I’ve visited Hong Kong Disneyland three times over two separate trips semi recently (2015 and 2017). The first time I went I hadn’t been to any Disney park in over fifteen years. We had a short and sweet visit with our almost 2 year old daughter. This time we went back with our now 4 year old daughter and almost 2 year old son in tow. Each time I’ve visited I’ve found my friend Leslie’s Hong Kong Disneyland advice to be super helpful.
Let’s take a look at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2018. A few things have changed, mostly for the better. I’ll have my full thoughts on the park later but overall I found the park to be fairly underrated. Yes, it’s smaller than other Disney parks, but I kind of loved that. So let’s take a look at tips and tricks to make the most out of your trip to Hong Kong Disneyland!
1. Now is the perfect time to go
For a number of reasons, now is a great time to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. In the past, the majority of crowds have hailed from mainland China. However, less mainlanders visit Hong Kong these days (for a variety of reasons). On top of that, the opening of Shanghai Disney draws people away from Hong Kong. That means you have fewer crowds to deal with.
On top of all that, Hong Kong Disneyland improved greatly since my visit in 2015. The Ironman Experience, Mickey and the Wondrous Book, and Fairytale Forest have all opened. With lower crowds it’s easier to get your kids into Trials of the Jedi Temple.
Since our visit last year, a lot of new attractions have opened or are set to open in 2018. The new Karibuni Marketplace introduced new characters in the park (in Adventureland), and a new Moana show is slated to open on May 30, 2018!
Oh, and did I mention that a one day ticket only costs ~$75 USD? And due to low attendance, Hong Kong Disneyland seems to run promotions every year. Currently until July 15,2018 you can get a two day ticket with two $15 HKD vouchers (worth about $4 USD) for $689 HKD (~$88 USD).
2. Avoid Chinese holidays and weekends, don’t worry so much about Hong Kong holidays
Despite the decrease in mainland Chinese tourists, they still compose a large portion of Hong Kong Disneyland visitors. So you want to avoid visiting on mainland China holidays (here’s a 2018 calendar). In 2015 I visited the day after New Year’s and the park felt completely packed. This year I went on Easter Monday (a public Hong Kong holiday, but not a mainland China one) and experienced a very small crowd. The longest I had to wait for any ride was 20 minutes and that was by choice due to the kids’ schedules.
Native Hong Kong residents like to get out of Hong Kong during the holidays, another reason not to worry too much about Hong Kong holidays. On the other hand, mainland Chinese like to visit on weekends so you want to avoid those.
3. Use the differences between HK and US time schedules to your advantage
Hong Kong people operate about an hour or two later than your average American. That means they wake up later, eat lunch and dinner at 1:00 and 7:00 PM respectively, and stores stay open much later.
That means if you get to Hong Kong Disneyland at park open (rope drop) you see even shorter lines than you would at the Disney parks in America. And park open in Hong Kong (10:00 AM) is pretty late to begin with. 9:45 AM is around when they start letting people into the park. If you eat lunch at 11:30 or noon and dinner at 6:00 PM you’ll avoid large lines. Then go ride when the majority of people in the park eat meals!
4. Budget in and be prepared for the long travel time to get to the park
It takes quite a bit of time to get to the park from the city. So if you’re not staying in a Hong Kong Disneyland hotel, make sure to budget an hour or more for travel. You often are traveling in the thick of rush hour (which starts later than in the US, see above). Be aware that the long travel time might make you want to just do the park for one day. While I think the park can justify two days (we did it), traveling 2+ hours to get to and from the park might make a second day not worth it for your family.
5. Most visitors go to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland first
Fantasyland and Tomorrowland have the largest concentration of attractions. They also are the most iconic parts of Hong Kong Disneyland so most visitors go to those lands first. I visited Toy Story Land at 11:00 AM and all three rides had a wait time of 10 minutes (both days).
So you can adopt two strategies. Strategy 1: Visit the other lands first. If you choose this tactic I recommend you make the Toy Story Parachute Drop your first ride of the day, it has the slowest load times in the entire park (36 people every 5 minutes, compared to Ironman which at capacity can accommodate over 200 visitors every 5 minutes).You can hit all of Toy Story Land in the first hour and then visit Mystic Manor and Grizzly Gulch Mine Cars. Then hit up Fantasyland and Tomorrowland later.
Strategy 2: Rope drop and get all of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland done before the park fills in. Just be aware that Toy Story Land gets super crowded in the mid afternoon, so make that your third stop. Definitely use Strategy 2 if your kids want to participate in Trials of the Jedi Temple. Either way, download the Hong Kong Disneyland app and keep an eye on wait times, just in case the park gets busy.
6. Use Fastpass for rides in this order: Ironman Experience, Winnie the Pooh, Space Mountain
Hong Kong Disneyland operates on a paper Fastpass system like Disneyland. You take your ticket to kiosks, scan it, and receive a paper Fastpass with a return time. You should be able to use Fastpass at all three rides it’s available for in a single day: Ironman Experience, Winnie the Pooh, and Hyperspace Mountain.
If you want to ride all three rides, I suggest you Fastpass them in that order unless you have young kids (in that case prioritize Winnie the Pooh). You could probably ride some of these rides multiple times on most days, since like I said before, park crowds generally are low.
As an aside, the Ironman Experience rules. Think a little bit of Soarin mixed in with a lot of Star Tours but Ironman flavored. Fun moments, exciting action, a little bit of humor – this ride is unique to Hong Kong Disneyland and definitely warrants your time.
7. Don’t miss Mystic Manor
Ghosts occupy a pretty negative place in Chinese culture, so Hong Kong Disneyland went a different direction with their Haunted Mansion equivalent. I totally loved Mystic Manor. It’s got a great storyline and some scary moments. It also is a lot more colorful than the Haunted Mansion which is a welcome change. Like the Ironman Experience, this unique experience qualifies as a must see. I won’t spoil the storyline here, though will do so in a later post.
8. Mickey and the Wondrous Book is a sight to behold – make sure to see it
I wrote awhile back about the impressive Disney Cruise Line entertainment. Mickey and the Wondrous Book, a show unique to Hong Kong Disneyland (sensing a theme?), continues that great tradition. The top notch story follows Mickey as he visits characters from various Disney stories.
Disney presents the show in both Cantonese and English, alternating between the two and using subtitles. The Cantonese => English translation was pretty good, my Chinese isn’t good enough to say anything about the other direction. It’s also pretty hilarious hearing Mickey, Goofy, and Olaf speaking in Cantonese (they get the cadence of these characters down pat).
I also appreciate how the show highlights some lesser heralded Disney properties like The Frog and the Princess (my favorite performance from the show for the record). The music in the show is great, my daughter and I are still singing it five days later. Don’t miss this show and beware of long lines, get there about 15 minutes before showtime to avoid them.
Fun fact: the title song in the show, Happily Ever After, was adapted to make the theme song for the Magic Kingdom’s new fireworks show in Orlando. That fireworks show happens to be my favorite of the nighttime spectaculars.
While you’re at it, Festival of the Lion King is worth your time too, but you can also see that in Florida.
9. Bring cash and try something new to eat
As a miles and points geek I always hope to pay with credit card, but like much of Hong Kong plastic doesn’t go as far in Hong Kong Disneyland. You can use credit card at a lot of stores but places like the eateries don’t take them. You can also use an Octopus card. I highly recommend getting one if you’re spending time in Hong Kong, they make life so easy.
Like much of Hong Kong, you can see 3-D models of a lot of the food. Hong Kong Disneyland food is pretty good and draws from a variety of cultures. Pick something that looks good to you and try it. And remember to eat earlier!
10. Be strategic about visiting characters by using the Hong Kong Disneyland app
All Disney parks post characters at the front of Main Street to cut down on lines. People stop to take these pictures and delay going on rides. Well, in Hong Kong Disneyland, these lines get crazy! Skip those and be smarter about meeting characters.
Download the Hong Kong Disneyland app. It will have a list of all characters that could possibly appear in the parks, but not all characters appear every day. If you don’t see meeting times that character isn’t appearing anymore that day. There are some regulars but others rotate (like Woody was there our first day but Jessie and Buzz took his place the second).
After the park opens, the app populates with the meeting times for each of the characters. Meeting a ton of characters is pretty simple: show up and line up 5 minutes before a character is supposed to appear. You’ll guarantee seeing that character and have a short wait time to boot. My daughter and I spent our second day just meeting characters, and though we missed Mickey and Minnie, we got to see a ton (including the aforementioned Jessie and Buzz). And with the new spot in Adventureland, you’ll have a lot more chances to meet characters!
11. Get stickers, stickers, stickers!
Almost every cast member in the park, from Guest Relations to custodial staff, carry stickers with them. It’s a lot of fun for kids to ask for these stickers and the cast members are super friendly about it. Think pin trading but free.
There are some really cool stickers to collect. If you’re feeling particularly forward, you can even ask cast members to see what stickers they have (they usually have more than one type). Asking for stickers doesn’t get old for kids, or even some adults.
Hong Kong Disneyland may be overshadowed by Shanghai at the moment, but you should definitely visit. With the news of Disney investing more money into it, now’s the time to go before it gets too popular. Hopefully these tips can help you maximize your experience.
Have you been to Hong Kong Disneyland? If so, please share some of your experiences and tips in the comments!
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