Earlier this month we visited the brand new Shanghai Disney Resort for the first time. We spent three days at the park, plus an extra evening at Disneytown and in the city. You can read about our arrival experience at the airport, using the taxi to the resort, and visiting the city itself, here on my Two Lost Boys blog. There's lots of useful information, so be sure to check it out!
With that said, let's dive into part one of my report on the new resort. In this first part I'll be sharing our experiences of the hotels, Disneytown, general impressions of the resort area and the character dining we did at one of the hotels.
We stayed for four nights at the Toy Story Hotel, on site. The only other hotel currently on site is the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.
On my Two Lost Boys blog I talked briefly about arriving by taxi, and so I want to now expand upon my experience and thoughts on that.
Driving around the outside of the resort, around the surrounding support roads, etc, was interesting and surreal. There are very few signs (literally and figuratively) to indicate that you are about to enter this massive self enclosed world that contains a theme park, shopping and entertainment district and two large hotels. In fact, you could probably blink and miss the main entrance. Everything about the approach to the resort is very subtle and discreet. It's like for some reason they are trying not to make a big deal out of it.
Entering the resort proper, again, was pretty surreal. Everything seemed very flat and gray, and without much fanfare. There are random buildings that break up the otherwise bleak landscape, but they are not Disney related, at least that we could tell.
Pulling into the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel (our taxi driver had no clue where he was going and spoke no English, so despite the fact we were staying at the Toy Story Hotel, at this point we were lucky to even be at Disney!) we continued to be amazed at how flat and bleak everything seemed. The photo below is the view from the front entrance of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, towards some of the random buildings I mentioned above.
While we waited for the shuttle to take us to the Toy Story we spoke to the attendants at the bus stop, and they seemed to be really enthusiastic about being part of this new Disney venture. I also took a photo of the outside of the building and the Mickey and Minnie statue at the entrance. It struck me how small the hotel is, and when we asked one of the cast members, they informed us the hotel had little over 400 rooms.
So we waited for the bus, and a short while later we were at the Toy Story Hotel. The busses are nice, but not to the level of theming that Tokyo Disney Resort has (but definitely no less in detail than the busses from the other parks around the world).
Again, arriving at this hotel was an interesting experience. The hotel sits on a main road with zero attempt at hiding the surroundings. There is an iron fence around the outside and little in the way of greenery and protection from the outside world. Sure, there are grass verges, but not to the level of detailed green spaces we expect from Disney. The hotel itself could be mistaken for an office building, if it wasn't for the faux white clouds dotted across its glass facade.
Stepping into the Toy Story Hotel lobby I felt a little more relaxed and at home. It started to feel like Disney at last! The bright colours and familiar character themes were apparent and eased my nerves somewhat.
Check in was easy enough, and we were taken to our room by a friendly porter.
The room was, again, colourful and themed, and felt like the Disney that we all know and love. There was a safe for your valuables, a fridge, drinks making facilities, stationery, shower soaps, and even slippers. You will notice in the photos below bottles of water in the bathroom and main bedroom. It is apparently advisable to people not used to the Chinese water to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water throughout your stay, to avoid any upset stomachs. The water bottles are replenished daily for free, so don’t hold back!
Opening the curtains we discovered that our “garden” view room actually looked towards the park, which was pretty cool and exciting. Garden view was a stretch of the imagination though, and what you can't see in this photo is the derelict looking parking lot to the immediate left. The park view was odd since it pretty much was a view straight into the back of Tomorrowland. As I said above, everything here is so spartan; they don't even attempt to hide backstage. It's all just laid bare!
Around the rest of the hotel, over the course of our four days, we checked out the shop and the two restaurants. The food wasn't bad at either dining location, with a good selection for everyone, from pastries to hotel food, and at reasonable prices.
The hotel also offers meet and greets with Woody and Jessie at select time throughout the day. We found them on our first day, which was pretty cool.
The courtyard where Woody and Jessie meet is strange, though, because like with everything else, it is pretty bare, and looks out onto a rather uninspired industrial complex. I’m not sure if this building is going to be taken down, but a few tall trees would have easily covered at least part of it.
To get from the hotel to the park or other resort areas, you can walk or take the shuttle bus from the front entrance. We tried it both ways, and found that both were just as sufficient. The walk is interesting because you get to see some slightly different points of view, including walking over a raised walkway lined with character banners that had a fairly good view into the park.
Throughout the course of our trip we made multiple stops into Disneytown which is adjacent to the park. Early in the morning Starbucks offers its usual coffee and pastries, and later in the day and evening the shops and restaurants of the little district provide some extended hours fun.
As with everything here, my first impression was that Disneytown was a little on the lacking side. The entrance is somewhat uninspired, and the esplanade area in front that stretches to the park itself is fairly bleak, but it grows on you. Once you delve into the little streets of Disneytown you actually find that it has a charm all of its own, and is actually really nice. There are several Disney owned stores, such as the World of Disney, D Street and Spoonful of Sugar. There is also an awesome LEGO Store filled with incredible Disney displays, an art gallery and a Build a Bear Workshop that has exclusive Shanghai Disney Resort items.
The World of Disney is my second favourite that currently exists, after the Disneyland Paris one. The Florida and California versions are chaotic and dated, while the Paris and Shanghai ones have a really good flow to them, and while their designs are different from one another, they feel similar, too. The World of Disney here has a distinct Steampunk theme to it, and even includes a lot of posters from other such steam related attractions from the Disney Parks around the world.
Cheesecake Factory has set up business here, and while we didn’t eat there, it looked like it offered a fair amount of American items for those who are feeling less adventurous with the Chinese cuisine.
There is also a theatre that currently houses the Chinese version of The Lion King. The theatre is fairly small and through the daytime plays Mickey Mouse cartoons to park guests, since it is also accessible via Mickey Avenue inside the park.
Next to the theatre is a Disneytown entrance to the theme park, which again, is a little strange. It is so open and looks directly onto one of the main walkways through the park. Next to the entrance gates is a door that has “33” on it. I am curious to the significance of that in this new park (meaning I know its significance in California and Tokyo). Does anyone know?
Back down to the esplanade and in front of the park the Steamboat Willie fountain breaks up the flat gray concourse, though it is not nearly as pretty as the whale fountain at Hong Kong Disneyland, and nowhere near the level of beatification that adorns Fantasia Gardens at the entrance to Disneyland Paris.
We wouldn't be dedicated fans if we didn't also pay a visit to the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. We actually had a dining reservation for there one evening, to eat at Lumiere’s - their character dining buffet venue.
Before I talk about the character dining experience, let's take a look around the hotel. There was of course a store, a bar and another dining location that was more of a quick service place. All had a classy feel to them, but definitely more relaxed than say the Grand Floridian.
The outdoor terrace, which can be accessed from various points on the main hotel floor, provide a spectacular overview of Shanghai Disneyland.
I mentioned earlier about the random buildings facing the front entrance of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. For reference I'll show you again here. It's definitely odd to see such a jarring positioning of the hotel in relation to other things.
Over all I like say it's definitely a pretty hotel, and probably a little less bleak looking than the Toy Story Hotel, but it still wasn't quite same standard as the other "Disneyland Hotels" of the world. Of course, we didn’t stay in a room here, so I unfortunately cannot comment on that part. Next time!
Finally we come to the character dining at Lumiere’s Kitchen. Lumiere's is a really nice restaurant. The main food wasn't great (especially since we are vegetarian), sadly, but the desserts were fabulous and the character interactions and cast members were incredible. The really sad part is that the restaurant was empty. Completely empty. At one point I counted no less than 27 cast members, and just us three sitting there with the four characters! Twenty seven! I have a feeling there will be budget cuts and schedule changes at this restaurant in the near future because that surely has to be unsustainable, but at least we had a blast!
So we have come to the end of part one, and so far you're probably thinking that this place doesn’t sound all too appealing, and from a first impressions point of view you would be right in assuming that was my initial opinion. However, Shanghai Disney Resort has a hidden charm to it that I hope you'll discover through my writing and photos, for after all, appearances can be deceiving.
In part two we finally step into the park and take a look around Mickey Avenue!
Have a great day everyone,