Is Shanghai Disneyland Worth A Visit?

How you too can plan a trip to the newest park in the Disney Empire for less $$$ than a Walt Disney World Vacation.

Shanghai Disneyland’s centerpiece is the Enchanted Storybook Castle, a 197-foot castle that is the largest in any Disney theme park.

Even before the park opened to the public in June of 2016 with attractions like Tron Lightcycle Power Run and a completely reimagined Pirates of the Caribbean, I knew I had to find a way to get to Shanghai Disneyland.

‘The Shanghai park’ as it used to be called by fellow Cast Members has been on my must-visit radar since 2014 when I had the opportunity to intern at The Walt Disney Company. In 2014, the Shanghai park’s design was still being finalized and constructed. I was lucky enough to befriend several Disney Imagineering interns who worked on various aspects of the park, including writing copy for opening day maps and creating the floral designs for Wishing Star Park — a unique distinctly-Chinese recreational area, which sits adjacent to the Park’s entrance.

In terms of design, Shanghai Disneyland is perhaps Disney’s most original theme park, leaning very little on real-world locations and history, or even meticulously recreated towns or alleys we’ve seen in films: Shanghai Disneyland is full of almost completely original and fictional worlds.

Shanghai Disneyland flexes creativity the Disneyland brand hasn’t really seen since inception, and is the first Disney theme park to even attempt approaching something from a vantage point other than “Walt’s Americana” or “Hollywood Movies!” since Tokyo DisneySea’s inception in 2001. Shanghai Disneyland is a bold statement from the Walt Disney Company in reconceptualizing the original Disneyland and the “castle theme park” as a truly worldwide phenomenon, accessible to any and all.

The Train Station *Lookalike* at the Entrance to Shanghai Disneyland (La Jolla Mom)

After months of planning, I finally made it to the gates of Shanghai Disneyland last April (2018). After a long morning security line not rivaled by any other theme park (including that of the immensely popular Tokyo Disneyland), I found myself in front of a structure that was quite similar to the train stations that occupy the space in other Disneylands, including my home park of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. However, curiously, this structure served no purpose as… Shanghai doesn’t have a railroad.

Shanghai Disneyland’s minimalistic Tomorrowland v.s. Disneyland’s Tomorrowland in Anaheim, CA

There were other noticeable differences. Some were readily apparent — Adventureland became Adventure Isle. Space Mountain’s rightful place as the leading Tomorrowland thrill ride was replaced with a new signature attraction, TRON Lightcycle Power Run. In fact, all of Shanghai Disneyland's sleek minimalistic Tomorrowland looked like it could belong in the next century, a stark change to the stuck in mid-century past Tomorrowland that greets us in the US parks. And yes, the characters in Shanghai Disneyland’s shows and attractions speak to guests in rapid-fire Mandrian.

Other differences were more subtle. The buildings on Main Street, now redubbed Mickey Ave., were squatter and more cartoonish to reflect their cartoon inhabitants — who seemingly grew tired of residing in the humorous 1990’s Toontowns in Tokyo and Anaheim. However, as a park that supposedly tried to become “Distinctly Chinese”, the inclusion of a shop themed to Carthay Circle (now in its 4th theme park version) seems like a strange afterthought. Despite the strangeness, the familiarity that permeated the park reminded me of late afternoons exploring Magic Kingdom in Florida. However, that might have less to do with the design and more to do with the fact that it was easily 90 degrees and humid in Early April.

TIP #1: Google is banned in China so do not relay on their weather for your packing decisions! Google told us it would be in the 50’s. It started out in the 50s, but was in the 90s by midday.

When I visited Shanghai Disneyland, I was positively awed by the sheer size of the resort area.

When I visited Shanghai Disneyland, I was positively awed by the sheer size of the resort area, which has been essentially created from scratch in the past 10 years. Apparently, Bob Iger and Michael Eisner visited the very spot that Shanghai Disneyland now resides on back in 1999 and found absolutely no roads to this remote area of Shanghai. For those of you wondering where Shanghai Disneyland is, it is in Pudong about a 35-minute drive inland from what you may think of as Shanghai proper (i.e. The Bund area). It is pretty close, maybe 15–20 mins, to Pudong Airport (PVG).

One of my favorite aspects of the Shanghai Disney Resort area was Disneytown, a.k.a Shanghai’s version of Anaheim's Downtown Disney and Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs. However, if I had to pick, the gleaming new complex of shops and restaurants most reminded me of the original Floridian Downtown Disney I used to frequent as a kid. The details that went into this vaguely European and Chinese construction felt almost magical, especially in the early evening when the streets were empty.

Although Shanghai Disneyland is perhaps most similar in actual attractions and looks to Tokyo Disneyland, I couldn’t help but be struck by how much I often felt like I was walking into a very large expansion of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This is a theme park that looks and feels like an extension of Magic Kingdom’s 2011 New Fantasyland.

Royal Banquet Hall — Shanghai Disneyland’s Only Table Service Restaurant (Disney Tourist Blog)

Although I WISH Disney would have given us a table-service restaurant like Be Our Guest to complete the experience (there is only one table service in the entire park and it is character dining in the castle), I overall really enjoyed my time at Shanghai Disneyland and in Shanghai and will definitely be returning soon.

Shanghai Disneyland has a perfect mix of thrill rides, family attractions, spectacular shows and interactive attractions that makes it feel like an extremely well-rounded park from opening day. This doesn’t usually happen until several years after a park has matured (or never in the case of EPCOT). Because Shanghai Disneyland had the developmental time (approx. 19 years) and money to do it right from opening day, you end up with a park that has evenly spread out crowds and enough to keep you busy for two days — which is usually unheard of for a brand new theme park.

How Does Shanghai Disneyland Compare to Other Disney Parks?

My personal rankings of Disney’s castle parks (not including HKD)

In terms of how I personally rank this newest gem in the Disney crown, I would say Shanghai Disneyland is my third favorite castle park — after the ever-charming Disneyland Paris and my home park of Disneyland.

I would go so far to say it is a step above the beloved Tokyo Disneyland, which in my opinion is really just an improved copy of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom — my least favorite castle park. If you lay a Tokyo Disneyland map over that of Magic Kingdom, you will see what I mean. Even the castle is an exact copy! I apologize to those die-hard Magic Kingdom lovers, I just personally don’t see the charm or any real imagination in that park other than my own childhood nostalgia (I’m from Florida, originally).

Left: Disneyland Paris | Right: Disneyland in Anaheim, CA (Babies Travel Lite)

Just for reference, I have based my theme park rankings on the following:

1. Originality — Does the park’s buildings and lands have unique construction/design and are the majority of the attractions original to the park or at least wildly different from their counterparts? (i.e. The Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris stands apart from it’s Haunted Mansion brothers in US/Tokyo.)

2. The “Full Day” Measure — Is there enough to do in the park that you are fully satisfied for the entire day? Or, can you completely finish all of your must-dos by 3:30 PM and then have to fill time before the fireworks or parkhop? Better yet, can you spend two days in the parks and not repeat most of the attractions?

3. Charm — This is perhaps the most elusive and hard-to-define criteria for a theme park. Personally, I define charm by hidden surprises like the Dragon underneath Disneyland Paris’s castle or simply areas in the park where you feel transported and almost alone. For instance, riding Disneyland’s Mark Twain in the evening, Shanghai Disneyland’s hidden details on Mickey Ave., everything at Tokyo DisneySea, and Disneyland Paris’s Fronitertown decorated for Halloween.

4. Spontaneity — Does the park embrace spontaneity? In other words, can someone who has purchased a ticket on the day of with no knowledge of the park or prior planning have a fairly fun day at the themepark without paying extra for the opportunity? [Yes, the FastPass+ is a big reason why the Magic Kingdom resides at the bottom of my rankings.]

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that Shanghai Disneyland manages to fix many of my issues with WDW’s Magic Kingdom and even improves on some of my favorite things about Anaheim's Disneyland.

Things I absolutely loved about Shanghai Disneyland:

Left: Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Table (Advanced Reservation Required) | Right: Shanghai Disneyland’s Castle Walkthrough
  • Being able to walk through and explore the castle without the 180-days-in-advance-dining reservation that is so common at Walt Disney World’s popular Cinderella Table. Plus, the actual walkthrough is similar to the beginning of WDW’s Enchanted Tales with Belle and it was so much more technologically advanced than Anaheim’s outdated castle walkthrough.
  • I didn’t have to claim a spot for the parade an hour ahead of time thanks to Shanghai Disneyland having the longest parade route in a Disney Park.
The longest parade route in a Disney Park = No Need to Grab a Spot in Advance (Disney Tourist Blog)
  • The ample character entertainment taking place both in the street, in the grand castle show, and, of course, in the two giant theatre stunt shows was unmatched by all Disney Parks (except maybe WDW’s Animal Kingdom).
  • It was wonderful and completely easy to use my phone to reserve popular Fastpasses day-of without worrying about the Fastpasses you want booking out 60 days in advance. I also liked not having to pay an extra $15 for the ease of doing so (like with Disneyland’s new MaxPass).
The Shanghai Disneyland App is available in the US and is in English!

However, other Disney parks were built decades ago under entirely different circumstances and have matured and expanded in many different ways over many years. For now, I’ll stop with the comparisons and let Shanghai Disneyland stand on its own as that is where it really shines.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Camp Discovery Challenge Trails, the ropes course attraction, was by far the most unique attraction I have ever done in a theme park. In one turn, it quickly ended the decades' long debate between Jungle Cruise and Expedition Everest and took its rightful place as my favorite attraction ever.

At Camp Discovery, guests are strapped into safety harnesses and sent on surprisingly thrilling quests over and through all sorts of obstacles. There are rocky cliffs and boulders to tread over, dark caverns to roam, winding paths to explore and thundering waterfalls to navigate. It is out of this world.

Camp Discovery Challenge Trails

In my humble opinion: Pirates and Camp Discovery alone make this park worth a visit.

I would even go so far as to recommend a visit to Shanghai Disneyland over a Walt Disney World Vacation. Now, before you start angrily sliding into my DM’s, I think it is very important for Disney Fans (and fanatics) to visit Shanghai Disneyland. Not just because of its originality and novelty, but because it offers you a surprisingly similar experience to Walt Disney World that you can complement with a trip to an extremely interesting global city, Shanghai, that may just broaden your worldview. It’s a small world after all.

Yes… I’m suggesting you leave Disney Property on a Disney trip. *GASP*

Shanghai, China is one of the globe’s fastest growing cities (and it has the food & shopping scene to match).

Shanghai Disneyland has a Starbucks on site (that is completely empty), English maps, an English app, and signage with English translations. You even won’t find a restaurant on property that doesn't have photos on the menu.

Although the majority of cast members don’t speak English, I found Shanghai relatively easy to visit. Comparatively, I felt the same level of comfort in Shanghai Disneyland as I felt at Disneyland Paris and the Tokyo parks.

Shanghai Disneyland’s (Empty) Starbucks — Located in Disneytown

Shanghai Disneyland is really a great introduction to an international Disney resort and a great start to an even longer vacation in Shanghai OR even to other cities in China or Asia.

We rounded out our Shanghai Disney trip with visits to the cities of Shanghai and Tokyo — where we also visited Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. In total, we were gone for 9 days. However, you could easily supplement your Shanghai Disneyland trip by adding a visit to the cosmopolitan cities of Beijing, Hong Kong (& Hong Kong Disneyland), or even Bangkok.

How Many Days?

When planning a trip to Shanghai Disneyland, your first step is to decide how many days you’ll spend in the park.

  • 1 Day = Casual Tourist: One day is enough to see the major sites for the casual visitor combining their China or Shanghai-centric vacation with a visit to a Disney Park. You’ll have to forgo the majority of the shows, but if you get there at park opening you’ll ride the signature attractions TRON and Pirates.
  • 2 Days = International Disney Fan: Two days was more than enough for us and are certainly ideal for International Disney Fans who are familiar with the US Theme Parks, especially if you have been to Disney World and/or Disneyland in the past few years. This is because there are a lot of repeat attractions (i.e. Peter Pan, Pooh, Snow White Mine Train, and Soarin’) and by skipping them you free up a ton of time for shows, attractions, food breaks, and more. We enjoyed 90% of the Shanghai Disneyland attractions and shows within two days, only skipping Soarin’ and the standard carnival rides (Jetpacks, Dumbo, Carousel, Pooh Hunny Pots). I believe two days is really ideal for this park as you will always miss something really great the first day due to long lines and Fastpasses booking out early. For instance, we didn’t get to see the Tarzan show, the castle walkthrough, or experience the Discovery Camp rope course the first day, so it was great to have that second day to ensure we got to finish up our must-dos. We also easily got the chance to experience TRON three times, Buzz Lightyear twice, and Pirates twice.

Author’s Note: We didn’t do Roarin’ Rapids due to a scheduled refurb.

  • 3–4 Days= Disney Fanatic OR New Disney Fan: Three days would be the absolute max I would recommend for this park as it would give you time to ride and experience your favorites (besides Soarin’) multiple times. This would also be the ideal number for someone who is unfamiliar with the US theme parks, for instance, has only gone to a US Disney theme park once or twice before. I think these newer Disney fans may take more time to soak in the park and the aforementioned replicated attractions. Although 3 days is my max, I have seen some crazy people spend 9 days at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. So… I would go so far to say that if you wanted to spend up to 4 days riding every single attraction and seeing every show multiple times, feel free. Just note, Shanghai Disneyland currently sells only 1 and 2-day tickets.

Other Considerations:

  • I would also put aside one late-afternoon/early evening to explore the nearby Disneytown, the Wishing Star Park, and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. I would budget 4–5 hours for this and get dinner at Disneytown or the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.
Make time to stroll the free and beautifulWishing Star Park, located adjacent to DisneyTown
  • I would also recommend allocating at least 2 full days to see the city of Shanghai if you have never been before. The city is only about 40 mins from the resort and is reachable via taxi or the train/public transit. Popular attractions in Shanghai include the Jade Buddha Temple, Yu Garden, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, traditional Chinese markets (including a fighting cricket market), tea ceremonies, and much more. If you can afford it, book a private tour guide for the day to take advantage of the time you do have in this growing city. We had an awesome time with our tour guide Peggy, who took us on a spontaneous dumpling tour of Shanghai. We used this tour company.

When to Visit?

Do Not Visit During Chinese National Public Holidays!

If you visit during these busy times of the year, you are advised to add another full day and book dated tickets direct from Shanghai Disneyland’s website well in advance to ensure you can finish your to-do list and get in the park, which often reaches capacity on public holidays.

Weekend v.s. Weekday

In terms of when to visit, weekends tend to offer longer operating hours than weekdays, with weekdays only drawing marginally lower crowds. This is very different from Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland in California, where you should never visit on a weekend — unless it is raining.

Our Experience: We went on a Monday and a Tuesday and, by utilizing Fastpasses and Single Rider lines, avoided over a 45 min wait for any single attraction. Granted, we split attractions over two days, skipped Soarin’, and Roaring Rapids was under construction.

Soaring is perhaps Shanghai Disneyland’s most popular attraction with 3 hours waits commonplace.

Disney Premier Access

If you are just going for one day and are super worried about long wait times, you can purchase “Disney Premier Access.” This is essentially a paid FastPass similar to Universal Orlando’s Front of the Line pass. However, you can buy it on the Shanghai Disneyland app on the day of.

There are two versions of this “pass.” One that can be purchased per attraction ($17–22 per ride) and another version includes every attraction ($10–13 per ride). The 8-ride version costs a little less than $100 and does not include park admission. Disney Premier Access offers priority access via the FastPass line at the following attractions: Soaring, Roaring Rapids, TRON, Buzz Lightyear, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight.

(TDR Explorer)

We didn’t use it and I really don’t think you need it unless you happen to be visiting on a national Chinese public holiday or want to ensure you can ride all 8 attractions in a single day. The other exception is that you may need to buy the single-attraction Premier Access for either Soaring or Roaring Rapids if you want to do both on the same day and don’t get there at opening to grab a Fastpass for one and run to ride stand by on the other. The wait times for those two attractions can be up to 3 hours during the day.

Disney Concierge Services

If you are planning to purchase the full 8-ride Disney Premier Acess Pass, I would recommend going one step further and spending the extra money on Disney Concierge Services. It will likely be only $60 more. Although the price fluctuates with dates and exchange rates, I believe the standard version is about $160 (not including theme park admission).

The Disney Concierge Services exclusive ticket-add on includes:

  • Full 8-ride Disney Premier Acess Pass (If you get the “Deluxe Edition” — you’ll actually get 12 attractions including Toy Story Land rides and the Camp Discovery Challenge Trail)
  • Special Entrance in DisneyTown — Worth it as you won’t have to wait in the super long security lines in the morning
  • Reserved Viewing for the Parade
  • Reserved Viewing for the Fireworks — Worth it as people start waiting 90 mins ahead of time for a good spot.
  • Reserved seating at Quick-Service Restaurants
  • Dedicated cast members to assist you throughout the day

Planning Your Day at Shanghai Disneyland

Mickey Ave. in Shanghai Disneyland (Klook)

The Most Popular Attractions at Shanghai Disneyland

I would say the most popular rides are (in order):

  1. Soaring Over the Horizon*
  2. Roaring Rapids
  3. Camp Discovery Challenge Trail
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure
  5. TRON Lightcycle Power Run
  6. Peter Pan’s Flight*
  7. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train*
  8. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh*
  9. The Explorer Canoes
  10. Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
  11. Voyage to the Crystal Grotto

*Detonates an almost exact copy of an attraction in another Disney park.

That is not to say, the other, smaller rides, were not popular. They were. The castle walkthrough and Dumbo easily climbed over 30 minutes at a time by midday. However, if you really wanted to you could wait for them easily.

TRON Lightcycle Power Run in Shanghai Disneyland

My personal favorite can’t miss unique Shanghai Disneyland attractions (in order):

  1. Camp Discovery
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure
  3. TRON Lightcycle Power Run
  4. Tarzan: Call of the Jungle (Show)
  5. Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue — I was pleasantly surprised!
  6. Mickey’s Storybook Express (Parade)
  7. Golden Fairytale Fanfare (Show)
  8. Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular (Show)

Note: I didn’t get to ride Roaring Rapids, Explorer Canoes, or Toy Story Land rides.

FastPass Strategy

In terms of a strategy, I would recommend getting to the park at least 30 minutes before opening and preferably an hour before. There will be a giant line at the entrance that will route you around and around. Unlike Disneyland and WDW’s Magic Kingdom, the “rope drop advantage” really only lasts for one or maybe two attractions if you are lucky.

Day 1: As Roaring Rapids was closed when we went and we didn’t care about riding Soaring, we used this advantage on the first day to ride Pirates, get a Fastpass on our phones for Tron, ride the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, and then ride Peter Pan (which by this point had a 25 minute wait).

Day 2: The second day, we got there a little later and used this advantage to only have a 30-minute wait for Discovery Camp. Note: You must get rid of everything on your person to ride this ride and the locker allocation process takes forever. It is also better to do that one in the morning as it got very hot later on. By the time we got off over an hour later, it was time for our Fastpass to Snow White’s Mine Train and our advantage was long gone.

Tarzan: Call of the Jungle show (Disney At Work)

Shows

If you plan to experience the shows, be advised that shows are all in Mandarin. However, we found them easy to follow as they are mostly stunts.

I would recommend showing up for shows at least thirty minutes in advance of their showtimes. Unlike in the US, shows in Shanghai Disneyland are pretty popular — although not nearly as popular as in Tokyo Disneyland.

At the minimum, 15–20 minutes should get you a seat or a spot for any show — including the parade and the castle show. The one exception is the fireworks, where people start to claim spots 90 minutes in advance.

The Shanghai Disneyland guests were perfectly respectable when we visited. (Theme Park Tourist)

Guest Behavior

You may have heard horror stories about disrespectful Shanghai Disneyland park guests cutting in line, vandalizing, leaving trash everywhere, and even pooping in planters.

These reports were highly exaggerated and I’m happy to say we witnessed very little of this at Shanghai Disneyland.

People DO stand closer together in line. However, I didn’t think this was nearly as bad as they do in Disneyland Paris. The only time we got really jostled around was when we were watching a Duffy the Disney Bear show, but of course, they love Duffy over there so that was understandable.

We didn’t really experience any line cutting, no trash on the ground, and definitely no public defecation. The only slight rude thing (from an American perspective) was that people blatantly took photos of my boyfriend and I, granted we are blonde and super white, without our permission. So… I’m on some Chinese girl’s phone eating corn on the cob. Sigh. This was not at all surprising and it actually happened a lot less than it did when I visited China back in 2008. Just something to be aware of.

The craziest thing I witnessed in Shanghai Disneyland was people were selling fake knock-off merchandise, including Mickey ears, in Disneytown AND the park itself. Pretty wild.

I would not let any of these supposed “etiquette” issues deter you from visiting China as they were basically a non-issue during our trip.

How Much Does it Cost?

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure (Disney Tourist Blog)

Overall, I believe a trip to Shanghai Disneyland is on par with a Disney World vacation and, depending on where you are coming from, it may even be cheaper. For instance, I expect it may be much cheaper for UK visitors to visit Shanghai than Walt Disney world as they will not need to purchase a giant vacation package.

Coming from the USA, the American dollar’s exchange rate guaranteed that most things in Shanghai were significantly cheaper. Tickets to the theme park were around $55 per day, as opposed to over $100 for the US Theme Parks. We bought our Shanghai Disneyland and our Tokyo Disneyland two-day tickets via the Klook website as the Shanghai Disneyland site doesn’t always take American credit cards. It also offers a slight 5–10% discount that is unheard of for US theme parks.

Cash went very far with the US Dollar exchange rate. I believe we each had the equivalent of about $150 US Dollars and it was more than enough for three and a half days of meals, snacks, alcohol, souvenirs, transportation, tips, and sightseeing in Shanghai. We hired a private tour guide for a day in Shanghai that set us back under $75. Taxis to and from the resort to our offsite hotel (another money saver!) were about $3–5 and only 5 minutes.

Credit & Debit Cards

I believe we used our credit cards in Shanghai Disneyland for big-ticket items. However, the back of your card needs to have a signature and they will check it matches the signed receipt.

You must bring local currency (Yuan) to use taxis and we purchased this from our bank prior to departing. We used cash for pretty much everything. We did not use an ATM to get cash out as we had heard that US debit card numbers do get stolen often in China.

Lodging

Do not stay in Airbnb’s in China as you will have to register with the government at a police office within 24 hours of arriving. Also, you may have problems obtaining a visa or getting the approval for the 144 visa-free stay. Not worth it, stay at a hotel! Luckily, most brand-new hotels in the “International Tourism area” around Shanghai Disneyland are less than $75 a night.

Where we stayed: Marriott Courtyard Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone

We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone and we highly recommend it. We actually got our entire stay free using credit card rewards. If you can afford it, it would be nice to stay on property in the two Disney hotels as the area surrounding Disneyland doesn’t really have any food available at night and our hotel restaurant closed before the park closed. It wasn’t really a problem though as we just ate at DisneyTown both nights. We also changed hotels for the days we spent exploring Shanghai as the resort area is 45-mins (and a $35 taxi ride) from Shanghai proper.

Meals

Outside the Park: Food outside the park in the city of Shanghai was extremely economical. We once had multiple dumplings costing less than $2. We even purchased a meal at a 5-star restaurant in Shanghai that included wine and a view over the Bund for under $100.

The sweetbreads we ate as a snack on Mickey Ave. (Remy’s Patisserie)

Snacks: Unlike the Tokyo Disney theme parks (and to a lesser extent Disney World and Disneyland), the snacks are not a major part of the experience at Shanghai Disneyland. We did have some sweetbreads at the bakery on Mickey Ave, an ear of grilled corn from a kiosk near Pirates, and some caramel popcorn (which at least came in a cute Duffy bucket), but they were really nothing to write home about.

Sunnyside Café is one of the quick-service options in the park.

Inside the Park & DisneyTown: Meals in the park and Disneytown frequently cost less than $20 for both of us and many meals were designed to share. Every restaurant in the park, except the one in the castle, is quick service. However, the theming is similar to a table service restaurant in the US parks. For instance, they basically have a quick service that is very similar to Disneyland’s Blue Bayou restaurant adjacent to Pirates.

Also, these are all really upscale quick service. There are always multiple cast members around that clear your dishes when you are finished and you eat off glassware, not plastic or paper.

Barbossa’s Bounty is similar to Disneyland’s Blue Bayou — without the table service and the $$$ (www.disneytouristblog.com)

I would say the food in the parks is overall okay and at the very least a great value for Disney Parks in terms of cost and amount of food (most meals are combos that include rice and a drink). I would the food quality is on par with Walt Disney World and slightly better than Disneyland Paris, which has the worst food of any Disney park. However, it certainly pales in comparison to Disneyland and the Tokyo Disney parks. I quite enjoyed our Disneytown meals more and it is fairly easy to exit the park and enter again from Disneytown.

Do note, Shanghai Disney is the only Disney park in the world that is a Pepsi theme park (bleh). Also, they do not serve alcohol in the park, but they do in Disneytown and at the Disney hotels.

Park Merchandise

Whistle Shop Stop featuring Duffy and Friend’s Merchandise

Shanghai Disneyland merchandise was limited and really quite expensive when compared to the ticket price and the price of the food.

I was also surprised to discover there was not a ton of exclusive merchandise, basically three exclusive ears and only about 10–15 t-shirt. We ended up each getting a shirt. Although, I had to ask them to search for a medium shirt in the back as the sizes on display are all x-smalls.

We also bought a Duffy popcorn bucket and Duffy ears. They really love Duffy The Disney Bear there (similar to in Tokyo Disneyland) and they have a pretty large store dedicated to him and his friends off Mickey Ave called the Whistle Shop Stop.

You can also get all of Duffy’s merchandise and park exclusive merchandise at the World of Disney store in Disneytown.

Getting Around

Taxi Stand at Shanghai Disneyland (Thatsmags.com)

To get around, we took taxis.

Taxis are relatively inexpensive for international tourists in Shanghai. However, make sure you research taxi costs ahead of time to ensure you aren’t ripped off. We paid more to get to the hotel from the airport than we did the entire rest of the trip. No idea why. Note: That not all taxis in Shanghai are not created equal. Some don’t use the meter (which is illegal) and sometimes our hotel would call private taxis that were similar to Uber in the states. These were always more expensive and didn’t always take us where we wanted to go. For instance, they couldn’t use the park’s closeby taxi drop off and instead dropped us off far away from the entrance.

All of our Taxi Drivers did not speak English. However, that is fine as long as you have the address of your hotel and destination (yes, even Disneyland!) in Chinese printed out. Also, include the telephone number in case they have questions.

We could have taken our hotel’s shuttle to the park, but the hotel staff didn’t speak English that well and we didn’t want to worry about finding the shuttle stand or booking in advance. Taxis to and from the resort to our offsite hotel were about $3–5 and only 5 minutes.

We didn’t use public transportation to get to Shanghai or from the airport as we had luggage and the public transit in China tends to be quite packed. However, it is available and accessible- especially if you print out your route ahead of time.

Mobile Phones & Wifi

If you want to post on Instagram, you’ll need a VPN in China. (Nikkei Asian Review)

Firewall: If you didn’t know, China has a nationwide firewall that blocks Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other staples of modern life over here in the US. Make sure you download a VPN on all your devices (including laptops) before you travel if you want to keep family and friends updated. We used ExpressVPN’s free 30-day trial, so that was a freebie. We had no problems with it.

Shanghai Disneyland App: On that note, you’ll need to download the official Shanghai Disney app while in the US so you can manage your FastPasses on the day of. It is available in English. You have to load your tickets on it once you are scanned into the park if you bought the discount tickets from Klook.

Wifi Hotspot: Also, due to the need to have internet access to make FastPass reservations at Shanghai Disneyland, you are going to want to rent a WiFi hotspot. This is preferable to using roaming data as China doesn’t always play nice with US cell phone carriers and your bill may be enormous. We both used the same one and spent maybe $8 a day. We were able to use it in China, Tokyo, and Canada (on our layover).

In Conclusion

Frequent Disney Travelers: Worth the Trip!

Shanghai Disneyland is worth a trip if you are a frequent traveler to Walt Disney World and/or Disneyland. I think the new Shanghai Disney Resort and its proximity to global cities of Shanghai and Bejing(both destinations in itself) make this trip the perfect one-time replacement for a usual annual vacation to either California or Florida.

International Disney Fans: Worth the Trip!

Even if you frequent the Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Parisian Theme Parks, you’ll want to make the trip out to Shanghai as almost none of the attractions overlap between those four parks. Plus, due to its proximity to the airport, you can always easily add Shanghai Disneyland on to a trip visiting the parks in Tokyo and/or Hong Kong.

As Your Only International Disney Park: No -> Go to Tokyo or Paris.

If you are planning to go to Shanghai as your ONLY international Disney park ever. Stop. Get out of jail and collect $200.

Although, I absolutely had a ton of fun visiting Shanghai Disneyland. I would recommend traveling to Tokyo Disneyland/Tokyo DisneySea or Disneyland Paris if you plan for this to be your only international Disney trip.

If you are set on visiting Asia, I would recommend visiting Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea (which is frequently lauded as the best theme park in the world). The Tokyo Disneyland Resort also has the added bonus of an extremely easy metro to Tokyo city and rail/tour bus access to all of Japan.

If you are looking for a unique castle park, think about pairing a European vacation with a 2-day jaunt to Disneyland Paris. Disneyland Paris is by far the most beautiful Disneyland and it has a host of varied and unique takes on classic Disney attractions.

I hope you enjoyed this look into the newest and largest gem in the Walt Disney Company crown. I had a lot of fun visiting Shanghai Disneyland Resort last year and I hope I have inspired you to plan a trip to the newest Asian park sometime in the future.

Hello! My name is Austin & I am a product manager, career coach, and podcast host.

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