Attraction Review - Hong Kong Disneyland

My god, it feels like a lifetime ago that we visited this park! It's coming up on a month ago actually which is mad for me to think about. Hong Kong Disneyland would be my fifth Disney Resort visited, and one I was incredibly excited about finally getting to. Sadly we knew beforehand that the castle would be slightly under construction for our visit, meaning no fab castle pics, but that aside I was gagging to visit this park. For me, I love the Disney parks that fall on the cuter side of the fence, and Hong Kong Disneyland seemed to tick all of those boxes for me from pictures and videos I'd seen!

We actually had 1.5 days at the park - we popped on for the afternoon on the very day we arrived and then returned on a slightly warmer and sunnier day the following Monday. Realistically there's no need for two days at this park - it's the smallest 'castle' park of the lot and on paper there's not a ton of attractions to do. But me being me, I like to take my time and just soak it all in, plus we had our Disney Dim Sum experience booked too which we knew would take a little more time out of our day so we added on the extra visit just in case.

This is going to be a bit of a hefty report to be honest, so what I think I'll do is break it down by land, then by attraction, and then anything else I feel like I've missed - that way I hopefully should cover everything! So here we go, my thoughts and opinions on the wonderful Hong Kong Disneyland!

Main Street USA
Strange to me that this park chose to include Main Street USA when its Asian predecessor Tokyo Disneyland specifically steered away from incorporating this Americana, instead opting for the slightly different (and uglier in my opinion) World Bazaar. This is up there with one of my favourite Main Streets. It's got the cute miniatureness of California's Disneyland, the epic backdrop of the mountains as you wander towards the castle and the buildings have the gorgeous pastel cuteness of Paris. Each building looked like a delicate little doll's house, and I especially loved the colour palette and architecture types to give each building it's own unique look whilst managing at the same time to feel part of one wider unit. It's just so dainty and adorable, really loved it!

I'll be honest, we didn't do a TON of attractions here. Adventureland has never been my favourite of the staple Disney 'lands' and HKDL was no exception. I adored the open flow of the land, the tiki torches everywhere and the little markets you'd randomly find yourself stumbling into. I also loved Tarzan's Treehouse as a centrepiece, the slightly more cartoonish theming style just adds to the caricature stylisation of HKDL that I fell in love with. And the way Jungle Cruise is set around the treehouse in the centre rather than hidden away in some backlot like the other parks - the whole land felt a lot more open and, as a result, a lot more engaging and immersive. Especially at night!

Jungle Cruise
Oh my god, how I adored this attraction! I'm a sucker for an original Disney E-ticket anyway, but I do so love one with a twist! HKDL's version gives you three options of language: Cantonese, Mandarin and English. Obvs we chose English, but honestly we might as well have chosen Chinese - the guy spoke soooo quickly that I didn't really have a chance to understand what he was saying, so a lot of the cheesy joke charm of Jungle Cruise went straight over my head. But hell, anybody who has ridden this knows this ride is all about the finale. FIRE! WATER! MORE FIRE AND WATER! Yh, it all goes pretty crazy and I'm still not entirely sure whhhyyy the fire and water happen, all I know is it looks epic and I lived. We tried to go back and ride it in the dark on our second day for maximum wow factor but sadly the ride closed earlier than expected. Oh well - next time!

Toy Story Land
Ahem. Yhhhh I'm not a huge fan of these lands in castle parks. They just don't feel like they fit and as much as I can appreciate the design and being made to feel like I've been shrunken down to the size of a toy, the nature of the theme means the land ends up feeling extremely plasticky and without the charm of the staple lands. It almost feels slightly vulgar when sat between Fantasyland and Mystic Point. It's miles better than Paris's squished version, but even spreading it out doesn't really help. Great for Toy Story fans I guess but not something I can ever see myself being a huge fan of!

RC Racer
It's an RC Racer clone. It's the same as the one in Paris. It's fine. Not much else to say haha.

Toy Soldier Parachute Drop
We jumped in the queue for this because it was only five minutes and in Paris it always sits at a solid hour, meaning Conor has never ridden one before (and I wanted the aerial view of Mystic Point!) If you're a park geek like me I'd insist you give this a try, it offers amazing views out across the park - and as well it's actually a pretty fun ride with some slightly-more-intense-than-expected dropping action.

I loovvveeed this Fantasyland. It felt very classic - like a blend of the Orlando version but mixed in the the beautiful architecture of Paris's (superior) Fantasyland. In my opinion you just can't beat those cutesy fairytale wooden cottages, but I do like that HKDL paid homage to the older parks with the pastel coloured 'castle flag' facades. Some parts did feel a little random admittedly - Pooh feels slightly like it's been shoved in a corner and the aesthetics and colour of the Dumbo ride jar slightly for me (red/blue/gold against pastel blues and pinks makes me grit my teeth slightly). One thing I adored was that Hunchback got a bit of in park representation - something we don't see even in the movie's homeland of Paris! It didn't quite have the majesty and elegance of Paris's Fantasyland, but everything was very 'lovely' and I very much enjoyed my time here.

Mickey's Philharmagic
I definitely shouldn't love this ride quite as much as I do. It is, after all, just a 4D cinema - but I think it appeals to the Disney movie geek inside of me. It's basically every good Disney song, smell pods, amazing visuals and it's headlined by Donald who is easily the best of the 'core' Disney characters (fight me). Also surprised to hear this in English when we were expecting Chinese!

It's A Small World
Yessss of course I bloody LOVED It's A Small World. I would actually go as far as to say this is my favourite iteration of the classic boat ride around the world. It's the 'updated' version that incorporates all the Disney characters into their perspective countries, like a mini World Showcase. It's also got some of the most beautiful and elaborate sets I've seen in a Small World - including a little homage to the famous Hong Kong skyline! The Africa room literally made me go WOW as we turned the corner into it, and we rode this several times during our trip.

Fairy Tale Forest
Y'all know I love me a diorama, and Fairy Tale Forest is no exception. Simply fabulous! You essentially wander from set to set of classic Disney fairytale and spin a wheel for the set to animate. For example in the Snow White section the wheel spin would trigger Dopey to speed around the track in a diamond mine cart, or in The Little Mermaid section it would cause fountains to come on and willow curtains to part to reveal Ariel and Eric so close to sharing their first kiss. It looks wonderful and I especially loved the way each diorama played the classic songs from the movies. I could spend all day looking around things like this!

Mickey's Wondrous Book
I'm not a huge fan of shows in parks, but I'd been told to make time to check this one out and I'm very glad we did. Imagine one of those 'Best Of Disney' album compilations in a stage show and you're pretty close. Again, as with a lot of these attractions it was great to see some of the more unusual Disney characters represented - Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida all get their moment in the sun and honestly it's so refreshing to hear as opposed to yet another round of Be Our Guest. The interaction between the characters and the stage props is pretty impressive too - Mickey and Goofy jump 'inside' the book and the way the effect is achieved is fab!

Grizzly Gulch
Oh I do love me an original Disney land. Admittedly I do love Frontierland and feel that it's a bit of a Disney park staple, but after the perfection that is Thunder Mesa at Disneyland Paris I can see why they didn't want to bother and took a stab at something new. Plus with the Wild West not having much resonance in Asian culture it makes sense to go with something more based in fantasy. The land is wonderful, if a little small.

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
It has an excessively long name, but that's probably this ride's only downfall. It's like Big Thunder Mountain meets Expedition Everest, and it's as fabulous as that sounds. I adore the way it interacts with the surrounding landscape of Grizzly Gulch. Every way you look when you're walking through you'll catch a glimpse of the chaotic mine train racing around the mountain. I adore the storyline - essentially some bears have been sighted - and in Grizzly Gulch that's good luck! Cue a race around the mountain to seek your fortune only, to take a wrong turn down route 4 (which in Chinese tradition is synonymous with death - you're thrown off course from route 8 which is Chinese for good luck!) In typical Disney fashion, things go wrong and you're sent hurtling around the mountain.

This ride, as is the tradition with mine train coasters, is just a butt load of fun. Sure it's a little gimmicky in areas, but it's a theme park and if we can't get away with gimmicks here then where can we? The naughty bears are absolute twats (I LOVE the sassy eye contact they make with you before slowly pressing the plunger) and the way the train wraps around the mountain and the landscape. It's not the most intense ride in the world, but it's forceful where it needs to be and the combination of sensations created by the ride combined with the joy of Disney narrative storytelling makes for a brilliant attraction. Love.

Mystic Point
Being the massive goff that I am, the spookier side of the Disney resorts have always been very close to my heart. I'm a huuuge fan of the likes of Tower of Terror, Phantom Manor, Haunted Mansion, etc. I've spent many hours staring longingly at the stunningness that is Mystic Point. It's very hard to put into words to describe the feeling of finally standing there, surrounding by palm trees staring up at the gorgeous architecture of Mystic Manor. But the land is so much more than its centrepiece - there's plenty to discover and it reeks of the classic Disney 1940s 'adventure' vibes synonymous with legendary Disney attractions such as Jungle Cruise and Tokyo's Hollywood Hightower. It's fun laced with a tingling sense of terror which adds up to what Disney do best - perfect immersion.

Even just wandering through the thicket of palm trees plants you firmly in explorer territory - you can almost imagine yourself all in khaki, machete in hand whacking down the trees all around to unearth the mystery within. Conor and I spend ages messing around the photo points in the area and just taking it all in. It's small, and honestly I'd LOVE some kind of Splash Mountain style water ride along the same theme to compliment the Manor, but it's just wonderful.

Mystic Manor
Ah, Mystic Manor. I almost cried when we entered the queue line for this wonderful, wonderful attraction but I'm dead inside so that didn't happen. But I would have if I could. It's as close to a perfect attraction as there is on this earth, especially for a spooky Disney fan like myself. From the gothic colour palette, to the delightfully mischievous  Danny Elfman score, to the original character designs to the way the special effects sync perfectly to create the illusion of magic to the final whirling scene as the walls break away around you. Every single scene is perfect - it makes me laugh, it's scary, it's adorable. It's everything you want in a Disney ride and more!

Typically, I've never really liked Tomorrowland. I've never really found that Disney particularly nailed it in any park, and even the fabulous Discoveryland in Paris with its steampunk/Jules Verne inspired landscape still has vast areas with nothing that could do with a little something or other. I feel the same way about Hong Kong Disneyland's Tomorrowland.

One thing this land DOES have going for it is it continues the cartoonish vibe from the rest of the lands. This Tomorrowland is actually colourful and a little softer around the edges, and there are actual trees! It feels like something out of a 90s computer game, it's all a little bit bubble gum and I don't mind that at all. I think Tomorrowland is also the one most affected by the invasion of IPs with Star Wars and Marvel - and this one is no exception.

Iron Man Experience
If you're a regular here at Cupcakes & Coasters you'll be aware that, despite not really loving the movies, I'm a big fan of the original Star Tours. I think it's all nostalgia induced, but there's something about it that leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, so I was pretty devastated when they were all updated and (for me) stripped of their magic. So I was interested to see how I'd feel about the Iron Man Experience, especially given I have no personal love or affiliation with it as a brand.

It Essentially you're going to a presentation Stark Industries only for shit to go down in downtown Hong Kong, so you have to join Iron Man to save the city. There's an absolutely fantastic 4th wall break where you fly out of the building you've just entered to get on the ride and fly out over Hong Kong Disneyland itself. That I absolutely loved. And from there it's very generic sci-fi simulator stuff. Sure, the 3D is great and there's some standard Tony Stark quipping to enjoy, but it was pretty standard from there. Not better than Star Tours, but no worse either.

Hyperspace Mountain
This is a weird one. Again, it's got that cartoonish vibe going on (the trains are PURPLE for god's sake) so the Star Wars overlay feels a little clunky here. And hilariously you jump to light speed as you continue to crawl at a snail's pace up the lift-hill as opposed to in Paris's version where it's accompanied by the launch. Inside the ride itself is actually pretty similar to Paris's with the screens and such - essentially you're a rebel and you're on a mission to go up against the Empire, taking on TIE fighters and a star destroyer.

It's totally fun, and a great way of tszujing up a pretty bland ride (YES I SAID IT) and it made us laugh, if only for the pitiful light speed moment!

When I write it out in that way it doesn't sound like we did a lot at all, but I promise you we did! I think a lot of our time was spent just hanging out, eating (I'll be doing a separate post at some point about our fabulous Disney Dim Sum experience at the Hong Kong Disneyland) and generally just taking it all in. Hong Kong Disneyland is really wonderful. It's by no means the best Disney park in the world, it's not quite big enough for that, but given all the expansion plans and even current construction work going on I can't wait to revisit this park in ten years or so to see how this park has flourished. It's a wonderful place and definitely somewhere I'd recommend visiting if you're on a trip to Hong Kong.

Talk later xoxo,