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I Went To Shanghai Disneyland And It Was Insane

There's no Space Mountain, no It's A Small World, no Jungle Cruise, and not even a Haunted Mansion. But believe it or not, you won't even care.

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Hey! I'm Carlye. In perhaps what is one of the most can't-believe-this-actually-exists jobs of all time, I write about theme parks for a living.

I just got back from the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, and holy hell, was it cool.

It was packed with never-before-seen attractions, beloved movie characters, and a ginormous castle that was Versailles-level impressive.

But since practically every ride is new or has been improved for this park, it can be tough to know which one you should ride first. If you travel far enough overseas to make it to Shanghai Disneyland, here are the rides you really can't miss:

1. TRON LightCycle Power Run

Carlye Wisel

If you've ever wanted to channel your inner Jeff Bridges and take a death-defying ride aboard one of TRON's illuminated motorbikes, you're in luck. Board the movie-themed roller coaster's cycle-shaped seats (with identity disc backplates!) and prepare to be whipped around Tomorrowland before breezing through banked curves back indoors.

It's as quick as it is kinetic, going so fast that your eyes will tear, your brain will be convinced you're about to fly off the bike, and you'll emerge feeling totally exhilarated. Toss a penny in a fountain and pray this will become the future of Disney theme parks.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle For The Sunken Treasure

Carlye Wisel

The only real similarities between this and the sleepy, stateside Pirates attraction are some set pieces, Captain Jack Sparrow’s participation, and, I don’t know, that both have boats.

This much-YouTubed launch of Pirates 2.0 lives up to the high-tech hype, mixing media with realistic settings and an updated vehicle that spins and turns to give you a 360-degree view of everything, including its advanced Audio-Animatronic figures.

It's huge, immersive, and the closest you’ll ever get to diving inside one of the franchise’s massively successful movies, which is why it's currently the biggest feather in the cap among obsessive Disney goers. Ride this and you'll return home with a bounty of bragging rights.


3. Roaring Rapids

Carlye Wisel

Shanghai's fresh take on raft rides brings you through a jungle village, bouncing around the choppy waters — bouncing is the right word, as required seat belts are do-or-die — as you are plunged into darkness, not knowing where the next turn, drop, or fright will come from. Similar attractions at Disney Parks in America, like Grizzly River Run and Kali River Rapids, tend to be better at theming than thrills, but Roaring Rapids excels at both.

I giggled and panicked and screamed along with my fellow Chinese passengers-turned-friends as we came face-to-face with Q’aráq, a frightening alligator-like creature living deep inside "Roaring Mountain." You'll walk off exhilarated and elated — and soaked to the bone — but at least you'll have had a terrifying time doing it.

4. Camp Discovery Challenge Trails

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Welcome to modern-day Disneyland, where you can live out your American Ninja Warrior dreams. You'll suit up in a harness, clip into the safety rail, and choose your path around the awe-inspiring, waterfall-spewing mountain, traversing exposed beams, rickety bridges and (not-real) rock formations.

I've never clocked boutique fitness-style workouts within a theme park, but this one's legitimately intense; the people in front of me were wearing climbing shoes and knew a thing or two about rock ledges (ninja finger strength!!). The only bummer is that you’re connected to the course by a plastic disc that needs to be constantly tugged through an overhead beam, like a little laboratory rat looking for a nibble of cheese, but hey, safety first.

5. Soaring Over The Horizon

Carlye Wisel

Unlike almost everything else at this brand-new Shanghai park, you can actually now experience this immersive, hang glider-like IMAX simulation back home, too.

Soarin' at Disney California Adventure and Epcot have been updated to now show this entirely new film, bringing landscapes, structures and sights from around the world to life on an 80-foot projection screen opposite its famed floating seats. Disney fans have been pretty resistant to the addition of computer-generated imagery, which makes some transitions and locations feel fake, but the film is crystal-clear and its piped-in scents (grass! roses!) accompanying the views are on point.

6. Peter Pan’s Flight

Carlye Wisel

I have no nostalgia for this highlight reel of Peter Pan's journey back in America, but it's on this list because of how good Shanghai’s version is. The interior is stunning, with new enhancements added throughout to make flying feel more realistic and digital effects more magical. You’ll glide over rocks that suddenly appear to be flooded with water, burst through the windows of the Darlings’ bedroom, and pass through Captain Hook’s pirate ship, which is built to scale. It’s intended for children, sure, but honestly, I loved it too.


7. Hunny Pot Spin

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This fresh and adorable take on Mad Tea Party’s spinning teacups delivers all the joy of the original without that earworm-y soundtrack. Best of all, though, is the ‘70s disco-era paint job on its base, which looks extra psychedelic when the whirl of dizziness starts to set in.

8. The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh

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To Disney die-hards, this won't offer a ton of improvement on the original, although compared to the Florida attraction it has a smoother ride system and souped-up water effects. Still, what’s to complain about? You bounce along with Tigger, float through a rainstorm while staying dry and enter a trippy room of heffalumps, woozles and enough vague blacklit creatures that’ll you’ll have serious Coachella flashbacks without having to buy a dimebag.

9. Voyage To The Crystal Grotto

Carlye Wisel

Every good Disney park needs an attraction that's purely there so you can take a damn break. In America, it's the Enchanted Tiki Room, PeopleMover, or the sleep pod otherwise known as Carousel of Progress. Here, it's Crystal Grotto, or as it should have been named, Princess Jungle Cruise.

The sleepy boat ride is intended to give Chinese audiences some interaction with characters from Disney classics, but without narration or context or anything besides some instrumentals and half-hearted sprinkling water, it barely even does that. It’s weak, which is why it's perfect — giving good Instagram potential while letting you rest and bless up for the other dope stuff you've been witness to.