I Finally Broke Down and Went to Shanghai Disneyland

Disneyland. Ugh. What place on earth better represents the soulless void of American consumer capitalism? Maybe Walt Disney himself wasn’t actually a Nazi sympathizer, but he was anti-union and virulently anti-communist. I figured since I’m living in Communist China, I might as well go visit Shanghai Disneyland.

Cold Winter at Shanghai Disneyland

Winter seemed like the most appropriate time to visit Shanghai Disneyland. Maybe it was the cloudy grey weather or the chilling wind. Or maybe… there were absolutely zero crowds, a rarity in China.

Princess Tower at Shanghai Disneyland

Some of my students told me that they waited two hours or longer to go on rides when they visited Disneyland in the summer. Those poor misguided eight-year-old fools. The best time by far to visit Shanghai Disneyland is in the dead of winter.

We waited in exactly one line. And the whole thing took about fifteen minutes for us to get to the front. Most of that time was wandering through the maze of barricades that were still up to stop the summer crowds. While some people go to Disneyland over multiple days and still don’t see everything, we were able to ride every ride we wanted to in the space of an afternoon.

It’s true that Shanghai Disneyland is a lot smaller than some other Disneylands out there. Still, you’ve got your big hitters like Main Street U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Adventure Island, and the big pink fiberglass princess castle.

We didn’t see any shows or parades. I’m not sure if the schedule was reduced due to COVID-19 controls, or maybe we just missed them. I’m not upset. I just went on rides, and I’m man enough to admit that the rides were actually really fun.

Okay, I’ll admit it. It was fun.

Winnie the Pooh capers at Shanghai Disneyland in China

One of this blog’s themes is that I’m trying to be less of a cynical bastard. I don’t know how well that’s coming across in this particular post, but it’s true. Unfortunately, it’s hard for me not to be a cynical bastard when it comes to the corporate behemoth that is Disney.

But I actually managed to enjoy myself at Shanghai Disneyland. And I like to think I kept my snarky comments to a minimum.

For one cloudy afternoon, I (mostly) forgot about the Disney corporation’s lumbering monopolization of culture and had some fun. Some attractions were better than others. The princess tower, for example, was cool to look at but pretty stupid inside.

On the other hand, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was actually awesome. Despite the terrifying vaguely Johnny Depp-looking animatronics, it was pretty cool to imagine I was riding on a magical pirate ship.

The Winnie the Pooh ride was also cool. Yes, there is a fully legal Winnie the Pooh ride operating in China. I have many fond memories of watching the original Winnie the Pooh movie, as well as the TV spinoff “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” The ride itself was probably objectively more fun if you’re four. My inner four-year-old still enjoyed it.

Finally, can we talk about the Tron ride? I’ve been dying to talk about the Tron ride. It’s located in Tomorrowland, which looks just like an everyday Chinese shopping mall and not very futuristic at all. The ride is located past some corporate branding, down a long tube full of cyber-punk blue lights. You squat down on a plastic motorcycle, then whip around and spin upside down and it’s over in like a minute.

It was probably one of the best roller coasters I’ve ever been on. Although, I think I’m getting too old for that sort of thing because it left me with a pretty sore neck and back.

Tron Ride at Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland is Worth Going to If You Don’t Have Anything Else Going On

Despite the aching neck, I have to admit I had a pretty good time at Shanghai Disneyland. Maybe the magic of Disney cracked through the hard shell of my cynicism. Or maybe it was just the spiced wine I had before going in.

Regular tickets are only 435 RMB, which is like $67 US dollars. The food inside the park was pretty overpriced and awful, but there are restaurants in nearby Disneytown, and you can even bring in your own food.

There are probably a million more interesting things to do in Shanghai, but if you’ve got kids, or even if you just want a cheaper, alternative Disneyland to Florida and California, Shanghai Disneyland might be worth a visit.


So, although I’m still very opposed to the corporate concentration of media ownership, goddamn it, it was fun to go on some rides and relive some fond childhood memories for an afternoon.

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