My husband, 5 year old daughter, and I recently spent 6 days in Hong Kong. Since we are Disney fans (as you can probably tell by all my Disney posts on the blog), we spent quite a bit of time exploring Hong Kong Disneyland during our visit.
Before our trip, I had quite a difficult time finding English-language information about this park (with the exception of these 5 great Hong Kong Disneyland trip planning sites). I’m used to meticulously planning my Disney vacations using programs like Ridemax, carefully researching the best ways to avoid the crowds and get the most attractions and experiences squeezed into the day. With so little information out there about Hong Kong Disneyland, I simply couldn’t do the same level of planning. Many of the reviews I read claimed that the park was never very crowded and stated that you could see everything there was to see in a single day.
I’m here to tell you that the conventional wisdom about Hong Kong Disneyland is not exactly right! The park can be very empty at times, but we also saw firsthand that there are days and times where the lines can rival a busy day in Anaheim. We spent a full day plus two evenings in the park and still couldn’t see it all.
Here are 10 tips and tricks that we learned while visiting that will hopefully make your Hong Kong Disneyland trip planning easier.
1) Visit Hong Kong Disneyland on a weekday
If you are in Hong Kong for a few days, do everything in your power to time your visit to Hong Kong Disneyland on a weekday. We managed to time our full day in the park on a Thursday, and we experienced minimal lines almost the entire day. When we returned to the park for a half day on Saturday, however, the lines had more than quadrupled. As is the case in Anaheim, lots of locals have annual passes and you should expect the park to be packed on weekends. Don’t get caught up in these lines if you can help it.
2) Arrive at park opening (a.k.a. “rope drop”)
This wisdom holds true for all Disney parks, but it is even more true in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is like New York — stay up late at night and start the next morning late. Consequently, Hong Kong Disneyland doesn’t open until 10 am most days. But apparently 10 am is still too early for most Hong Kong residents, because the park was close to empty at rope drop. We walked on ride after ride for the first two hours the park was open. It really didn’t get busy most days until around lunchtime. And 3:00-5:00 seemed to be the busiest time of the day. So, if you can start your day earlier than the locals, you can really avoid the crowds.
3) Don’t be distracted by the characters!
My family loves character meet-and-greets as much as any Disney fan, and we always make sure to schedule time to meet Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the crew. Character meet-and-greets seem to be especially popular in Hong Kong Disneyland. They are so popular that everyone who arrives early to the park seems to stop for the first character they see. At rope drop, we saw lines already 50+ people deep for Mickey and Duffy in Main Street. We were sorely tempted to stop too, but we instead made a beeline for Fantasyland only to find it was completely empty. We had a chance to see Mickey at our character dining earlier that morning, and we were better able to use the time for rides before everyone else had delved deeper into the park. And we made sure to visit characters at other moments later in the day, when all the lines for everything were long.
4) Consider walking (if you are staying at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel)
We found the layout of Hong Kong Disneyland a bit odd, as the park entrance is located down a long promenade. As a result, you have to walk quite a bit to reach the park entrance. Guests from the two Disney hotels are dropped off by shuttles at one end of this promenade and walk past the Disneyland subway station and a large fountain before getting to the park. We thought this was strangely inefficient — to shuttle guests just to have them also walk 5-10 minutes to the actual entrance.
If you are staying at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, it may make sense for you to skip the shuttles, at least during the busiest times. You can instead walk to the park from the hotel. The walk is only about double the length of that long walk down the promenade from where the shuttles pick up and drop off. We found we could make it between the park and the hotel in about 12 minutes.
Note, however, that the Disney Hollywood Hotel is a much further walk. Guests there need to be prepared to use the shuttles. And note that a brisk 12 minute walk probably won’t be a good choice for you unless your child is still in a stroller or old enough to walk long distances. It was too much for our 5 year old, so she rode on dad’s shoulders quite a bit. But this can be a great alternative for certain times when there are waits for the shuttles, such as at park closing.
5) Don’t wait to ride Autopia
Every Disney park has it… an attraction that is wildly popular but that has such low capacity that the lines build up and only get worse as the day goes on. In Anaheim, that ride is Peter Pan’s Flight. In Hong Kong Disneyland, it is Autopia. The ride holds many fewer drivers than the attraction does in the United States parks. Ride it within an hour of morning rope drop or don’t ride it at all. We saw wait times of 40+ minutes even at the end of the night on a weekday. That’s way too long for a ride that I don’t really like that much anyway.
6) Fastpass Winnie the Pooh
Just as in Tokyo Disneyland, Winnie the Pooh is one of the most popular attractions. Luckily, Hong Kong Disneyland offers Fastpass for the attraction, which allows you to cut all but about the last 3-5 minutes of waiting time on the ride. Since Hong Kong Disneyland doesn’t offer many rides with Fastpasses (when we were there, only Space Mountain and Winnie the Pooh were offering Fastpass), you can easily grab multiple Fastpasses for this ride throughout the day and ride it many times with minimal waiting. This is probably my daughter’s favorite ride at the moment, and we were able to ride it 5 times during our stay.
7) See the shows
We made a point to see both of the live action shows that were playing at Hong Kong Disneyland, and I’m so glad we did. We usually avoid the shows when we visit Disney parks, opting instead to ride certain rides multiple times. But the shows at Hong Kong Disneyland were worth it.
We thought the Festival of the Lion King was probably the best theme park show we had ever seen. It had excellent talent and was just visually exciting, with moving floats presented in a theater in the round.
We also really enjoyed The Golden Mickeys, a musical revue of some great Disney classics. The “story” between the musical numbers was presented in Cantonese with English subtitles so it felt truly like a local experience. Our daughter loved singing along to some Disney classics and being exposed to some of Disney’s more obscure movies too.
8) Be prepared for PhotoPass to be different than back home
Hong Kong Disneyland very recently introduced Disney’s PhotoPass service to the park. I was so excited when I heard this news just a few weeks before leaving on our trip, as my family always buys PhotoPass on our Disney vacations.
I was less thrilled after we took a few photos with a PhotoPass photographer the first evening in the park and were given slips of paper rather than a PhotoPass card with a scannable bar code. We were told we had to redeem those slips by the end of the day, rather than wait until the end of our vacation to buy PhotoPass to cover multiple days, as is the case in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
If you are used to PhotoPass from the United States parks, be aware that it works differently in Hong Kong (at least for now – perhaps it will evolve as they roll out more technology there). For now, you need to keep track of your photo slips and redeem photos the same day you take them. The single day PhotoPass option is offered at HKD $398 (about $51 USD). It is still quite a bit cheaper than in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, but it should be as it is only a one day pass. Your best bet if you are visiting the park for multiple days is to pick your longest day to be your PhotoPass day and try to get as many photos as you can that day so you only need to buy the PhotoPass once. Use your own camera on other days — cast members are always happy to take photos for you.
9) Have your kids collect stickers!
One of the unique aspects of Hong Kong Disneyland is that all the cast members have stickers in their pockets that they love giving away to kids. Our redheaded daughter charmed quite a few cast members and came away with nothing short of a sticker haul. She loved going on the hunt each day for ones that were not yet in her collection.
10) Give yourself more than one day to see Hong Kong Disneyland (especially if you are a Disney fan)
The conventional wisdom is that Hong Kong Disneyland is a one day park, but I think this advice is outdated. With three new lands having opened in the past few years (Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, and Toy Story Land), it has enough to keep even a moderate Disney fan busy for more than one day. If you want to have time to truly explore the shopping, shows, restaurants, and character meet-and-greets (rather than just ride each attraction once and move on) you will need more than one day. The park still doesn’t offer as much as Anaheim or the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, but it is a full-fledged theme park with plenty to offer.