Steven and I are Disney park fans. The obsession for me started as a child, when my family would take summer vacations to Disneyland. I should also mention that my sisters and would watch Disney movies and sing the songs as we did chores and on car rides. As a teen and young adult my love for Disney parks grew because I was a roller coaster junkee working at a local theme park. By the time I started dating Steve, I was into Disney races and he joined me at a Disneyland Half Marathon and my family for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Steve knew his way to my family’s heart was to find common ground with Disneymania. Since then, Steve and I were Disneyland season pass holders, visited Disney World a few times, and even became DVC members last year. When we talked about this around the world honeymoon, there was no doubt that we wanted to visit all the Disney parks.
Hong Kong Disneyland was our first Disney stop. The park opened in 2005, and incorporated Chinese culture – including feng shui, and having Cantonese, English and Mandarin languages available. The park is still small, but they have major expansions planned for the next decade, including a Frozen land!
How We Got There & Around
From Phnom Penh we were able to catch a flight on frequent flyer miles through Thai Airways. In fact, we took a business class flight as it was the same exact miles as economy. We had a layover in Bangkok and then a flight to Hong Kong. Now I must say, flying business class was pretty nice. We were given Champagne and a three course meal on both flights, and we got to use the lounge in Bangkok. I felt like a princess. I believe everyone in their lives should experience this at least once. Too bad we are flying economy the rest of the way.
Once arriving in Hong Kong, we took a bus from the airport to our hotel area. It was pretty easy. We also purchased Octopus cards to use on the Metro.
Disneyland has its own Metro station, however our hotel was only a 15-minute drive. Our hotel offered a one-way shuttle to Disneyland and we ended up taking a taxi at the end of the night rather than Metro/Bus combo which would’ve taken 45-60 minutes.
Where We Stayed
We wanted to stay near enough the park to make it easy to get to, but couldn’t afford to stay at a Disney Hotel property. We ended up staying at Auberge Discovery Bay. They hotel was slightly outside our budget, but with free park shuttle, and plenty of restaurants nearby, it was a great alternative to a Disney hotel.
We tried several times booking directly online to no avail. After doing some reading, we figured that perhaps Hong Kong Disneyland didn’t accept American credit cards (Note from Steve: We have had issues buying things online from other countries using our Chase credit cards at times. I think this is due to Chase not really using “Verified by VISA”. We have a Capitol One as well, which seems to work sometimes but has its own issues as well.). We ended up having to purchase our one-day pass through Klook. Klook is an authorized wholesaler of tickets for lots of attractions throughout Asia and other parts of the world. We were able to get a slightly discounted rate and after their rather thorough (read: annoying) security verification, we had our tickets emailed to us with no issues using a US credit card or Paypal.
Our Magical Day
We started the day arriving 30 minutes prior to park opening. Park opening was at 10:30AM. Of course, it started raining as we arrived. The park opened at 10:00 to allow us to shop on Main Street. The rain continued for most of the morning, but let up by early afternoon. The park closed at 8PM, and by that time, we were pretty exhausted. But, we would do it all over again, in a heartbeat!
Attractions & Areas to Highlight (I can’t list them all):
Main Street USA – Very similar to the one at Disneyland, including an Emporium, Fire Station, and Native American from the old cigar shop! We didn’t see any vehicles or horse drawn carriages. We had read that contrary to the Disneyland Main Street, Hong Kong’s Main Street is made of wood, not stone. The view of the Sleeping Beauty castle is similar, but there is not a Walt Disney statue there.
Tomorrowland – This area is to the immediate right of Main Street and pretty small when compared to the original Disneyland. We had read that Tomorrowland is actually getting phased out, and it will be Marvel-land (not sure of the name) in the future. Autopia was closed when we went because they are already re-theming that ride to the Marvel version perhaps.
- Space Mountain – Space Mountain at Disneyland is one of our favorites (although we hate it WDW). Similar to Disneyland, it is themed “Hyperspace Mountain” right now for Star Wars. Even though there was a fast pass for the ride, we never needed it. In fact, throughout the day, we never needed a fast pass since lines were always less than 5 minutes (almost every time we walked on the ride, in fact one time we were the only ones on the entire train of cars). Space Mountain here felt smooth, and fast. It also had voices in both English and Cantonese. We ended up riding this ride four times, always in the front row
- Buzz Lightyear – This ride including the queue was exactly like Disneyland, nonetheless, we love it and get ultra-competitive on it. Steve always crushes me. We read that this ride will be disappearing here during the Marvel makeover.
- The Iron Man Experience – for those who have been on Star Tours, it is exactly like that, except Iron Man themed. We loved it. The ride takes you throughout the city of Hong Kong and you and Iron Man save the day. It was smart, funny, and fun. Iron Man spoke English, the “pilot” spoke Cantonese, which we thought was pretty cool.
Adventureland – One of the larger areas in HK Disneyland. This area had cute water features to play in, as well as Tarzan’s Tree House (same as Disneyland CA), Jungle Cruise and the Lion King Show.
- Jungle Cruise – We have mixed feelings about this one. The ride itself is pretty awesome. In fact, the animatronics are more advanced and the ride has a part when the entire boat can shake. The ride mechanics are superior to California. When getting in line, you choose one of three languages: Cantonese, Mandarin or English, which we thought was pretty cool. The only thing that didn’t translate well were the jokes themselves. We are not sure if it’s because for most of the employees speak English as a second language and for some the “stupid” jokes and puns, it’s all about delivery. Whatever the reason is, the jokes were met with silence with the exception of my awkward laugh.
Toy Story Land – I was most excited to check this area out. I am a big fan of the Toy Story franchise, but wanted to see it before I check out the WDW one someday. This land didn’t disappoint. When we arrived we were greeted by Jesse, and had no wait for all three rides. The entire area is super cute, and reminded me of Bug Life lands at Disney California Adventure – it’s all about those details! It surprised me that Toy Story Mania (the ride) wasn’t here, but I read later that its rumored it will be in HK within a few years.
- RC Racer – I only rode this ride once, while Steve did it a few times. The riders are in a RC type car and basically go back and forth on a half-pipe. Although it doesn’t sound too bad, you do get some air time and some motion sickness.
- Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin – Here is a ride more my speed. Super cute and fun.
- Solider Parachute Drop – This ride is themed after the green soldiers, and has an adorable queue. You board a seat that takes you up and down in a “parachute”
Mystic Point – This area is HK’s newest area. With the main ride, Mystic Manor, as well as 3D gardens and water spouts to play with.
- Mystic Manor – Geek alert, it’s about to get ultra geeky. We are big fans of the trackless ride technology. Currently we have only been on one ride with it – Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters at Disney’s California Adventure. Mystic Manor is a dark ride that uses that same technology and it is amazing. Many people compare this ride to the Haunted Mansion and I see why. In fact, throughout the ride, it actually pays homage to the Haunted Mansion by displaying a few animatronics from the ride, however, the whole premise is completely different. When Disney built the park in Hong Kong, to be respectful of the Chinese cultural view on the afterlife, it was decided not to build a Haunted Mansion. Instead, in 2013, this ride was built. It is the story of an explorer and his pet monkey, Albert, who collect artifacts from around the world. Albert, being a naughty monkey, pressed a magical music box which made all the artifacts come to life. It is not just the trackless tech that makes this ride impressive. The use of both traditional animatronics and cutting edge projections really made for an immersive experience. We rode this ride twice and felt we saw more things on the second ride. I can’t stress enough how incredibly awesome this ride is. I am looking forward to Disney’s technology on rides in future years.
Grizzly Gulch – This area reminded us as a mix of Frontier land and Country Bear jamboree. It is a pretty small area, with water features (seem to be popular here) and coaster. There are signs posted that the town was founded in 8/8/1888 – 8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture, we found that to be pretty clever.
- Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars – How to describe this… a mixture of Big Thunder Mountain from Disneyland and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom WDW. The ride was fun, but wasn’t my favorite. I still prefer Big Thunder and Expedition Everest. I did like the story line – bears throughout the ride, you end up accidentally on track 4 (4 is bad luck in Chinese culture), and the ending when you finally make it safe back.
Fantasyland – No matter what Steve says, a trip to Disney isn’t complete without visiting my childhood favorites in Fantasyland. HK’s Fantasyland is similar to other parks we have been to, including the part with laughing, screaming, crying, pooping children. That is Steve’s least favorite part. However, if you are like me and come with an open mind, good attitude, and low expectations – you will have a great time reliving your favorite childhood moments.
- Snow White Grotto – I am so happy they have one here in Hong Kong. The one in Disneyland is a special place for us. As a child, we would come here to throw coins in and make wishes. Now, as an adult, it holds a place in my heart for a different reason – it is where Steve proposed to me. We couldn’t skip the one in Hong Kong, so we made a wish and dropped a coin.
- Disneyland Railroad Station – Steve loves riding the trains at Disney parks. At Disneyland, I can’t tell if he enjoys resting his feet or the dinosaur diorama – he loves it. Here in Hong Kong, there are two stations: Fantasyland and Main Street. It is a pretty small park, so the train around the park takes about 10 minutes. You do not see dinosaurs.
- Mickey’s PhilarMagic – We LOVE this one at WDW, so were excited to check it out here. We read on someone’s blog that the attraction was in Cantonese, but it was in English for us, and was the same exact attraction as WDW. I don’t know if they switch up languages.
- Fairy Tale Forest – They do not have Storybook Land at HK, so instead, they have a walkthrough forest. It’s actually pretty genius, because taking selfies and pics here is engraved in the culture. In the forest, there are also interactive features to make the castles move and music play.
- It’s a Small World – The queue is entirely inside, which was a trip. The water moat doesn’t go outside. The ride itself is similar to the ones in the US, except they clearly label the regions: Europe, Americas, etc. They also have Disney characters in the countries like the Disneyland CA one, but different ones – including Pocahontas.
Flights of Fantasy Parade – Steve and I watched this parade and enjoyed it. The parade was in English, and had a variety of characters – some that we rarely see at Disneyland CA. The parade also had various stops where kids can join in and dance with the characters at their float.
Disney Friends Springtime Processional – Their springtime theme is cute – flowers, fun outfits, and lots of characters.
Festival of the Lion King Show – This retelling of the Lion King Story was absolutely cute. It was also in English, with two of the performers speaking in Cantonese. The show did have a malfunction with one of the props, but seemed to be handled pretty quickly.
Paint the Night – We missed the majority of the parade due to poor timing, but saw the tail end. It was similar to the one we saw at Disneyland, except the main song was in Cantonese.
Disney in the Stars – The fireworks show was good, but we have been spoiled by the amazing ones we have seen at Disneyland and WDW. The show did have projections on the Sleeping Beauty castle, and had pretty decent fireworks. The show lasted just over 10 minutes, and started right at park closing.
Right away, we noticed, Hong Kong Disney is not a big Hat/Ears park. When walking around at Disneyland CA, the ears are everywhere, hats too. They just weren’t a big thing here. We also found it challenging to find park pins for our collection, but found some at Main Street.
Tsum Tsums seem to be popular here, as well as Disney jewelry. We also enjoyed seeing the various kitchen related items, including Disney chop sticks!
I think in the end, Steve was happy we had limited budget and luggage room – I couldn’t go crazy with Disney merchandise and left the park with two pins.
We were only in the park for one day, and we are on a budget, so we didn’t get to sample as much Disney food as we normally would. We did notice turkey legs are popular here, same with fried octopus, and various fried foods for that matter. I didn’t see a lot of candy/sweet shops.
We ended up eating dinner at Mystic Point. The restaurant had assorted foods from China and South East Asia. Steve had Vietnamese soup, while I enjoyed steamed buns (with Duffy impressions) and dumplings.
We normally end our Disney trip with something sweet, but on our way out of Main Street, we didn’t see anything that appealed to us. I miss my Main Street sundaes!
Things to consider:
- The photo/selfie craze is big here. We found ourselves having to stop, move and wait for pictures be taken more than any Disney park we have been to (yet).
- We didn’t see selfie sticks, so it seems to be enforced well.
- Food is not allowed in the park, which allows you to enjoy their overpriced, yet delicious food.
- Umbrellas… what can I say. They are everywhere… rain or shine and everything in between. When walking on tight walkways, we had to be careful not to get hit in the eye. Also, watching the parade proved challenging when all of the umbrellas were up.
- The park is mostly in English, with few variations in Cantonese and Mandarin.
- The park has both “western” and “squat” toilets.
We spent the full day at Disneyland, and rode all the attractions we wanted to, including a few several times. We even went to the park on Mother’s Day and felt the park was pretty empty, with the exception of Fantasyland rides. I would say to my diehard Disney friends, unless you are going to be in Hong Kong already, or doing the Asian Disney parks, you may want to wait a few years to make this an exclusive trip. This park will be expanding and I can’t wait to see how it grows. If you do come, the must rides for us were: Mystic Manor & The Iron Man Challenge as those are exclusive to Hong Kong.