Despite being a world away from the original “House of the Mouse” in Anaheim, California, Shanghai Disneyland retains the corporation’s commitment to making sure the theme park is as accessible as possible for people with all kinds of disabilities. Shanghai Disneyland is almost the same size as the Magic Kingdom in Orlando (and actually has the tallest castle of all six Disney parks), and while you can see the whole park in one day, plan on being there from opening until closing. Here’s my guide for making the most of your visit to Shanghai Disneyland as a wheelchair user.
Before you Go
Although you can wait and purchase your admission ticket at the park, I would highly recommend buying your tickets online through the Shanghai Disneyland website. A regular one-day ticket costs only 399 yuan, which is equivalent to about US$60. What a bargain! If you want to save even more money, you can get a disabled ticket for 299 yuan, but you have to purchase those at the park with proof of disability, whatever that might consist of. You will have to enter your passport number when purchasing your tickets online, and show your passport at the entry gate of the park.
This probably goes without saying, but make sure you check the Shanghai Disneyland calendar for the current hours and any special events or shows. The resort also has an app just like Disneyland or Disney World in the United States, which will provide a map, wait times for rides, etc. You also may want to check a Chinese calendar to make sure that you won’t be attending during a Chinese holiday or school break, when crowds will surely be bigger.
Transportation to Shanghai Disneyland
The easiest way to reach Shanghai Disneyland is by using the Shanghai Metro system. The park is at the terminus of line 11, and from the center of downtown Shanghai, with one connection, it takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour to reach the park. Make sure you time your departure from your hotel and from the park around rush hour if you will be visiting on a weekday. There is no way you will find a way to get inside one of the Metro cars between the hours of 7 AM to 9 AM, or between 5 PM to 7 PM. Try to arrive as early as you can at the park as the crowds are smaller, and leave before park closing or right after the fireworks show when most people leave.
When you arrive at the Shanghai Disneyland Metro station, I highly recommend that you purchase your return ticket right away. You have to actually exit the station like you’re going towards the park and you will see two vestibules, one on your left in one of your right, where the ticket machines are. From there, you just keep walking/rolling and follow the signs towards the park entrance. The gate for the park will be eventually on your right, and if you keep rolling straight you will see Disneytown.
Attractions and Rides
One of my favorite things about visiting Disney resorts outside of the United States is the variation in rides and attractions. There are actually several that are wheelchair accessible, including three rides where you can remain in your wheelchair and not have to transfer. Click here for a list of rides and attractions that are wheelchair accessible at Shanghai Disneyland.
The crystal grotto ride in fantasyland is really interesting. They have a ramp onto a wheelchair platform in the center of the boat, and once they close the ramp, it rotates 90° so that you’re facing forward. For both the Buzz Lightyear ride and the Winnie the Pooh ride, the ride vehicle has a ramp at the rear of the car that you just roll into.
I have to say that I was extremely impressed by the shows I saw at Shanghai Disneyland. One of the fascinating things about them is that they are performed entirely in Chinese, and with only a few exceptions, by Chinese actors and performers. That means that when you go see the awesome Pirates of the Caribbean stunt show in Treasure Island, Jack Sparrow speaks Chinese! The other awesome show I saw was Tarzan in Adventure Isle, which is a Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics show. For both, they had designated wheelchair spaces at the top rear of the theater. The theaters themselves aren’t that large, and I had a fantastic view both times.
You will find musicians and entertainers scattered throughout Shanghai Disneyland, just as you would see in the parks in the United States. The parade is really cool, but I warn you, being in a parade crowd anywhere in China, especially Shanghai Disneyland, is a totally different experience. The Chinese have no concept of personal space because they are so accustomed to working and living in a huge masses of people. There are no designated or reserved viewing areas for wheelchair users, so if you want to watch the parade, you have to find your spot early. Also, be prepared for children and adults alike to lean on you, lean on your wheelchair, and shove their cameras right in front of your face. You will have to be assertive in pushing their arms and hands out of your way, and generally they will be apologetic and not do it again. But make sure you stand your ground or they will just be all over you.
There are plenty of places to eat throughout Shanghai Disneyland, but not nearly as many locations or food vendors with carts as you might find in the US parks. Apparently, the Chinese are not nearly as big on junk food as we are! The carts will usually sell ice cream popsicles, popcorn, or cotton candy. At the restaurants, the offerings are almost always Asian food varieties, typically some sort of chicken or pork with rice. The only place you can get a hamburger or something remotely American is at the restaurant in Tomorrowland. There is also a small restaurant on Main Street that offers delicious crepes. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may struggle to find something to eat, as those diets are not a thing in China.
There is one big souvenir shop on Main Street, just as there is at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando and Disneyland. There are also numerous souvenir carts scattered throughout the park. One thing you should know is that the offering of souvenirs in Shanghai Disneyland are totally geared towards Chinese visitors. There are very few Western visitors to the park, as most come from other parts of China and Asia. The most common thing you will find in the souvenir shops are the Mickey and the character ear headbands, keychains, and trading pins with lanyards. I couldn’t believe that I had such a hard time trying to find a simple magnet. In the larger souvenir store, there was hardly anybody in the clothing section, and the selection of T-shirts for adolescent children is sparse. They are either for adults with childish designs or for small children. That being said, if the souvenir is a Disney brand, they will cost at least half the price, if not less, than what you would pay at a Disney park in the United States. I bought three Shanghai Disneyland T-shirts for less than US$60. However, if you’re looking for a Disney owned brand like Marvel toys or clothing, that will cost about the same as in the United States.
If you can’t find the perfect souvenir inside the Disney Park, you can roll right next door to Disneytown, which is the equivalent of Disney Springs in Orlando. There they have a huge World of Disney store, which is where I bought my souvenirs, as well as a Lego store and many other shops. There are also several restaurants in Disney town, and they are all wheelchair accessible.
Rolling Around the Park
Shanghai Disneyland might just be the most wheelchair accessible of all the Disney parks. The main reason for that is that there are no elevated sidewalks, meaning there is no need for curb cuts. There is also no tram line like in the Magic Kingdom, so you don’t have to worry about crossing those pesky rails or getting out of the way of the oncoming train. The entire park is completely flat. That being said, there are some areas – most notably in the Treasure Island and Adventure Isle areas — where there are some rougher pavers in sections. They are a little bumpy, but not too bad.
I saw the entire park, and every single transition and walkway between park areas was extremely wide. Every toilet area had a separate family/wheelchair accessible bathroom, and here is a link to find where those toilets are. The bathroom I used was enormous, and while it did not have a full changing table, it did have a square fold-down seat like you might find in a roll in shower. I don’t know exactly what it was for, but maybe it might help someone.
Overall, visiting Shanghai Disneyland was an absolutely incredible experience, and so wheelchair accessible! I would absolutely recommend it for any wheelchair user visiting Shanghai.