1. Mickey Avenue
What’s a Disney Park without Main Street, U.S.A. just beyond its entrance? Based off early 20th century small towns like Marceline, Missouri and Fort Collins, Colorado, most Americans are able to connect to this nostalgic idea. However, Imagineers knew Chinese citizens wouldn’t necessarily feel the same way, so they created something new for Disney’s latest park in Asia. For a departure from the norm, Shanghai’s clock tower arch (sans train station) leads you to a shortened version of Main Street mashed up with Toontown titled Mickey Avenue. Here, you’ll find shops and spots to grab tasty treats, mixed in with whimsical theming from the Three Little Pigs’ houses to a Scrooge McDuck-owned bank.
2. Pepsi Products
Coca-Cola has long been the signature soft drink of Disney parks — Walt Disney World even features a whole store and rooftop bar devoted to the soda at Disney Springs. If you’ve been visiting the US parks for years, you’ll be thrown off by Shanghai’s offering of Pepsi products in place of classic Coke. Blasphemy!
3. Empty Star Wars Launch Bay
Due to either a lack of popularity of the Star Wars franchise in China or just the fact that it’s tucked far back into Tomorrowland, this exhibit and character meet-and-greet spot is often unloved. You can walk right up to Mandarin-speaking Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, have your photo taken with BB-8, C-3PO, or R2-D2, and even pretend to pilot the Millennium Falcon. With non-existent wait times throughout the entire complex, it might seem difficult to believe you’re actually in a Disney park.
4. Fence Sitting
Sure, E-ticket attractions like Tron Lightcycle Power Run and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure were incredible experiences to have at this nearly new park, but what really tickled me on my visit? I spent my entire viewing of the nighttime fireworks display, Ignite the Dream, perched atop a fence. As a former cast member myself, I knew this would normally be a huge no-no to even attempt in Orlando or Anaheim, but I saw others doing it with success, so I giddily followed along. While certainly not a very comfortable (or even safe) balancing act, sitting on a railing in a Disney park without getting barked at by a cast member delighted me to no end.
5. Squatting Toilets
Not just limited to the parks, you will commonly find squatting toilets throughout China. Disneyland’s restrooms offer a near even divide between these types and western toilets, so just look out for the symbol on the door to decipher which one you’ll be walking into, or you might be in for a surprise. Though it may seem odd to different cultures, it’s actually said to be a healthier way to answer nature’s call than what many would call the “traditional method.”
6. A Whole Gelatoni Shop
Remember Duffy the Disney Bear? Though overlooked by most US park visitors, Mickey’s teddy bear took on a whole new life overseas. After gaining popularity, he was joined by pals like Shellie May and Gelatoni, an Italian cat who paints with his tail and pastel gelato. This character is immensely popular in Asia; in fact, he made his Shanghai Disneyland debut with a whole store devoted to merchandise from plush to purses. This shop is most likely temporary, but Duffy and the gang’s presence isn’t going anywhere.
7. Guests Selling Merchandise
From the metro en route to the entrance queue, and even inside the turnstiles, you will likely encounter guests selling off-brand Minnie ears and more out of duffel bags. Having been to all of the North American parks dozens of times each, I can safely say the first time I ever encountered this oddity was at Shanghai Disneyland. Security is, of course, pushing against unauthorized sellers, so the best way to deal with people gesturing towards their bag is to say “no thank you” and keep walking.
8. Challenge Trails at Camp Discovery
This isn’t one of SDL’s marquee attractions, but it should be. Unlike anything you’d find in the US parks, this choose-your-own-adventure ropes course gives you the chance to navigate across swinging platforms, scale the side of a cavern, and take daring leaps above a mountainous waterfall. Though you’re in a harness and hooked up to a rail system overhead, these trails pair fun with thrills for a seemingly-dangerous adventure you’d never expect to find at Disneyland or Disney World’s safety-focused parks.