5 Must-See Attractions at Disney’s Shanghai Park
On Thursday, June 16, the Walt Disney Co. will officially open its Shanghai Disney Resort, a $5.5 billion undertaking that’s more than a decade in the making. The park is the company’s first in mainland China, and could become a big part of CEO Bob Iger’s legacy (the long-time Mouse House exec is supposed to step down in 2018). Disney went all out for the soon-to-be-opened park, which sits on nearly 1,000 acres in Shanghai’s Pudong district. Here, in no particular order, are the top five larger-than-life things to see in the new park. (Larger-than-life cost of airfare to get to Shanghai not included.)
1. An extravagant three-day opening celebration
The opening ceremonies include the premiere of the first Mandarin production of the Broadway hit The Lion King. Ever wondered how Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” sounds in Chinese? Here’s your chance. Also on hand: Yao Ming. The former basketball star is one of the Shanghai park’s “Honorary Ambassadors.” He makes Mickey Mouse look very, very short.
2. Tomorrowland in Tomorrowland
Imagineering exec Scot Drake led the vision and build-out of this futuristic city, located within one of the most modern metropolises in the world. The most whiz-bang ride? Tron Lightcycle Power Run, the fastest coaster Disney has ever built. (For those unfamiliar with the Tron franchise, “lightcycles” are two-wheeled, motorcycle-like vehicles that create trails of colored light.) The track for the Tomorrowland ride is 966 meters long, and the cable and wiring required to run it could circle Shanghai 37 times. But all you need to know is that it’s fast, really fast.
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3. The biggest, baddest Enchanted Storybook Castle
This iconic Disney landmark has been redone, Shanghai-style. When the park opens it will be the tallest and largest Enchanted Storybook Castle at any Disney theme park. And it will be the first castle that houses all the Disney princesses. (Those of you with young children who prefer Jasmine over Cinderella will appreciate the royal inclusiveness.) There’s also a Royal Banquet Hall for “storybook-style feasts” and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, just in case you haven’t spent enough money yet. More importantly, there’s an underground “Crystal Grotto” ride, mermaids included.
4. Garden of the Twelve Friends, Wandering Moon Teahouse (and other “Chinese” touches)
Disney has said that the new theme park incorporates China’s “incredibly rich heritage.” To that end, the Shanghai location has many unique experiences that the company hopes will resonate with Chinese customers—and we’re not just talking dim sum for breakfast. There’s the Garden of Twelve Friends, which Disney describes as “an oasis where the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are depicted by popular Disney characters.” (It’s basically a walkway with illustrations of each zodiac sign in Disney form—think Tigger for Year of the Tiger, Pluto for Year of the Dog and my personal favorite, Abu for Year of the Monkey.) The park also features a teahouse with rooms that represent different regions of China, a giant glass peony sculpture and, yes, dim sum in Disneytown.
5. Wishing Star Park
Need to get away from the lines and noise? Near Disneytown, the company has built a park and “glittering” lake the size of 56 football fields. There’s a walking path and gardens with views of nature. Don’t worry, you’ll still feel like you’re in Disneyland: The insanely tall Enchanted Storybook Castle can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the park.