Sean: The last Disney resort I had yet to visit was Hong Kong Disneyland. It had been a wild 9 months in which we visited all Disney parks around the world, and it ended with the one I knew the least about, the one that was always overshadowed by the more significant Disney parks. Upon visiting Hong Kong Disneyland it became clear why I, and many others, overlook this park. The park’s young age yet old feel has both its advantages and disadvantages.
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It should not be a surprise that upon arriving at the 2005 resort it feels precisely like entering the original Disneyland Resort. The classic train station and mickey landscaping welcome you into Hong Kong’s Magic Kingdom. Everything feels eerily similar to Anaheim, except Hong Kong is so humid you’re already covered in sweat and are dehydrated before even entering Main Street USA.
It’s Halloween Time at all the resorts including Hong Kong Disneyland, but despite it being Halloween Time, nice weather, and a Saturday, the park is still empty. Perhaps there’s a reason for this lack of crowds that seem to be haunting the park over and over again. We’ll discuss that in a bit.
Anaheim or Hong Kong? The aesthetic is the exact same, even though there were 50 years between openings. Though Disney loves using the same aesthetic for their Magic Kingdom parks, Hong Kong Disney doesn’t feel special yet and definitely didn’t open with an innovative lineup of attractions. With the far more spectacular Tokyo Disneyland Resort and Shanghai Disneyland not too far away, this resort needs to quickly establish its own identity.
Thanks to the light crowds at this resort, the parades feature “show stops”. These are complete stops in the parades where characters come down and interact with the guests, dance with kids, and have little mid-parade shows. This is something the other resorts can’t do with the volume of guests, so that’s definitely something that I much enjoyed at the Hong Kong resort.
Tomorrowland in Hong Kong tightly hugs Main Street USA and rather than being a midway, it’s actually a giant plaza. The picture above shows how close Space Mountain is to the midway. The Hong Kong Space Mountain features a short outdoor queue that immediately bleeds into the station. The station is small, a lot less significant, but does feature awesome theming that was left over from the short-lived Chicago Disney Quest.
The ride layout is the exact same as Anaheim and Tokyo, and thus again this opening-roster coaster is in no way unique. The ride runs smooth and the Hyperspace layover is just as genius in Anaheim, but to think that this had to carry the E-ticket status when the resort opened is already an indication that the resort’s opening lineup was played too safe. By the time we got off this coaster I had yet to feel as if we were at a different resort. Space Mountain, along with the rest of Tomorrowland, felt well maintained but classic and not that innovative. For a resort this new, that’s not a feeling I should have had.
The park’s most popular ride was their Autopia, due to the fact that most Hong Kong residents don’t drive cars. This attraction is making room for a new Avengers attraction. Something we look forward to, and is certainly a crucial expansion for the park to create its own identity.
The park is busy with the update of Tomorrowland to be more-or-less the first Disney Marvel Land, with the brand new Expo Shop. To the right is the future home of Ant Man (a retooling of the preexisting Buzz Lightyear Blasters).
The ride has several loading bays, 5 if I’m not mistaken, and is a great capacity ride that meets the park’s needs. The ride is awesome, has a great story and does a great job setting itself apart while also relating to both local and international audiences. If only the resort opened with rides like this.
Toy Story land has a few basic rides, including the Intamin half-pipe coaster RC Racer. Thanks to the park’s exceptionally low crowds, this installment did not feel like the capacity nightmare that it is at the other parks. The area is cute, but much like the other two I mentioned, I feel that the theming is just not as intricate and welcoming as other Disney areas.
Continuing on in the circle, we hit the next “new” area of the park. The park’s pride and joy unique trackless dark ride Mystic Manor is one of the serious redeeming qualities of this park. Prior to getting to this ride, I was not quite satisfied or impressed with the park yet. This ride’s unique storyline, effects and ride layout were fantastic. Many people speak highly of Mystic Manor and rightfully so. Make sure to prioritize this ride, though it really is not hard to knock out this park in 3 hours, as we did.
In the past Hong Kong Disneyland was also home to the infamous Curry Popcorn, during Halloween Time however the option was replaced with Buffalo Wings flavor. I was skeptical at first, but ordered the strange-sounding popcorn anyways. I am so glad I did! The spiciness of the buffalo sauce with the slight pops of sweetness were heaven. Arguably the best popcorn I’ve ever had.
Next up was the coaster I was most excited for at the resort, which of course is the park’s signature Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars! The Vekoma custom coaster that features launches, forwards and backwards sections fills an important void in the park’s lineup. The lack of a Big Thunder Mountain at this resort is beautifully compensated for with this coaster.
Okay we’re ready! The area that Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars is located in is Grizzly Gulch, their answer to a Frontierland. I really enjoy the uniqueness of it. The coaster plays such an important role in the area that Grizzly Gulch more or less sits on top of the coaster, much like Black Mamba and Taron at Phantasialand.
The station set up is much like Expedition Everest with a loading and unloading station, except since it was a walk-on all-day the staff really did not seem in a rush like they seem to be at most Disney parks.
We had ridden Expedition Everest about a week prior to riding Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, and with both being special Vekoma products, it is natural to expect them to be similar. If you’re looking for a coaster like Expedition Everest, you may be disappointed. This Vekoma doesn’t fill that gap, it fills a spot in the lineup that would usually be a Big Thunder Mountain, or in Shanghai’s case 7-Dwarfs. Filling this gap of having an outdoor family coaster with scenery and landscaping, it does amazingly well. It slowly builds up to be a more intense ride during its final elements and incorporates Everest-esque effects like the backwards drop as well as a powerful launch. Overall I was impressed with the ride, definitely a very important and exciting Disney coaster if you go in with the right expectations.
Thanks to the resort’s natural environment being humid and jungle-like, the park’s Jungle Cruise attraction is the largest and most intricate version yet. The ride features foliage native to the region that most other Jungle Cruises don’t have, and the set up of this installment is almost a combination of Rivers of America with Jungle Cruise. It’s large, wide, features the island that guests can visit and is much more of a staple for the park than it is at other resorts.
The resort’s attendance has dropped slightly since the opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, and thus the park’s growth plan remains ambitious to ensure that they too will stand out as an individual wholesome resort. The park will be receiving a new/upgraded castle, which is why the hub is currently covered with construction walls.
A year after the park’s opening the first expansion was it’s a small world. This installment, thanks to being significantly newer than the others, is much more detailed, and is a very important ride in their lineup. The line is a bit simplistic, but again there are no crowds here. The facade and entry to the ride on the other hand are awesome. The presence of the ride behind Fantasyland is impressive.
Overall I think it’s a great attraction for the park, adds more to do, but I am not sure if it was thought out too well. It’s a little crammed in spots, there is not a whole lot of shade and needs a bit more entertainment.
Back to Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars! Our favorite ride at the park. I must be honest, after my very first ride on it I was a little disappointed. I expected it to be more forceful, but it really is meant to be a big family experience. After re-riding it a few times I really appreciated it for what it was, much like I mentioned earlier: filling the gap that Big Thunder Mountain/ 7-Dwarfs does at other parks.
The ride is very unique and has a playful theme with the Grizzlies. It’s cute, exciting, and thematically wonderful. The ride doesn’t get as much recognition as not that many people visit this resort compared to some of the others, but it really is some of Disney’s best work.
The park, much like Ocean Park, did a fantastic job making it seem like nothing happened, though the typhoon was certainly a damaging one. Some remains of the damage could be spotted as the park was still working on removing the debris.
Overall Hong Kong Disneyland is charming and beautiful, exciting in its own low-key way. It misses a bit of the sparkle and upbeat atmosphere some of the other resorts have. A lot of the park, especially the opening-roster attractions, feel too similar to Disneyland Resort in California (and even Tokyo Disneyland nearby). Unfortunately that meant that it wasn’t ’til the end of our day at the park that I was really able to appreciate it for what it is. The park is roughly twice as large than it was when it opened with much more to do, but with no crowds we knocked out the entire park in roughly 3 hours. It’s an easy-to-navigate park, but needs a few more knock out attractions to stand out among the major Asia Disney players: Tokyo DisneySea and Shanghai Disneyland. It’s a wonderful park and I was actually quite sad when I left, but when picking Asian Disney resort to visit, this should be your last priority. For now.
Thank you for reading our Hong Kong Disneyland Resort report! Having visited every Disney park in the world means we have lots of other Disney reports live. Stay tuned for all the Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea goodness coming to our site soon. For now, check out these other recent Asia reports: