We visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida last summer and despite some trepidation about ‘spending a fortnight in an expensive theme park’ I very quickly joined the rest of the family in rapt admiration of the 25,000 acre ‘magic kingdom’. So it was with an equal measure of excitement and anxiety that we approached our trip to Disneyland Hong Kong. We had heard and read mixed review. Were the Chinese crowds really that pushy? Was Sleeping Beauty castle ‘a huge disappointment’? Were our food options going to be exclusively aimed at the Asian market? Was Mickey going to greet our children in Mandarin and leave them both confused and possibly scarred for life. Living only 2 hours away by train, we thought it would be worth the risk.
Our first trip was during the park’s Halloween promotions and so we booked tickets for the fright fest which allowed entry to the park from 6pm with a special extended closing time of 11pm. The website encouraged visitors to dress up for the festivities and so both our son and daughter were in costume. As western children dressed as Dracula and a pumpkin, the attention the children received from ‘cast members’ and other visitors throughout our visit was constant but very well intentioned and whilst I was flattered that complete strangers thought enough of our two little handfuls to ask for pictures with them, I can see how this could annoy other families.
Nighttime Facilities & Rides
The halloween specific tickets to the park were cheaper than standard entry ones owing to the fact that you could only access the park after 6pm and that things like the shows (Disneyland Hong Kong hosts a continually changing show at it’s ‘Storybook Theatre’ and has a permanent installation for ‘The Festival of the Lion King’) were not on in the evening.
However, the absence of the usual shows was made up with Halloween specific events such as the ‘Battle of Grizzly Gulch’ in which actors playing zombie miners and cowboys played out a show-down amongst the bewildered visitors at the parks frontier themed area. Between duels and bare fist fighting, the actors were also happy to pose for photographs and I felt they did their best not to scare our young children whilst remaining in character for an event which was definitely more for adults and older children.
Even spookier than the Wild West goings on was the ghostly gathering at ‘Mystic Point’, Hong Kong’s answer to The Haunted Mansion, where an assortment of haunting characters converged on the lawn for something not too dissimilar to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Aside from the Halloween themed events (some of which, specifically the haunted ‘Jungle River Cruise’, were off limits to us as they were very clearly marked as ‘Mandarin Language Only’) the usual selection of rides were running and with reasonable queuing times. We averaged about 20 minutes queue time per ride, with some being only 10 minutes. (See our other Disneyland Hong Kong review for more general park information from a non-event day).
Here at least, the reviews were partially right. Hong Kong Disneyland offers a vast array of very nice looking Chinese dishes from the ‘cheaper’ food carts to the fancier restaurants at the end of Main Street USA and by the Mystic manor gift shop at Mystic Point. However, we found a place to rest our weary feet and grab a fast food style bite to eat at the Starliner Diner in Tommorowland just next to the Buzz Lightyear ride.
The menu at the Starliner Diner is kept simple to allow rapid service and offers, from memory, beef burger, chicken burger, chicken wings and a couple of other basic options. With 4 ‘Mcdonalds-style’ meals costing around GBP30, it isn’t a budget option though.
However, for more wallet friendly dining, the bakery on Main Street is worth a visit. Opposite the larger souvenir stores and on the right of street if you’re facing Sleeping Beauty castle, it offers sandwiches, pizza slices and a large range of delicious cakes and pastries. We found this on a later visit and would definitely opt to eat here again, if only to save money for the plush toys the children usually put us into the ‘Bad Parent Hall of Shame’ for if we refuse to buy them.
We would definitely visit Hong Kong Disneyland again for Halloween and have visited again for a more tradition experience (review coming soon). We left with the opinion that as a ‘mini Magic Kingdom’ it does its job very well. The quality of the park and its services is up to the high standards of it’s US contemporaries even if the scale is not. If you visit with this in mind, you won’t be dissapointed.
Although as a word of warning, those who say that Hong Kong’s Sleeping Beauty castle, the centrepiece and anchor for the rest of the park, is embarrassingly small, are absolutely right.