Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published September 12th 2014
Say hello to Mickey
Hong Kong Disney With a Family A popular stopover destination from Perth to Europe, or as a holiday destination in its own right, Hong Kong receives visitors aplenty, with many families making a beeline for Hong Kong Disney with the hope of meeting Mickey Mouse and his colourful friends. As a self confessed Disney fan, I could lie to you and say that we planned this stopover on our way back to Australia as a treat for the kids, but as the likely biggest kid in our family, I had my own agenda. Having visited three of the other Disney resorts, I was keen to see how this Asian option compared to the bigger Disney parks, and see if the magic was still there. Despite reading numerous reviews about poor queuing etiquette, overcrowding and unfriendliness, I was impressed overall with the smallest Disney park in the family and found the Disney magic to still be present and plentiful.
Located on Lautau Island along with the international airport, this Disney Park opened in 2005 and has continued to grow in popularity since through loyal local patrons and a steady stream of tourist traffic. With ongoing and exciting expansions planned for the next ten years including the anticipated Iron Man Experience, this is one park that will continue to evolve to provide a great place to visit time after time.
The big upside of this park, compared to some of its bigger Disney counterparts, is that it's small enough to do it in a day. As we had a few days in Hong Kong, we had a two day pass to the park but if you were stuck for time then it's a park you could fit into one day with some time to spare. Its current compact size also makes it an easy walking day for younger children who could tire easily treking around the larger US Disney parks. At this park, almost all of the rides are suitable for young family members, so aside from the rollercoaster rides, the whole family can enjoy what's on offer even infants.
As with all Disney parks, Hong Kong Disney is split into different lands, with the rides and attractions included within these areas keeping to the theme of the land. If you include Main Street, USA (located at the front of the park), there are 7 lands in total to explore at HK Disney. You can visit a map of the park here.
Mystic Point - The newest of all the lands, and the home of the spooky Mystic Manor ride. At present, aside from Mystic Manor, there's not a great deal in this land currently, but it's worth a visit for the ride, and also for a walk around the Mystic Gardens. Mystic Point features a large eating area with an Asian influenced menu that provides a great lunch spot.
Grizzly Gulch - Based around the 'Wild West' theme, this land features the popular train rollercoaster featuring runaway mine cars. Aside from this, there's a take away food eatery for quick snacks in addition to some wet and wild fun at Geyser Gulch where you can enjoy a refreshing splash in the water play area. Tip: Kids will get thoroughly wet in the Geyser Gulch area, so if you don't have a change of clothes with you, it might be best to avoid. This is a great area for meeting your favourite Disney characters dressed up as cowboys for photo opportunities.
Toy Story Land - This is probably one of the most visually appealing areas of the park as it is completely decked out in the theme of the popular film Toy Story. It's an imaginative area with three themed rides in addition to a number of photo opportunities and shows including the Soldier Bootcamp. If your kids love Buzz and Woody, make sure you include this on your 'must see' list. There's also a tasty little churro stand if you need a snack.
Fantasyland - This is probably my favourite land, likely because it features 5 beautiful rides all set around popular Disney characters. This area of the park gets very busy so it's a good one to cover off towards the start of your day or when crowds die down in the afternoon. Fantasyland is where you'll often see a number of your favourite characters for meet and greets, in addition to also being the land that hosts the popular Golden Mickey's show featuring a great number of your favourite Disney characters. Disney Princesses tend to locate themselves in the shade near the castle and if you've got a little princess of your own with you, find out who will be at the castle on your visit.
Tomorrowland - This is the futuristic zone of Disneyland featuring a number of space aged rides and attractions for all of the family. Tomorrowland plays host to the big roller coaster draw of Space Mountain, in addition to the ever popular Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. There's a couple of great dining options in this area for Western influenced foods.
Adventureland - Whilst this land always appears to draw the crowds in, for me, it's the least appealing of all the themed zones as the rides are a bit underwhelming and on a tight time frame, there are better things to see and do in the park. This land features the Jungle River Cruise and Tarzan's Tree House but both are attactions that I'd only recommend if you have excess time on your hand as they just aren't worth the queue times. One great attraction in this area is the Lion King show, and if you're seeking some respite from the heat (or cold; depending on the season), this is a great visual treat.
Main St, USA - Located at the front of the park leading up to the Castle, Main St doesn't feature any rides, but instead is a themed street set in yesteryear USA and is where to get your Disney shopping done and also where you stop for a bite to eat. Guest services and stroller rental are also located in this area.
Rides and Attractions
For a full range of all of the rides and attractions at HK Disney, have a look at their website here. I've included some family favourites here, but there are many more rides to enjoy.
For the Big Kids
There are three 'coaster' rides in the park that have height restrictions on them so these will be unsuitable for young riders in your party. For those that are able to go on these rides, they are a whole lot of fun:
Space Mountain - This coaster is based in Tomorrowland and is a roller coaster in the dark. This ride launches your space ship into space and you will go whizzing and whirling through the darkness with the odd shooting star and planet keeping your company. This is a fast coaster with lots of twists and turns and some stomach dropping dips. This ride is available as a fastpass ride - so if you don't fancy queuing up, make sure you use your entrance ticket to get a fastpass ticket (available at the ride) and then come back when it's your fastpass time.
Height restriction for this ride is for those over 102cm.
RC Racer - Hop into Andy's RC Racer in Toy Story Land and zoom up the U shaped coaster and then drop back down again. This one will definitely make you lose your stomach, so maybe don't eat too much beforehand.
Height restriction for this ride is for those over 120cm.
Big Grizzly Mountain - Based in Grizzly Gulch, this mountain side railroad ride has you racing around the track, with some naughty bears playing havoc with your trip. This ride is so much fun and compares very well to the Thunder Mountain rides at the US Disney parks. There's some great surprises on your journey and I had to go on this more than once.
Height restriction for this ride is for those over 112cm.
Whilst not in the 'coaster' category, height restrictions also exist for the parachute drop in Toy Storyland and also Autopia in Tomorrowland. For reasons I cannot fathom, the Autopia ride seems to have queues exceeding 60 minutes for just riding a car around the tracks; if you're short on time I would absolutely give this one a miss. It's fun for kids, but definitely not a 'must see' in the Disney parks.
For the Whole Family
Mystic Manor (Mystic Point) - This spooky ride is similar to the Haunted Mansion found at other Disney parks, but is set around the story of intrepid traveller Henry Mystic and his naughty monkey Albert, who accidentally opens up the enchanted magic box. The ride features some scary themes which some youngers might not enjoy, but overall this is a highly imaginative ride that you'll not want to miss.
The Flying Dumbo (Fantasyland) and Orbitron (Tomorrowland) are very similar rides where you're taken on a trip in either Dumbo or a Rocketship where you can control whether you go up and down. Whilst not the most exciting of rides, they are both a whole lot of fun for younger kids, and you get a great vantage point of the park if you ride high up in the air.
It's a Small World (Fantasyland) - This is a beautiful ride where you board a small boat and take a journey around the world seeing a variety of sets and costumed dolls all singing the song 'It's a Small World'; there's even some Disney characters if you keep your eyes peeled. This ride takes around 10 minutes and is a great respite for tired legs and hot children as the air conditioning is heavenly. Beware, the song 'It's a Small World' is incredibly catchy and you will be humming this tune for weeks, maybe even months (years?) following your visit. Our youngest son (aged 14 months) adored this ride and clapped along to the singing for the duration of the boat trip.
Winnie the Pooh (Fantasyland) - This is a really popular ride and by the afternoon, queues can exceed an hour long. Thankfully the ride is a fastpass ride, so if you can, try to get a fastpass so that you don't have to queue up. This ride takes you on a journey in a honey pot through the land of Winnie the Pooh on a very blustery day. It's a truly delightful visual feast of everything Winnie the Pooh related and youngsters will love it, you even get to jump along with Tigger.
Mad Hatter Tea Cups (Fantasyland) - This ride didn't have a big queue during our visit, so we went on it a few times and the kids really enjoyed the spinning around. It's over before you know it, but it's under shade and a fun ride for the family.
Mickeys Philharmagic isn't actually a ride, but instead is a 4D show where you don your special glasses for a comedic performance featuring lots of Disney characters and music on the big screen. Our preschooler loved all the special effects of this show and the queue time was only 10 minutes at its longest all day. This is a great stop for a rest and a sit down in air conditioning if you're visiting during Summer.
The Slinky Dog (Toy Story Land) is a huge hit with fans of Toy Story, who get to ride a super sized slinky dog who is intent on chasing it's tail. This is a really popular ride with youngsters, and thankfully the queues don't take too long. Tip: In the Summer the seats get super hot so if you've got kids with you wearing shorts, put something on the seat before they sit down as it is extremely hot to touch.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Tomorrowland) - I love this ride as you get to go on a space adventure helping Buzz to shoot all of the baddies including the Emperor Zurg on the way. Each rider gets their own gun and also controls to turn their spaceship around to get in the best shooting position. This ride does get busy but if you head there early, queues are under 5 minutes.
The biggest queues for rides seemed to occur for Winne the Pooh, Space Mountain and Big Grizzly Mountain. Thankfully two of these rides have a fastpass so, make the most of your time in the park and use this system to beat the queues.
Don't miss the parade (early afternoon) as this is a great chance to see all of your favourite characters singing and dancing on a myriad of floats as they make their way around the parade route. Of an evening, when the darkness comes, the firework show over Sleeping Beauty's Castle is also a magical end to your day. Times for the parade and fireworks vary throughout the season, so pick up a 'Times Guide' from Guest Services or ask a staff member.
Disney Hong Kong is designed for kids to enjoy, and this park is particularly toddler and young child friendly, with so many rides available to this age group. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your time in this magical park:
Parent Room - The parent/Baby Service room is available between Main St USA and Tomorrowland and is a great place to feed/nurse your child, in addition to changing their nappy. Staff are helpful if you need to warm a bottle or heat up some food and it's a quiet haven away from the park.
Meeting Characters - Kids will almost certainly want to meet characers, but it's worth bearing in mind that this is a popular affair in any Disney park. For your best chances of meeting a character, ask a staff member where to go and what time the character will be visiting and often you can queue up before the character appears.
Stroller rental is available near the front entance in the Fire Department on Main Street USA. Single strollers are available to hire for around $15 AUD and you'll need to leave a $15 refundable deposit too. There are stroller parking sections adjacent to all rides. The stroller comes with a shade over it, but rain covers are an additional cost. Tip: Park your stroller under shade or cover when you are on rides so that they don't get too hot or too wet (from rain showers).
Sun Lotion is not available to purchase anywhere in the park so make sure you bring some with you.
Bring a water bottle. Whether the weather is hot or cold, it's a good idea to bring a water bottle with you which you can refill from the water fountains dotted around the park. This will limit the amount of money you need to spend on drinks and will keep the family hydrated.
Food - whilst you're not allowed to bring food into the park, we actually did get away with bringing some snacks into the park for our kids. Our bags got searched and we said we had some snacks for our children and they were fine with this. Whilst a picnic might definitely be conviscated, the odd snack for your kids might keep your visit more affordable as food and beverages are very expensive in the park.
Weather aware - the temperatures in Hong Kong can vary considerably, between extremely hot and humid in the Summer with regular rainfall to dry and cold in the Winter. Research the likely weather for your visit and plan accordingly. We visited during the Summer and it was very humid. With this in mind, we made sure we balanced our time on outdoor attractions, with plenty of breaks out of the sun visiting a show or indoor ride.
When to go - Do your research and avoid Hong Kong school holidays and celebration days. Overcrowding can be a real issue in Hong Kong Disney so save yourself the headache and plan to go at a quieter time. Many locals have Sunday off work, so if you can also try to avoid this day. We went on a Sunday and a Monday during Summer and whilst the Sunday was busier, both days were relatively quiet; on the Monday the longest queue was 25 minutes although we got on most within 10 minutes.
Parade planning - It's a good idea to plan to see the parade during your visit and this can be a real highlight. Check out the parade route on the map and plan to get to your viewing spot about 30 minutes prior to the start of the show. The crowds at Hong Kong Disney will mean that you might have your fair share of pushing and jostling, so stand your ground and ensure your children are protected by you and don't get pushed over. If it's during the Summer, you might want to bring a towel with you so that you can sit on the sidewalk without burning your behind .
Plan your trip - I love going with the flow and being carefree, but if you want to make the most out of your day in HK Disney, it's a good idea to plan your route around the park so you can get on as many rides as possible without queuing. We got to the park before opening time and had bought our tickets in advance. This meant we got into the park in the first wave of visitors and got on all of the rides we wanted to go on with minimal queuing. We prioritised Tomorrowland first and then went onto Fantasyland second, and this got us ahead of most of the crowds.
Parent Swap - If you've got kids with you who are too young for the coasters, then avail of the parent swap and take it in turns to enjoy the ride. We used the single rider queue and got on to the coasters within 5 minutes and then simply swapped over.
Overall, as a family we loved our visit to Hong Kong Disney. Culturally there were obvious differences when compared to the US Disney parks, but the magic of Disney was still very apparent and the child friendly nature of the park was great for our young kids. It's an expensive park when you are inside, for shopping, food and beverages so it's worth bearing this in mind when budgeting. If you want your kids to wear a Disney T Shirt in the park, you are better off getting one from your home town tather than paying the steep price in the park. I would absolutely recommend this park to any Disney fans out there, but be mindful of when you book as this is a small park and with overcrowding and long queues, it might not be so enjoyable.
For details on buying tickets or for planning your trip, head to the Disneyland Hong Kong website here.