Shanghai Disneyland is the newest Disney Park and the first in Mainland China. The Park opened officially on June 16, 2016. Shanghai Disney Resort is in Pudong, Shanghai, China, and includes the theme park, Disneytown, Wishing Star Park, the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, and the Toy Story Hotel.
Over the past two years, the Park has gone through rapid changes, and it’s exciting to watch this park evolve. This does make for a challenge when planning a trip, though. Our updated guide gives you the latest tips, recommendations, and information to help you plan the perfect trip. I recommend getting the Lonely Planet Guide to further research if you’re spending time in the city. It’s worth visiting the city of Shanghai for a few days.
I’ve made multiple trips to the Park since the Grand Opening (I’m based in Tokyo, Japan) and have been stockpiling a long list of items to add to this guide. Many Explorers make Shanghai Disneyland part of a bigger Disney Asia Trip (Hong Kong Disneyland & Tokyo Disney Resort) to make it easier when it comes to Chinese Travel Visas (Don’t worry, I’ll explain this).
Once you’re done studying this guide, you’ll feel as if you’ve been visiting since 2016!
To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Shanghai Disneyland, I’ve given this guide a complete overhaul and upgraded it to “Ultimate” status!
Table of Contents
- Chinese Travel Visa
- When to Visit
- Park Tickets
- Attractions & FastPass
- Entertainment & Fireworks
- Travel Tips
- Before Your Trip
- Grand Opening 2016
Visa for Mainland China
I have to stress that you’ll need to understand how travel visas work for Mainland China. Otherwise, you may be denied entry into the country. While I don’t know of this happening to anyone personally, I don’t want it to happen to you. Please read this section carefully.
In order to visit Mainland China as a tourist, you are required to have an L-type visa in your passport before arrival (there are a few exceptions, which I’ll cover). Visit your nearest Chinese Embassy in your area to apply. You can read our full guide explaining this process. There are specific countries that do not need a visa ahead of time and are granted a visa upon arrival (which I won’t list here, so check with your country of origin.)
There are two different visas you may receive upon arrival, which you don’t need to get ahead of time. These work in specific ways and in some cases are the better option if Shanghai is part of a larger trip. Read the links to make sure you meet the requirements and have all the proper documentation:
Have your hotel reservations and flight information printed out in advance. Make sure your name in your passport matches what’s on the hotel reservation and flights. For hotel reservations, have everyone’s full name on the reservation (matching their passport). For the Disney Hotels, you may have to call (use Skype) to add additional people’s names on the reservation — they’ll e-mail you the newly updated reservation.
In order to get the transit visa, you have to prove you are transiting through China (meaning you have a flight already booked to leave China). This means you are flying from Point A to Point B (Shanghai in this case) to Point C (can be anywhere but Point A).
This is why having Shanghai Disneyland part of a bigger trip makes it easier. You can fly into Shanghai and get the transit visa, then fly to either Hong Kong or Tokyo.
When to Visit
The biggest decision to make is when to visit. You’ll have to take into account public holidays and weather, along with personal preferences. These factors affect the crowd levels. I recommend at least 2 days to enjoy everything the Resort has to offer.
An excellent rule of thumb is to avoid public holidays. The Park is crowded and in some cases reaches capacity. Chinese New Year and National Day are the biggest holidays in the country and last about a week.
The climate in Shanghai is distinct in its seasons. This means the winters are cold and the summers are hot (similar to Japan). The summer is hot and humid (June-September) and temperatures on average 35°C (95°F) and the winter is uncomfortable (December to February) getting down to 0°C (32°F) in the evenings. Weather-wise, Autumn is mild.
Even on a normal day, it’s not uncommon to see higher wait times across the board on a weekday.
There’s no crowd calendar for Shanghai Disneyland, but in this section I’ll explain the best and worst times to visit so you can avoid the crowds and have ideal weather.
Best Times to Visit
Here’s when I believe are the best times to visit Shanghai Disneyland:
- March through May
- October and November
During these months you’ll have comfortable weather. While it’s a bit cooler in March, you’ll visit right after Chinese New Year and the crowds are on the lighter side. As for October, avoid the first week as this is National Day, but if you visit afterward the crowds are gone.
If you don’t mind the cold, then December and January are another good time to visit. The temperatures during this time get as low as 0°C (32°F).
For specific days during the week, I recommend Tuesday through Friday. On weekends and public holidays, Park tickets are more expensive compared to weekday tickets (more on that in the ticket section). Mondays are generally busier due to people who want to avoid paying the higher price for a weekend ticket.
Worst Times to Visit
You’re best to avoid both of these major holidays if you plan on visiting Shanghai Disneyland.
- Chinese New Year (January or February)
- July and August (School Holidays)
- National Day (First week of October)
Chinese New Year (sometimes called the Spring Festival) changes each year, but is usually in January or February. This is the most important celebration in China and is a family holiday. These means a lot of families visit Shanghai Disneyland during this time.
Summer holidays for most students are in July and August. Not only is the Park busy, it’s the hottest time of the year and is unpleasant. National Day is another week-long holiday in China and is in the first week of October.
As a reminder, always remember to check the public holiday calendar before you decide on exact dates.
Shanghai Disneyland offers seasonal events with limited-time food, decorations, character greetings, and entertainment. The only downside is, unlike Tokyo Disney Resort, the Park doesn’t announce event dates far in advance. It’s not uncommon to have an announcement a week or two before the event begins. It’s best to check our latest news closer to your trip.
Seasonal events typically include:
- Chinese New Year (January to the beginning of March)
- Springtime (March to June)
- Summer (June to the beginning of September)
- Halloween (End of September through October)
- Christmas (November to January 1)
Shanghai Disneyland offers both 1-day and 2-day Park tickets. There are two different tiers of tickets which vary in price — Standard (weekday only) and Peak (weekends and public holidays). Always check the official website for the current prices.
Here are a few options to buy your Shanghai Disneyland Park tickets:
- With your Disney Hotel reservation (easiest)
- Ticket booths on the same day (I don’t recommend this)
- Through the official Shanghai Disneyland App
- Discount Tickets through Klook
- Use our exclusive discount code KLKTDREX to save $4 USD off your first order
Keep in mind if you buy your tickets online, you’ll have to show your passport at the ticket gates on the first day (after that you won’t need to). However, if you buy your tickets with your Disney Hotel reservation, you won’t have to show your passport at the turnstiles (this is taken care of at the hotel).
If you’re visiting Shanghai Disneyland for more than 3 days on weekdays (non-holidays) then it’s worth considering the Seasonal Pass. These passes are good for unlimited entry for a span of a few months. These are offered at various times throughout the year, so it’s best to consult the official website.
There’s no annual pass option.
Shanghai Disney Resort offers two Disney Hotels — the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel (starts at about $260 USD per night) and the Toy Story Hotel (starts at about $135 USD per night). You’re able to book hotels 6 months in advance. Both hotels are fantastic and offer character greetings and restaurants.
If it’s within your budget, I recommend staying at either of these hotels. Getting to the Park from within the city isn’t the easiest and much like Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll want to get to the Park at least 30-60 minutes before it opens.
You’ll get a few perks by staying at the Disney Hotels:
- Guaranteed Park entry
- Free shuttles to/from the Park
- One additional FastPass
- 30-minute early entry
In my opinion, the 30-minute early entry is enough to justify spending extra on staying at one of the Disney Hotels. The main entrance into the Park is unpleasant, crowded, and takes anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes to get into the Park (depending on the crowds). You have to go through security first then through the ticket turnstiles before you’re even in the Park.
For hotel guest early entry, you go through the Disneytown entrance 30 minutes before the Park opens (you enter close to Tomorrowland). You’re able to begin reserving FastPasses (see our FastPass section for more) and knock out the bigger attractions quickly. I’ve done this a few times and now I won’t ever want to use the main entrance again.
The additional FastPass is given to you and your party for the following day. This only applies if you bought your tickets with your hotel room.
If you’re on a budget, then the Toy Story Hotel is a great option (not to mention your only option for a budget Disney Hotel). If you don’t mind being off property, then here a few recommendations:
- Courtyard By Marriott Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone
- The QUBE Hotel
- 20-minute taxi ride to the Resort from the city
The Courtyard is my top choice for an offsite hotel. It’s near Shanghai Disney Resort and offers a free shuttle to/from the Park. The only downside is, if you want to do anything in the city, you’ll have to take the free shuttle to the metro (it’s not walking distance).
Restaurants in Shanghai Disneyland Park and hotels are a mixture of Chinese, Western, and International cuisine. These restaurants range from buffets, table, and counter service. Disneytown (Shanghai’s version of Disney Springs or Downtown Disney) has a wide range of dining options, too, including a Starbucks.
You’ll also find a range of different snacks throughout the Park, including theme park staples such as popcorn, ice cream, waffles, and turkey legs (which garner long lines, oddly enough).
There are a few table service restaurants at Shanghai Disney Resort:
- Royal Banquet Hall (Character Dining inside the Enchanted Storybook Castle)
- Aurora (Shanghai Disneyland Hotel)
- Lumiére’s Kitchen (Shanghai Disneyland Hotel)
- Club 33 (Only members are able to make reservations)
One important note is the tap water in Shanghai is not suitable for drinking (brushing your teeth with tap water is okay). You’re given free bottles of water in your hotel room. The water stations inside the Park are safe for drinking. Also, you won’t find any Coke products; it’s all Pepsi products and Pepsi Max.
Here are my recommendations for the best places to eat:
- Pinocchio Village Kitchen (Pizza)
- Barbossa’s Bounty (BBQ ribs)
- Wandering Moon Restaurant (Chinese cuisine)
- Toy Box Café (Western options & cute desserts)
- Tangled Tavern (Western and Asian cuisine)
- Mickey & Pals Market Café
- Royal Banquet Hall
Both Tribal Table and Wandering Moon Restaurant offer a vegetarian option. I am not aware of any vegan-friendly options in the Park. If you have food allergies, most restaurants are able to accommodate. You’ll have to consult with each restaurant individually (there’ll be a Cast Member who speaks English in most cases).
- Remy’s Patisserie: Duffy and friends-shaped Panna Cotta (the flavours are just okay, but super cute)
- Remy’s Patisserie: Shanghainese Pork Bun (this is one of my favourites)
- Toy Box Café: Toy Story drinks with the collectible tumblers
- Toy Box Café: Lotso Bubble Waffle
- Il Paperino: Donald’s Waffle & Soft Serve
- Check restaurant menus through the official app or website
- Save on dining by getting a meal voucher through Klook
- Make a reservation at the Royal Banquet Hall ahead of time (use Skype)
- Guests take breaks in the quick service restaurants, even during off-peak dining hours (find a table first if you can)
- If a Cast Member doesn’t speak English, there are English menus you can point at
- The water stations inside restaurants are hot or warm water (use the fountains outside for cold)
- Outside food is not allowed
I also recommend getting food allergy cards (I haven’t used this service, but I did some research and read positive things). If you have severe allergies, then the information in this Reddit thread helps.
Attractions & FastPass
Shanghai Disneyland offers some of the best and most modern Disney attractions in the world. Without a doubt, these attractions are part of the main reason why you’re making the journey to Shanghai.
The best rides — in my opinion — include Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, TRON Lightcyle Power Run, and Camp Discovery.
A FastPass shortens your wait time for an attraction. You’ll have to make a FastPass reservation either through the official Shanghai Disneyland App or the dedicated kiosks around the Park. It’s included with your Park admission at no extra cost.
Knowing how to use the FastPass system and having a strategy can make or break your day. Read my field-tested FastPass strategy that explains everything you need to know, including what the best rides are.
Disney Premier Access
This is the paid FastPass option which allows you to gain access to the FastPass lines for certain attractions. If this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip or you don’t want to deal with long lines, then this is perfect. This article explains how to use the Disney Premier Access.
Entertainment & Fireworks
Shanghai Disneyland offers a variety of stage shows, character greetings, a daytime parade, and a nighttime spectacular — all of which is in Mandarin. Even with the language barrier, the stories are simple enough for you to get the idea most of the time. Here’s a list of my entertainment recommendations (you see now why I say you need at least 2 days at the Park):
- Ignite the Dream – A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light
- Mickey’s Storybook Express
- Tarzan: Call of the Jungle
- Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular
- Golden Fairytale Fanfare
The fireworks spectacular Ignite the Dream is a perfect way to end your day at the Park. This doesn’t rival Disney Dreams over at Disneyland Paris, but for their first fireworks show, it’s marvelous. I prefer watching the show from the end of Mickey Avenue and not from the Gardens of Imagination. The reason for this is the Gardens become intensely crowded and I find this unpleasant (you’re also told to sit).
Parades are a passion of mine and while Mickey’s Storybook Express is not the best parade, the music gets you moving. A standout feature of this parade is that Mulan makes an appearance as her warrior alternate ego, Ping, and comes in riding on her trusted companion, Khan. The parade route is long, so finding a decent spot to stand is easy.
Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular is an over-the-top stage show that is worth watching. Even though the entire show is in Mandarin, there’s enough action that you won’t notice you have no idea what anyone is saying.
The best way to describe Tarzan is, it’s a light version of a Cirque du Soleil show.
Then one of my favourites is the Golden Fairytale Fanfare in front of the Enchanted Storybook Castle, which is a stage show with gorgeous costumes, music, and appearances by quite a few Disney Characters.
Always check the official website for showtimes.
Shanghai Disneyland features quite a few character greetings throughout the Park, from Marvel and Star Wars characters to Duffy the Disney Bear. The greetings that are outside (mainly in Mickey Avenue) are quite popular and have long waits. It’s best to ask a Cast Member what time a character comes out.
Disneytown is Shanghai’s version of Downtown Disney or Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney Resort. It offers a variety of shopping and restaurants, including The World of Disney Store, Starbucks, and The Cheesecake Factory. Here, you’ll also find the newly debuted Beauty and the Beast Broadway show.
Here are tips and advice to make your time at Shanghai Disneyland less stressful and more enjoyable.
- Major credits cards are accepted in stores and restaurants (kiosks are cash)
- If you need cash, the ATMs in the Resort accept most foreign cards (check with your bank)
- Arrive at the Park at about 60 minutes before opening (if you aren’t staying at the Disney Hotels)
- Buy the Shanghai Disney Photo Pass in advance
- Having a Mandarin Phrasebook will help with communication issues (also great if you don’t have access to Google)
- Mandarin and English is spoken at Shanghai Disney Resort (Hotel Cast Members & Managers usually speak a level of English)
- The language barrier isn’t too much of an issue even though most Cast Members in the Park don’t speak English
Traveling to a foreign country comes with first-hand experiences in cultural differences. Here’s a list of a few you’ll notice during your visit:
- Portion sizes for food are similar to Western diets
- Queuing can feel disorderly at times, so be aware guests sometimes jump the queue (cut in line)
- It’s not uncommon for children to relieve themselves in public (with parental help)
- While there are smoking areas and signs indicating where smoking is not allowed, some guests may ignore these signs
- Unauthorized merchandise sellers exist in the Park. They likely won’t interact with you anyway, but always buy from the stores or official kiosks in the Park
When flying into Shanghai, you land either at the Pudong International Airport or Hongqiao International Airport. The easiest way to the Resort is by taking the EGO airport shuttle. This way you avoid the potential of being scammed by a taxi or getting a taxi driver that doesn’t know where Shanghai Disney Resort is, which may leave you stranded somewhere.
Another option is the Maglev or subway, which takes about an hour to get to the Resort after a few transfers.
To get back to the airport, ask the concierge to call you a taxi. They’ll make sure you get a legitimate taxi. Ask the concierge to write down how much the trip costs. This way there is less chance of a dispute if the taxi tries to overcharge you. A taxi ride from the Disney Hotels costs about $20 USD.
How to Access Blocked Websites
Using the Internet is troublesome in Mainland China, and Shanghai Disneyland is no exception. The Great Firewall of China, as it’s known, prevents websites, apps, and services such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, and a plethora of other sites from working while in the country. Even if you have a foreign phone, you are not exempt from this. However, iMessage and FaceTime work without any issues. If you need to communicate with others then download WeChat for iOS or Android (it’s the most popular messaging platform in China).
The Disney Hotels and Park have free wi-fi, but websites are blocked here, too. The official app does work on this wi-fi, however. To access blocked websites while on these wi-fi networks, you’ll need to install a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN and have used it while in China. Keep in mind that the wi-fi in the Park isn’t reliable and I don’t recommend relying on it.
If you’re with T-Mobile in the US, they offer an international roaming package (you’re able to access all your apps and websites). The only downside is it’s 2G, which means it’s incredibly slow and not ideal for sharing video and photos.
If you have an unlocked smartphone, there’s a simple way to have access to all your apps and websites. This 4G SIM Card works in both Hong Kong and Mainland China. I use this each time I visit Shanghai (that’s how I am able to post to Instagram while I’m there).
Before Your Trip
A simple list of things to do, read, or buy before your trip. This makes planning things so much smoother.
- Download the Official Shanghai Disneyland App and create your account
- Download the Metro App for iOS or Android to navigate the trains
- Save yourself money by getting discount Shanghai Disneyland park & meal tickets
- Buy this SIM Card to get around blocked websites & apps (Great Firewall of China)
- If you need a wi-fi device, I recommend this one (you’ll need to use a VPN to access most sites)
- If you plan on using a VPN, install it before you get to China
- Perfect your trip to Shanghai with the Lonely Planet Guide (I love using this for research)
- Read DisneyTouristBlog’s Shanghai Guide too (it’s always good to get other opinions)
- Budget about $50 USD (320 RMB) per day in cash (get this before you go from your bank)
- If doing the transit visa, make sure your full legal name is on your hotel reservations
- Print out all hotel and airline reservations
Pro Tip: You’re able to see the Shanghai Disneyland Park Map and ride wait times through the app. If you download ahead of time, you can study the map to become familiar with the Park and see wait time patterns.
Read and watch my firsthand experience at Shanghai Disneyland through my written trip reports and vlogs.
- Winter Trip Reports (Parts one, two, and three)
- VLOG: Christmas Trip Report (Parts one, two, and three)
- VLOG: Spring at Shanghai Disneyland (Part one and two)
Grand Opening 2016
I was fortunate enough to visit Shanghai Disneyland on its first official day on June 16, 2016. What an incredible experience that I won’t ever have the chance to do again. I’ve documented the entire adventure for you to read, watch, or listen:
- Initial Thoughts
- Grand Opening Trip Report (Part one, two, three, four)
- Grand Opening Podcast Episodes (full episode & FAQ episode)
- VLOG: Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening
Without a doubt, Shanghai Disneyland is a must visit for any theme park fan. There’s more than enough in the Park to justify making the journey to this side of the world. While the Park isn’t perfect and has its issues, it’s exciting to watch this park grow and evolve in the short time it’s been open.
I absolutely love this park and it holds a special place in my little Explorer heart. Once you visit, you’ll understand why.
Visiting China sounds intimidating and you may be hesitant about visiting. Let me assure you that by following all the advice listed here, you’ll be more than prepared when you make your trip happen! You’ll be happy you did, trust me.
Do you have any more tips and advice to add? Let us know in the comments!
If you found this guide useful, please share it on social media to get the word out. I’ve also included gorgeous images to pin to Pinterest.