Contributor: Melvin Corales
“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” — those were Walt’s words when he was thinking of building a theme park after visiting a lot of amusement parks in the mid 1930s. The first Disneyland in California opened on July 17th of 1955 and since then, the theme park opened several parks across the globe.
Hong Kong Disneyland, located beside Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island is the latest addition as of the moment. Covering the entire 320 acres of reclaimed land at Penny’s Bay, HK Disneyland Resort still is the smallest Disneyland Resort in the entire world. Hong Kong Disneyland may be small but it surely lives up to the expectation as being the happiest place on Earth.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort has two themed hotels, a man-made recreational lake, and the Disneyland theme park. Following the layout of Disneyland in Anaheim, Hong Kong Disneyland is almost identical with Disneyland in California but of course with few unique lands.
A visit in Hong Kong will never be complete without paying a visit to this magical place. And surely, we did not miss the chance to go to the place where I call “the promise land”. The second time being in Disneyland is certainly as wonderfully magical as the first time I experienced it. I woke up almost immediately after I heard the first sound of my alarm, the cold weather at Hong Kong did not stop me from getting up and prepare for the most exciting part of this trip.
At around 9 in the morning, we were already in Disneyland Resort Line (I know it’s early but wait till you hear the whole story). When we arrived at the very famous Disneyland Resort entrance, we did not bother taking any picture but walked our feet off to the Inspiration Lake. Inspiration Lake is a 15-minute walk from the Disneyland Park but it felt like forever. We almost wanted to go back sometime in the middle of our walk but braved the heat of the sun and go on and there we went, the Inspiration Lake –nothing but a LAKE! Crap!
Verdict: Inspiration Lake–if you are staying at one of the Disneyland Hotels, this is worth the visit but if not, just don’t bother. You’ll just sweat your pants off.
Main Street, USA
After resting for a while, we decided to walk again to be on time with the park opening, and there it is, we were there at exactly 10 in the morning but we were not the first ones since the park usually opens 30 minutes prior to posted opening time (Now that is a TIP!). Disneyland is extra wonderful during Christmas season–with the ornaments and all, the cold weather, cast member’s costume, background music, everything. Last year, they had a Christmas parade but this time, they have none(too bad). My friends are wowed with how grand the structures are and how artistic the tiny details can get. Walking past the Main Street, it felt like we are in the small town in America in the 20th century. And Hong Kong being colonized by Britain, you can clearly see the European influence in the design of the Main Street. Erected at the end of the Main Street is the Sleeping Beauty castle that functions as a walkway to Fantasyland.
Main Street verdict: Like!
Tomorrowland is located beside the Main Street, USA. Inspired by Walt’s vision of how the world will look in the 1986 (yes 1986)– of course it is because the first Disneyland opened on 1955.
The version of HK Disneyland is quite smaller than it’s American siblings but still have the appeal of the futuristic place Walt has envisioned. Space Mountain was the centerpiece of this land. Few rides such as Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Autopia, UFO Zone, and Stitch Encounter also can be seen in this land.
Space Mountain is a fast-paced, highly turbulent coaster with sudden drops and turns. Surely you will get nervous by that description but by the end of the 2-minute ride, you will just laugh your heart off and say to yourself “is that it?, what the…”. Surely that was what most people say after riding this attraction. But although it did not satisfy my expectation, it is still worth the ride and time every time you are on Disneyland.
If you want to experience driving then this is for you, but just like Space Mountain, this is a so-so ride. Driving on a rail is certainly not driving at all, but is still worth the try.
Verdict: so-so Like!
Overall Tomorrowland Verdict: Like!
Fantasyland is where all your dreams come true. A garden where you can meet your well-loved princesses. Disneyland’s Fantasyland is really a magnificent place to reminisce the time when all story start in “Once upon a time” and ends in “Happy ever after”. Hong Kong Disneyland’s Fantasyland is filled with activities the kids and kids at heart would definitely love. Who doesn’t like bumping into Mickey Mouse? (Of course that won’t happen because Disney characters have their own gazebo where you can take pictures with them.) Aside from taking photos, you can also enjoy some attractions in this land such as Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Golden Mickeys, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Hatter Tea Cups, Cinderella Carousel, and It’s a Small World.
It’s a Small World
This attraction is definitely one of the most creatively done in the entire park. Consisting of thousand dancing dolls and animatronics, It’s a Small World is one of the most intricate attraction ever built in Hong Kong Disneyland. This dark ride will take you to all the seven continents, in the air, and even under the sea. Of course you don’t want to miss the humble part of the Philippines composed of two ladies holding a parasol dancing in a Nipa Hut. I was quite disappointed actually (Hello! You could’ve made a replica of the jeepney or dolls dancing “tinikling” or even the Rice Terraces). But I was rather touched when I saw “Paalam” at the end of the ride.
It’s a Small World verdict: Like!
Immerse yourself in this 5D musical show. Yes 5D! Aside from the realistic atmosphere, you also feel the splash of the water, and my most favorite part, you get to smell the food. Yes you can smell the food. Who knew? Haha. Well, all in all, I regretted missing this one the first time we visited Disneyland. It is a must see show.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic verdict: Like!
Overall Fantasyland verdict: Like!
The largest Adventureland to be ever built in all Magic Kingdom themed park can be found here in Hong kong Disneyland. Adventureland is definitely my favorite land here in Hong Kong Disneyland because of its unique amenities and extremely realistic environment. With Jungle River Cruise, Tarzan’s treehouse, and Festival of the Lion King, your Disneyland experience will never ever be complete if you miss one of the attraction I said.
Festival of the Lion King
Found in the Theater in the Wild, the Festival of the Lion King is such a joy to watch, a world-class act. I can literally watch this show the entire day if I have all the time in the world. It is kinda cheesy and corny but I get teary-eyed at some of the scenes. I just can’t get enough of this larger than life show. With the spinning stage, fire stunts, music and dances, and the lighting will definitely make you want more. A 30-minute show is just too short for such a wonderful show.
Festival of the Lion King verdict: Like!
Jungle River Cruise
The first time I went to Disneyland, I chose to go to Tarzan’s treehouse but this time I opted to experience the Jungle River Cruise, but they are both worth it, I just had a limited time which is why I picked only one and it is just right to pick the thing you haven’t experienced yet. Jungle River Cruise is such a realistic show. You get to ride a boat that will take you around the river with all the audio animatronics. The animals, are of course–animatronics, but are extremely realistic. I can still remember how nervous I got when I saw the crocodiles. That was such a good laugh.
Jungle River Cruise verdict: Like!
Overall Adventureland verdict: Super Like!
You almost feel you needed an entire day to get around Disneyland but just relax, watch the 3:30 parade and have lunch at the restaurants, not that the attractions are gonna interchange while you stop. After a long morning (believe me it is long, we almost always have lunch at around 1 or 2 so by that time, we have already seen most of the park. Disneyland in Hong Kong is the smallest of all the Disneyland so just relax. We actually toured the entire park twice and got to experience some of the rides again when we got back. If you chose to eat inside the park, you could try Banquet Hall in Fantasyland or Comet Cafe in Tomorrowland. Food are quite pricey and taste like Hong Kong but good in general.
Food verdict: so-so Like!
When Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, the park was actually criticized because of its size that cannot accommodate a lot of guests so the Disneyland administration broke grounds when it decided to expand the park and add three more lands, two of which are exclusive at Hong Kong Disneyland–the Grizzly Gulch and the Mystic Point. The other land added to the park is the Toy Story Land.
Toy Story Land
I like it when Disney keep up with the illusion so seamless. Built outside the Disneyland Railroad, you have to pass under the railroad bridge and viola! the grass seemed taller and everyone shrunk (of course that’s just an illusion but that was ingenious!). Too bad I haven’t experience any ride in this land because almost all the rides are blockbuster every time I am here but still it was fun seeing the humble tiny land.
Overall Toy Story Land verdict: I don’t know really because I haven’t experienced any ride yet.
Get your backpacks, wear your boots and take out that magnifying glass. Take on the journey with Lord Henry Mystic in finding the important historical artifacts around the world. Don’t be fooled by the size of this land because it won’t fail to amaze you with the enchantments this land has to offer. Mystic Manor takes on the center stage in this land.
Enter Lord Henry Mystic’s mansion and board his Electro-Magnetic carriages to have a sight of his wonderful collections of important artifacts. No 3D glasses needed but I have to say, this is the most advance ride I have ever ridden in my life, apologies to Transformers in Universal Studios, but Mystic Manor is as realistic as it could be. As Albert (Lord Henry’s pet monkey) opens the music box, magic dusts make everything alive as soon as it touches them. Get ready to see a magnificent and enchanting show happening right in front of your eyes. Again, no 3D glasses needed. I think I just have to put a stress on that. Hahaha. It was such a great attraction and could make Hong Kong Disneyland at the top of everyone’s travel list because to tell you honestly, this Mystic Point can stand alone.
Mystic Manor verdict: Super Like!
Overall Mystic Point verdict: Super Like!
Okay, are you tired of fairies and princesses and cartoons? You crave adrenaline? Well this land is just for you. Grizzly Gulch is another Hong Kong Disneyland exclusive. Yee haa! Said the big bear in the Wild West. This land is themed after American Old West and when I say west, I mean cowboys yee ha! Saloon style stores and food stalls are just wonderfully crafted. It may be smaller than its Frontierland siblings in other Disneylands but does not fall short on thrill despite only having a single attraction–the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, it is a long name isn’t it? Haha.
Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars
When wild bears go mad, look for places where you can’t be seen. This ride will make you feel the big bears wrath when the grizzly bear throws the mine cars forward and backward. The design of this ride was so creatively done that you will be sent into twists and turns, and even go from halt to more than 60 miles an hour(of course this has no basis hahaha, i just feel so).
Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars verdict: Like!
Overall Grizzly Gulch verdict: Like!
Your Disneyland journey is not complete if you miss the parades, and in my case, I have seen three parades of Disneyland–last year’s Santa Mickey’s Toy-Riffic Street Party, Flights of Fantasy Parade, and this time, I get to see the Christmas Illumination. All of them are great shows. I always had goosebumps during the parade. I just can’t believe I am in the Happiest Place on Earth and everything is just perfect and happy and festive.
And of course, to top everything, you have to see the Disney on Stars fireworks show. Hong Kong’s chilly weather, Disney music, smile on everyone’s faces, Sleeping Beauty Castle, what more can you ask for? What I enjoyed most during the entire fireworks show is how the people chorally say “woooww”, “ahhhhh” then giggles. Hey, we were all young once. As Walt said, “Over at our place, we’re sure of just one thing: everybody in the world was once a child.”
In life, we define happiness differently. And there is always a place where you feel that anything can happen if you believe. For me, whether I am four or ninety-four, Disneyland will always be “the Happiest Place on Earth”.