My family had the chance to take the trip of a lifetime to Hong Kong in the spring of 2014. Being the Disney nuts that we are, some serious time at Hong Kong Disneyland was definitely in order. During our nearly 3 days there, we definitely explored every nook and cranny of the park, looking for our usual Disney hacks and time-saving strategies. We got to know Hong Kong Disneyland quite well (and my top 10 tips and tricks for visiting Hong Kong Disneyland continues to be a super-popular here on Trips With Tykes).
Like every Disney park, Hong Kong Disneyland has a few rides and shows that are truly can’t miss. I realize I never really wrote about these specific attractions that make Hong Kong Disneyland a unique Disney destination. Here are my top picks for Hong Kong Disneyland attractions that truly have no Disney equivalent.
(Spoiler alert: This post has a few mild spoilers but I’ve restrained myself from spoiling anything major, as the twists on some of these rides are the best part!)
Mystic Manor is the headliner attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland, and it completely lives up to the hype. The ride is meant to be a bit of a cousin to the Haunted Mansion but it is extremely different in the theming and ride experience. No ghosts and ghouls here! Cultural differences necessitated a different approach in Disney’s first Asian park. This also means that the ride is unlikely to be as scary for younger kids, making it one that I’d recommend for the whole family.
The technology is where the ride stands out, using a trackless system to power the ride vehicles with magnets similar to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland. Since the ride was built in 2013, the tech is still some of the best on any Disney ride anywhere. The manor is home to Lord Henry Mystic, a Member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, and a mischievous monkey named Albert who acquires a magical music box.
For a more detailed look at the ride, I really enjoy Disney Tourist’s Blog’s deep dive into Mystic Manor (with some gorgeous photos, as always). One final insider tip: pay close attention to the portraits, artifacts, and maps in the queue. You’ll spot some interesting Disney lore and maybe even notice Danny Elfman (he scored the music for the ride) smiling back at you when you least expect it.
Jungle River Cruise
Sure, you can find Jungle Cruise at many Disney parks, but the attraction is truly special at Hong Kong Disneyland. There are three lines for guests to get in so they can end up on a boat where their skipper is speaking the right language: English, Cantonese, or Mandarin.
Here’s the cool twist: the skippers in Hong Kong Disneyland (at least while we we visited) were trilingual. We watched them switch languages boat-to-boat, depending on how quickly each queue was building. The result was an impressive line management technique.
As you can imagine, having a native Cantonese or Mandarin speaker tell corny jokes to you in English sometimes results in a slightly funny cultural exchange. A few of the jokes are definitely lost in translation, but that contributed to the charm of the ride in a strange way.
The ride itself doesn’t disappoint either. Unlike at Walt Disney World or Disneyland where the ride is set on its own canals, the Jungle Cruise in Hong Kong Disneyland is actually set on the Rivers of Adventure, which more closely mirror the Rivers of America in those parks. This waterway is shared with rafts that go to Tarzan’s Treehouse (which plays the role of Tom Sawyer Island in Hong Kong Disneyland). It’s a blending of a lot of Disney attractions and settings from other parks that works well. The end of the ride is one of the highlights too. I won’t spoil it entirely, but let’s just say that I hope you can take the heat!
Toy Soldier Parachute Drop
Toy Story Land in Hong Kong Disneyland has been criticized for having off-the-rack theme park rides, and you might think that a simple parachute drop is just another generic ride not worth your time. The Toy Story Parachute Drop makes my list because it really exceeded my expectations. It’s pure fun that is perfect for little ones ready for a small thrill but not yet ready for the coasters, while still being enough for adults. My 5 year old daughter insisted on riding it three times in a row. She loved the Toy Story little green men theming as well. Other guests must agree, as we saw the lines swell to crazy lengths on busy weekends (we saw a wait of over an hour in the middle of the day on a Saturday). Ride this ride early or don’t ride at all!
Festival of the Lion King
I’m not much of a fan of shows or parades at Disney parks in most instances, and my family almost made the HUGE mistake of skipping the Festival of the Lion King as a result. We ended up going simply to escape a super-humid and hot day when rain was threatening. Hurray for air conditioning!
But AC isn’t the reason to pay this show a visit. The Festival of the Lion King was the best Disney show I’ve ever seen, hands down. The performers, singers, and acrobats were world-class and the setting in the round made the show engaging and compelling. The show is mostly in English, with two sidekick characters contributing shortened translations in Cantonese.
Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
Imagine if you took the best of Big Thunder Mountain and Expedition Everest and combined them into a single ride. You’d get the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Opened in Grizzly Gulch as part of the park’s 2013 expansion, the technology is new, making the ride super-smooth and enjoyable. No Matterhorn bouncing around here!
Our then 5 year old daughter was unsure about whether she would ride it, but finally relented on the second day of our visit. She lived to tell the tale but didn’t want to ride it again, so the thrills here are serious.
Have you been to Hong Kong Disneyland? What are your favorite attractions there?
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