Battle of the Hong Kong Theme Parks
In one corner, there’s Ocean Park, the beloved locally-run, non-profit theme park that everyone remembers going to as a child. In the other corner is Disneyland Hong Kong, a shiny, new, foreign interloper that popped up in 2005. Both have promised more attractions, as competition for visitors has heated up. Here is a comparison of the two parks:
Basics: Opened in 1977, Ocean Park covers 870,000-square-meters (215 acres) along the green hills and coastline of southern Hong Kong Island. While it has all the usual theme park stuff, it also concentrates on wildlife conservation and education.
Highlights: The park’s two parts are connected by a scenic cable car ride over the South China Sea, which is a highlight in itself.
The Headland has rides like a Ferris wheel and teacups. The more rickety of the two roller-coasters offers lovely views of the water, and has an old-fashioned, carnival feel. There are aquariums with thousands of fish, rare Chinese sturgeons and an eerie collection of 400 jellyfish. The dolphin show is fun and very popular.
The Lowland is home to the four resident giant pandas, who live in newly renovated, air-conditioned, sun-lit splendor, complete with fish ponds. Le Le, Ying Ying, An An and Jia Jia are such celebrities, that they have their own Hong Kong TV channel.
News: Four red pandas are visiting, on loan from mainland China, for the “Amazing Asian Animals” exhibit opening at the end of April. A six-year redevelopment, plus a new internal train system, is underway. Meanwhile, plans for three Ocean Park-related hotels have stirred controversy over whether they are too high for the mostly low-rise, green area. On my last visit, the construction was not obtrusive at all.
Getting there: Go to Admiralty Station and follow the signs for the Ocean Park bus. Note that the line for the bus can be enormous on the weekends. Alternatively, a taxi from Admiralty to Ocean Park is around 100 Hong Kong dollars, about $13 at $0.13 to the Hong Kong dollar, taking about 20 minutes, barring traffic.
Prices: Adult tickets cost 208 Hong Kong dollars and childrens’ tickets are 103 Hong Kong dollars. The disabled and the elderly get in for free, which accounts for the number of Hong Kong grannies wandering the landscaped walkways in the mornings. You can buy your ticket there, or outside the Ocean Park bus stop at Admiralty.
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND RESORT
Basics: Mockingly called “The World’s Smallest Disney” by local residents, this park was built in 2005 by the government in a bid to create jobs and boost tourism, especially among mainland Chinese visitors. The greater1.3-square-kilometer (310-acre) area includes two themed Disney hotels, along with the amusement park itself. It is located on Lantau Island, near the airport.
Highlights: Space Mountain, the U.S.A. Main Street parade, the Tarzan boat trip and rides featuring characters like Winnie-the-Pooh and Sleeping Beauty may be new to those from the region, as this is the only Disney in greater China and Southeast Asia. But, if you’ve been to the Disney parks in the United States, France or Japan, there’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
News: After much grumbling, “It’s A Small World” opened a year ago. Earlier this month, the Walt Disney Company and the Hong Kong government announced expansion plans, including more rides in a “nature wonderland.”
Getting there: Disney has its own dedicated Mass Transit Railway station, marked with a Mickey Mouse icon. You can get on that line from Hong Kong Station, which is connected to both Central station and the International Finance Center mall. You can buy tickets to the park at the Hong Kong Station, or at the theme park.
Prices: Adult tickets cost 350 Hong Kong dollars and children’s tickets are 250 Hong Kong dollars; over-65 tickets are 170 Hong Kong dollars.