Though we had been to and through Hong Kong more times than we could count, we have some favorite spots in the city that make any layover greater than four hours worth leaving the airport. We had never taken the time to visit Hong Kong Disneyland, but now traveling with a little one, it was time to check it out.
Our holiday travels around Asia would put us back into Hong Kong for 3 days and we decided to set one day aside to surprise our daughter Lucy, age 2 with a visit to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” If you have the day or just a few hours Hong Kong Disneyland is worth a visit, with or without children.
Getting to Hong Kong Disneyland
Located on Lantau Island (the same part of Hong Kong that contains the airport, the Big Buddha park, and Cable Cars), the MTR metro is the fastest and most economical way to get to the park. Changing for Disney station two stops short of the airport from Central Hong Kong leaves a short ten-minute extension to an otherwise 25-minute ride. The normal ride out to the airport takes just another ten minutes.
Transitioning to the Hong Kong line extension is a treat for excited guests and kids. The MTR train to the park is themed with Mickey Mouse ear windows, themed items and characters from Disney movies throughout the train.
The cost was the same as a normal day pass in Hong Kong and if paying cash (as opposed to using the Octopus card) runs about $23HKD from Kowloon or about $3 USD for an adult fare and $11.5 HKD or about $1.50 USD for children age 3-11 years.
If you are looking to travel by ferry to Disneyland, you’re in luck. You can also take the famous Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui station to Hong Kong Disneyland by taking the “World Star” Water Tour. These tours aboard the popular ferry provide a more scenic route to and from the park, with views the harbor, iconic landmarks and commentary provided in Mandarin, English, Japanese and Korean. It is important to note that the ferry runs only twice daily to and from the park with longer journey times and a cost of around $180 HKD ($23 USD).
If you have a layover for a few hours you might want to consider sneaking away if the weather looks good. Travel time via taxi from HKG to Hong Kong Disneyland is around 20 minutes, about the same on the train after transfers and waiting (though the distance is very short). If you are going to head to HK Disneyland over a layover, remember that in addition to entry customs to HKG you will also face exit customs on the way back to your flight.
Tickets and Prices
While prices had increased just before we arrived, we were still delighted to see that full price for adults was just $589 HKD/adult (or about $65 USD), $419 HKD/child (or about $54 USD), and $100HKD for senior citizens 65 and older (or about $13USD). There is also a dramatic discount for two-day ticket purchases, adults coming in at $759HKD/adult, $539HKD/child, and $170HKD/senior. The Hong Kong Dollar to US Dollar exchange rate is pegged at about $7.75HKD to $1 making this one of the only places whereby two days at Disney can be had at full price for adults at under $100USD total. With Lucy entering for free as she was just days under her third birthday we were ecstatic about the costs.
Check the website (HongKongDisneyland.com) for discounts and special offers at the park along with the resorts as we missed out on some by not knowing to look there first.
We requested our concierge secure our tickets in advance of our arrival to avoid standing in long lines to obtain them on the day of our arrival. However, the Conrad Hong Kong concierge stated that they would simply send someone to purchase the tickets on our behalf as they are not made available to hotels or vendors (as they are in other markets like the US), so we took our chances on waiting in line. We spent about 10 minutes in line and cashiers spoke Mandarin, Cantonese, and fluent English. We could have also purchased the tickets online though we were unaware of this prior to our arrival.
Pro Tip: Make certain to indicate that you want to pay in HKD if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction charges, we had to reverse our purchase out after we had not made it clear enough during the process of purchasing. We were glad we did because the exchange rate was terrible.
What a Day Looked Like with a Toddler
Lucy was asleep through the gates and still a little groggy through the first ride. She had no idea we were coming and no idea what Disneyland even was before we got there. This helped us to limit any expectations and just enjoy the day.
Surprisingly, she was able to ride more than we thought.
The park is manageable and little planning needs to be done in advance. There are no other parks to “hop” to and from and with just seven “lands” and 36 attractions (many of which she was tall enough to ride) it was an easy day filled with variety. Older visitors or Disney regulars may find the park limited, but for small families, the park is a welcome size.
My husband immediately downloaded the mobile app for the park which made exploring the park a lot easier with the interactive map. The app also gives descriptions and wait times for rides, and shows when and where characters will be inside the park. I highly recommend downloading the app and taking advantage of its many features.
Going into this day with very little planning and a two-year-old, we thought it was unlikely our day at Disney would last more than a few hours, but we were wrong. Once Lucy fully grasped what this magical place was all about, she was ready to see and do it all. We did our best to visit each “land” at least once and we ended up making a full day of the park. After riding multiple rides, meeting some characters, watching the Jedi training and Mickey’s PhilharMagic show, Lucy was spent and started nodding off to sleep as we headed for the gates near closing time, but just as we turned to go, The Electric Parade started down Main Street and Lucy quickly came back to life watching in total awe, mesmerized by the bright lights and upbeat music.
Overall Impression for Lucy and Parents
Lucy loved the park once she warmed up to it. She had so many favorite rides and it seemed that it varied more on what we most recently rode rather than an overarching winner. Now weeks later, Lucy still mentions “Darth Vader” who she witnessed training young Jedis from an audience slightly bigger than she was, or shooting lasers with Buzz Lightyear.
For the two of us, it was a different experience. The pressure came not from trying to move from one park to the other or worrying about seeing and doing everything, but rather making sure it was perfect for Lucy. One area that was particularly stressful was the meeting of characters Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen. We tried to find them all day but hadn’t used the correct tabs on the Disney Hong Kong app and once we did locate them we had just minutes to reach them. Despite racing through the park (pushing down old ladies along the way) in a nearly cinematic manner, the rope was pulled to limit the last person in line to see the characters… behind the people directly in front of us.
Lucy sat on her daddy’s shoulders watching her heroines talking to other kids and taking pictures. Say what you want, but I had a tough time with this. “Why do the other kids get to see Elsa and Anna” our heartbroken child quietly asked my husband while tears streak down my face. My husband secured his sunglasses firmly over his eyes when she asked, “Can I go over there” and he choked through a “No”.
But he had a plan. He waited it out, chatted up the Mousketeer attending to the line and when they were done taking pictures and hugging all of the other kids, he stood directly on their path out of the area. He wasn’t obtrusive, but he was determined. It worked. Elsa and Anna stopped by, took pictures and communicated with our daughter even mentioning that they noticed her patiently waiting and it made her day. For us, it was a huge relief to know that we hadn’t completely ruined the day and broken our tiny daughter’s feeble heart – but it was a close call.
Aside from the pressure that is felt trying to ensure that your child has a memorable and enchanted experience, it is almost impossible even as an adult to not to immediately feel all those magical feelings that only a place like Disneyland can really give you.
Take a Day to Do Hong Kong Disneyland
This was our first Disney park with our daughter though my husband and I have been to a few other parks. It was fitting that our daughter, Lucy, had her first Disney experience out of the country given that she has now been to more foreign countries (22) than US states.
Hong Kong is a small park perfect for young kids and adults that are not looking to spend a week vacation based around theme parks. It is an excellent escape for those who might be in town for business that can head out to Lantau for a big change of pace on a sunny weekend day.
Shanghai Disney just opened and is drawing a ton of traffic away from Hong Kong. This is because many mainlanders had previously gone to HK Disney, but also because the park is three times the size of HK Disney and brand new. It is certainly on our list for the next summer trip we take to China.
Tokyo Disney and Disney Paris are also on the list of international Disney destinations, but before we head to those we will most likely make our way to the US parks. I am already mentally preparing for longer lines, bigger crowds and a toddler meltdown, but maybe I will be wrong.
Which Disney theme park is your favorite to visit?