With the opening of the massively magnificent Shanghai Disney Resort last June 2016, there were concerns that it would steal the glory and customers of its older brother, the first Disney Park in the Greater China area, Hong Kong Disneyland. When it first opened its doors to the much surprised Asian public in 2005, some 20 years after the debut of the first ever Asian Disney Resort in Tokyo, it quickly attracted a steady market of tourists and visitors from all around its neighbors, Chinese and Southeast Asians who have long desired a Disney experience both near and affordable. It has done this in over a decade of business. Even with the larger Shanghai Park now in business, Hong Kong Disneyland will continue to bring the Magic in the future. Let’s go over the reasons why.
LAY OF THE DISNEYLAND
Hong Kong Disney Resort is located at the northeastern tip of Lantau Island, next to Penny’s Bay, just two kilometers off from the private residential development Discovery Bay. Much like other Disney resorts, the entire complex is a series of locations and venues around a body of water, in this case the man-made lagoon Inspiration Lake which serves as irrigation for the whole resort and as a recreational center. Inspiration Lake is the largest artificial lake in Hong Kong, and features a boating dock, arboretum, jogging and bike trails, enclosed exercise and fitness stations and a children’s playground.
The water itself offers a great view with aquatic plants, an artificial waterfall and jet fountains on display. A convenience store serves as a rental center for boats and bicycles and also offers toilets and changing rooms. This is the gateway of sorts to the entire resort, accessible by a short walk from the dedicated MTR station and public transport interchange, or via a franchise bus route. If nothing else, entrance to Inspiration Lake is free and open to visitors every day, 9AM to 7PM.
STAY AWHILE IN LUXURY
For people looking to live it up while at the Disney Resort, you are covered by a choice of two exquisite shoreline hotels with around a thousand rooms of accommodation between them. It’s perfect if you’re set to stay more than a day to explore Disneyland and the rest of the resort. You get a choice between the 400-room Victorian-styled Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel – a “younger brother” to Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – and the Parisian Disneyland Hotel. For for a greater chance to have more rooms available, you can check out the Disney Hollywood Hotel and its 600 rooms, with an architectural sense evocative of art deco and classic 1930’s Hollywood. You can also take advantage of their special vacation and fairy tale wedding packages.
In case you won’t be checking out and staying the Hong Kong Disney Resort until much later this year, then you might luck out and be the first to see the Explorer’s Lodge, an expansion hotel with 750 room and four distinctly themed areas: Asian (think Mulan), African (Lion King), South American rainforest (Emperor’s New Groove) and Polynesian (Moana).
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND
This is the heart of Hong Kong Disney Resort, like all Disney resorts all over the world. On its opening day back in 2005, critics were disappointed that, having only four themed areas, Hong Kong had the smallest Disneyland ever. That would change from 2011 through 2013 with the consecutive debuts of three long-awaited expansion areas, and Hong Kong Disneyland is to this day capable of going head to head with its fellow parks around the world even the new challenger in Shanghai.
The first areas of Hong Kong Disneyland were four of the five original classics from Anaheim. There’s Main Street USA with its early 20th century small-town appeal, signature railroad and animation shops. Fantasyland is the central-most area of the park with the fairy tale motif and the dominant castle iconic of Disney’s parks (for Hong Kong, that’s “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle”, like in Orlando and Paris). It’s filled with the most memorable characters of Disney’s animated films, some ready for a meet-and-greet like Merida or Rapunzel. Adventureland for Hong Kong is the largest version among all Disney Parks, featuring the traditional Jungle River Cruise and areas featuring “The Lion King” and “Tarzan”. Finally there’s futuristic Tomorrowland with the Hyperspace Mountain indoor coaster ride and the latest theme areas from the now Disney-owned “Star Wars”.
The additional theme areas are just as popular. Most special among them is Toy Story Land, themed after the blockbuster “Toy Story” franchise with rides and attractions featuring Woody, Buzz Lightyear and their friends. Hong Kong’s version of the fifth classic themed area (Frontierland) is known as Grizzly Gulch which is styled after a mining ghost town, with its star attraction being the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. An all-original themed area for Hong Kong Disneyland is Mystic Point, a forested place with supernatural spectacles emanating from the “Haunted Mansion-esque” Mystic Manor.
Hong Kong Disneyland will also have the honor (out of the rest of the parks) of having the first ever themed area that is centered on Marvel (comics and films). Already the “Iron Man Experience” ride is up and running, with more additions coming from later 2017 to 2023. In addition, 2020 will see the opening of Frozen Land based on the 2013 animated film. It will have four main rides.
It’s easy to see – and many travelers on Trip Advisor agree – that even here in Hong Kong Disney Resort, one day is already just not enough to, as the “Lion King” song goes, “see all that can be seen, do all that can be done, find all that can be found”. Worry not too much about having to choose between here and Shanghai; they are both magically enchanting, and Hong Kong has an edge in international accessibility. So come on by and experience the Magic at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Photo courtesy of http://www.hongkongdisneyland.com