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Hong Kong Disneyland: Best Rides For Toddlers

After moving to Hong Kong, we had a little New Orleans style celebration and invited some of my husband’s work mates for some red beans and rice.   Quite of few of these were families with kids.   At some point during the festivities, I was talking with one of the other mom’s and she asked me if I thought that Hong Kong Disneyland was worth the effort with a 2 year old.  She asked me this because, after 3 months in Hong Kong we had already been to Disneyland 5 or 6 times.   But that aside, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard this question…or the statement that Disneyland is not for young kids.  For most Disneyland’s around the world, this would be inaccurate.  But as it pertains to Disneyland Hong Kong, it is laughably inaccurate. More than any other Disney resort our family has been to, which includes all of them except Disney Tokyo, Disneyland Hong Kong caters to younger children.   Of the 14 different rides that a toddler can go on, 12 are rides that most will be able to go on with very little stress and minimal likelihood of nightmares.   The others I will explain a bit later.    There are also 2 shows that are like theatre productions and 2 interactive type shows.   Of these 4, 2 are completely OK for the toddler crowd.  This is a very high percentage of activities that are toddler friendly in any environment.   I might actually argue that the primary customer group for Disneyland Hong Kong seems to be toddlers and pre-schoolers.  So, in answer to the initial question, yes it is worth it to take a toddler. 

Not only can you do take them, you can also have a great time in the process.    But it takes a certain amount of “knowing the ropes” and planning…as well as an adjustment in expectations on the part of the parents.  I good starting point is knowing what rides are OK for toddlers and which ones you might to avoid, or at least preview before you take your kids.  So, I thought I might share some of my hard earned knowledge so that others might take the plunge.    In this post, I will only tackle the rides that don’t have height restrictions which would preclude toddlers.  I also won’t deal with shows or additional attractions.  It will just make it WAAAYYY to long.  Perhaps I will get to that in an upcoming post…or an app, who knows? But in an effort to make things yet even more streamline, I will also break the rides down by land.  Some lands have more toddler friendly than others.    

*  A note on the ratings.  I gave 1 to 5 stars to make it easy.  The ratings are on a 1 to 5 scale.  1 star means “don’t even think about it, unless you want significant whining at the least and later psychiatric counseling at the worst”.  5 stars mean “don’t even think about NOT doing it”.  

Fantasyland

Fantasyland is the Holy Grail for the toddler set  There are 6 actual rides here: Disneyland Railroad, Dumbo, Cinderella’s Carousel, Mad Hatter’s Teacups, It’s a Small World, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  All but one of these are completely appropriate, if not designed specifically, for those still in diapers.  There are a few other things that are on their map that I would classify as “Attractions”.  These include: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Fantasy Gardens, and Snow White’s Grotto.   Two are character interaction spots, and the other is just a walk through.    The one big downside of Fantasyland is the lack of shade.  You will need to plan a heat minimization strategy based on which rides are indoors and cool versus outdoors and miserably hot.

 

 

 

 

The “Rides”:


1) Disneyland Railroad- Fantasyland Station:  This station is located directly behind Cinderella’s Carousel and between Dumbo and Fantasy Gardens.  DO NOT really think of this as transportation unless you are just trying to get back to the Main Entrance and there is no line.  It is important to note that the train DOES NOT take you all the way around the park.  You will be forced to  get off at the Main Street station.  It also doesn’t make any other stops.  While you are on, there is a narration that talks about the different lands that is fairly interesting,  but it will not really interest your children unless your kid is a train buff.  The train itself is shaded but not air conditioned.  It also tends to be a bit cramped.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers**

Preschoolers **

Grade-schoolers **

 

2) Dumbo the Flying Elephant: This one is such a historic Disney ride that you really have to go on it once.  Even if I specifically told you NOT to go, you’d have to go.  But it is worth doing once, and if you have young ones are likely to demand it anyway, unless you can strategically steer them away from it or bribe them with Orbitron instead.  Here in HK Disneyland, try it first thing in the morning or later evening.  It will be cooler then and you have a shot at shorter lines.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers *****

Preschoolers ****

Grade-schoolers **

 

3) It’s a Small World: This is 10 to 15 minutes of bliss if you are tired.  Plus, the line is inside and it is cool, which is heaven in the summer months.  The ride itself is a boat ride through a serious of dolls representing different countries and all singing “it’s a small world”.  A fun game to play here is to try to find the Disney characters that have been hidden in amidst the displays.  You can find Aladdin and Jasmine in the Middle East section, etc etc.  My kids both love it and have continued to love it.  I love it because it is 15 minutes of calm.  The downside is that your youngest children WILL learn the words and they WILL sing it…incessantly. 

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers *****

Preschoolers *****

Grade-schoolers ****

 

4) Cinderella’s Carousel:  This is a carousel, and a pretty good one, all things considered.  It is also smack in the middle of Fantasyland, so it will be hard to avoid even if you try..  This is a good choice when the queue times are crazy elsewhere because the line here moves fairly fast. Once again, the early morning is probably a better time for this, as it is outside and you want to avoid the heat.   It is also good choice for your littlest ones,  particularly when your 18 month old starts gunning for a “best child actor in a domestic tragedy” award.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers ****

Preschoolers ***

Grade-schoolers **

 

5) Mad Hatter’s Teacups: This actually seems to be a bit boring for the younger crowd.  They are too short to see around them very well, so they don’t get the “dizzying high” of the spinning part of it.  Plus, it is fairly hard to spin and doesn’t go that fast.  There are also usually long-ish lines.  I’d say that a 3 year old will probably like it, but not so much for the 2’s.  Your grade-schooler could have a  grand time here, though…particularly if they are with friends.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers **

Preschoolers ***

Grade-schoolers ****

 

6) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: This is another ride that seems almost completely designed for the diaper brigade.  It is based on the story “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day”, and if your child can deal with that story, he or she should be able to deal with this ride.   Once on the ride, everyone gets into honey pots which run on a track.  This takes you through various scenes from the book including a windy area, a “Heffalumps and Woozles” area, a bouncy area with Tigger and a rainstorm area.   All if this is fairly gentle and should be OK for all kids but the most sensitive.   My youngest loved it at first, but has grown tired of it as he has aged.    This is really the bread and butter for age 2.5 and below.   This is also the only ride in Fantasyland that has a Fastpass….use it!  This is a popular ride and the lines here are really long.  So, unless you can walk straight on the ride, use the Fast Pass system. 

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: Y

Ratings:

Toddlers *****

Preschoolers ****

Grade-schoolers **

 

Tomorrowland:

An interesting aspect of Hong Kong Disneyland is that there is a dearth of Fastpass rides, there are only three in the whole park.  Two of those are in Tomorrowland, however only one is applicable to toddlers.  (The other Fastpass is for Winnie the Pooh in Fantasyland).  However, if you have a toddler and a grade-schooler, you could conceivably go from one Fastpass ride to the other, either using baby switch or by having one parent (I suggest Dad) take your toddler to the U.F.O zone while you ride with your grade-schooler.   But how can this be done? you say.  I can only have one Fastpass per person running at a time.  Ah, not so if you have an annual pass…but I will deal with that in a coming post.  But I digress.  Tomorrowland has 3 rides that are most likely appropriate for toddlers.  The other positive of this area is the ease of getting a western styled meal here (but more on that in later posts as well). 

 

 

 

7) Autopia: This is cars that you drive on tracks.  There is a height restriction of 81 cm to ride but that is not what makes it bad.  This one has some of the worst lines I have seen, short of Big Grizzly Mountain.   As the payoff for BGM is so great, I am willing to wait in the god awful line with Lucas, my oldest.  I am not, however, willing to wait in a line that long for a ride that is, quite frankly, largely outdated.  While the cars here run seem to be electric and run much MUCH better than the once in Disneyland Paris, it’s still just a car ride.  This is not too exciting for kids who ride in actual cars, unless they are “driving”.  But to “drive” on the ride, you have to be 137 cm.  By this time, children from some countries may actually be driving real cars. OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration but not by much.  I will say that this is quite fun for kids who aren’t allowed to “drive”.  The first time we went on this, I didn’t read the sign correctly and therefore let Seb sit in the driver’s seat.  He had just turned 3.  To say he “drove” is a euphemism at best.  Mainly he crashed the car between the metal rails all the way down the track.  Both of us were in tears of laughter by the time we made it to the end.  I don’t think the cast members were too happy, as we got the “evil eye” from a few of them.  But, in our defense, we didn’t know better and no one stopped us.  And this is also the only time my kids have enjoyed this ride.  In general, it is more on par with what you would find at a beachside carnival.  This is fine for the beach but not up to Disney standards.  The caveat on this is if your child is a “car freak”.  Some of my friends have boys who simply MUST go on this ride..so be prepared if your kid has this particular addiction and schedule it as soon in the day as you can.  For reasons that are completely unfathomable to me, you are likely to have a long wait for this one!!

Height Restrictions: Y

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers **

Preschoolers ***

Grade-schoolers ***

 

8) Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast: I was surprised that my son liked this when he was 2 years old.  I was also a bit surprised that there were not age or height restrictions.  To me it seems way too loud, too noisy and too bright.  However, a lot of little ones, as well as the older kids, seem to love it. It is a “car” type ride where you shoot “lasers” at Emperor Zurg and his minions.   You get points for every time you hit a target.  It’s fun but I am very disturbed by the fact that my oldest always gets better scores than me.  Actually, my baby got a better score than me once.  I don’t want to ponder that one too long. At any rate, another plus of this is that it has a Fastpass.  Use it!  A little trick, make sure to shoot at the targets in the dark tunnel part. 

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: Y

Ratings:

Toddlers ***

Preschoolers *****

Grade-schoolers *****

 

9) Orbitron: Think Dumbo but with spaceships and planets.  Little ones love this and it is pretty  much perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.   The problem is that the line tends to be awful, as it is one of the few rides in Discoveryland that is accessible to toddlers and is a bit more exciting for the slightly older ones, as it is spaceships and all.  You should go, but go either at the beginning or end of the day.  And be prepared for the “I want to go again” meltdown from the youngest members of your family.  Also, as it is outdoors with a line that is completely outdoors, try to go on this during the cooler parts of the day. 

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers *****

Preschoolers *****

Grade-schoolers **

 

Toy Story Playland

10) Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin:  This is a favorite for younger kids!  It is basically one of those spinning circular rides that is a bit similar to the “Himalaya” ride you find at carnivals.  It is set up to look like Slinky Dog is chasing his tail round and round a giant dog food bowl. There is no height restriction on this ride and toddlers love it.  So much so that you might have that other conundrum…how to drag screaming child off ride he or she loves.  You should also aware that the line for this one can be long most of the time, but on weekdays and early in the morning you can have a shot at getting on quickly.  As the waiting area is fairly hot, morning is better anyway.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers *****

Preschoolers *****

Grade-schoolers ***

 

11) Toy Soldier Parachute Drop:  This one can be a bit deceptive if you have a kid who is tall for his age.  It is a drop ride, and it is more intense than it looks.  To benchmark, some adults scream on this one.  So even though the height requirement is only 81 cm, it is probably ill advised for kids under 4, unless you have previous proof that they are adrenaline junkies.  Even older kids could have a problem.  My almost 4 year old went on it, and was completely petrified.  It seems he is afraid of heights, like Mom.   My oldest had no problem with it, even when he was 3.  So this is all about your child’s proclivity toward fear of heights.   Know this BEFORE you put your kid on the ride, or you will feel like you are torturing your child when he starts crying mid ride and you can’t stop it.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers *

Preschoolers ***

Grade-schoolers ****

 

There is also something called “Barrel of Fun” here.  It’s really just a photo op place where you occasionally see characters.  It’s a good photo op, no doubt, but nothing more. 

Grizzly Gulch

Grizzly Gulch is the Hong Kong Disneyland version Frontierland or Critter Country. It is designed to look like an abandoned mining town set in the desert Southwest. The major landmark is Grizzly Peak, which rises above the town. Disney has also created a mythology around their newest land.  Grizzly Gulch was supposedly founded August 8, 1888 — the luckiest day of the luckiest month of the luckiest year — by prospectors looking to discover gold.   It doesn’t seem likely to be a coincidence that they chose to open this land in the Year of the Dragon.   Grizzly Gulch is also inhabited by Grizzly Bears, not a big stretch given the name.  However, it seems that the bears, who you see in character interactions in the Runaway Mine cars, are potentially the characters from Brother Bear.  To be honest, I would never have made this connection, but my 6 year old did…with lightening acuity.    Mickey and Minnie also make appearances in their western attire.  As this is their “new” land, it’s traffic patterns seem a bit unpredictable.  Some mornings, no one will be there.  Some mornings, it’s packed.  I have yet to really understand the trend.  I’ll update on this when I get a clue.

However, there are NO rides for younger kids in this area.  Big Grizzly Mountain is for grade-schoolers.  There IS a great water play area called Geyser Gulch BUT you will have to avoid the attractive nuisance of the coaster.  Your little ones will see the coaster as it goes all around the land.  If they don’t get upset about not being able to ride things,  you are golden.  If they do, then you should be prepared with a distraction strategy.

Adventureland:

Adventureland lies just to the left when you come to the end of Main Street U.S.A.  It is different from every other “land” in that it is lush and green and shaded…at least in places.   This makes it a good choice of destination for the hotter times of the day, if you must be in the park at those times.  The downside is that there is really only 2 real attractions here that are toddler friendly.   However, there is a little area just past Jungle River Cruise and just across from Liki Tikis that is great and isn’t even on the map.  It is a spot where there are displays of a variety of African instruments…and it is interactive.  Kids can play on them and with them.  And it is shaded.  My kids have spent up to 15 minutes here just messing around.  It is much more of an attraction than the raft, and yet it is not mentioned on the map.  But keep this one in mind during the heat of the day.  The shade and proximity to Liki Tikis makes it a find.

 

The Rides:

12) Jungle River Cruise: I know this is a Disney classic, and it is at ALL the Disneyland parks with the exception of Disneyland Paris, but I still it is a weird ride.  Even though there is no height restriction, it is really NOT for younger kids.  Why?  In all Disneyland parks there seems to be some version of this.  It’s a ride where things blow, or catch fire, or pygmies shoot poison darts at you.  I think it is a sign of the times during which the first one of these was created.  Cartoons were generally more violent then.  People thought it was the height of humor to see someone getting hit over the head with a 2 x 4.   Maybe this sort of ride was designed to toughen kids up.  I don’t know.  But it seems a bit out of place and inappropriate now.  What happens? Well, you go on a cruise,  you start by seeing some animals like elephants and crocs.  Ok, all good up to this point.  You may get slightly splashed.  Still good.  Then you enter an area where there are pygmies who shoot poison darts at you.  Less good.  Maybe younger one’s don’t get that bit, but there are still scary snakes here.  At the end, you head toward a narrowing of the river, and suddenly something apparently volcanic blows up on your right and catches fire.  Not even remotely good.  On every boat I have been on, younger kids are always crying at this point.  Grade-schoolers might like this, but to be honest, by age 8 or so they will probably find it boring.  So the big takeaway is that it is NOT for younger kids.  If toddler is particularly tough, feel free to take your chances but odds are against you here.  You have been forewarned.  

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers *

Preschoolers **

Grade-schoolers ***

 

13) Rafts to Tarzan’s Tree house:  This really isn’t a ride, per se.  It’s a form of transportation.  It’s a bit much to call it an “attraction” as it’s not all that attractive.   You wait in a long, hot, line to get on a raft.  After lots of turning and pushing, the raft then takes you all the way to the other side of the river.  Wow.  OK, they make some effort to have a little to have a hut for “Terk” on the raft.  But this is really just a form of transportation to Tarzan’s  Tree House and not much more.

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers ***

Preschoolers ***

Grade-schoolers ***

 

14) Tarzan’s Tree house:  This is a fantastic attraction, if not technically a “ride”.  It is designed to be what it says it is…Tarzan’s tree house.  But there is so much more to it.  As you climb the tree house, you are told the story of Tarzan via pages on a book and displays.  Some of the displays are even interactive.  For those with very young children, you should note that there is one display which shows the jaguar which is a bit scary, but it is easy to just move your child quickly through this.  There are places to bang on things.  There are ropes that make jungle sounds when you pull them.  This is one of those attractions where one finds something new each time one goes.  The caveat is that there is A LOT of climbing.  You aren’t forced to climb, though.  You can choose to wait at the bottom and play with the musical pots and pans.  But if your toddler wants to go up, you will likely have to carry them at some point.  There is also a rope bridge that you may need to carry them across.  It is also not stroller friendly, so be aware of this as well.  But if your children are portable (e.g. Baby Bjorn) or if they are old enough to climb a few stairs, or is happy to stay downstairs,  this could be big fun. 

Height Restrictions: N

Fastpass: N

Ratings:

Toddlers ***

Preschoolers **

Grade-schoolers ****

 

And there you have it.  Whew, that was longer than I thought it would be, but hopefully it will be of some interest to those out there considering taking the plunge. 

 

Feel free to chime in with tips and tricks you’ve learned..mom to mom!

 

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