Note: This post is possibly only of interest to parents and Disney fans. It’s a public service since I really found reading blogs with tips on navigating the Park useful but there is a dearth of posts on HK Disneyland.
So as usual while the rest of Hong Kong was racing to cooler climes or frankly anywhere but here, we decided to go all the way … across town to Disneyland. Even in the matter of Disneyland we are tad different from our upper middle class colleagues in the Honk. We don’t own an annual pass and we go fairly rarely because Disneyland is expensive and has got more expensive over the years. Also our kids still nap and so cannot last a whole day there. The last time we left at 3 pm, which is not exactly value for a day pass. Although it was very hot and the queues were long meaning that we didn’t exactly do a tonne of rides, the kids loved it.
Now since the kids were older, I decided it was time for a revisit and I convinced V that we should stay a night to really cover the Park properly.Again, the hotel is expensive. In fact, once in the past, I booked and V made me cancel convincing me that it would be cheaper to go back on two days in a taxi than stay over. However, I won out this time and I’m glad I did. More on that later.
Unlike previous times, this time I planned obsessively. I read blogs and made notes on how to best cover the park with preschoolers. And I stuck to my plan, which proved to be a wise choice. Last time, the kids ran into Tomorrowland and V overruled my protests, resulting in us getting stuck in queues the whole day and seeing half of what we should have. So.
Here’s The Bride’s Top Tops for How To See Hong Kong Disneyland with Preschoolers (over two days, but I’ll try and scale it down for the daytrippers).
1. Off Off and Away: We took the MTR and then the Disneyland Express from Sunny Bay. From this point on, the Mouse ears are ubiquitous. Not that I’m complaining. By the end of our trip, I wanted a pair of ears myself.
The kids loved the little Mickey touches on the train and the blue Velvet seats. We disembarked at Disneyland station. V took our suitcase and went to check in at the hotel. I took the kids to the park to redeem our tickets.
From memory, its a bit of a trek from the train station to the park entrance, but with the kids older, it went by faster than expected. There are little touches like flags with Disney characters on them and fountains you can point to to distract them.
V had found us tickets with a slight discount from a travel agent. I was a little nervous about whether there would be any problem redeeming them from the park but there wasn’t.
Since V took some time coming back from the hotel, so I settled down under a tree and fed the kids some biscuits. You’re not really allowed to take food into the park, though I did sneak some in, so it’s good to snack before entering if you’re kids are fussy eaters. My kids had a good time feeding the sparrows some biscuits.
As per my plan, we were to arrive earlier than 10 am when the Park opens, and enter bang on time. However, the hotel magnanimously gave V our room when he went to drop off the suitcase, so he took longer than expected to return, and we entered at 10.30.
2. Because of the amount of walking, I insisted we rent a stroller. We don’t have a stroller at home, because ours broke on a trip to another theme park and since our kids were good walkers from the the time they were 2, we didn’t get another one. However, although Hong Kong Disneyland is small as far as Disney parks go, it’s still a lot for little kids, especially in the heat.
I had wanted V to get a stroller from the hotel so we could use it on the long trek from park to bus station, though I remembered we couldn’t take it on the bus. However, the hotel convinced V that we could rent it at the park itself. This was a flaw, as the stroller rental is at the end of Main Street which means that you have that whole stretch of walking to do.
But anyway, we got one. And it turned out to be a good decision. The Disney strollers are shaped a little differently from your average pram and this seems to amuse the kids. I had worried that mine would fight over it, but they cooperated in taking turns and pushing each other mostly without incident.
Strollers cost 100hkd to rent, and you have to pay a 200hkd deposit that is refunded when you return the stroller. You can park the stroller at designated spots and they’re pretty safe there. Well, I’ve never heard of a stroller being filched.
3. When you enter the park, do not stop at the main Meet and Greet area where Mickey and Minnie might be. Our kids had the pleasure of Mickey and Minnie strolling by hand in hand out of sight, and we bustled them along. There’s another Meet and Greet spot called Fantasy Gardens where queuing up time is much shorter. So unless you must get a photo of Mickey in a tailcoat, save it.
4. Head to Fantasyland first. It has the most rides for kiddies. However, be warned it has very little shade, and can be a killer if the sun is out. We were so lucky the day we visited that it was cloudy with a bit of breeze thanks to an incoming typhoon (that proved not so lucky later).
5. There are two rides in Hong Kong Disneyland that have a Fast Pass system. This is a free service where you insert your park tickets into a machine near the ride and get a time when you can come back and bypass the regular line.
The two Fast Pass rides at HK Disneyland are Winnie the Pooh and Space Mountain. Winnie the Pooh is the only one suitable for a three year old, and it’s super popular in general so a Fast Pass is worth it. I sent V off to get our Fast Pass entry times as soon as we hit Fantasy Land while the kids and I queued up for the Carousel.
6. The Carousel looks beautiful and the queuing time is fine first time in the morning, though even later in the day, apparently, it’s manageable because it’s shaded. It’s your standard merry-go-round with lots of horses etc.
7. Avoid Dumbo the Elephant of Doom, which from personal experience and all reports is a time suck. The kids start badgering to go on it as soon as they see it, but having queued up for half an hour in blistering heat last time, it was a complete let down, despite being one of Disney’s classic rides. There’s a ride called Orbitron in Tomorrowland which is similar but actually better with less queuing up.
8. Since our Fast Pass time was 11.15 to 12.15 we had time for one more attraction. V shepherded us in the direction of Mickey’s Philharmagic which had no visible queue (though that’s always an eye wash). It’s is an indoor 3D show on a big wraparound screen, which has the advantage of being air conditioned. It takes a little persuading to get your kids to wear the 3D glasses which they must because these are proper 3D effects with things flying at you etc. Well worth it.
Even with our Fast Passes there was (what felt like) 15 minutes of queuing so really get the pass or skip it. You sit in Honey Pots which take you through a classic Winne the Pooh story in the style of Its A Small World, if you’re familiar with that. Frankly, my kids aren’t yet into Winnie the Pooh so the narration fell a little flat for them, but the advantage is that when we came home and I put a Pooh story on for Nene on the telly, he loved it.
10. Our kids are early eaters, so we broke for lunch at the Royal Banquet Hall. This large food court is probably the most reasonably priced food option (apart from the concession stands) to get a meal in Disneyland but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. A dish is about 100hkd, which is on the high end for a food court. On the plus side, there are a range of options from Western to Asian, including curry, and the portions are big. Two dishes was good enough for the four of us. On the negative side, the taste is so-so to bland. I was especially disappointed with the seafood fried rice, which though choc-a-bloc with seafood, was really meh tasting. My kids, for whom fried rice is always a safe choice, rejected it and peched at V’s mixed grill instead. The dim sum also went down well with them if you have kids with a Chinese palate.
11. Post lunch, we headed to the Meet and Greet area. The queues here were totally manageable, especially for poor Pluto who barely had a queue. Minnie was the longest being a popular character and the first one you see. We started off in the Minnie line but convinced the kids to switch to Mickey. Unfortunately, as I had been warned, the characters take 10 minutes breaks all together, and they did just as we got to the top of the line. When they came back, they hammed it up with Mickey and Minnie doing a parting-is-such-sweet-sorrow routine (below) that melted my jaded heart (I know I know).
We not only got photos with Mickey, but with Goofy as well, since I noticed that he was totally acting it up. Actually, Goofy was being a bit of a ladies man that day, but anyhoo, we all hugged him ignoring the latent creepiness.
12. Finally, we did one last ride for the morning – Mad Hatters Tea Cups. For some reason, there was barely a queue for this, so it’s a good choice. The ride can be adjusted according to age because you can turn the wheel in your tea cup to make it go faster, and it really does spin. I had to glare at V to make him stop it as the kids were looking leery.
13. And then it was back to our hotel for a break. I’ll do a separate post on the hotel, but let it be said that the kids DID NOT NAP. It was so frustrating because I had expected that would be the case if we got the room at the regular check in time of 3 pm, but we got it in the morning and got back at their regular nap time. However, they were either too tired, too excited or both, not to mention that they are not used to napping in the same room, so after several attempts we gave up, and headed back to the Park a wee bit earlier than expected at 4.30 pm.Although they didn’t nap, I’m still glad we got the room because we all did rest and it was a wonderfully cooling retreat from the heat.
14. In the evening, I decided to go to Toy Storyland. This is at the far end of the Park and with good reason, but really there is only one ride suitable for little ones – the Slink Dog, which was my target. In a way, the Park has done a good thing putting the two lands with the most rides for older people at the far end because presumably teens and adults can manage the walk. So if you have one day, I’d skip Toy Storyland, but since we were there for two, I was determined to cover as much as possible.
However, frankly while Slinky Dog was fun, there was longish queue and it turned out to a be a tad fast for my kids. So I wish we had skipped it, though the land itself is very cutely done up. A case of FoMo if there ever was one.
15. My next target was the Festival of the Lion King show in Adventureland to get to which we had to pass through Mystic Point and Grizzly Gluch. Both these are more for older peeps, but Mystic Manor is a ride that has to age barrier so since we had a bit of time, we queued up. The queue winds past these old photos explaining about Sir Henry Mystic which frankly would have gone above my kids’ heads if I hadn’t been desperate to distract them and so painstakingly explained each picture as if it was the most exciting thing since radium was discovered.
Finally, we got on the carts for the ride, which turned out to be quite scary for kids. I knew that it was scary but nothing in Disney is that scary except this was. And V had this brilliant idea of letting the kids sit alone up front, which worked well for Winnie the Pooh but not so much for when a headless knight bears down on them with a sword.
Again, totally should have given this a miss, though Nene who is a total horror addict couldn’t stop talking about it, primarily to scare Mimi. And V said he enjoyed it best, so well. However, the result of taking in Slinky Dog and Mystic Manor is that we missed the Jungle River Cruise, which I totally regret.
After Mystic Manor, I think Mimi was a little on edge, and I feared when the lights dimmed and the African drums began to beat that it might be a tad scary for her, but overall the kids enjoyed it. Nene’s strategy when he’s afraid is to focus on the one thing that scares him, which in this case meant he obsessively asked after Uncle Scar. The confusing thing for the kids were there were actors playing the roles, when I think they would have preferred furry mascots but overall it’s a wonderful taste of the musical. If you sit in front you get a chance to high five some of the cast members but we were too far up to do that.
17. We then headed for dinner again at the Royal Banquet Hall, though Adventureland does have an Indian themed restaurant. However, the meal costs around hkd300 which we thought was a bit much for the risk of substandard Indian food. I’ve been thinking about why Disney food is so mediocre and I realise it’s because they try to make every dish cater to every palatte and thus succeed in pleasing none. I’ve actually eaten their signature Halloween set in the restaurant on Main Street and while it it is beautifully presented, it fell short in the taste department.
18. After dinner, it was straight to Main Street for the parade. Alas, throngs had already bagged their spots and we only got standing space five lines deep. Which means that when the floats came by, the kids could barely see anything. Here is one of the times when you realise how parenting changes you because I found the strength to carry Nene and hoist him up for a good half hour. Well, parenting and running every day, because V couldn’t manage the same for Mimi. I tried getting Nene to stand on assorted rubbish bins but was chased down by security guards hmph. The Paint the Town parade, which is all about glowing lights, was lovely, but we really should have bagged a spot earlier. This was a biggest disappointment of our trip.
19. As I remembered it, the fireworks are at 8 pm, but now they’ve shifted it to 9 pm (or maybe that was always the case?). This means there’s a good 40 minutes between the parade and the fireworks. Most people keep their spot, but I knew my kids were not going to sit there for that long. Also, from experience, I know that you can watch the fireworks from anywhere in the square though admittedly, being bang in front of the castle is the best vantage point.
20. So despite V’s grumbling, I dragged us to Fantasyland for a ride on Orbitron, which proved to be a very good choice. There was a cool breeze and Orbitron was the perfect antidote to the disappointment of the parade.
21. After Orbitron, the rest of the rides seemed to have shut or the queues were long, so we sat in front of the UFO zone, which is a UFO themed fountain area with geyzers etc. This had proved a hit with my kids when we took them in summer when they were little. We have a super cute video of them getting totally drenched. This time, they were old enough to avoid most of the splashing and I warned Nene that I didn’t have a change of pants for him.
22. Finally, we sat down in the square for the fireworks. By this time, Mimi was completely knackered and watched the whole thing with a dazed expression. One of my aims in a getting a room was for the kids to watch the fireworks, and on this count, I’m not sure it was worth it as I think I was the most impressed by the spectacle.
23. I ended up having to carry Mimi to the bus, and she fell asleep on my shoulder in five seconds flat, not waking up tell the next morning. Nene held out till we got to our room, but then crashed in five minutes. In this sense, the room was worth it.
I, however, could not sleep until two hours later, so overtired was I. And ‘A Whole New World’ kept playing in a loop in my head.
However, it had been an awesome day. We had been afraid of a typhoon hitting Hong Kong and not only did it hold off, but the result was perfect weather. Also, I had been afraid of my period coming, but it didn’t. So overall yay!
Stay tuned for Part 2.