Why HKDL Became a Favorite Park Experience
How can a one-day park experience make the list of top experiences of all time? There are a few answers; the first is something I’m calling “Unique Familiarity”. Anyone who has visited at least two Disney parks has experienced a thought similar to this:
“As we walked on to Main Street, I was hit with this wave of wonder and nostalgia. I attribute this feeling to something I have dubbed “Unique Familiarity”. The feeling that you’ve been here before, & have made memories here before, but this time it’s new and different. As the excitement bubbles up in you, you suddenly want to run to every corner of every land to note the similarities & differences. From windows, to rides, to little side-streets, to shops (mine is always, always the confectionary), you soak in the uniqueness & normality of this experience. There’s nothing like this feeling, it’s my favorite thing about visiting a new disney park.”
I remember writing the passage above in the notes on my phone the day we visited the park; I’m so glad I documented that feeling. For me, HKDL provided that sense of comfort while still being exhilarating. I also have deduced that I knew going into this experience that though we only had one day, it was a small park. That simple fact alone put my anxiety at ease. Nothing ruins a park experience like the fear and trepidation of not knowing whether or not you’ll get to ‘do it all’.
The rides held that same form of “Unique Familiarity” as well. HKDL has a great mix of familiar favorites such as the Tea Cups, Space Mountain, Orbatron, Small World, among others, as well as some remastered versions of beloved rides. What we know as Big Thunder Mountain became the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, which is arguably the best themed roller coaster I’ve been on in Asia (sorry Tron…). Instead of Star Tours, we were dazzled by “The Iron Man Experience”, and while guests at WDW can enjoy the new Toy Story Land, HKDL offers it’s own version with the best theming & cutest photo spots & character encounters.
& speaking of lands, the themed lands of HKDL are Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, &, as mentioned before, Toy Story Land. Again the theme of “Unique Familiarity” arises. It was the most fun to run around each land, comparing the list of rides & restaurants that were aptly named after their American predecessors. I was cracking up at the name “The Lucky Nugget”, remembering when I saw the same place in Disneyland Paris (a counterpart to other restaurants such as the Silver Spur, the Golden Horseshoe and the Diamond Horseshoe) Some type of descriptive metal & some type of western-ish object must really inspire imagineers…
“Amelia got it right on the nose when she mentioned the phrase Unique Familiarity. For two best friends who spend much of their friendship at Disney, and who have traveled to Disneyland together, HKDL still felt like home, even though we were across the world. While things were new and exciting, there were details that were familiar to us. One of the best examples was Jungle Cruise, our favorite ride. (For anyone who has been on that ride, you know why, and we are probably sorry) Jungle Cruise at HKDL had 3 different lines, for 3 different languages. Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. Naturally we chose English and were ready for the fun humor of our favorite ride, but what came next was so unexpected. Instead of hearing the jokes we were used to, most likely due to language barriers, we experienced cast members of another culture try to portray a ride as best they could in a language that is not their native tongue. Instead of hearing jokes about Old Smiley and his girlfriend ginger (be careful, she snaps) we heard “ oooo be careful, there’s a big scary crocodile, ooo there’s a spooky baby crocodile too. Be careful of your hands.” This created a new unforgettable experience for us of a ride that we could go on and normally tell every joke in the book!” – Matt
While I don’t mind writing forever about this topic, I’ve been at this cafe for hours & I’m not sure I can digest another rose latte or slice of avocado toast… not to mention the list of comparisons is a mile long, so I wanted to highlight my 5 favorite things about HKDL:
- Mystic Manor. If you’ve experienced this magic of this attraction, you can understand why this is the number one ride for me at HKDL, & possibly ever. Many assume this is simply a reboot of the classic Haunted Mansion, as it is in Paris as well as the US parks. This couldn’t be further from the truth! From the’trackless’ ride track (which is comparable to that of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo) to the storyline, this attraction is top-of-the-line. Basically, you follow a mischievous little primate named Albert through the manor after he has accidentally set free a whole hord of ‘silly spooks’ in the form of artifacts. The menagerie of the manor is brought to life and riders find themselves escaping from colossal venus fly traps, suits of armor, and various other weaponry. I won’t spoil it, but this ride is worth the trip alone.
- Duffy & Friends. I’m going to share a secret with you… & BOY do I wish I knew this before my trip. HKDL is home to arguably the best Duffy & Friends merch. I’m not kidding. We thought for sure it would be Tokyo, however, the options from clothing to accessories to plush and more were innumerably greater than those in Tokyo. If you want to meet your favorite furry friends, this is the place to do it. With lower wait times than Tokyo, you get more interaction & better opportunities for cute photos. I. Hugged. Gelatoni. (I might have cried a little…). & honestly, I am crying now thinking of allllll of the merch I left behind. Because the Asia parks like to rotate their merch (AHEM. USA…get on it), most everything is limited edition so when you see it, grab it! I did get TWO bags while I was there, so I am thankful for that. Bonus Perk: Cast members can use their discounts there as well, yay!
- Mickey & the Wondrous Book. Any show that showcases Marida & Tiana & Rapunzel & Queen Elsa is sure to have my heart. Because those are my own personal Fab 4, Mickey & the Wondrous Book (MATWD) really delivered everything I wanted in a Disney stage show, & more. Gosh, I don’t want to spoil it, but it is honestly the most heart-warming, wonderful, sweet, exciting, & visually stunning shows. The plot is simple, Mickey & his trusty sidekick Goofy discover a magical, enchanted book. Mickey is accidentally drawn into the book and BAM, the adventure begins. Dance & sing along with some of the most beloved Disney characters from a very diverse arrangement of films, in English & Chinese!? & I know what you’re thinking, but NO! You don’t need to speak Cantonese to understand the show, it’s created in a way that the characters speak both languages & basically translate for each other (& there are also subtitles at some points). BEST. SHOW. EVER. (& yes, I’ve seen every Disney stage show currently offered). Again, worth the ticket alone.There’s even a special little surprise for my WDW people & any fans of the firework show “Happily Ever After”… but you’ll have to see it for yourself!
- The Night Parade & Projection Show. Of course, if you didn’t know, HKDL is the original birthplace of the Paint the Night Parade. Let me tell you, this version of parade was a straight-up masterpiece. Even if you’ve seen the US version of PTN, this is magically unique with a few different characters & different dances, etc. After a sweltering day in the park, it was amazing to sit & relax with some sweet treats & rock out to the catchy soundtrack. Speaking of catchy, we were amazed to learn of the featured projection show “We Love Mickey’. Not going to lie… we had zero idea what was going on. It was like being in a sugar-induced-drug-dream created by the Disney parks to hypnotize you into obsessing over Mickey & pals (kinda like Traditions, ya feel me cast members?). The oddly satisfying & extremely catchy soundtrack starts with some classic Disney tunes you’re sure to recognize. It then transitions into a crazy fun, dubstep-like song.. Yeah. It ends with a drumline/chanting tune &, finally, Mickey appears near the Main Street Square to enthusiastically spout cute sayings at you in Chinese for the glittering grand finale. The music mixed with the technicolor projections that filled mainstreet were spellbinding & we left humming the tune that evening. It was, without a doubt, the most interesting display of Mickey Love that I’ve ever seen. (I downloaded the dubstep-ish song to my phone… it’s that weird & that good)
- The sweet cast & amazing theming. At HKDL, they give you stickers… So why is this on my list of top 5? I mean, stickers, really? But it’s more than that, it’s the kindness & eager nature of the cast members at HKDL that make the park so special. Each time we interacted with a cast member, whether it was a character, a ride attendant, someone in the merchandise shop, or a restaurant host, we were greeted with kindness & a true willingness to make magic. One example of this is when I foolishly left my camera on the Iron Man ride. I was anxiety-ridden & nearly in tears, worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate what had happened. I spoke with a cast member who led me to her leader who walked me up the exit & had me show her which bay we were in. Of course, I couldn’t remember (I was so embarrassed) but she helped me check every ride vehicle until we found it. I was slightly teary-eyed when we did find it & she asked if she could hug me. She then presented me with like 10 characters stickers & told me that my day would be more magical from now on. It was such a sweet gesture & I honestly don’t know what I would have done if the situation had been different; she totally calmed my anxiety & brought me back into the magic in one little moment.
While there’s so, so much more I could write about this sweet little park, I wanted to end with a quote from Matt, who says everything I missed & then some.
“Walking through HKDL just felt comfortable, with the humidity that we are used to in Florida making us sweat like crazy. It’s a good thing Amelia urges the importance of outfit changes! From seeing different versions of rides we both know and love, such as hyperspace Mountain, or It’s a Small World, to experiencing new exciting rides, such as Mystic Manor (Possibly one of my favorite rides at HKDL) with little to no wait times added to the experience. Never did we feel like we had to rush around the park in order to make this 1 day trip worth it! However, the one thing that stood out the most, for me definitely, and for Amelia most likely, was the food! Between the hotel and the park, every single thing we ate, from Ice Bars to Tandoori Chicken and Curry, and Mickey Waffles to beautifully themed parties was exceptional. Out of all the things that are important to our friendship, I would say nothing quite brings us together more than food, especially since that is what sparked the conversation that introduced us to each other, and to be able to experience another culture and another Disney Park together through its food, was an immensely incredible experience not only for me, but our friendship as well.” – Matt
So, there’s your food for thought! *insert forced laughter here*. Coming up next is a post all about travel tips & answering some of the most frequently asked questions that I get about traveling. To be part of this post, leave a comment below, message me on insta, or send a carrier pigeon; do whatever it takes! I loved writing this for you guys, I hope you enjoyed reading about this adventure. See ya real soon, & as always,