The roller coaster train goes forwards and backwards, there are both drops and launch. Special effects include wind, fire, explosions and, thankfully, no water! (yes Revenge of the Mummy, I am referring to you)

The ride itself is surprisingly intense even though it is not very tall. The final launch is more forceful that the launch on Battlestar Galactica and felt a lot faster as it is paired with the explosion effect. In spite of this, I find this ride to be one of the most first-time-roller-coaster friendly because the ride gradually builds up in intensity and there are enough distractions to keep the first time rider entertained. I rate the ride 8.6 which makes it at my 5th best roller coaster as of December 2015.

[tip] Because of the lift-hill-rollback scene, I recommend riding on the first row to have the most intense backwards drop.

Here is a tip. If you are scared. take a photo with this test car and you can claim that you have ridden. Shh... don't tell anyone

Mystic Manor

Mystic Manor is the newest of the 3 new themed lands at Hong Kong Disneyland. When you walk in, you will be greeted by an eerie mansion, and some dark and shaded gardens on the other. There is only 1 attraction here: Mystic Manor. I think this attraction is like the second generation Haunted Mansion, as the ride is far more dynamic, fast paced and unpredictable. Oh yes, don't touch the Music Box.

Now that is one nice mansion. But I won't want to stay in it cause it looks way too creepy!

Another nook for children of all ages to run around, play and explore!

The Mystic Manor ride brings you on a journey to explore the exhibition of Lord Henry Mystic. There, you will board one of four free-motion vehicles to explore the manor. These ride vehicles represent the latest in theme park technology - they can interact with one another, dance around each other and don't even need a physical track to operate. This technology was actually first introduced in Seaworld's Empire of the Penguins Ride in 2013, and Mystic Manor opened later the same year.

So this is the way our dear Lord Henry Mystic treats his "precious" artifacts!?

The queue line of the ride is essentially one art gallery.

And to complete the Mystic experience, here is a restaurant!

Toy Story Land

The final of the 3 new themed lands, Toy Story Land is themed to the popular Pixar animation series Toy Story. It is perhaps the best kids zone I have ever seen. The giant toys and whimsical decorations really made me feel I was a kid once again. The rides in this area are also much more simple, just like the simpler days of our childhood. 

You know you have become a kid again when you see this sign!

This is what I call attention to detail. Even the lamp posts look like toys!

In line with the easy going mood of toy story, there are only food stands and no sit down restaurants at toy story land.

There is a relatively thrilling ride called RC Racers - a Half Pipe. For those who know of Screaming Condor at Leafoo Village in Taiwan, this is like a smaller and sit-down version of the ride. Don't let the word smaller fool you, though. The track extends past 90 degrees vertical so you will feel that you are falling out of the car at the top of the ride. The other 2 rides are classic family rides - a parachute drop ride and a spinning ride.

This is RC Racers. Sorry I could not show you the picture of the ride track because the picture taken was not of presentable quality.

The queue for the ride is actually a highway!

And who says toilet entrances cannot be constructed of toys?


When most people think of Disney, they think of Fantasyland. Indeed, Fantasyland has the most number of attractions of Hong Kong Disneyland - 7 in total (3 kids rides, 1 3D movie, 1 boat ride, 1 dark ride and 1 theater show). The atmosphere was good but I think the decorations lacked the flavour and richness of the 3 new themed lands - maybe Fantasyland was too generic a theme.

The most popular ride in Fantasyland, and possibly all of Hong Kong Disneyland is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Queue lines run 45 minutes plus even on non-peak days, and the only time I could ride it without queue was like 10 minutes before the night parade. Mickey's Philharmagic is a good 3D show as the 3D effects are very convincing and the screen is very wide. (I mean, Disney is a movie studio)

The theater show  was closed for maintenance on the day I went.


Tomorrowland is a very interesting place. Originally, Walt envisioned Tomorrowland to be an ever-changing place that showcases the latest in transportation, urban living and space exploration. However, technology progressed so fast that Disney changed their approach and focused on society's vision of the future during a specific time period. At Hong Kong Disneyland, Tomorrowland has lots of neon lightning with a colour scheme that is reminiscent of the 1980s and 1990s.

Tomorrowland is home to the park's interactive attraction - Stitch Encounters, available in English, Chinese and Cantonese. This show is quite funny and more engaging that several other interactive shows I experienced. Another classic attraction, Space Mountain, is a kids roller coaster but the combination of darkness and highly charged soundtrack makes the ride feel a lot faster. This ride is not totally dark and you can actually still see the track ahead.

Other attractions in Tomorrowland are Autopia, a modern twist to the antique car rides, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, an indoor shooting ride. Personally, I felt that Tomorrowland has the strongest lineup of interactive attractions but also the weakest theming of all the Hong Kong Disneyland themed lands.

Disney's Christmas Celebrations

For Christmas 2015, Hong Kong Disneyland has Christmas Tree lighting performance at Main Street USA. The wide, spacious path of Main Street really comes to its own here and I can fully enjoy the atmosphere without constantly banging into people. The music is "Let it Go" from popular Disney movie Frozen, and I must admit that when they added a male voice into the song it actually sounded quite good. Snow will fall on the entire main street during the chorus of the song!

Dancing lights erupt all over main street with lots of festive objects and symbols!

(Sing to Let it Go) Let it Snow! Let it Snow! I can't wait for this anymore!?
Let it snow! Let it Snow! Why can't this come to my door?

Paint the Night Parade

This is the number 1 reason why I want to visit Hong Kong Disneyland again. While Disney's day parades are not bad with good costumes and nice music, I think the night parade is on a league of its own. The lighting is vibrant and syncronised to music, so it just feels like a roving festival of lights. There are a over 10 floats themed to Cars, Monsters Inc, and several others. Trust me, just this parade alone is worth the trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Personally, I think that Disney introduced this parade in response to a new nighttime show at Ocean Park Hong Kong - Symbio.

Hong Kong Disneyland Paint the Night Parade

Disney in the Stars - Fireworks

As with every other Disneyland park, Hong Kong Disneyland finishes off each day with a fireworks show. The show is themed to Aladdin's hit song "A Whole New World" and lasts about 10 minutes. While I really love fireworks shows, including this one, I felt it was overshadowed by the new night parade.

Main Street at the end of the fireworks

The Disney Difference

Disney currently holds the top 5 spots for the most popular theme parks in the world, and after this visit I think I can understand why. It is not so much the signature rides, but the little details that makes the Disneyland experience comfortable and enjoyable.

  • Transportation: Hong Kong Disneyland has a well organised and easy to use transportation center for tour buses. The MTR Disneyland Resort Line offers large, comfortable trains that can handle the crowd very well, unlike a certain monorail...ahem...ahem...Sentosa Express
  • Family Friendly Attractions: Most theme parks offer attractions specifically catered to individual audience groups (ie. roller coasters for teens, kids zones for families, etc). However, Disney strives to make most attractions accessible for all age groups. Also, Disney offers many family-friendly features like diaper changing stations, stroller parking areas and Child Swap scheme.
  • Excellent Operations: The Rides at Hong Kong Disneyland generally have very high capacities of over 1000 guests per hour, and Disney strives to keep most of them running at or close to full capacity. As such, queues are tolerable even on moderate days and I barely had to queue as I visited on an off peak day.
  • Crowd Friendly Design: The pathways and routes at Hong Kong Disneyland are very wide and spacious, allowing large crowds to move without feeling too cramped.
Nonetheless, no theme park is perfect and I wished that Disney can work on the following areas:
  • A more value priced resort-hotel that is more targeted towards price conscious families. Something similar to Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World will be really great.
  • More toilets at Main Street area. This is URGENT (pun intended)!
  • Drastically improve the food quality - I know that Disney resorts in the US prides itself on authentic themed dining experiences, but I can't seem to see that at Hong Kong Disneyland. With improved food quality I am sure the restaurant-level-prices will be more justified.

Park Rating

  • Roller Coasters: ☆☆☆
  • Thrill Rides: ☆
  • Shows: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Family Rides: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Theming: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Operations: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Overall: ☆☆☆☆☆
Like this post? Don't forget to like the Second Drop Facebook Page. If you like to compare one hor, like most Singaporeans, then have a look at Hong Kong Disneyland vs Universal Studios Singapore or Hong Kong Disneyland vs Hong Kong Ocean Park.

China and Hong Kong Theme Parks