Only in China!

A picture says a thousand words. Frederick R. Barnard

I love China!
My favorite aspects of living here are the things you see that get lost in translation, whether it be in words, or in cultural differences. I enjoy observing how our cultures differ and have learned much about tolerance and understanding when people do things differently than me. Many things here are the same, but oh so many are different.

These are a few of the many things we have experienced over the course of our two years living in Shanghai. They have made me smile and I hope will do the same for you. I can only imagine what the Chinese think when they come to America and see all the crazy things we do!

The Chinese tell it like it is




Food safety is always a top priority

I may not get hair in my food, but I sure hope they’ve washed their hands!
Yep, that’s a dog at the table behind me.
There’s nothing more appealing than fresh vegetables with a hint of cigarette smoke.
Steak, anyone?

Split bottom pants are all the rage with the youngsters

The locals are experts in efficiency



And they can sleep practically anywhere! 

Just another day in Ikea. But the thing I love is the empty bottle of wine next to him.
A driver taking a nap in a lobby

But sometimes things just get lost in translation

“magic seeds refresh your dream life”
I like this kind of health food!
Club B.M.? I wonder if they have nice bathrooms. Lol!
IMG_0597 2
 A life lesson for us all

Then there are those things that you can’t explain no matter how hard you try

A claw machine for cigarettes.
There are no words.

And there you have it! After two years, things here continue to make me smile. I hope these pictures gave you a little chuckle today. We all need things that are just a little different to help make our world a happier place.

A special thanks to Jenny Kuchel who shared some of the memories made during her 12 years living in China. 

Finding the EXTRA in the Ordinary

Sometimes something happens that is extraordinary. You may have experienced it a hundred times before, but this time it is different.

Last week it snowed in Shanghai. Some people referred to it as a blizzard. Schools across the city had a snow day on Friday. In reality, snowfall totals were about one inch. Back home in Michigan, we would hardly bat an eye to such a small amount of snow. However, here in Shanghai, one inch of snow is enough to shut down an unequipped city.IMG_7629

Now back in Michigan we are used to a few snow days per year. Schools actually add a week to their calendar to allow for such days. But a snow day here? Unheard of. A bad air day, perhaps, but never a snow day.

You can imagine the palpable excitement amongst the children when they woke up on Friday to find that not only did they have the day off of school, but upon looking out their windows discovered there was actually snow blanketing the ground. The neighborhood was buzzing with excitement and snowmen were popping up everywhere. This excitement was not limited to the children. Gardeners walked around in awe admiring the snowmen and trying to figure out how to clear snow from the roads. Some of the children in our neighborhood had never seen snow. In fact, some of the workers had never seen snow either. People stopped in their cars to take pictures of trees, and snow-covered rooftops. Watching others enjoy something for the first time brought new excitement and joy to me as well. I found a sense of newness in something I had experienced many times before at home.


Along these lines, I was reminded that since we are living abroad, away from our every day, things become new again. You are afforded a fresh perspective on life. It is such a blessing. Many times we fall into a routine knowing what to expect out of people, out of the weather, out of our errands, etc. It is such a huge opportunity to see things anew again and to get excited over the ordinary.IMG_7660

There is an old saying: “the devil’s in the details”. I beg to differ. I say God is in the details. When you look at life through fresh eyes, you experience new richness and detail you may have only walked past before. I took two long walks during our snowfall. Walks I had taken many times before. However, things look different when covered in a blanket of snow. A quiet hush falls upon the earth allowing you to walk and just be still. A bridge I have passed dozens of times before caused me to stop and take it its graceful lines and architectural detail. It looked beautiful dusted with snow. A small green bush with red berries dazzled in the sunlight because it was coated with a layer of ice. God is in the details. I am thankful for the snow. Because it was such an extraordinary occurrence here, I took the time to slow down and see His artistic hand upon the ordinary things I pass every day.

The snowstorm also reminded me to never give up hope. Sometimes we need the confidence of a child to remind us how to have hope, and that sometimes finding answers to your prayers may come when looking at the outcome from a different perspective. My 11-year-old, Jack said to me on Wednesday night, “tomorrow will be a snow day”. To which I responded, “it’s highly unlikely, don’t get your hopes up”. The next morning we woke up and school had not been canceled although it was snowing outside. While I thought Jack would be completely forlorn, he happily looked out the window and said, “see, I told you it would be a snow day”. Well, he was right! It was snowing, so it was technically a “snow day”. The next day school was actually canceled due to the snow. Jack simply said, “see, I told you we would have a snow day”. Wow! What an example of child-like faith, and always looking at things with a positive perspective. I know it sounds simple, but it was a powerful reminder to me to always have hope no matter how unlikely the outcome may be.IMG_7568

Every day things happen that are ordinary. My question to you is how do you take those things and make them EXTRAordinary? Take time. Slow down. See things from a fresh perspective. Find beauty in the details. Most importantly, never lose your child-like faith, and always hope for the best. One last thing, if you have snow where you are, put on your snow boots, get out there, and build the best darn snowman you have ever built before!


Shanghai Walks: a trip back in time

There is something in Shanghai that is very exciting and alive – the idea of a city with two different souls, one from today and another from a long time ago, is amazing.

-Alessandro Michele

The city of Shanghai paints a somewhat unusual picture. It is difficult to describe the discrepancies you find here on so many levels. The have’s and the have-not’s; old art-deco buildings amongst new futuristic skyscrapers; glitz and opulence a neighborhood away from street food, entire families sharing a two-bedroom apartment with no heat and laundry hanging from windows. All this and more is what makes the city such a fascinating area to explore.

Last weekend we pulled out our trusty Shanghai Walks book and did a walk entitled, “Suzhou Creek & the Real Shanghai.” For about 2 1/2 hours we wandered up and down the streets behind The Bund learning about the British and American Settlements in Shanghai in the 1920’s, as well as the Jewish migration from Europe and Japanese take over in the late 1930’s. To walk the streets of so much history is fascinating.

Our walk began on The Bund. For those of you who do not know the area, Shanghai is essentially divided into two parts by the Huangpu River. On one side sits the new section, or the Financial District, also known as Pudong. The other side is the old section, called Puxi. A river separating the future from the past. You don’t get any more literal than that. So, our walk began on the historical side of the city. We walked out to the river to look across at the towering skyscrapers that make up the iconic Shanghai skyline. The Oriental Pearl Tower looks like something you would find on the moon with it’s three bubbled levels and smooth silver detail.IMG_7411

From there, we turned around and headed into Puxi. Our first history lesson was that in the 1920’s the British and Americans established settlements in neighboring areas of this side of the river. Just looking at the buildings along The Bund convey the strong British influence during the time. It seems more like you are walking up and down the Thames than the Huangpu River. Gorgeous neoclassical marble buildings with ornate detail all convey an old-world European charm.

Money and culture flooded into Shanghai during this time. Theater, religion, and recreation all became popular pastimes amongst the ex-pats and wealthy locals living in the area. It is fascinating to walk along the Art Deco buildings in this section of town and feel so far removed from Asia. These buildings hold many stories, and opulence remains with stores like Cartier, Patek Philippe, and Gucci lining the streets.

It seems the British and Americans lived in harmony with the Shanghainese until Japan invaded in the late 1930’s. At this time, Japan bombed the city then proceeded to invade, taking over the once peaceful area. The lower-class Shanghainese were forced to move a bit farther away from The Bund, establishing their own neighborhoods. Our next walking point took us through these communities. What a contrast to the wealth we saw a mere two streets closer to the water. Dirty streets, laundry hanging out to dry from every window, local street food vendors offering some great (and not so great) looking dining options. No Ferraris or Rolls-Royces roll through this area. Here, they are replaced by scooters carrying entire families, chickens, and who-knows-what. But even in this section of town, the culture is rich. Perhaps not rich in monetary terms, but in their deep culture. I’m sure just as we observed in the streets closer to The Bund, these roads have changed very little. I can imagine walking down this area in the 1930’s and experiencing many of the same sites, smells, and customs that we do today.

Turning back towards The Bund is a large area under construction. Out with the old, in with the new. The remnants of thoughtfully designed Art Deco apartments stand in a crumbled heap. If those walls could talk, I’m sure they would tell tales of the glory days when the future looked bright and money and opportunity endless. I understand the push forward to make new and refresh cities, but it saddens me when there is not a middle ground. Back in the day buildings were not necessarily made to last here. They were put up quickly and lived in hard. Many of them could not be restored even if building crews wanted to, so they must be torn down and built anew. I suppose you could look at it as an opportunity. New walls to hold new stories. But I love the past and grieve a bit when it is not preserved.


Our walk concluded back where we started, standing in front of the Peninsula Hotel on The Bund. We put our pinkies up and went in for a much deserved afternoon cocktail. I thought as we sipped our delicacies what a contrast it was to an hour earlier when we paid 25RMB for our lunch made by street vendors on the local streets.

Shanghai is deep and layered in its history. It was fascinating to walk the streets and imagine life here in the 1920’s-’30’s. Shanghai is also a contrast of past and future, of the wealthy and the poor. But through it all, despite our history or backgrounds, we still manage to come together and make the city special.

Our walk opened my eyes to many things I have passed time and time again but never took time to really “see”. If you have the chance, step into history. Don’t just read about it in a book. Walk the streets. Stand where you are and take it all in. Imagine a time of days gone by when life was different, yet somehow much the same as today. I am thankful we did, and I know you will be too.

Special thanks to Barbara Green, Tess Johnston, Ruth Lear, and Carolyn Robertson for walking the Streets of Shanghai and writing The Streets of Changing Fortune: SIX SHANGHAI WALKS so we could too!IMG_7522


A Trip to the Market

Perhaps one of the most fun aspects of living in Shanghai is the many types of markets available for shopping. Fabric, fake, pearl, photography, electronics, produce, you name it, there is a market for it. Our favorites are the fake market and the fabric market. Pretty much anything you could need or want can be found in one of these two markets. Except for Bath and Body Works soaps. Oh, how I miss those. But I suppose if they did sell them they would be fake so maybe not the best idea. Who knows what ingredients would actually be in them. Anyway…

Last weekend we took a trip to both the fake and fabric markets. These places do have actual names. I think one is AP Plaza and the other, South Bund Spinning and Fabric Market, but really, who has time to say all of that? We like to keep things simple. We have even simplified names for some of the locals we buy things from. The lamp lady, jacket guy, pancake lady, DVD guy, etc. Mostly because we couldn’t pronounce their names if we tried, but you get the point.

So, our first stop was the fake market, and I was on a mission to buy some Christmas presents. Now one does not walk into a local market and purchase an item at face value. No way! Part of any good Chinese market experience is the haggling.

Not only does Jackson have to negotiate with the vendor, but also with his wife. Which will be the tougher sell? Then there’s Hunter with no money. Sigh.

My ultimate goal is to walk away feeling like I got a good deal. Negotiations usually go something like this,

Me: “How much is this?”
Vendor: “It’s 460 RMB.”
Me: “No, way too much.”
Vendor: “Ok, I give you good friend price. 380 RMB.”
Me: laugh and shake my head, “no way. Still too much.”
Vendor: “Ok, ok, you give me price.”
Me: “150.”
Vendor: Look of utter shock, “You joking me. No way. How about 350?”
Me: “No. Forget it, I don’t want it anyway.” Turn and leave store
Vendor: Chases me down the aisle. “Ok, ok 200 RMB.”
Me: “No, 150.”
Vendor: “Fine, fine, you are killing me. Ok”. Followed by a substantial amount of muttering under the breath while putting my item in a bag.
Deal done.

I walk away knowing I paid what the item was worth and the vendor plays the anger card but knows he/she also sold it for what it’s worth and they will get a lot more from the next sucker who walks into their store. So back to my mission. I knew I wanted some travel wine cups (apparently all the rage this year) And I knew I wanted to pay 22 RMB for them. After walking away empty-handed from two stores, without even so much as a chase down, I was in luck in the third. After a tough negotiation down from 50 to 23 RMB. I figured this was close enough to the price I wanted to pay. When I told her I wanted 36 cups her eyes nearly popped out of her head. Subsequently, I got the, “you’re killing me,” and “I make no profit” line quite a few times so I know I got a good deal.

Now how am I going to carry all of these?


Christmas presents bought, we were onto the fabric market to get some things made. My husband, Brett, wanted a sportcoat made, so we went to a lady he has used many times before. Although she has his measurements on file, she looked at him and said, “we measure you again.” When she wrapped the measuring tape around his stomach, her eyes grew wide, and she said, “you got much bigger.” I snorted, then almost fell on the floor laughing. Poor guy.

The lady who noticed Brett’s “larger” stomach. And yes, Jack bought this hat at the Fake Market. Quite a find!

But hey, don’t ever get too much of a kick out of someone else’s misfortune or karma will get you back. Next, we went to my “shirt lady” so I could have a couple of, well, shirts made. Brett and the boys stood outside the store while I wheeled and dealed my way to a reasonable price. After we left, Brett showed me a picture he took while waiting. This was the sign on the store:CC2FE866-C3D4-4BD3-A36E-5EFB366119EB-11883-000004C6B690F516_tmp

At the end of the day, we all had a laugh and chalked it up to just another adventure in China. Every day there is something new to make you giggle. We certainly are lucky to call this place home.


How to (Mutianyu). The best way to do The Great Wall of China.

So you want to visit The Great Wall of China? Good choice. Being one of the 7 wonders of the world it certainly won’t disappoint. After all, how often can you say you have been to a manmade structure that can be seen from outer space? That in and of itself is pretty cool. In fact, visiting The Great Wall became our family’s favorite trip in China.

However, there are some pretty big mistakes that can be made when visiting The Great Wall. More than 4 million people visit the Wall every year. Trust me, you do not want to get caught up in the throngs of people that cluster in massive groups at various points along the Wall. It will make your visit much less enjoyable fighting your way through crowds as you climb stair after stair after stair after stair. Yes, there are that many stairs. In fact, you will go up and down so many times you will feel as if your legs are going to fall off. Why in the world did they have to include so many stairs in any way? Seriously.IMG_0172

But I digress. If you want to visit The Great Wall and enjoy your experience, you will need to get outside of Beijing. Go to Beijing and see the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Maybe take in a Kung Fu show or eat some Peking duck, but when you are done take a drive outside the city to Mutianyu.

Mutianyu is a small village situated about 40 miles outside of Beijing. It boasts few crowds and one of the best-preserved areas of the wall. While there is a very nice hotel and one tourist center in Mutianyu, you won’t find very much else in town. Staying overnight is limited but possible and if you stay where we did, you will be treated to a surprisingly relaxing vacation.

The Village of Mutianyu


How to get there

Luckily you have multiple options to get to Mutianyu. If you are using Beijing as a home base, your best bet will be traveling by car or bus. We flew into Beijing, spent the day there taking in the sights, then hired a driver to take us out to the village. You can also take a bus that runs regularly throughout the day.

How long will it take

The answer to that is, how long do you have? We spent the better part of a day hiking along the Wall. It was such a luxury to have much of the Wall to ourselves, and the scenery kept getting more and more beautiful so we just kept going. By the end of our trip, we calculated to have walked 10 miles! I would suggest staying overnight for a night or two so you won’t be rushed.DSCF0879

Where to stay

Our family of 7 stayed at The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu. We all agreed it was by far our favorite place to stay out of all our trips in China. It felt more like a villa in Sonoma Valley than a hotel in China. The Schoolhouse offered a lovely courtyard, open-concept rooms with views of the Wall, and delicious meals. During our stay, we enjoyed a jazz night under the stars complete with a wonderful buffet dinner. Check out their website here: for lodging and dining options as well as seasonal offerings and special events.

How to do The Great Wall at MutianyuIMG_0115

One of the highlights of visiting The Great Wall at Mutianyu is the cableway and luge options for getting up and down the mountain, especially when traveling with children. They get a kick out of riding the ski lift to the top and rushing down the luge to the bottom.
Price: adults-single trip CNY 100/round trip CNY 120, children: single trip CNY 50 single trip/CNY 60 round trip.
Service Hours: March 16-November 15: 8am-5pm, November 16-March 15: 8:30am-4:30pm
Of course, The Great Wall itself doesn’t close, but the cableway and luge do. Whatever you do, take note of these hours. When we went we were clueless. If you want to get a kick out of our misadventure with the luge (and more), just click on this link: How to Be a Loner on The Great Wall

Thoughts and Things

  • When we arrived at the top of the cableway, we walked north along the Wall. Eventually, this led us to the “Wild Wall”, a section of the Wall that has not been preserved. This area offered some spectacular views. However, if you go this way use extreme caution. Hiking becomes treacherous at times. At some points, we were literally climbing up slippery sand trails on hands and knees.DSCF0936
  • People sell water and snacks along the way. When we went it was pretty hot and ice-cold popsicles were very welcomed so make sure you bring some cash.IMG_0190
  • You will be walking on some very uneven surfaces and up and down steep steps. Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately.
  • Sometimes the air quality is bad so it may be necessary to wear a mask. Make sure you check the AQI before you venture out.
  • The best times of year to visit are; April, May, September, and October as these are the months with the most favorable weather. We went in June and it was really hot but the trees were very green, aiding to the spectacular views.IMG_0211

If you are going to visit The Great Wall, do it right. Get out of Beijing with the millions of others and take a trip to Mutianyu. It will be an incredibly enjoyable experience and one you will never forget!

How to Be a Loner on The Great Wall

You may think it is going to be impossible to find a piece of The Great Wall of China that you will get all to yourself. With 4 million visitors annually you could be right. However, I am going to let you in on a little secret. There is a place where you can get away from the throngs of tourists and find pockets where you will not see another soul.DSCF0895

One hot June day, our family of 7 had the privilege of visiting the Wall. We had been staying in the village of Mutianyu, a sleepy little area 40 miles outside of Beijing. I’ll admit, with our large party we were never truly alone on the Wall, and probably actually resembled a tour group. That being said, we just couldn’t believe how few people we encountered throughout the day.

With great anticipation, we rode the cableway to the top of the mountain and hopped off right onto the Wall. Our first big decision was which direction to head. We decided to go left and immediately ran into a vendor selling touristy items. Of course, our youngest son Jack wanted a souvenir Chinese hat (which looking back was probably not a very p.c. option) and we obliged. A little tip, if a vendor doesn’t argue with you and basically says you are “killing them” over the price, or chase you down in order to make the sale, you are probably paying too much. We paid too much. The vendor walked away with a smile and we kicked ourselves for not trying to bargain harder.

Potentially offensive hat on head, off we went. The first thing we noticed, there were stairs. A lot of stairs. Like nothing but stairs. I kept telling myself we would get to the top of the next hill and have the opportunity to go down, but it seemed like the entire hike was uphill. You know the old adage of walking to school uphill both ways? Well, now I know it can actually be true!DSCF0913

So we walked and we sweat. It was summer and it was hot. Thankfully we ran into vendors at various watchtowers along the way who sold water, popsicles, and beer. And come on, to say you drank an ice cold beer on top of The Great Wall is pretty darn cool.DSCF0880

Eventually, the Wall began to get more dilapidated. Our oldest, Autumn is always up for an adventure and was psyched to explore this section, also known as the “Wild Wall” so we continued on. After all, although it looked a bit dangerous I had to prove to my kids that their mom is no wimp. I can hang with the best of them.DSCF0918

To say this part of the hike was treacherous is an understatement. I’ll admit it was not one of my finest moments as a protective mother. At some points, we were literally climbing up slippery sand trails on hands and knees. But once we reached the top the views were outstanding.DSCF0958 It was totally worth the risk…until we realized we had to turn around and go back down. Do you remember the children’s book, The Pokey Little Puppy when he ran “pell-mell and tumble bumble” down the hill? Well, that’s about how we went down. But despite our harrowing journey, we all made it back to the restored section of the Wall relatively unscathed.

Brotherly bonding before Elijah’s infamous breakdown.

It was getting late and time to head back to home base. We were exhausted and the only thing keeping us going was the fun luge ride we would be able to take back down to the bottom. But you know how I told you it was an uphill journey both ways? Yep, I was right. Both ways. Our poor wobbly legs could hardly climb any more steps. However, we had a way to go in order to make it to the luge but were finding it pretty cool that most of the people had cleared out and we were basically on our own on the Wall. Well, we found it pretty cool until we realized that the visitor center had closed and the luge was no longer running. My husband tried to convince the workers to just let us take a quick trip down but they weren’t giving in. He couldn’t even sway them with a monetary bribe. So guess what we got to do…take the stairs all the way down to the bottom…of a mountain. Our middle son, Elijah, was having a complete meltdown. Well, to be honest, he had been having a meltdown since about the first 500 stairs we climbed and I was getting to the same point pretty quickly. Finally, after a few hundred more stairs we made it to the bottom. Elijah collapsed and we all felt as if we had just run a marathon. Later when we calculated our steps we figured we had walked about 10 miles!IMG_0221

Although it was a difficult journey, we all agreed it was an amazing experience. We loved having the opportunity to walk The Great Wall and would do it again in a heartbeat. Perhaps next time though we will train before we go, and maybe even do some carbo-loading the night before.

If you want to be a loner visiting The Great Wall, do as we did. Take a journey out to Mutianyu and enjoy few crowds, stunning views, Just remember, wear good hiking shoes, drink beer, wear a watch, and don’t miss the luge!

Make sure you check out my Mutianyu travel guide here: How to (Mutianyu). The best way to do The Great Wall of China. for lots of handy tips.


Shanghai Disneyland Through the Eyes of a Child. (11 tips from an 11-year-old)

I am so excited to have a guest contributor on this post! Jack wholeheartedly offered his assistance when I told him we needed to do some research on Shanghai Disneyland. Yes, this job does have some pretty sweet perks.

Recently we visited the park and put our noses to the grindstone doing some hard-hitting investigatory work. I told him, this wasn’t going to be a visit for pleasure. No way. This was a business trip. We had to do real research. Like, which rides to run to first, which stands sell the best cotton candy, what is the fastest route to Roaring Rapids. You know, hardcore research. 😉

Hard at work.


I hope this guide will help you plan your trip to Shanghai Disney. If you need Jack and me to go back for more research, all you have to do is ask. We would be happy to help!

1. Prepare for your visit.

Make sure you begin hydrating yourself a few days before you go. Maybe carbo-load the night before. You know, like you are going to run a marathon. You need to be in tip-top shape in order to get the most out of your day at the park.

Jack’s pre-Disney energy-boosting meal.


2. Download the Shanghai Disneyland app.

This is a must for checking park hours, pre-buying park tickets, and getting real-time waits for rides. After all, you don’t want to miss a no-wait opportunity for Pirates of the Caribbean if you are stuck in a 2-hour line for Peter Pan. Don’t mess around. According to Jack, a visit to Disney needs to be meticulously planned so you don’t miss out on anything.

3. Bring the right supplies.

In Jack’s terms, this means: let your mom pack everything you may even remotely need during your visit. Sunscreen, snacks, a portable phone charger, face masks (if the air quality is bad…yes, this does happen), tennis shoes, and of course, Mickey or Minnie Ears. I mean really, can you honestly do Disney justice without them?IMG_4832


I hope I have made my point clear with the aggressive use of the all-caps-lock. Trust me, the only thing worse than waiting in a line for 2 hours is waiting in line with Chinese people for 2 hours. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chinese people, but they consistently push and cut the line like it’s no big deal. That gets old really fast. By the end of your first ride, you will be ready to leave the park (and possibly China altogether).

We stupidly went during Chinese New Year. This was the 45-minute backpack check line before even entering the park.


5. Plan your park route.

Once inside the park, choose which rides you must do and head to them first. Jack’s advice is to wait to get FastPasses until their second distribution in the afternoon. Don’t run right to a FastPass line with all the other suckers. Instead, go straight to the ride and get on before they even get their passes. Just remember it’s not nice to laugh at them as you zoom past on the ride they will get onto 3 hours from now.IMG_4851

6. Plan your dining accordingly.

Jack’s top tip: Don’t wait until dinner to go to the corndog stand by Tomorrowland. It closes early. Trust me on this one. It happened to us once, and as you can tell, Jack is still traumatized. Also, make sure you eat lots of treats to keep your energy up. Jack’s recommendations are Buried Treasure Bars, cotton candy, and (of course) corndogs. You know, all the essential food groups of sugar, food coloring, and artificial flavors that all contribute to the magic of Disney.

Keeping himself energized.


7. Be prepared for the shows.

What we mean is, they are all in Mandarin. We were excited to see the Jack Sparrow show, but were disappointed when literally the only words we could understand were “Jack Sparrow.” It took away a bit of the excitement when we had no clue what was going on. Also, most of the rides are in Mandarin as well. So be ready to hear, “Yo ho, Yo ho a pirate’s life for me” sung a bit differently than you are used to.

8. Top 5 rides.

According to Jack, all the rides at Shanghai Disneyland are pretty great, but here are his top 5 in order of importance:

1. Tron. After all, it is really the only true roller coaster in the park.

2. The 7 Dwarfs Mine Train Ride. Some may argue that this is also a roller coaster. We agreed to give it “baby roller coaster” status which for Jack’s dad, Brett, was all the thrill ride he needed. I won’t say he screamed like a little girl when he rode it but…

3. Alice in Wonderland Maze. Not so much a ride as an attraction but a fun way to get lost in the park.IMG_0153

4. Pirates of the Caribbean. Although it is all in Mandarin, it has been updated and offers some pretty impressive graphics.

5. Roaring Rapids. Honestly, what kid doesn’t love a ride that has the potential of getting you soaked? And on that note, why am I always the one that gets the wettest?

9. Don’t expect everyone who is dressed-up to be a cast member.

For some reason, many of the local girls use Shanghai Disneyland as an excuse to dress like a little girl or an Anime character. We have no idea why but they do add quite a lot to the people-watching aspect of your visit. I asked Jack if perhaps I should dress up the next time we go. He told me to stick my Minnie Mouse ears. Sigh.IMG_4860

10. Be the fun person in the park.

The first time we visited Shanghai Disneyland, we had the privilege to go with (almost) the entire family. It was then that I realized my son-in-law possesses a very impressive skill. He is an amusement park pro and is going to be the fun dad when he takes his own kids to Disneyland. He made-up games while we waited in line. 20 questions, Would you Rather, you know, games to make you feel like you haven’t been standing in the same spot for 30 minutes. We were all entertained and the games made waiting just a little more bearable. Future dad points for you Jackson!IMG_0604

11. Use the single-rider line option.

This is the most important “Jack tip” of all. Chances are you will probably be close to your companion on the ride anyway so cut your wait time by two-thirds or more by choosing this line.

A few more tips

(I am a mom after all and would feel remiss without throwing in a few extras)

  • Bring your passport. You will need it to buy tickets
  • If you will be visiting the park 3+ times, get a season pass. You will be spending about the same amount of money and will be able to get discounts at many restaurants and shops.
  • While most places accept credit card (except American Express), some food stands only accept cash so, bring some RMB just in case.
  • If food in the park doesn’t float your boat, you can leave and eat in Downtown Disney. We highly recommend The Cheesecake Factory. Reentry into the park is free.
  • If you buy your tickets ahead of time, you can enter the park through Downtown Disney. There is an entrance near Wolfgang Pucks. We call it the secret entrance. Little known fact. You’re welcome.IMG_4866

So there you have it, all the most essential Shanghai Disneyland tips according to an 11-year-old (and his super cool mom). We love visiting the park and hope you will too. Now put on those Mickey Mouse ears and get to it!