Shanghai Disneyland Trip Planning Guide
Shanghai Disneyland is Disney’s newest park, located in China. This travel planning guide covers all facets of a visit to Shanghai Disney Resort, from general: airfare, transportation, currency, etc. to Disney-specifics: food in the parks, where to stay, FastPass strategy, and more.
Let’s start with a threshold question: should you visit? We enjoyed Shanghai Disneyland much more than we expected, and found this to be a fairly common reaction among others we encountered who went for opening day. No, it’s not the best Disney park in the world–or even Asia–but it’s arguably the best opening day park with the most well-rounded attraction attraction roster Disney has built since EuroDisney.
Moreover, Shanghai Disneyland has a lot of potential as it grows. Since it is already proving very popular with guests, we assume that growth will happen sooner rather than later. We’ll have to update our theme park rankings, but we’d put Shanghai Disneyland about middle of the pack. In other words, we do recommend visiting, but it shouldn’t be your top priority for the international parks, nor should it be your first international park.
If you are traveling to China, we recommend this post as a Shanghai Disneyland-specific supplement to other general resources. For general travel advice to China, we reviewed several books at our local library before booking the trip, but ended up buying only Lonely Planet Shanghai because that’s the only city we planned on visiting.
If you’re planning on visiting other spots in China, that one guide will not suffice. Honestly, none of the generalized “China” guides seemed all that good–we’d probably get one of those, but supplement it with another city guide (probably Lonely Planet Beijing).
Now let’s dig into the meat of this Shanghai Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide!
Cultural Etiquette ‘n’ Stuff
If you Google “Shanghai Disneyland etiquette” you will find numerous results painting an unflattering picture of the resort and its guests. Trash all over the central plaza, reports of line-cutting, uncouth behavior, and general anarchy is the scene being presented by the media.
Our experience with Shanghai Disneyland did not align with these media reports whatsoever. Yes, there was trash in the central plaza after guests had been sitting around for 2 hours waiting for the fireworks, but it was cleaned up within 10 minutes after the show. You’ll find the same ‘scene’ at literally every other Disney castle park on the planet post-fireworks. Nowhere in the park was this messy at any other time. In general, we did not witness behavior that is in any way worse than what can be observed of entitled Americans at any day of the year at Walt Disney World.
To be sure, you will possibly witness things you would not see in U.S. parks. The one thing that is potentially very disconcerting for westerners is public defecation. This is a hot-button issue even within China (and particularly controversial between Hong Kongers and the Mainland Chinese), and at least in part is rooted in the divide between urban and agrarian life in China, and the rapid pace of technological advancement in the cities. I’m hardly an expert on the cultural underpinnings of this all, so I’ll leave it at that.
My advice would be to not let it get to you. Just as you probably shouldn’t let it get to you when an adult has a meltdown and throws a temper tantrum at Walt Disney World. Neither are things society necessarily condones, but westerners seem far more fauxtraged by the former.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of either, but both strike me as “ignore it and move along” scenarios. Hardly significant in the grand scheme of a visit. Particularly when the cleanliness level of the park is exceptionally high. And the cleanliness level of Shanghai Disneyland is exceptionally high.
Other things to expect are less personal space than you might be accustomed to in the U.S. and line-cutting. I didn’t notice the former at all, but don’t be surprised if you do. That comes with the territory of living in any population-dense place (and we’ve experienced the same in Hong Kong and Tokyo).
As for line-cutting, we noticed this a grand total of one time. On that one occasion, someone in front of us stopped the cutters from proceeding further by putting their arms outstretched on the queue stanchions. We experience cutting a good deal in the U.S. as parties try to “join their groups” farther ahead, and my mental reaction is always (“how about they join you farther back?!”) but not wanting to be confrontational about it, we always just let them pass.
I would not let any of these supposed “etiquette” issues deter you from visiting China. From our perspective, they are total non-issues. It does not require some unduly expansive view of cultural relativism, either–just a basic understanding that different cultures have different norms and mores. Any culture (including ours) can be negatively stereotyped. Don’t feed into that.
If you’ve already read our Tokyo Disney Resort Planning Guide or Hong Kong Disneyland Planning Guide, this will sound familiar. Personally, I see the language barrier as no barrier at all (in any of these destinations). All signs have English on them and there are English park maps.
Just as is the case in Japan and Hong Kong, English is not the first language of Cast Members at Shanghai Disneyland. It’s a second language, at best. With that said, the two things that really work in your favor are pantomime and that Cast Members offer exemplary Disney service in Shanghai Disneyland.
The most common interactions you’ll have with Cast Members are when ordering meals, and menus with photos at every register made this incredibly easy for us. We didn’t once have an issue. If you’re a veteran of Disney parks or are doing research now (by reading guides like this one!), there’s a good chance you aren’t going to need to interact with Cast Members a ton during your visit, as you won’t have as many random questions along the way.
Beyond that, the Cast Members at Shanghai Disneyland are exceptional, trying to go above and beyond (with service that is nearly Japanese-caliber). The only time we encountered any problems were when trying to retrieve stored luggage from Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, and then this was was resolved by one Cast Member finding another who spoke better English and could assist.
When it comes to attractions, many of the shows and rides are entirely in Mandarin. Save for the shows, I don’t think this really matters. Most Disney attractions (everywhere) lean heavily on visual storytelling to engage a variety of audiences (including young children who are still developing their language skills), and the same is true in Shanghai Disneyland.
Think about Peter Pan’s Flight, for example. Do you recall any of its dialogue? If so, was that dialogue actually crucial to your enjoyment and understanding of the ride, or was it more or less superfluous given that flying over London pretty much speaks for itself?
I would say that 75% of the time or more, enjoyment of an attraction in no way depends upon spoken word. This is true on TRON: Lightcycle Power Run, Soaring Over the Horizon, Roaring Rapids, Camp Discovery, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, Explorer Canoes, Jet Packs, and literally every ride in Fantasyland.
You may not understand the exact words Jack Sparrow is saying while riding Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, you can surmise exactly what’s going on based upon the ride’s visuals (hint: there’s a battle, and it’s for the treasure that has sunken).
Even in the dialogue-heavy Eye of the Storm stunt show, visuals were such a dominant element of the experience that we had a great time just watching the show unfold, without a complete understanding of the plot (which seemed more like “guidelines” anyway).
Visas v. Visa-Free Transit Rule
Most visitors to mainland China are going to need/want to apply for a travel visa prior to visiting China. The Chinese Embassy website details how to go about this. There are a number of services that will make the process painless for you if you’re uncomfortable submitting the paperwork yourself. Additionally, TDR Explorer has a full guide explaining this process, to which we will defer since we did not get visas.
Instead, we took advantage of the 144-hour visa exemption. This rule only applies if you’re making a stopover in China and are visiting a third country on your trip. For example, if your route is Los Angeles to Shanghai to Tokyo to Los Angeles, you are eligible for the exemption, so long as you stay in China for less than 144 hours. If you’re taking a roundtrip flight to Shanghai, you are not eligible.
The amount of time spent in that third country is immaterial, so even booking an itinerary with a 2-hour layover in Japan would work (so long as you don’t have a layover in the same country before arriving to Shanghai–your “bookended” countries around the China portion of the trip must be different).
One caveat about this is a seldom-used rule and many airport agents–particularly those in smaller cities–may not be aware of it. They should be able to enter your travel information in their Travel Information Manual Automatic (Timatic) system and be advised that you qualify for visa-free travel, but should is the operative word there.
If you are going to take advantage of the visa-free travel exemption, we would highly recommend printing out paper copies of all travel documents, including your hotel confirmation. You should also try to obtain a Timatic printout confirming that you’re eligible for visa-free transit. This is particularly true if you booked open-jaw flights or legs of the trip through multiple carriers.
This was how we booked our trip (LAX->PVG->HKG->NRT->LAX) and the United agent in Los Angeles at the ticketing counter needed to see our travel documents to enter our information into their Timatic system in order to print our boarding passes (we were unable to do online checkin as a result). We then encountered a second agent at the gate who had to again confirm our documents when they did a visa-check. It was painless for us, but LAX also flies numerous routes to China, so it’s probably not all that uncommon.
By contrast, our friend Mark flew out of Orlando, and despite showing them the necessary information, Air Canada agents ignored documentation concerning the 144-hour rule and flat out denied him a boarding pass, stating that there was “no such rule.” Sadly, the indubitable duo of Florida Man and Dudley Do-Right couldn’t crack this mystery even when handed the policy. (In fairness, words are hard.)
Mark ultimately got the issue straightened out by speaking with a United manager at the airport (it was a codeshare flight), but by that time it was too late and missed his flight. There are other anecdotes like this on the 144-Hour Master Thread on FlyerTalk–but even more success stories, so don’t get too scared. We mention this not to dissuade you from taking advantage of the 144-hour rule, but so you arrive at the airport with ample time to address any issues that might arise.
Once we landed at PVG, we took advantage of the visa-free line at Immigration. If you’re utilizing the exemption, make sure to look for this line, as there was literally no one in it when we arrived, as compared to a lengthy line for regular visa transit.
When it comes to airfare, we always recommend using a combination of hacks and patience to save money on flights. We recommend that you start by checking out ITA Software using flexible travel dates to narrow times that might be cheapest. There are a myriad of parameters you can set, and in our experience, ITA is the best way to find the lowest prices on airfare for set dates of travel. (Note: you cannot book via ITA.)
ITA is what we recommend because it’s great with more complex itineraries that include stopovers, open-jaw flights, etc. We figure this will come in handy for those looking to do the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim” and knock out all of the Disney parks in Asia on a single trip.
We cover how to do this in our “How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare” post, and the airfare savings are considerable leveraging these airfare rules. It might seem complicated at first, but it is well worth reading that post and figuring it out. That post covers how to incorporate Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney Resort into a single trip. As mentioned above, our itinerary included stops in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. The total cost of our itinerary was just over $1,000, and the only reason it was that expensive is because our dates were locked in around Shanghai’s Grand Opening. Had we been more flexible, we could’ve booked the trip for ~$700.
To find great airfare deals like this, you should use fare alerts on Airfarewatchdog.com. You can set some parameters for the alerts here and receive email updates when they deem prices to be low. If your home airport is not a major international hub, we’d recommend adding the nearest major airport to your alert list, as sometimes it can be cheaper to book a flight to that airport, and then book the rest of your itinerary.
Minus the 12+ hour flight, getting from the United States to Shanghai Disneyland is easy–easier than any other international park aside from Hong Kong Disneyland. Once you land in Shanghai (fly into PVG), you can take a taxi to the parks for under $20 US. (The park and airport are both on the outskirts of the city, conveniently near one another.) You’ll likely be met by a bunch of “airport reps” inside PVG trying to book you a charter car–ignore them and go outside to find a taxi. If you book one of the cars inside, you’re going to pay at least $50. (These guys can be very pushy and ignoring them is the best strategy, as once you engage at all, they won’t leave you alone.)
Alternatively, you can take the Shanghai Metro, Line 11 if you’re staying downtown and want to get to Shanghai Disney Resort. We started our trip on The Bund (downtown) and used the Metro to get to Shanghai Disney Resort, which took a little less than an hour with one transfer. Be mindful that the Metro does stop operating shortly after SDL closes.
If you’re trying to get downtown from the airport, taxis are also available, but the Maglev is the best option. This is exactly what the name sounds like–a magnetic levitation transport. It’s basically like the hoverboard from Back to the Future, but for an entire train full of people.
Asia mass transit (Shanghai included) is very clean, safe, and reliable. While they have space-age stuff like hovertrains and bullet trains, in the U.S. we are stuck with outdated, inefficient, and crumbling mass transit infrastructure–and most of it smells like urine.
In terms of getting around in general, there are several useful apps are Explore Shanghai, SmartShanghai, and Baidu Maps.
If you’re traveling to China and intend upon using the internet, you’ll want to either rent a SIM card or a MiFi unit. Unlike Hong Kong where free public WiFi is available across the city, it’s not quite as widespread in Shanghai (and we could rarely get it to work–most times it required receiving a text message to activate; we finally gave up). We used 3GSolutions for MiFi rental and were satisfied with our experience. They also do SIM cards, which are cheaper, but we opted for MiFi since it’s easily shareable.
Our MiFi was delivered to our hotel (there’s free WiFi in PVG) downtown and handed to us at check-in. When we were done with the rental, we gave it to the front desk at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel in a package provided to us. I guess someone from 3GSolutions goes around and picks them up? All I know is that we weren’t charged for the device, so they must’ve received it somehow…
Additionally, mainland China has “The Great Firewall,” which blocks out a number of popular social media sites and portions of the internet that are important for connected Americans. As such, we highly recommend getting a VPN. After doing a bunch of research, we opted for ExpressVPN (that link will get you 30 free days, but it’s after you pay for 30 days, so those free days may be of little use to you).
Price-wise, it’s slightly more expensive than competitors, but our research indicated that it was more reliable and faster. We had absolutely zero issues with it, and would recommend it. (We didn’t try alternatives, so YMMV on those.) You might also consider Opera’s free VPN, which people have reported using with success in China. We opted against this since it would be ineffective for non-browser based internet uses.
China’s currency is the Yuan (you can find a current conversion rate via Google). You might consider ordering some Yuan before your trip from your local bank, as it’s nice to have for the metro, taxis, etc. It is not necessary to order a significant amount, as the vast majority of businesses in Shanghai accept credit card.
We strongly recommend having a credit card with no foreign transaction fees for any international travel. Actually, having 2-3 cards is ideal, in case one is inexplicably denied (it seems to occur for us at a higher rate than normal when traveling) or flagged (even when we notify the bank of travel plans, this has occurred).
When using your credit card, always pay with the local currency (if given the option) to avoid a potential fee and for a more favorable conversion rate. Note that in Shanghai, there’s no contactless pay system that’s nearly as ubiquitous as the Octopus card is in Hong Kong.
How Many Days?
If you’re casual visitor to China and randomly stumbled upon this article, a single day is sufficient to see the highlights of Shanghai Disneyland as part of your China trip.
If you’re a serious Disney fan, we recommend two days. You will likely want to dig deeper in the park, and despite the (deceptively) limited attraction lineup, there’s quite a bit to do that is unique to Shanghai Disneyland. Additionally, many of the attractions have already proven to have long waits, and average wait-times for even less popular attractions tend to exceed 30 minutes.
Beyond that, you’ll want to try the many dining options, shop, see the shows at SDL, and just generally explore the park. All of this takes more time than you expect, making 2 days the perfect amount of time, in our opinion.
We spent 3 days in Shanghai Disneyland on our first visit, and we still left wanting more. Granted, we are probably not the best example, as I spent hours per day just taking photos and the summer humidity left us fatigued during the middle of the day. Still, we think there’s an ample amount to justify 2 days in the park.
If you are crunched for time, visiting multiple Disney parks in Asia, we recommend allocating 66% to 75% of your days at Tokyo Disney Resort. (If we had 6 days total for the parks and were doing just Shanghai and Tokyo, we’d do a 2-4 split. If doing Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, we’d do a 1-1-4 split.)
Additionally, we recommend allocating around half of your time on the entire trip to non-Disney sights. Hong Kong, China, and Japan each have a lot to offer, and it’s really simple to navigate all of them thanks to wonderful public transportation. Because of this, we would not do Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Shanghai Disneyland all on the same trip. Unless you have a month for the trip, you’re going to be bouncing around too much and miss too much. That’s just us, though.
When to Visit
With Shanghai Disneyland only having opened a few months ago, it’s impossible to write a definitive “when to visit” section about the park at present. However, we think a lot can be gleaned from visitation trends at Hong Kong Disneyland, which shares some guest demographics with Shanghai Disneyland, and should be a good baseline. Likewise, weather in Shanghai is important.
First, the time to avoid: summer. Vacation crowds and summer humidity almost caused us to pass on Opening Day, but it was too much to resist. For our next visit, the months of May through August are out of the question due to humidity. We also would not go for Chinese New Year, or any other national holiday, as those tend to be the busiest travel times.
Climate-wise, Shanghai is not as far south as Hong Kong, which can be hot even in October and November. It’s also not as far north as Beijing, where it can snow in the winter. With this in mind, we’d probably view late-October through mid-December and February through April as the best times to visit. This article covers other good/bad times to visit China.
In all likelihood, our travel schedule would be dictated by Japan and seasonal events more than anything else. We anticipate Shanghai Disneyland not offering any Christmas entertainment or decorations its first year, and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s never celebrated there. Along with Christianity, Christmas was banned by the Chinese government until recently, and between the government’s ownership interest in Shanghai Disneyland and the low percentage of the population that celebrate the holiday, we could see it being ignored at Shanghai Disneyland.
However, we love Christmas at Tokyo Disney Resort and weather-wise, this seems like it would be an ideal time to visit, so we could see our “sweet spot” for an Asia trip that includes both Tokyo and Shanghai as being in late November or early December, irrespective of whether Shanghai will get in the festive spirit.
You should also consider which days of the week to visit. Before purchasing tickets, we’d highly recommend consulting the Park Hours. In a rare move as compared to other international parks, we are actually going to recommend a weekend visit at this point. Potentially.
That depends upon a comparison of park hours on weekday versus weekend dates for your timeframe. Right now, we are noticing some weekend dates are open up to 3.5 hours more than adjacent weekday dates. We find it highly unlikely that crowds will be sufficiently higher on weekends as compared to weekdays to offset this added time.
As of right now, wait times are slightly higher on weekends, but not that much higher. In fact, even with “only” +2 hours on the weekend, we’d probably still choose that. (If there’s a 1 hour difference, a weekday probably makes more sense.)
The other things to consider here are that all tourist spots in the city are going to be more crowded on weekends, and–if you’re continuing on to Japan–that you should never visit Tokyo Disney Resort on a weekend.
Where to Stay
Shanghai Disneyland has two official hotels: Toy Story Hotel and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, both of which are within walking distance of the park. Both also offer shuttles, and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel also offers boat service. We highly recommend staying at one of these official Disney hotels–more so than we do in Tokyo or Hong Kong, in fact.
We stayed at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, and liked it quite a bit. This is the flagship hotel, featuring an Art Nouveau ocean liner-inspired style (particularly in the lobby) and it’s slightly closer to the park. The rooms were passable: somewhere in between a Walt Disney World Moderate and Deluxe. A few more details given the price point would’ve been appreciated.
I’m not sure that you’d call Toy Story Hotel a “Value” Resort given the price point, but that’s how it struck me. I know parents with kids might like the decorations, but it just didn’t do anything for me. It reminds me of Art of Animation, room-wise, but without any of the exterior charm.
These are the obvious picks for a visit to Shanghai Disneyland. While there are no Extra Magic Hours or anything of that sort (yet?), guests tend to line up to enter the park at least 30 minutes before opening, so that long train ride from downtown may not be the best way to start your day. If you’re planning on exploring downtown Shanghai, we’d recommend doing a split stay.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the $200+/night rates at the official Shanghai Disney Resort hotels might be a tough pill to swallow. Unfortunately, given the recency of the park’s construction, there are not yet any Good Neighbor Hotels or other options in the immediate area. Additionally, you might have a tough time determining what, exactly, is convenient to Shanghai Disney Resort.
As for off-site hotels, you options are basically downtown, airport hotels, or spots along the Metro in between. Based on our research (not first-hand stays), here are a few options that should be convenient to Shanghai Disneyland along the Metro:
- Shanghai Pudong Theme Park Wassim Hotel
- Courtyard by Marriott Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone
- Novotel Shanghai Clover
- Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao
- JI Hotel Shanghai Kangqiao Xiuyan Road
Again, we haven’t stayed at any of these, so we cannot vouch for them. If you’ve visited Shanghai Disneyland and stayed at an off-site hotel, we’d love to hear feedback as to where you stayed and what you thought.
Buying Park Tickets
Park tickets for Shanghai Disneyland are inexpensive as compared to the US parks. Currently, only 1-2 day tickets and Annual Passes are sold at Shanghai Disneyland. Much like Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Shanghai has seasonal pricing, with tickets during peak travel times costing more.
Fortunately, there are now discounted 1-2 day tickets for Shanghai Disneyland available via Klook. Depending upon the ticket season, you’re looking at a savings of around $5-10 per ticket, which is not bad considering that Shanghai Disneyland is already one of the least expensive Disney Parks in the world. To really sweeten the deal, you can take $5 off your first purchase on Klook by entering our exclusive discount code KLKDTB at checkout!
For this reason, we highly recommend buying in advance from Klook. If you purchase tickets from Shanghai Disneyland directly, you’ll pay significantly more. You’ll have a few options once you purchase, including a paper voucher or digital ticket. We went the digital route, taking a screenshot of the ticket (for safety increase our internet was down) as well. We then received a paper ticket after our digital ticket was scanned at the turnstiles.
No matter how you purchase your tickets, make sure to bring your passport in case the Cast Member requests to check your ID (you should always have your passport on your person when traveling internationally).
In addition to tickets, you can purchase “Disney Premier Access,” which is essentially paid FastPass. There are two versions of this–one that can be purchased per attraction ($17-22 per ride) and another version that includes every attraction ($10-13 per ride).
Disney Premier Access offers priority access via the FastPass line at the following attractions: Soaring Over the Horizon, Roaring Rapids, TRON Lightcyle Power Run, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight.
Unless you’re visiting on a national holiday or particularly busy weekend, you won’t need Disney Premier access on the vast majority of these attractions. Even though it’s more expensive, to do individual rides, you’re likely only going to need this pass for Roaring Rapids or Soaring Over the Horizon (but not both), unless you don’t arrive at rope drop…in which case you could need it for both. Otherwise, smart use of FastPass and a good park touring strategy (see below) should be good enough.
Park Strategy/Touring Plans
We plan to write a dedicated 1-Day Touring Plan for Shanghai Disneyland, but for now, here’s roughly how we’d start the day, along with FastPass strategy. This requires arriving to the park 30 minutes before opening, perhaps more depending upon the season (in loosely following wait times, crowds have remained high since the park’s Grand Opening)…
- Get FastPass for Roaring Rapids
- Go to Camp Discovery to do the rope course (low capacity, and lockers are in short supply)
- Get FastPass for Peter Pan’s Flight
- Get FastPass for TRON Lightcycle Power Run
- Last FastPass: Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue
- Last ride (<5 minutes until close): Voyage to the Crystal Grotto or TRON Lightcycle Power Run
These tips operate on the assumption that you’re willing to skip clones or near-clones. Meaning no Soaring (if you must do that here, get a FastPass for it first thing and do Roaring Rapids via standby), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, etc.
We also are trying to get you onto the TRON coaster at night, which is why we wait so long to get a FastPass for that. You should be mindful of FastPass return times when adapting these tips to your plans. If TRON already has a late afternoon return time when you’re eligible for your second FastPass, don’t get the Peter Pan’s Flight FastPass.
Lines for Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure and all Fantasyland attractions will be shorter at night. Tomorrowland lines seem to get longer at night, which is probably indicative of most guests starting their days in Adventure Isle and progressing around until arriving in Tomorrowland last.
Single Rider is available at Pirates, Roaring Rapids, Mine Train, and TRON. However, the line is not always open, and when it is, you might have a difficult time using it if you show up as a group. (We did.) During our visit, the Single Rider line was only ever open for Pirates.
If an attraction breaks down (and we mention this because it has been occurring quite a bit with Roaring Rapids and TRON) while you are in line, we strongly recommend going to Guest Services at the front of the park (past the “Train” Station) and requesting to speak to someone. We experienced a breakdown after waiting in line 2+ hours for Roaring Rapids, and Cast Members were not giving out re-admissions when clearing the line. However, Guest Services assisted us.
If you intend upon watching the parade, you can safely grab a spot for it 20 minutes before start time. The parade route is insanely long, and front row spots tended to be available until the last minute.
Ignite the Dream (the nighttime spectacular) is a totally different story. If you want a good view of this show, including the projections, fountains, and fireworks, you need to select a (centered) spot in Gardens of Imagination at least 90 minutes before the show, potentially earlier. This is why having 2 days in Shanghai Disneyland can be a good thing–you can skip Ignite the Dream your second time and maximize ride time when attractions tend to have shorter waits.
Restaurants in Shanghai Disneyland serve a wide range of cuisine, ranging from burgers, pizza, and fried chicken to traditional Chinese dishes. Most restaurants are counter service, but there are also buffets and table service restaurants around the resort.
Unlike Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai’s snacking game isn’t nearly as strong. Nor is its table service scene. We strongly suggest sticking to counter service restaurants for most of your dining needs. You’ll find a few viable snack spots on Mickey Avenue (including Il Paperino, the bomb ice cream shop) and there are also the insanely popular turkey legs in Adventure Isle, but other than that…not much.
Many of you will probably be alarmed/elated that Shanghai Disney Resort serves Pepsi instead of Coke. So, you either have a reason to go or a reason to skip the park now, depending upon your alliances in the soda wars. Pepsi aside, we recommend bringing a filtered water bottle with you to Shanghai Disneyland. There are far fewer drinking fountains than in the U.S. parks, and this is probably a cultural thing, as most guests carry water bottles with them. (Each drinking fountain also has a faucet for filling bottles.)
We intend upon doing a range of restaurant reviews in the near future, and we will update this post with links to those, but for now, here are some of the restaurants we recommend, which should get you through a couple of days in the park:
- Tangled Tree Tavern
- Mickey & Pal’s Market Cafe
- Wandering Moon Teahouse (must-do)
- Barbossa’s Bounty (must-do)
If you must do table service, do it in Disneytown or one of the hotels. We can’t speak to any of these restaurants, but we did dine at Royal Banquet Hall in Enchanted Storybook Castle, and it was a bit disappointing. (The characters were awesome, though!)
Disney boozehounds will also be happy that there are a few bars located around Disneytown and the resort hotels (but not in Shanghai Disneyland). Of these, our recommendation is Bacchus Lounge, which was open ~2-3 hours after the park closed on our visit and offered views overlooking Wishing Star Lake and towards the castle.
What to Pack
The items on our Unique Disney Packing List will be helpful in any of the Disney theme parks. If you’re visiting Shanghai in the late spring, summer, or early fall, plan for hot weather. Things like Frogg Togg Chilly Pads and USB-Powered Fan will come in handy to keep you cool, as will moisture wicking clothing.
You’ll also need a power adapter when traveling in China, because plugs are three-prong “type I” as opposed to “type A” that we use in the US (and Japan at Tokyo Disney Resort). If you intend upon doing international travel to other destinations in the future, we recommend something robust, like this Universal Travel Adapter. It includes the added utility of having 2 USB plugins in additions to a standard plug. Rather than buying/packing multiple adapters, we pack this along with a Travel Power Strip. Some–particularly western chains–hotels in China will have US plugs, but it’s better to just play it safe.
In general, we would caution against overpacking and recommend only taking a single carry-on bag, especially if you’ll be moving around. Mass transit in Asia can be crowded, and dragging around multiple suitcases is a serious hassle. You can read more of our “carry-on philosophy” and which types of bags we use here.
Additionally, Shanghai is a world city, and you can purchase just about anything there that you’d be able to purchase at a convenience store anywhere else. In other words, don’t pack for every possible contingency. If you are going to be staying in multiple hotels in Asia, we highly recommend packing cubes or compression bags for organization.
Okay–that should be a good jumping off point. Hopefully others who have been will weigh in with additional tips in the comments, and we can refine this guide based on questions you might have. Want to see more photos or read about Shanghai Disneyland in agonizing detail? Check out our Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Trip Report from our very first visit to China.
Do you agree or disagree with our advice for visiting Shanghai Disneyland? Any additional tips to add? Any thoughts about Disney’s newest park of your own? Any questions? Please feel free to ask or assist in the comments. With so little Shanghai Disneyland trip planning materials out there, your feedback (both questions and answers) can be useful in helping others plan their trips!
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