An American in Shanghai – Basics

Curious about Shanghai Disneyland?

You’ve come to the right place. In our series featuring different aspects of Shanghai Disneyland, we’ll cover attractions, merchandise, food, and hotels. But first we want to cover the basics. Hopefully, this guide will help you in making choices for your own visit or help you to decide if you want to visit in the first place. The first thing you should know is you need to download the Shanghai Disneyland App and the Shanghai Disneyland Photo Pass App. Unlike the Disneyland and WDW app, the Shanghai Disneyland one does not include Photo Pass as part of it. However both are easy to use and are necessary for any visit. With the park app, you can reserve FastPasses for free without needing to actually go to the attraction. And unlike the parks in the states where you have to wait for your current pass to expire, you can reserve a new FastPass every 90 minutes. Which means they run out faster, but is also incredibly handy. Currently at Disneyland you have to pay for the MaxPass to do the same thing. In Shanghai it’s free. Oh, and don’t rely on attraction wait times. Unlike in the states, the wait times in Shanghai are always underestimated. If it says 30 minutes, count on 45 to an hour. Photo Pass costs about $30 USD a day for unlimited photos and there are tons of photo ops. This includes attractions photos, attraction videos, character photos, and castle photos. Totally worth it. We paid for it for our first day only and just piled on the pics.

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Arrive early. Especially if you want to get in and reserve your FastPasses. You have to be in the park and activate your ticket before you can use the FastPass system. And it will take you a while. The line just to get past security is about 30-45 minutes and THEN you have to wait in line for another 30 minutes to get in the park. Since we went at opening each morning, perhaps it tempers down later on, but since FastPass runs out by noon, if you come later you’ll miss out on a FastPass for your favorite rides. Hint, by staying at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel (not the Toy Story Hotel) we were able to bypass part of the line for security.

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The park is beautiful. Their version of Main Street is really small compared to every other version. Of course it’s not called Main Street but known as Mickey Avenue. Really more like shoving ToonTown into the front of the park, it features businesses named after various Disney characters. But it’s nice to see Donald, Remy, and other characters featured in the park. A whole story is dedicated to Duffy the Bear’s cat, Gelatoni – something we don’t see at all in the states. The park doesn’t have a traditional hub but instead the middle of the park is known as Gardens of Imagination. It even features two attractions – a carousel and a Dumbo ride. It’s not a well-utilized space but is very pretty. Unfortunately you can’t walk through the castle gates and out into the Gardens. Instead you have to go around a massive stage set up that blocks the castle entrance.

Tomorrowland in Shanghai Disneyland is a genius in design. Not just architecturally but in layout. Attraction signs were underwhelming but I loved the easy access from ride to ride.

The only two lands that are named the same as other parks are Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. I loved the design of Tomorrowland. Everything stems from a central location in the land and so every ride is easy to get to from every other ride. Very well designed. No Space Mountain, but TRON is an equivalent type of attraction. Fantasyland is the biggest and most spread out. There is no It’s A Small World – the only park without one. And I’m not sure how they differentiate the Gardens of Imagination from Fantasyland. Dumbo is in the Gardens whereas everywhere else its in Fantasyland. There is also no Haunted Mansion or its equivalent (like Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland). Adventure Isle (despite it’s name) is not an isle but an area similar to Adventureland. Treasure Cove is a pirate themed place so similar in spirt to Frontierland. but not really. And no Big Thunder Mountain. Weird thing? They have a huge lake in the middle of Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle, but other than the canoes, nothing on the water. Perhaps room for future growth?

The parade does not come down Mickey Avenue. Instead it does a giant “U” from an area new Tomorrowland to a space between Fantasyland and Treasure Cove. Unlike parades in the states, there is no cross over. If you want to get to the other side, you had better cross over before the parade gets to you. Something we found out quite by mistake. But the parade itself is really good and the floats were nice. The light show at the end of the night is just that – a light show. Lots of digital projections on the castle, but few fireworks. We heard that the level of fireworks is dependent on the level of pollution in the air. While I was hoping for a better show, I did think it was good that the country is concerned about the pollution problem in Shanghai and Disney agreed to adhere to it. But it’s not what you’d expect from most other theme parks.

Overall, the park is expansive, ripe for expansion, beautiful, and has some exciting, original and technologically new and sophisticated attractions. For the hardcore Disney fan, you’ll definitely want to make the trip. I hope you’ll keep reading more about our experiences.

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