Hong Kong Disneyland Park – All the Charm, Without the Crowds*

The great thing about Disney parks (familiar-but-different again) is knowing exactly where you are as soon as you enter the park. In Hong Kong Disneyland, after passing through the turnstiles, you’re faced with the iconic Mickey floral garden. You can go to the left or right, passing under the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station (sound familiar?) and then you’re in your first land: Main Street, U.S.A.

HKDL Floral Mickey

HKDL Floral Mickey

Main Street, U.S.A.

Main Street, U.S.A., looks much the same as it does in other parks, with character greetings in Town Square, groups of buildings surrounding the square and Main Street Vehicles taking visitors on one way trips up or down Main Street to the Hub. In Town Square, you can learn to draw characters in the Animation Academy (very popular, with a long line, so check the schedule and make sure you get there early for your favorite characters), see the Zoetrope in Art of Animation, and visit City Hall for information and assistance at Guest Relations. There is also a service center for Magic Access, Hong Kong Disneyland’s Annual Passholder program.

HKDL Main Street Transportation

HKDL Main Street Transportation

HKDL Animation Academy Schedule

HKDL Animation Academy Schedule

 

The Emporium entices visitors with some of the most beautiful shop windows out there (just like the rest of the Disney Emporia) and runs most of the length of Main Street, along the left side.

HKDL Emporium

HKDL Emporium

 

On the right side of Main Street are small shops, including the Market Street Bakery (sponsored by Maxim’s, a popular Hong Kong bakery), Crystal Arts (sponsored by the very familiar Arribas Brothers), and Midtown Jewelry (sponsored by Chow Sang Sang, a high-end jewelry store that also makes incredible gold sculptures).

HKDL Main Street Bakery Cheese Bun

HKDL Main Street Bakery Cheese Bun

HKDL Jewelry Shop Window

HKDL Jewelry Shop Window

 

One of my favorite Hong Kong Disneyland dining spots (newly discovered) is the Main Street Corner Café (sponsored by Coca Cola). It serves Western food, which would normally keep me away, but the Christmas set offered when I was there in November 2014, was too intriguing to resist. I’ll post more about that in my Hong Kong Disneyland dining article, but take it from me, it was both delicious and creative. The Plaza Inn is also in Main Street, U.S.A., but in Hong Kong Disneyland, it’s sponsored by Maxim’s and serves Cantonese cuisine.

Everyone with any Disney theme park experience knows that the first decision on getting to the hub is deciding which direction to go. I used to wander around to the left towards Adventureland and I still do that, but now my destination is the cluster of three new lands that opened over the past three years: Toy Story Land, Mystic Point, and Grizzly Gulch.

HKDL New Lands Sign

HKDL New Lands Sign

Grizzly Gulch

Grizzly Gulch is the smallest of the three, themed after the old West, with an ursine twist – it’s all about the bears. There’s only one ride here, but it’s a doozy. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars sounds like it’s going to be a bear version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it’s more than that. The ride itself reminded me of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but also of Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom and a little bit of Grizzly Peak in Disney California Adventure.

HKDL Grizzly Gulch at Night

HKDL Grizzly Gulch at Night

 

There’s a fun story you can follow through the land, involving a lucky dog, a giant gold nugget and there are character greetings, streetmosphere, a splash zone for the hot days, and a variety of snack options for the hungry and a small cart with souvenirs.

HKDL Grizzly Gulch Lucky Nugget

HKDL Grizzly Gulch Lucky Nugget

Mystic Point

Mystic Point is my favorite land at Hong Kong Disneyland. It’s meant to be the land of an explorer who has turned his mansion into a museum. Mystic Manor is the only ride in Mystic Point, but it could be the only ride in Hong Kong Disneyland and I’d be happy. It’s my favorite new Disney ride and there will be a separate post devoted to its brilliance (I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t!).

HKDL Mystic Point

HKDL Mystic Point

 

There is another attraction in Mystic Point, though. It’s called the Garden of Wonders and it’s a very clever collection of optical illusions. As you wander around the garden, you’re instructed to view the assortment of sculptures through a strategically-located view finder, turning the assortment into a cohesive piece. Here, too, you’ll find streetmosphere and snacks, plus, best of all, The Archive, Mystic Point’s gift shop. Be sure to explore the shop and check out the glow-in-the-dark merchandise. Dining in Mystic Point is at the Explorer’s Club, a counter-service restaurant that serves a variety of Asian cuisines.

HKDL Garden of Wonders

HKDL Garden of Wonders

Toy Story Land

Toy Story Land is the oldest of the three new lands and the biggest. There are three rides: Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, Slinky Dog Spin, and RC Racer (my favorite of the three and also the most thrilling). The character meets take place in the Barrel of Monkeys and there is a play box where children are invited to guide the story in the show. There are snacks here and a small souvenir cart, as well as Andy’s Toy Box, which has a large selection of Toy Story merchandise.

HKDL Toy Story Land

HKDL Toy Story Land

Adventureland

HKDL Adventureland Entrance

HKDL Adventureland Entrance

 

After leaving Toy Story Land, you can turn left into Fantasyland or right into Adventureland. I’m saving Fantasyland for last, so we’re going right into the jungle. There are four attractions: the Liki Tikis, for cooling off in the subtropical climate, the Festival of the Lion King show, Tarzan’s Treehouse, and the Jungle Cruise.

HKDL Adventureland

HKDL Adventureland

Hong Kong Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise is split into three sets of boats: English, Mandarin, and Chinese. The wait time is pretty much the same in each line, because the boats pass by in order. Hong Kong Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise is a lot like the Jungle Cruises in the U.S., but there are some differences. My favorite is the flaming water.

Tarzan’s Treehouse is reached by rafts (arguably a fifth attraction) that cross the Jungle Cruise river to take visitors to the island. Jungle Cruise boat captains always have passengers wave to raft passengers, creating an inclusive environment that makes it all feel that much more immersive. River View Café is a table service restaurant, specializing in Chinese cuisine, and Tahitian Terrace is a quick service restaurant offering a variety of Asian cuisines. You can also buy snacks at a kiosk. Professor Porter’s Trading Post offers a variety of merchandise, including apparel, jewelry, trading pins, treats and more.

HKDL Jungle Cruise Flaming Water

HKDL Jungle Cruise Flaming Water

Tomorrowland

Crossing the hub from Adventureland takes us into Tomorrowland, which looks even better at night that it does during the day. Here you can find the UFO Zone (a splash zone), Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, the Orbitron (similar to Astro Orbitor/Astro Orbiter, but with flying saucers instead of rockets), Space Mountain, which shares its space with Stitch Encounter, an interactive attraction similar to Crush’s Turtle Talk that includes an element from Star Tours, as well. I was lucky enough to catch Stitch’s eye and we had a nice chat. Like Jungle Cruise, Stitch Encounter has three different language options, so visitors need to check the schedule to know when to return. There are two quick service options in Tomorrowland: Comet Café, which serves Chinese food, and Starliner Diner, which offers Western food. Two different snack counters offer a variety of small bites and cool drinks. Tomorrowland used to be the home to Autopia, but Hong Kong Disneyland’s Autopia is being replaced by the much-anticipated Iron Man Experience attraction. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back here soon after it opens to tell you all about it.

HKDL Orbitron

HKDL Orbitron

HKDL Tomorrowland at Night

HKDL Tomorrowland at Night

HKDL Autopia

HKDL Autopia

Fantasyland

Fantasyland is the largest of the Hong Kong Disneyland areas, with six rides and five entertainment attractions. Five of the rides are found in both U.S. Fantasylands: it’s a small world, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, Cinderella Carousel (a carousel by any other name…), and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Hong Kong Disneyland also has Mickey’s Philharmagic.

HKDL it's a small world

HKDL it’s a small world

 

Like the other Fantasylands, the castle is the main attraction and Hong Kong Disneyland has Sleeping Beauty Castle, with Snow White’s Grotto nestled alongside the moat. In front of Cinderella Carousel, Arthur (as chosen by Merlin each day) pulls up the Sword in the Stone.

HKDL Sleeping Beauty Castle from Fantasyland

HKDL Sleeping Beauty Castle from Fantasyland

 

Two of the attractions are exclusive to Hong Kong Disneyland. Fantasy Gardens is a topiary garden with five gazebos where various Disney characters interact with visitors. The Golden Mickeys is a musical show (also seen on the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic), feature vignettes from various Disney movies, presented as an awards show.

There are two quick service restaurants in Fantasyland: Clopin’s Festival of Foods offers a variety of Chinese dishes and the Royal Banquet Hall offers four stations with foods from all over the world. My favorite Hong Kong Disneyland snack place is at the exit from it’s a small world. The Small World Ice Cream shop has ice cream, freshly-made waffle bowls, and frozen Coke. My go-to treat is a frozen Coke float with chocolate ice-cream. There are also two carts that offer snacks.

HKDL Golden Mickeys

HKDL Golden Mickeys

The Familiar

As with all other Disney parks, there are character meet-and-greets throughout the park, including your favorite princesses, mischievous alien and a feisty fairy.

HKDL Snow White

HKDL Snow White

HKDL Cinderella

HKDL Cinderella

HKDL Feisty Fairy

HKDL Feisty Fairy

 

The Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad circles the park (usually – it’s currently on hiatus while the Iron Man Attraction is under construction).

HKDL Construction Sign

HKDL Construction Sign

 

The popcorn carts have popcorn turners that match the lands where they’re located.

HKDL Popcorn Turner

HKDL Popcorn Turner

 

Pin trading abounds and the merchandise is adorable. Speaking of Disney Bounding, check out this lovely tribute to Monsters, Inc.

HKDL Sulley DisneyBounding

HKDL Sulley DisneyBounding

 

The Hong Kong Disneyland Band struts its stuff around the park and in parades.  Dorothy Lam, the female drummer, has quite a following.

Hong Kong Disneyland Band with Famous Female Drummer

HKDL Disneyland Band

 

First generation fast passes (the paper kind still used in Disneyland) are popular and, in a slight difference, Magic Access card holders get two at a time.

HKDL Fast Passes

HKDL Fast Passes

 

There are special treats connected to popular events and movies (see my post on Frozen in Hong Kong, coming soon). Hong Kong Disneyland has its own Ambassador and I was lucky enough to meet the outgoing 2014 and incoming 2015 Ambassadors.

HKDL Ambassadors

HKDL Ambassadors

 

There’s a special ceremony at park opening, as there is in the other parks and you’ll even find scrims covering the buildings during construction (NB – the pictures in the gallery, linked below, are from two different years (2013 and 2014), so the scrim moves from one side of Main Street to the other).

HKDL Rope Drop Ceremony

HKDL Rope Drop Ceremony

The Different

One of my favorite things about Hong Kong Disneyland is the sticker collecting. Just about everywhere you go, cast members will have stickers that they give to visitors. If you aren’t offered one, you can ask for them. Sometimes, you’ll even get more than one. Different areas and responsibilities offer different stickers. The janitor stickers are particularly high in demand, as are, for now, the Paint the Night parade. There are special Christmas stickers and some rides have their own stickers, too.  Coca Cola, the beverage mainstay of all Disney parks, has its name bottles here in Hong Kong, too, but you’ll notice a difference in the names.

HKDL Name Coke Bottles

HKDL Name Coke Bottles

 

Most of the signs are in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese, I believe) and English and all of the cast members I encountered spoke English, so there’s no need to worry about communication.

HKDL Entrance Sign

HKDL Entrance Sign

 

The most important difference, especially at the end of a long day at Hong Kong Disneyland, is in the transportation center.  The lines may get long for the bus back to the hotel, but Hong Kong Disneyland has flip-down seats for weary visitors.

HKDL Bus Waiting Area Seats

HKDL Bus Waiting Area Seats

 

*The crowd levels rarely rise to the levels we see in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but Hong Kong Disneyland can get very busy during certain times of the year and at special events.  This picture was taken after the Festival of Fantasy Parade going into Fantasyland via Sleeping Beauty Castle.

HKDL Sleeping Beauty Castle Crowd

Post-Parade Crowd at HKDL Sleeping Beauty Castle

 

Hong Kong Disneyland is the only park on site, so you can really immerse yourself. You can thoroughly explore the park and really get to know it and all its details. I usually stay three days, but could happily stay longer. Below, you’ll find a gallery of photos of Hong Kong Disneyland park with pictures from my 2013 and 2014 visits. Please let me know in the comments on this post if you have any questions about the park or any of the pictures or if there’s anything I can do to help you plan your visit.

Note: the photo gallery requires Flash Player, click here to view all the photos if your device is not Flash equipped.

Disclosure: Everything described in this article (including travel) was paid for by the author, and all opinions expressed are her own.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.