Hong Kong Disneyland has never been the crown jewel of Disney’s Asian market. When it first welcomed guests in 2005, it was already overshadowed by its older, more unique Japanese cousins, and while it has come into its own in the decade since then, the opening of Shanghai Disneyland in June 2016 introduced stiff competition for the prized mainland Chinese tourist dollar. Hong Kong falls closest to Disneyland Paris in the theme-park pecking order: it’s a smaller, slower-paced experience, with a few genuinely stunning exclusive attractions and a host of “clones” that will feel familiar to any Disney die-hard.
That doesn’t make Hong Kong Disneyland a skip-able destination. Thanks to easy public transportation access and the trademark Disney polish, the park is a must-see for visitors to Asia’s international hub, and the just-announced massive expansion plan—including a Frozen world, a larger castle and an impressive integration of the Marvel brand—bodes well for Hong Kong’s continued importance in the Disney park ecosystem. Still, as the list below makes clear, Hong Kong Disneyland is best approached as an all-inclusive experience rather than as a mad dash between must-rides. Unless you visit on a Hong Kong holiday or a particularly busy weekend, expect to walk on to most attractions with little wait time, and take advantage of ample opportunities to see and do all that the park has to offer.
10. Garden of Wonders
Like Tarzan’s Treehouse, the Garden of Wonders is a themed walkthrough area and not an actual attraction, but its perspective-twisting art installations add greatly to the off-kilter vibe of Hong Kong’s unique area, Mystic Point. An extension of the Winchester House-like Mystic Manor, Garden of Wonders offers guests a chance to inspect some of Lord Henry Mystic’s many magical artifacts up close before or after experiencing (spoiler alert) Hong Kong Disneyland’s best attraction, Mystic Manor itself.
9. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is a near-identical match for the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland attractions of the same name, but doesn’t seem to inspire the same maddening lines as its American lookalikes. Ride-goers strap into a Star Command pod and take up arms against the evil Emperor Zurg and his outer-space minions, zapping designated targets with a laser pistol. Like the American iterations, aiming is somewhat futile, but the Toy Story brand has become a Disney park tent pole over the years. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters remains the most fully realized Toy Story attraction at the Hong Kong park. (The actual Toy Story zone is cute, but geared toward younger visitors with its carnival-like attractions).
8. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty
Again, this dark ride is a near-clone of the Walt Disney World version in Orlando, but it’s also the one of the only traditional dark rides at Hong Kong Disneyland, and wait times reflect that. On most days, it’s actually one of only two attractions at the park to utilize the FastPass system. Its popularity is also likely due to its appeal amongst the very youngest Disney visitors. Riders enjoy a well-designed queue that brings them into the books before journeying through the Hundred Acre Wood alongside Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and the rest of the cast. While the old-school dark ride experience has been improved upon with the trackless rider system, there’s something intrinsically Disney about following a rail through a 3D interpretation of a classic property like Winnie the Pooh. Just don’t expect anything close to Tokyo Disneyland’s world-best Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.
7. Jungle River Cruise
Yet another cross-park staple, Hong Kong Disneyland’s Jungle River Cruise distinguishes itself with a nice finale: a confrontation with an impressive fire/water God animatronic that looks like a simple rock face upon first approach. Tokyo Disneyland similarly gussied up its Jungle River Cruise by adding a shifting lightshow and a longer cavern portion, but Hong Kong Disneyland’s gets points for offering the ride in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, which ups the wait times but allows guests to experience the dad-level humor of the boat captains in a familiar tongue. One caveat: how has no one at Disney reconsidered the outdated “cannibal savages” segment of this ride!?
6. “it’s a small world”
Hong Kong’s “it’s a small world” was the first in the world to take the controversial step of integrating Disney characters into its international ode to cross-country unity. Thirty-eight Disney stars ranging from Nemo to Aladdin to Pocahontas have joined their fictional countries of origin. (Amusingly, Ariel and her undersea pals get a small Atlantis section all to themselves, which may mislead young students of geography). Ride purists might cringe at the update, but it’s a treat to see recent additions to the Disney canon like Lilo and Stitch rendered in illustrator Mary Blair’s signature style, and “it’s a small world” is a nostalgic, calming must-ride at any park.