Shanghai Disneyland, opened June 16, 2016, is by far the most unique theme park that Disney has ever built. During an Adventures by Disney trip to China this fall, Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman got to experience several days there. She is sharing 8 incredible rides and attractions that just can’t be missed if you find yourself in Shanghai Disneyland.
On our first Adventures by Disney trip, we traveled to China. We spent time in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai, with lots of time in the two Chinese Disney parks. Both Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland are great, but the attractions in the latter are definitely most unique. Here is a countdown of 8 of our favorite Shanghai Disneyland rides and attractions. All are not to be missed!
Top 8 Must-Do Shanghai Disneyland Rides
8. Roaring Rapids
If you’ve been to Shanghai Disneyland, you may be surprised to find this ride at the bottom of our list. It is thrilling, but if you are in Shanghai when it’s cold and raining, as we were, you may not love it as much as some others. Guests board a round raft much like those in Kali River Rapids or Grizzly River Run (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s California Adventure, respectively), and journey through “Roaring Mountain” – named for the terrifying sound locals hear coming from it.
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After you escape whatever creatures await you in the mountain caves, you find yourself in lava tubes, whirlpools, and geysers, all before returning safely to the base.
7. Voyage to the Crystal Grotto
Voyage to the Crystal Grotto is sort of a hybrid between the Jungle Cruise and Disneyland’s Storybook Canal Boats. That is, if the Storybook Canal Boats were made 60 years later. Guests begin by boarding a boat that is very reminiscent of a Jungle Cruise boat, only a lot more whimsical.
The boats take guests past vignettes of familiar scenes from beloved animated movies, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Tangled, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid. The scenes utilize music, audio animatronics, lights, and even dancing fountains to tell the stories, and the result is delightful.
6. Peter Pan’s Flight
It’s no secret that Peter Pan’s Flight is one of the most popular attractions in both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park; one look at the consistently outrageous wait times confirms this! At a glance, the attraction is very similar to those in the domestic parks. Guests board a flying pirate ship and journey through the story of Peter Pan – from the Darlings’ window to Neverland, through a pirate duel and a rescue. However, you don’t just soar above all of the scenes in this version.
At first you begin flying over London then Mermaid Lagoon. Then very quickly, your flying ship lowers just enough to become immersed in the world. There’s a really effective use of projection technology and some updated lighting features, making it an outstanding attraction. It’s worth seeing, even if you already “know the ride.”
5. The Garden of the Twelve Friends
When the Shanghai Disneyland team was creating this incredible park, one of the concepts that drove development was the idea that it would be “Authentically Disney and Distinctly Chinese.” Rather than just plunking down a Disney park in China, Shanghai would truly represent the people of China.
One place where this is most evident is in the Garden of the Twelve Friends. More a peaceful stroll off the beaten path than a garden, this walkway is lined with twelve Disney characters representing the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Remy, Babe, Tigger, Thumper, Mushu, Kaa, Maximus, the Jolly Holiday Sheep, Abu, Alan-a-Dale, Pluto, and Hamm represent their respective years. During Chinese New Year festivities, they truly play up the celebration of the corresponding character.
4. Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack Stunt Spectacular
From the Shanghai Disneyland website:
When the real Captain Jack discovers an actor is portraying him onstage at El Teatro Fandango, he vows to show this imposter – and the audience – what a real pirate can do. But Jack’s appearance draws the attention of British Naval forces, who storm the stage in pursuit. The hilarious mayhem soon spills out into the theater as pirates, sailors, and actors are caught up in a fast-paced flurry of incredible stunts and dare-devil duels.
Boy, would it have been nice to know that little story before we saw it! The entire pre-show and show were in Mandarin, so the only four words that we recognized were “Jack” “Sparrow” and “Yo Ho.” Despite it taking us about 2/3 of the way through the show to figure out what was happening, it was great. The stunts – complete with a duel in a wind tunnel – were captivating.
3. Ignite the Dream – A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light
If you enjoy the nighttime shows at other Disney Parks as much as I do, you will love “Ignite the Dream – A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light.” Enchanted Storybook Castle comes to life with incredible projections, lasers, fireworks, and fountains!
In the show, Mickey stumbles upon a magical spark of imagination, and soars through several iconic scenes from your favorite Disney and Pixar movies. The show includes scenes and music from more than a dozen animated and live action movies.
Ignite the Dream takes place nearly every night, and with the castle being elevated and relatively far away from any “hub” area, there are so many great places from which to watch.
2. Tron Lightcycle Power Run
One of the most-anticipated Shanghai Disneyland attractions, the Tron Lightcycle Power Run didn’t disappoint. It is without a doubt the focal point of Tomorrowland; the neon throughout the land matches or complements the attraction, and the whole place looks exactly how I would envision a place called “Tomorrowland”.
TravelingMom tip: A Tron lightcycle attraction has been confirmed for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, opening before the 50th anniversary in 2021.
There are no buckles or harnesses to speak of, yet the ride feels completely secure. Aesthetically, it’s one of the sleekest things I’ve ever seen. We all looked ridiculously cool on our lightcycles, if I do say so myself. It’s a bit short, coming in at just under 2 minutes, but it’s definitely a lot of fun!
1. Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure
No other ride could top this list than the Shanghai Disneyland incarnation of Pirates of the Caribbean. Located in the Treasure Cove section of the park, Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure starts out looking a bit like other Pirates attractions you may have experienced… but only for a minute or two.
As you journey into caverns in search of a legendary treasure, things don’t go as planned. Your ship sinks, the Kraken gets mad, Davy Jones’ loyal crew members threaten, and eventually you run into Jones himself. Battle ensues and surprises await… especially if you experience the ride more than once.
Despite the ride being entirely in Mandarin, the Imagineers have done an incredible job of telling the story. You may miss out on snarky one-liners from Jack, but you won’t be totally lost. And the technology used in Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean is unlike anything that’s ever been built. Anywhere.
There are so many amazing things to see, do, eat, and experience at Shanghai Disneyland. The stage shows are stunning, the Camp Discovery Challenge Trails are unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a theme park, and Soaring over the Horizon is every bit as fun – and as popular – as you may have heard.
We’ll have to stop at just 8 Shanghai Disneyland attractions today, though. Eight is, after all, one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture – representative of prosperity and joy. I hope you get the joy of experiencing all that Shanghai Disneyland has to offer!