We did it. We officially rocked our visit during the grand opening celebration of Shanghai Disney Resort in China! For Disney fans like us, we’ve been fortunate to visit nearly all the parks around the world. And so we couldn’t miss out on experiencing one of the most anticipated Disney grand openings of all time.
However, we’d be lying if we didn’t say that we were nervous about what the experience would be like. After all, we lived and traveled in China for 18 months — and the country doesn’t have the most stellar reputation for tourism behavior and social decency in general (much of it, sadly deserved). Luckily, our experience at Shanghai Disney Resort turned out to be a happily memorable one. So check out this complete review of our visit to Shanghai Disney Resort during the grand opening, and take note of some tips if you plan to make a visit in the future.
Arrive Early to Shanghai Disney Resort in China
Shanghai Disney is well connected to the city by the metro train system, in fact, it is the terminal station of line 11. We hopped on the train and rode it all the way out to the Shanghai Disney stop – which can take a good hour and a half, depending on where in the city you are coming from. You can go online to the Shanghai Metro website and find out how long it will take you.
We arrived at 7:45 am in anticipation for the park opening at 9 am. From the train station, you still have about a 8 minute walk to get over to the gates of the park. We didn’t buy tickets in advance, so we were looking for the ticket kiosks.
Unfortunately, all we saw were masses of people lined up! And unfortunately, the ticket kiosks were behind the security gates! So we had to wait in line to get through security first. It was a long and crowded line. And one thing to know is that Chinese people don’t tend to queue well.
Be prepared for a lack of personal space, and a lot of pushing and shoving (and cutting). We held our spots for a while, but luckily, they opened for bag checks around 8 am. The line was slow, but it did move. And they had loads of security people monitoring the line and only letting a few through at a time so that we didn’t rush the bag check people.
The bag check was thorough, so it takes a while – but they did a good job handling the crowds in our opinion.
After making it through security, we headed over to the ticket booth. Signs are in English and workers know enough English to assist guests. We easily and quickly bought our tickets (and were able to use our Chase Disney card from the US so we could earn the points).
After posing for a few quick picks in front of the gate with our tickets, we saw it was 8:45 — 1 hour from when we arrived at the park.
The park was scheduled to open at 9, but we saw that the gates were open and they were letting people into the park. So we headed in for our first look at Shanghai Disney!
There is No Main Street USA in Shanghai
What, no Main Street?!?! I had heard before we traveled to Shanghai Disney Resort that there was no Main Street USA – rather, an area called “Mickey Avenue.” It seems strange to consider this, since every other park has a Main Street; however, Shanghai Disney Resort creators took a bit different approach. They really wanted to make something that had the essence of Disney, but also made more of a point to be more localized. And given that they are trying to attract so many Chinese visitors, Main Street USA just didn’t seem to fit.
Instead, they created Mickey Avenue. It’s more of a plaza on one end with a short street that opens into another gigantic plaza – the Gardens of Imagination. The area is lined with whimsically designed shops and eateries, similar to a “Toontown” kind of style and feel. Immediately it makes you feel like you are in a storybook, but I must admit that it didn’t give me the grand entrance that I’m used to at other Disney parks.
Also, because the “Avenue” is so short and opens into a big plaza there wasn’t such a dramatic spotlight on the castle – so even though the castle is incredible, I didn’t feel the “wow” as I usually do when I enter a Disney park.
While the Mickey Avenue area is a great part of the park, it still felt strange not having the long Main Street that I’m used to seeing. And it didn’t give me that same nostalgic feel that I have when I’m standing in the middle of Main Street in other parks. But again, that’s not exactly what they were going for in this situation.
First Stop – Fast Passes for TRON!
One of the rides that we were the most excited to ride was Tron, since we have a thing for great roller coasters! So we rushed over to Tron right away to ensure we got Fast Passes for some point during the day. When we arrived at the distribution point, we saw that there was already a line. After waiting nearly 15 minutes, we had our Fast Pass tickets in our hand by 9 am — and our return time wasn’t until 11 am.
We had some time to kill before our Fast Pass return time, so we opted to rush clear across the park to get our next most anticipated ride, Pirates of the Caribbean.
Ride Pirates of the Caribbean Early!
Of course, we enjoy the classic Pirates of the Caribbean rides back in the States. But we had heard from people that the Pirates here in Shanghai was like no other — and that it alone could actually be worth the ticket to fly to Shanghai.
And they were right!
Using some of the newest technology out there, the Pirates ride in Shanghai is nothing like you’ve experience before. For those of you who have been to theme parks in Orlando, think the Universal Spider-man and Harry Potter attractions combined with water, boats that rotate, amazing animatronics, giant screens and special effects — and a cool Pirates plot. This ride really immersed you in the story, and it was FANTASTIC!
If only the rides in the States could ever be revamped to this level — but that would be such a significant overhaul. But the best part of our time riding Pirates was that we rushed there just after getting our tickets for Tron, which was right after the park opened. So we were able to get in line for Pirates before most guests got to that part of the park, and so the line was a only about a 10 minute wait.
We were excited to get our first ride so early, and lucky. Because had been monitoring this attraction for weeks on our Shanghai Disney App on our phones, and it appeared to be temporarily down a LOT. Plus, it was scheduled to actually close a couple hours before the park closed (not sure why), so we wanted to be sure we got a ride on this epic attraction ASAP.
We thought about riding it twice, but really wanted to check out some of the other rides in the area. In hindsight, we should have ridden it again — because when we returned later that evening, it had indeed broken down and they weren’t planning to reopen it at all during the night.
** Note: there are NO Fast Passes available for this attraction!
The Fast Pass Situation at Shanghai Disney
At Shanghai Disney, Fast Passes are actually distributed at kiosk stations located in each land. These stations actually distribute the passes for all the rides that offer FP in that area. While there may be some operation efficiencies achieved by this, as guests, we found that the lines were long because so many people had to go through one place to get their tickets.
This was especially true in Adventure Isle – as the line to get Fast Passes here shortly after park opening had to be at least a half an hour alone (yes, people were entering the park and then immediately standing in a 1/2 hour line for Fast Passes!) It was an enormous line.
Due to the demand of everything getting Fast Passes in Adventure Isle as soon as the park opened, by the time we walked past the distribution point at 9:30 am, Fast Passes for Soarin’ were already for returns after 6 pm — and the Rapids ride was actually OUT! Yes, no more tickets left for this ride after the park being opened for only a half an hour!
And if that wasn’t enough, the standby line for this ride was already well over 2 hours long!
The Lines at Shanghai Disney are Massive – So Plan & Prepare!
This brings us to our next tip, prepare yourself for the long lines at Shanghai Disney. Usually we recommend Fastpasses to avoid lines, but as we just mentioned, Fastpasses often weren’t available. Mentally know that you are going to be standing in a very crowded line, with occasional pushing (although it’s wasn’t nearly as bad as what we thought it would be compared to our other experiences in lines around China).
The only thing you can really do is suck it up. Bring comfy shoes for standing, bring some snacks, water, games, and maybe a portable charger for your phone to keep you entertained. Be aware that people may crowd you, so you need to stand firm and keep people from encroaching on your personal space so you have room to stretch. And by all means, don’t forget to use the bathroom before getting in line.
You Must Deal With the Cutting – it’s a Part of Chinese Culture!
I’m sorry to say, that cutting and holding places in line is very much a part of Chinese culture. Even though Shanghai Disney has signs and verbiage EVERYWHERE (from maps, apps, signs in front of every queue, etc.) it is disregarded by most visitors. It’s super frustrating, but there isn’t a lot you can do. So you can create a stink, or go with it.
Lastly, it is critical that you are efficient with your time while visiting Shanghai Disney.
- Arrive early to the park
- Maximize your time by ALWAYS having a Fast Pass on the clock (if there are any available)
- Get Fast Passes for rides you KNOW you want to ride ASAP
- Get in line for Pirates early (since there are no fastpasses).
Other than that, it will just be what it will be. If you see a super long line, ask yourself if it’s worth waiting for hours or if you would rather explore other parts of the park.
The Nasty Line at Soarin’
From our experience in the States, we should have known better than to get in line for Soarin’. This attraction is notorious for having a long line that doesn’t move fast, and is boring to stand in (yeah, you know I’m talking about Epcot’s horrifically boring line!). Since we’ve been on the one in the States, we would have skipped this attraction, but we knew that it was recently revamped — specifically due to the opening here in Shanghai.
So we were curious about seeing the new version.
Unfortunately, by 9:30 am the Fast Passes were already for 6 pm and since we had just gotten our FP’s for Tron, we couldn’t get another one until after 11. But we knew that if we let an hour and a half pass, they would be out — so we couldn’t wait to get the FP.
We looked at the standby wait time, and it said 55 minutes. So we decided to go for it because that was actually shorter than waiting to get our next Fast Pass. But we learned you just can’t believe those signs…especially in Shanghai!
We ended up waiting more than 2 hours in this horrible line. Not only was there a bit of shoving (although not much because it didn’t move fast), but it was the cutting that was most annoying! Everyone in China thinks they can send one person in their part up far, and the whole party can join them later. This was quite frustrating, we even got into some arguments with people about it — even though they have reminder signs EVERYWHERE in the park, at the rides, and in the guide map.
Another issue that added to the cutting in and out is that people were constantly getting out of line to take their kids to the bathroom. You see, in China it is socially acceptable to let a child just use the bathroom whenever and wherever they are (on a street, in a park, or even on a bus – we’re not joking…). And sometimes you will even see adults doing this too (this is just something you need to accept if you come to China).
For some reason, the culture doesn’t really emphasize teaching people to hold it, or think ahead and go before they are in a situation where they can’t (or shouldn’t) go where they are!
While we were happy to see that they were NOT just squatting in the line (as has happened…) they were all running around going out the emergency exit doors — then coming back in! There was a constant stream of people on their cell phones trying to let people back in through these doors,and finding their families. It was crazy, like a complete circus with no control. Finally they posted up security guards there, but not after a good hour of this nonsense.
The “emergency door” was more like a revolving door.
People in China Eat…a Lot…All the Time!
Then there’s the eating. After living in China for so long, we were amazed at the appetites. It seems Chinese people are always snacking, and they literally pack food with them everywhere. In fact, there is a common greeting in China when people see you. The literal translation is “have you eaten?“
So the queue line was filled with people eating all around you, and the trash — well, let’s just say that more of it got in the trash can than we expected. But it still was far messier than we would like to see. There were also children posted up in areas outside the line boundaries, for their parents to “pick them up” on their way by after winding around through sections of the line, even napping on top of trash cans at one point! Strange.
** Oh, and let’s not forget the man we ran across just after entering the line who was actually SELLING Fast Passes! He was selling hard to the people in front of us, but we could tell that they were FAKE! Luckily, it seemed most people weren’t falling for it. But I’m sure someone did.
We Survived the Line!
In the end, we enjoyed our ride on Soarin’ because it was fun to ride it with people who had never experienced anything like it before. I guess we are spoiled in that we have been on the ride numerous times in other parks, so it’s interesting to get the reactions from people who have truly never experienced anything like it.
The gasping out loud and happy giggles we heard around us was music to our ears. But if we had to do it again, we would have skipped it to get that miserable time back. In all honestly, we were actually surprised at how civilized people were being in the lines — compared to what we’ve experienced elsewhere during our 18 months in China.
Overall, we were expecting much worse. But still, if you are coming from the States, you may be surprised and a bit irritated. Just be prepared.
Tron – BEST Ride! But that Locker Situation…
Since our wait in line at Soarin’ was double what we were expecting, we were running late for our Tron Fast Passes! So again, we ran to the complete opposite side of the park (and it’s a big park)…but by the time we got there, the noon parade was actually blocking our path!
We waited for it to finish (by the way, totally lame…don’t even wait for this parade), then ran over to the entrance and were only a few minutes late for our passes. After pleading with the girl, it seemed she was going to let us in. However, she said we first needed to put our bags in a locker.
So we went to the locker area nearby, where they do offer free lockers. However, it was so overcrowded…and by the time we got to a screen to get the locker – it said they were all full! We rushed around to different kiosks for more than 10 minutes with no luck. We even got help from a worker, but there wasn’t much they could do because everything was full.
We finally had to stalk some people and fight our way through to grab the locker right after they emptied it.
After securing our bags, we rushed back to the Fast Pass entrance for Tron, and it was now 20 minutes past our Fast Pass time. And as luck would have it, there was a worker rotation and a new girl was guarding the entrance…and she told us we could NOT enter because we were late!
At this point, I wasn’t having it. After enduring that ridiculous Soarin’ line, running across a huge park in this insane July Shanghai heat, fighting through a parade crowd, and then stalking and fighting off people just to get a locker for our bags, we were NOT missing this ride due to so many things we could not control.
Completely exasperated from this ordeal, we frantically explained to the girl what happened and pleaded with her. Normally, I’m not that entitled guest who complains – but I was determined to march straight to guest relations and cause a huge stink if they didn’t do right by us and honor the Fast Passes. Luckily, she did right by us and let us in.
And we were rewarded with an AWESOME ride that we wouldn’t forget!
We got to the coaster and climbed onto these motorbike-looking seats. We lean forward, grab the handlebars and pulled our feet and knees up. They strap us in — and we are sent out head first down this track. We didn’t know what to expect with this ride, but Josh was super stoked because he is a Tron fan.
Soon after we were dispatched, we our excitement shot even higher as we realized this is a launch coaster! 5-4-3-2-1 — ZOOOOOOOM!
We were launched like a rocket head first on this bike-like seats on the ride of our lives. Outside over the crowds, we looped back and then went inside to keep “racing” our opponents on the track. Up, down, twisting all around. There is also a speaker on your bike that is right under your face, pumping exciting music all the way.
When we were finished, Josh and I were so excited that we knew we had to go again!
Luckily, the Fast Pass situation was on our side, because even though it was after noon – they still had some left for Tron later in the day! So we were able to grab another pass for that evening and ride it again – both day and night rides!
Food at Shanghai Disney
We were starving at this point because we’d been going since 6 am and it was nearly 1 pm. So we headed over to a nearby restaurant for lunch. There is a wide variety of options at Shanghai Disney, from lots of local Chinese dishes as well as some western favorites. We each got a lunch set that included a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink.
Prices are typical of any theme park, and we found the burgers to actually be quite good (especially by China-burger standards!).
They had workers helping to queue people for ordering, but the hard part was finding a seat in this place! Another cultural difference between Americans and the Chinese is that we tend to eat very fast and be on our way. Chinese people eat very slow, talk a lot…and linger a long time. The combination of that along with the large crowds, and people trying to escape the hot weather, meant that there were NO seats anywhere in the restaurant!
While Josh waited for our food, I wandered and stalked people for quite some time. I was only able to get one chair, so Josh was going to stand — but luckily, he was able to talk someone who wasn’t eating into giving him his chair (they were just playing on their phone in the A/C and taking up space — actually, that’s what most were doing in the restaurant).
After lunch, we felt rejuvenated — and satisfied because we rode the best rides in the park already, and had Fast Passes to ride it again later that night. So we decided to take our time and explore the nearby Star Wars area.
Star Wars at Shanghai Disney
They don’t have a Star Wars ride, but there is a nice collection of movie memorabilia. We enjoyed looking around and getting our pic taken with R2D2, one of my favorite characters. Then we decided to stay for a showing that we thought was a preview for the next movie! Unfortunately, it was actually just a big recap of the entire Star Wars story — probably to get the Chinese audience up-to-speed, because many of them don’t know the history of the franchise and only know the newest movie.
Smart on their part…but a waste of our time.
Wandering Through Fantasyland & Fast Passes for Peter Pan
From here, we made our way into Fantasyland and were surprised to see Peter Pan Fast Passes still available. Again, another line to get the FB tickets but it was only about 15 minutes long. So we hopped in line and grabbed some Fast Passes for later that evening and continued to stroll.
We took time to admire the stunning architecture of this enormous castle — which is actually a combination of many different styles! In fact, when you look closely it’s easy to see so may different design and architectural elements. It’s quite beautiful! (and for me, it’s also fun to know that a friend of mine had a hand in making this beautiful castle – nice work Claire!)
We really wanted to go inside, because there are some attractions that take you on a magical journey as you walk through the inside of the Castle. But unfortunately, the line was also quite long and we had just had it with long lines for the day! So we passed on this one.
The Alice in Wonderland maze looked really cool.
The design was awesome, and I’m sure it’s beautifully lit at night (although we didn’t see it) and we liked looking down from above near the castle at the area where the Queen of Hearts would be.
No Tea Cups, but Hunny Pots
Instead of the tea cups, they have cute spinning Honey Pots for Winnie the Pooh, but there is also a Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride too. Again, long line so we didn’t go.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Looked Fun…but INSANE Line!
Another super popular ride in Fantasyland is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This ride looked to be more of a family coaster, similar to Big Thunder Mountain back home. It looked like a lot of fun and we would have loved to ride it, but the line was INSANELY long (235 minute wait) and Fast Passes were gone quite early in the day.
So, something to keep in mind if you are into mild family-coasters like this. It looked really cute!
Great Shows to Watch
We decided it was time to beat the heat, so we headed back into Treasure Cove to watch some shows. We first hit up the Captain Jack stunt show. However, we didn’t time it right — the shows close their doors 10 minutes before and they held the line outside the turnstiles until they close the doors.
So when they let us through at 10 ’til, we thought we were getting the immediate show…when really, we had to wait a half an hour standing in line for the next show! (grr…) It was a bummer because it caused us to waste another 1/2 hour waiting – again, you’ve got to try to be efficient with your time here.
The stunt show is entirely in Chinese, so we didn’t understand most of what they were saying. The show starts off slow, but the end is really worth waiting for! The final fight scenes are actually pretty awesome – especially with the giant jet engine (similar to indoor sky-diving) creating a really cool mid-air fight scene that I’ll never forget!
After this, we also stopped by the Tarzan show — which was awesome!
Located in a huge theater, this show is a must-see when you are in Shanghai. It includes lots of performers including famous Chinese acrobats, who tell the story and take your breath away! We’ve seen many shows, including some like this, and even we were gasping! Surely, some of those stunts are not legal in the States 🙂
An Oldie – But a Goodie with Modern Technology: Peter Pan
Next, we made our way back over to Peter Pan to use our Fastpasses – and wow! Personally, Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney movies ust for the sense of childhood imagination, and the struggle with growing up and becoming a “boring” adult who forgets to believe. But I also enjoy this classic ride because it reminds me of being a kid and visiting Disney so much with my family growing up.
What I really loved about Peter Pan at Shanghai Disney is that they maintained the classic concept of the attraction, but incorporated new technology to really bring it to life!
From enhanced animatronics to using video and new kinds of lighting and projectors to immerse you in the story more and make it seem even more magical! While the older attractions in other parks are almost laughable at some of their elements (visible aluminum foil inside the volcano in Florida gets me every time!), the current technology incorporated into this attraction made it feel so much more “dreamy” – which is what the movie is all about.
I really hope they revamp other Peter Pan rides in the parks with this same technology – much better!
Camp Discovery on Adventure Isle – a Fun Adventure (if you have time)
Another unique part of the Shanghai Disney Park is Adventure Isle and Camp Discovery. Evoking the spirit from the movie “Up” – one of our faves, the scenery is breathtaking with the giant mountain and waterfall, which is particularly beautiful in the evening with the lighting.
What was fun about the Camp Discovery area is that there are walking paths all around for you to explore the area around the mountain, similar to Tom Sawyer Island – except you don’t have to wait in line to take a boat there. You can also walk to a cave behind the giant waterfall and look out over the park.
There is also a sort of ropes / obstacle course that you can traverse all around the mountain and waterfall. There are a couple to choose from, some more difficult than others. Overall, it looked like lots of fun, especially given the scenery and the fact that we were exploring the area in the cool evening hours with the colorful lights. However in the end, we decided to skip the long line because we’ve done similar courses to these before.
If you have more than one day at the park, it would be nice to spend some time doing the course in the evening – definitely the best time.
Mickey Ice Creams and the Nightly Fireworks Show!
Alas, it was time to wind down our time at Shanghai Disney as night approached. In a nod to my dad, we made sure to stop and get our Mickey ice cream bar and send the photo to him, a tradition for my family every day we are at a Disney park. By the way, the Mickey ice cream bars in Shanghai were even more tasty – with the ears made of chocolate and the main face made of vanilla, all covered with a rich, yet softer-than-usual milk chocolate shell (beware the shell melts pretty quickly).
Then we set off to use our final fastpasses for one last ride on Tron at night (which was awesome) before making our way back to the Mickey Avenue / Gardens of Imagination (plaza) area just in time for the nightly fireworks show to begin. Overall, it seemed the show was more displayed on the castle rather than being focused on the show in the sky. For me, I actually prefer listening to the music and having it carefully choreographed to fireworks.
So many times I find shows like “Wishes” at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando do this so well that it often brings a tear to my eye with the glorious music and emotion. And for me, the endless graphics on the castle just didn’t do it for me because I felt like the show was just summarizing about every Disney movie of all time. Still, it was a beautiful show – as always.
Check out the video below:
We Really Enjoyed our Visit to Shanghai Disney Resort
In the end, we had a BLAST during our visit to Shanghai Disney Resort! We loved that we were able to see this massive, beautiful park and to be a part of the grand opening celebration in July 2016. While we were concerned about some of the negative press we had seen prior to our visit and cultural differences among guests, we were pleasantly surprised to see that most everything went smoothly. There are so many attractions to experience, and many of them are quite awesome!
The technology that they incorporated was great, and really made us wish older rides in other Disney parks could be revamped to this level (although I know that wouldn’t be easy). Even though the lines were long and it was INSANELY hot during our visit to Shanghai in July, we were so happy that we went and we will always remember our visit fondly.