Happy Valley Shanghai

Happy Valley Shanghai

Songjiang, China

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Surprisingly complete amusement park with a few amazing roller coasters”

Shanghai is known for being home to Shanghai Disneyland. 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.


GETTING THERE

Shanghai’s wonderful train network made it super-easy to travel to Happy Valley. I took the red subway line (line 1) to interchange station Xujiahui and then, I continued on the light blue line (number 9). From Xujiahui, it takes approximately 50 minutes to arrive at Sheshan Station. From there, free shuttle buses take guests to 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?

ROLLER COASTERS

Seven roller coasters are currently operating at Happy Valley and of course, I’m planning to ride them all. My first destination is Shanghai Beach, an area which is characterised by beautiful facades, a large lake and thrill rides. The main draw 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 roller coaster 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 running only one train during for a whole day. And to make things even worse, crew members need almost 10 minutes to dispatch that train. It’s Saturday, so the park will get busy. Can you imagine the horribly long and slow-moving queue during the afternoon?

A little further in the park, I discover Happy Ocean, a section which is dedicated to families with children. This area is very quiet in the early morning, which enabled me to ride three family coasters within a few minutes. The tiniest one 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. Another coaster which is mainly ridden for my coaster counter is Crazy Elves. This ride reminds me of roller coasters which can be found on Belgian or Dutch funfairs and that’s not a good thing. It looks cheap and it feels cheap.

Luckily, Happy Ocean isn’t only about children’s rides and crappy roller coasters. 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 like one, but it’s obviously 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.

You may have noticed that Happy Valley designers aren’t that good at inventing original names for their rides. This also applies to my next coaster, because this Intamin mine train is called… Mine Train Coaster. Mine Train Coaster may have one of the least creative names is history, but it’s a great family coaster. The first drop is surprisingly intense, the layout turned out to be longer than I expected and the decoration is pretty solid.

Shangri-La is a wonderful land at the back of the park. The eye-catchers in this area are an immense mountain range and Intamin’s Mega-Lite. 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 the airtime is very powerful.

The last coaster I need for my bingo is Wooden Coaster Fireball. This 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 1-train operations 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. Unfortunately, I’m not rewarded with a great ride. Fireball is actually the worst coaster I’ve done during this trip. The ride is even so unbelievably rough that I’m already getting a headache right after the first drop. And honestly, the next kilometre isn’t any better. Pure torture.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Happy Valley is huge and it offers loads of attractions. The park is full of coasters, flat rides, carousels, monorails and water rides. One of the most popular rides is Shoot The Chute, which guarantees a huge splash in the Typhoon Bay area. 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 at the bottom of this page.

BEAT THE CROWDS

Good news: it’s actually not that 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.

The previous paragraph is true if you’re willing to arrive early. I did my best to reach Happy Valley before 9.30 AM and this enabled me to ride every roller coaster (except Fireball) with no queue at all. Wait times for all major attractions hit the 60-minute mark later in the afternoon, so my plan definitely paid off.

WORTH A VISIT?

Happy Valley may not be as amazing as Shanghai Disneyland, but I’m glad I spent my Saturday here. Despite slow operations and long queues during the afternoon, the park didn’t disappoint. 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 roller coasters: 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.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

SUNSHINE HARBOR

HAPPY TIME

SHANGHAI BEACH

SHANGRI-LA

ANT KINGDOM & HAPPY OCEAN

GOLD MINE TOWN

TYPHOON BAY

Have you already been able to visit one of the Happy Valley parks? Do these parks deserve more praise than they usually get? What’s your favourite roller coaster at Happy Valley Shanghai? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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