If you're heading east with the family, definitely don't miss a day at Hong Kong Disneyland. Though the year-old park has had its share of bad press in the region -- from rants about too few attractions to crowding -- on a recent trip, I was hard-pressed to discover the truth behind the gripes. We absolutely loved it.

Granted, we're not theme park fanatics, so we enjoyed the park at face value and didn't split hairs comparing minute details against Disney's other four parks in Orlando, Anaheim, Tokyo and Paris. Also, our kids are young and Hong Kong Disney is ideal for kids starting from about 4-years-old running up to 10. The park is realatively small, so you can see the whole place in a day without feeling overwhelmed. The attractions and rides are geared mostly to a younger set and, overall, the experience was wholesome, nostalgic and very appealing to this parent of twin four-year-old boys.

We were thrilled that on our non-holiday Tuesday visit in October, there were no crowds. We didn't have to wait in line for more then 5 minutes for anything accept pictures with the characters, and even then it was never more than 10 or 15 minutes. If you avoid weekends and school holidays, you can avoid the throngs. Though there is talk about building a second adjacent Disney theme park in Hong Kong at some point, for now the one park is a very manageable size.

Another plus: the price. The entrance fee is about half that of Disney's Orlando park, for instance.

What's not to love?

Hong Kong Disney has four themed sections (listed below), and you can explore them in one or two days, tops, unless you're one of those hardcore Disney-philes who just can't get enough. Like all the other Disney parks, you'll find restaurants, plenty of shopping opportunities, roving musicians and magicians, and a train tram that encircles the park.

  • Mainstreet, USA: Mirrors the one at Disneyland in California, including the Sleeping Beauty Castle, train stations and row of buildings.
  • Fantasyland: We spent the most time here. Our kids loved the 3-D Mickey and Donald Duck show and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (a ride in whimsical "hunny" pots for a storybook-like journey through the Hundred Acre Wood). The Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride was a big hit with the kids; a joystick allows riders to move the elephants up and down as they fly. Another popular treat for young children is the cup ride based on the Disney movie Alice in Wonderland. The characters were also on hand here for photo ops, including Mickey, Winnie, Goofy and the rest.
  • Tomorrowland: My boys gave the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride a big thumbs-up due to those fun laser guns. The electric battery-operated sports cars at Autopia were among the most popular attractions at the park.
  • Adventureland: A large island area, here you'll find Tarzan's Treehouse, the Jungle Cruise and the Festival of the Lion King Show.
  • Disney on Parade: Not an area obviously, but this parade takes place daily around 4pm. Grab a spot along the designated route -- between Fantasyland and Main Street, USA -- and enjoy a procession of elaborate floats, dancers, singers, and Disney characters. If you're staying late, there's a fireworks display set to classic Disney songs.

Fast Facts

  • Cost: Normal weekday prices are $38 (HK $295) for adults and $30 (HK $210) for kids 3-11; on weekends and holidays, the cost is $45 (HK$350) for adults and $32 (HK$250) for kids. Children under 3 are free.
  • Special Promotions: For specials, check out Through September 2007 -- if you stay at Disney's Hollywood Hotel or Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and purchase a one-day Disneyland ticket -- you can get a free park admission for the following day with the Stay and Play for 2 Days promotion. Some restrictions apply, including the deal not being valid during Chinese New Year and Christmas week, for example. For bookings, call the Hong Kong Disneyland Reservation Center at tel. (852) 1-830-830 or contact your travel agent.
  • Location: The fifth Disney park in the world, and the smallest, Disneyland Hong Kong opened to visitors in September, 2005. Located inside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, it is set on reclaimed land on Lantau Island, a part of greater Hong Kong. Both English and Chinese are used for communication.
  • Getting There: A taxi from the central district (downtown) of Hong Kong island is about $34 (HK$265), and the trip will take approximately 20 minutes (without traffic). There's also a purpose-built subway line that runs from the central district all the way into the park itself; that'll cost you only a few bucks and take about 30 minutes.

Note: Like other parks, many rides have minimum height requirements (my four year olds were tall enough for most).

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