Good morning. Or should I say Ni Hao? It’s the last day of our Asian Easter trip and I’m still in Shanghai, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. In the theme park community, Shanghai is especially well-known for being home to one of the planet’s greatest Disney theme parks. With stunning rides like TRON Lightcycle Power Run and a reimagined version of Pirates of the Caribbean, the park doesn’t fail to impress. But what about Chinese coaster junkies? What about those Mickey Mouse haters? What about people who just don’t like the Disney brand? Well, these boys and girls aren’t forgotten. They should plan a visit to the city’s other major amusement park: Happy Valley.
Until today, I shared my Shanghai experiences with travel buddies Carrie and Hjälmar. Today is a little different, though. Hjälmar is already on his way back to Europe and Carrie felt ill when she woke up this morning. She decided to stay in bed, which makes my day even more adventurous. A solo trip to a Chinese theme park… That’s quite exciting, right? Luckily for me, it’s not difficult at all to travel with a train in Shanghai. I took the red subway line (line 1) to interchange station Xujiahui an continued on the light blue line (number 9). From Xujiahui, it takes approximately 50 minutes to arrive at Sheshan Station.
Free shuttle buses run between Sheshan Station and the Happy Valley Resort. Just cross the bridge and you’ll notice those buses right away. Don’t expect the drivers or your fellow passengers to understand English and some people may even stare if you look western, but hey… that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
According to Chinese tradition, bus drivers don’t drive too carefully. So grab a handrail and enjoy your first thrill ride of the day.
It’s approximately 9.20 AM when I arrive at the park’s main entrance. I first pay a visit to the information centre to verify if there’s an English park map (the answer is no) and then head to the ticket desk. A single day ticket costs 220 RMB, which is less than 30 euros. That’s incredibly cheap compared to major European or American amusement parks.
It’s Saturday so I’m expecting big crowds at Happy Valley. However, a full coaster-bingo is my main goal for today.
The gates open promptly at 9.30 AM and I’m already on the way to my first coaster. That’s why I don’t pay too much attention to Sunshine Harbor. However, I should admit that this Main Street looks considerably better than I expected. It’s big, it’s impeccably clean and the atmosphere is cheerful.
It’s not difficult to beat the crowds at Happy Valley Shanghai. Most visitors seem to get in line for the first big attraction they encounter. That big ride is Wooden Coaster Fireball, so it gets ridiculously long queues during the early morning. Unless you’re able to catch one of the very first trains, don’t make the mistake of riding Fireball in the morning.
Although the wait time for Fireball reaches the 2-hour mark within minutes, most other parts of the park remain nearly empty during the first few hours of operation. One of those parts is Shanghai Bund, an area which is characterised by beautiful facades, a large lake and thrill rides.
Shanghai Bund offers a Gyro Swing and this unusual type of wave swinger.
The main draw, however, is B&M’s bright red Diving Machine. Not many people seem to be interested in vertical drops during the early hours, so I’m able to board the first train of the day.
This rollercoaster will look familiar to those who have visited Busch Gardens Tampa. It’s an exact copy of SheiKra, one of Florida’s better thrill rides. Although the station and the surroundings look considerably nicer in the United States, the ride is just as awesome here in China. The drops are intense and the smoothness is remarkable.
Unfortunately, operations are totally different in China… in the worst possible way. Diving Machine is ran with only one train during the entirety of the day. And to make things even worse, crew members need almost 10 minutes to dispatch that train. Once again… it’s Saturday, so the park will become busy. Can you imagine the horribly long and slow moving queue during the afternoon?
Anyway… not my problem. I just got a great first credit and I’m ready for more.
Next photo was made while walking towards the next coaster. This is how Happy Valley looks like if you don’t necessarily want to ride Wooden Coaster Fireball at park opening. I like this a lot.
Another thing I like a lot: an Intamin Mega-Lite. Unfortunately, this cute little rollercoaster will remain closed until 11 AM. That means I’ve got plenty of time left to discover other areas of the park.
One of those areas is Happy Ocean, a section which is dedicated to families with children.
Happy Ocean is just as quiet as most other areas in the morning. The first performance of the park’s sea lion show has approximately 10 spectators…
… and I get a private ride on Happy Valley’s tiniest rollercoaster. This is Coastal Ant, a kiddie coaster built by Chinese manufacturer Golden Horse. It’s rather uncomfortable and shaky, but it brings me one step closer to my coaster-bingo. Thank goodness that you don’t need a child to ride those Asian kiddie coasters.
Empty queue… great!
Another coaster which is mainly ridden for my coaster counter is Crazy Elves. This ride reminds me of rollercoasters which can be found on Belgian or Dutch funfairs and that’s not a good thing. It looks cheap and it feels cheap.
Monorails are cool, even if they’re inverted.
Luckily, Happy Ocean isn’t only about children’s rides and crappy rollercoasters. There’s also a coaster which could easily be described as one of the world’s most unique B&Ms. This Swiss manufacturer is known for its huge, thrilling machines. In 2014, however, they built Family Inverted Coaster. The ride looks like a B&M and feels as one, but it’s just a lot smaller than the company’s other creations.
Family Inverted Coaster is a mirrored copy of Kvasten at Tivoli Gröna Lund and it provides at least as much fun as its Swedish cousin.
Just like almost every other theme park on the planet, Happy Valley features an area dedicated to the Far West.
This section is called Goldmine Town and it’s stunning. But could someone please punish the person who chose the music for this area? ‘You are my Sunshine’ is played in an infinite loop at Goldmine Town and that becomes annoying after… well… 20 seconds or so.
Goldmine Town is home to a theatre, an interactive shooting game, a Flying Island and a family rollercoaster. It sure looks good, but ehm…
… what are those LGBT zebras doing here?
This may sound silly, but I love observation rides like ferris wheels, monorails and panoramic towers. These attractions provide great photo opportunities and I can appreciate a quiet moment during a busy theme park day. That’s why I love my (private) ride on Happy Valley’s Flying Island.
The views from Flying Island are amazing and I even get a preview for my next ride of the day. You probably noticed that Happy Valley designers aren’t that good at inventing original names for their rides. That isn’t any different in this case, because this Intamin mine train is called… Mine Train Coaster.
This is the kind of queues I want to see.
Mine Train Coaster may have one of the least creative names is coaster history, but it’s a great family coaster. The first drop is surprisingly intense, the lay-out turned out to be longer than I expected and the decoration is pretty solid.
Happy Valley Shanghai is huge and walking distances between the different rides are considerable. But there’s a lazy people solution: you can rent these funny looking vehicles to drive through the park. I don’t like it… Primary school kids driving a motorized vehicle in a busy theme park, isn’t that dangerous?
I don’t consider myself one of those lazy tourists and I prefer walking towards my next destination. That destination is Shangri-La, a beautifully themed section at the back of the park. The eye catcher of this area is an immense mountain range. Parts of it are being refurbished during today’s visit, but that doesn’t make it look less impressive.
Expedition Everest, is that you?
Yup, this definitely looks like Animal Kingdom!
The Chinese version of Kali River Rapids is very uhm… closed.
Oh wait, it’s not Animal Kingdom after all. At a Disney theme park, this pathway would be filled with 6.000 people…
… and I guess you won’t find any war weaponry at The Happiest Place on Earth.
Machine guns and a Mega-Lite… what more do we need?
An empty queue, that’s what we need. Yay!
If you’ve ever ridden an Intamin Mega-Lite, you probably remember how incredibly perfect these coasters are. They look tiny, but the ride experience is nothing less than awesome. The first curve is very intense, it’s got some great transitions and as you can see in the next photo, the (h)airtime is very powerful.
I guess they won’t add the second train today…
Mega-Lite’s queue and station are themed pretty well, but the ride’s exit feels like a bunker in a war zone. If this is what Shangri-La looks like, I’m definitely never going there.
The next section of the park is called Typhoon Bay. And if I took a look at this sign, I guess it’s all about surfing beach boys, pirates and flamingos. That’s a cool theme for a cocktail party!
Typhoon Bay’s main attraction is Shoot The Chute, a huge water ride with some very nice theming. Although today’s temperature is nice, I’m really not interested in getting soaked.
Getting soaked doesn’t seem to bother the 16 people that are hidden behind this wall of water, though.
Chinese amusement park visitors seem to love water rides a lot, but they don’t like getting wet. That’s why selling plastic ponchos is big business in China. It’s something we noticed at Shanghai Disneyland’s Roaring Rapids earlier this week and it isn’t any different here at Happy Valley.
The most mysterious ride at Happy Valley Shanghai is hidden behind this cool facade. It’s also one of the few rides with an original name. Very original, actually. It’s called Wonderland Crosses 30 Degrees North Latitude. That doesn’t make any sense at all, but it will probably sound cool to Chinese visitors. I’m very curious about this ride, but the queue remains at 90 minutes during the entire afternoon. That’s why I decide not to ride it. Do you know what happens inside? Please let me know in the comments section on the bottom of this page!
Happy Valley’s 7th (and final) area is Happy Time. It’s themed to circus and it looks very happy indeed.
This is the place to be if you’re searching for an S&S drop tower or a double carrousel. However, my main reason to pay a visit to Happy Time is…
Wooden Coaster Fireball, which was China’s first wooden coaster when it opened back in 2009. Ten years later, the ride remains extremely popular and long queues are inevitable. That’s mainly due to the one-train-operation and the fact that every rider needs to complete some gymnastics exercises before boarding the train (not kidding!). As a result, it takes approximately 80 minutes to get from the ride’s entrance to the back seat. I hope this ride will be awesome.
Unfortunately, it’s not. Fireball is actually the worst coaster I’ve ridden during this trip. The ride is even so unbelievably rough that I’m already having a headache after the first drop. And honestly, the next kilometre isn’t any better. Pure torture.
Fireball is terrible, but it was the final count I needed at Happy Valley. That means I can return to Europe with a fresh new Chinese coaster-bingo.
Happy Valley may not be as amazing as Shanghai Disneyland, but I’m glad I spent my last day here. Despite slow operations and long queues during the afternoon, the park didn’t disappoint me. I expected it to be Crappy Valley, but that was definitely not the case. The overall atmosphere is nice, theming is surprisingly decent and the park offers a few world-class rollercoasters: a B&M Dive Machine, a Mega-Lite and one of the world’s most perfect family coasters. My next trip to Shanghai will definitely include a day trip to Happy Valley. The park is worth it!