Park Review: Happy Valley Shanghai (Shanghai, China)
In Shanghai Metropolitan Area, there are 3 major theme parks: the 2 being local theme parks and the other 1 being the foreign monster entrant, Shanghai Disneyland, which I reviewed last year.
Having been going to Shanghai Disney for multiple times since I obtained my Spring Seasonal Pass, I realized that it was finally time for me to explore the witty world of Chinese theme parks. After some research and consideration, I made Happy Valley Shanghai as my first Chinese "true" local theme park I have ever visited. After all, the park is well-known for its relatively great roller coaster line-ups, including an Intamin Megalite, a B&M Diver, and a Gravity Group woodie.
|Happy Valley Shanghai's simple main entrance. Admission fee was around CNY 250 when I went there.|
Whereas Shanghai Disneyland is located all the way to the east close to Shanghai-Pudong International Airport, Happy Valley Shanghai is located to the west of the city, being approximately 40 km away from the former. If you are departing from the city, you should go to the Sheshan Station on Line 9 of the Shanghai Metro and take the free orange shuttle bus located across the street (take the bridge to cross the street).
Okay, so without further due... let's go right away to exploring the park!
The park clearly has attempted creating aspects of storytelling here and there, albeit not as successful as - say - Shanghai Disneyland. With that being said, the park overall reminds me a lot of theme parks operated and owned by Cedar Fair and Six Flags, both of which are major players in the United States whose focus are rather the roller coasters and thrill rides themselves rather than the theming.
Yet, in many spots around the park, there were areas where I felt "cold," or can I say "extremely creeped out." The park was very empty when I visited and it created this eerie feeling as if this is not a theme park, but rather a ghost town. Perhaps I visited on a bad day?
|The entrance plaza of Happy Valley Shanghai, lit up by many lighted ornaments at night.|
|Many spots at Happy Valley Shanghai were completely deserted, creating eerie atmosphere throughout the day.|
In terms of theming, I must say that Happy Valley Shanghai has actually done a decent job, particularly with the front section of the park. There are spots where I actually felt "alive" and "festive." On the other hand, some spots literally have zero theming, with the park disregarding the storytelling flow whatsoever. In this case, I was quickly drawn out of the immersion of the park and came back to the reality of the park not designed very carefully.
|At the front section of the park, Happy Valley Shanghai's theming is actually decent. This section is themed to a coastal town.|
|On the other hand, some spots are literally left out with no theming or sceneries whatsoever, abruptly disconnecting the immersion of the park.|
Other than the immersion, the parks do not offer customized food options. Most visitors tend to stick with the franchise restaurants that have locations throughout the park, like Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut.
While the park itself may have a lot of things to improve upon here and there, the rides line-up at Happy Valley Shanghai is actually strong. The theme park has 7 roller coasters, 3 of which are often regarded as the star attractions of the park. It's even better knowing that these 3 roller coasters are designed by the world's leading roller coaster manufacturers: Intamin, B&M, and Gravity Group.
The park has done a great job in spreading these attractions throughout the park. The B&M Diver is located at the very back of the park, the Gravity Group woodie is located at the front of the park, and the Intamin Megalite is located at the middle, to the left-side of the park. The park's intention of spreading the crowd as evenly as possible is well-planned and commendable.
|The park did a great job in spreading the star attractions, with the Megalite (yellow), Diver (red), and woodie (brown) in different locations of the park.|
My favourite ride at the park is Fireball, a wooden roller coaster designed by the Gravity Group. Just like their other roller coasters, Fireball has the characteristic of its high-speed rattle journey throughout the entire ride. The ride has the right amount of rattle to it, and maintains its high speed throughout the course. While the stats of the coaster makes it rather insignificant at first, I like this coaster because other than being China's first wooden roller coaster, it also brings the best view of the park amongst all of the other coasters.
My favourite seat is on the last row. The airtime is not insane, but still great. I was literally lifted out of my seats close to half of the course. Additionally, this ride is just pure wild: smashing you up and down, left and right.
The ride is actually so wild that the operators required the riders to warm up and stretch before riding, e.g. stretch the neck, stretch the back, the upper body, etc. I never saw something similar done on an American coaster before so I thought it was really funny.
|Fireball stretches well throughout the front section of the park.|
Next is my first ever Intamin Megalite, which in this park roughly translates to "Blue Moon Coaster" or something like that. But because I can't confirm the name, let's go with the name Intamin Megalite.
Before I rode this coaster model, I have read many reviews of this kind of roller coaster. Many cited the airtime of the coaster as the highlight, particularly noting the rather small size of the model. What they said is true, the coaster is only 100-ish feet tall, the track length is below 3,000 feet, and the top speed is well below 60 mph. It's not a record-breaking coaster, nor is it a coaster that someone can boast of.
The ride experience itself was nothing else but pure bliss. Despite its minuscule size compared to the neighboring Fireball, this ride packs a whole lotta punch. If you ride at the very back, the airtime is just insane. I was literally thrown out of my seat almost the entire time. It's even better that the ride also boasts Intamin's signature rapid direction changes on the second half of the ride. If there's anything that I can say about this coaster, Intamin Megalite proves that a roller coaster doesn't have to be the tallest, fastest, or longest in order to keep the riders coming back for more. It's that good.
|One of Intamin Megalite's insane airtime hills.|
|For all of you coaster nerds out there...|
Last but not least, there's the B&M Diver that is oddly named "Extreme Glory" or something like that, I have no idea. Perhaps it's the English translation that doesn't work properly. For the sake of clarity, let's called it the Diving Coaster.
If there's one thing, this B&M Diver model is very similar to that of Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: from the 3-row-10-abreast train to the splash zone at the end of the ride, this B&M Diver is a delight for many passer-bys, especially for those who are thinking whether they should ride it or not (mostly they ended up not riding because people screamed excessively at the top of the ride before they dropped vertically to the ground).
|Happy Valley Shanghai's B&M Diver is located at the very back of the park.|
Other than these 3 roller coasters, the park actually does offer quite a lot in terms of number of attractions. However, most shows are not running due to seemingly low number of visitors on the day of my visit, which was disappointing to say.
For example, there was the Mine Train coaster that is quite decent in terms of length and speed. But the second half of the ride is really slow, making me question whether the coaster is well-maintained or not.
|The Mine Train is a decent roller coaster, albeit with questionable maintenance.|
Overall, I must say that Happy Valley Shanghai is a decent park that has similar standards to those of Cedar Fair and Six Flags. The park is decently themed, and the line-up of the rides are rather nice and solid. The admission fee is relatively low compared to Shanghai Disneyland's RMB 370, making it a theme park of great value.
Nevertheless, the question remains whether the park is feasible in the longer term or not. Shanghai Disneyland marks the first entrance of foreign theme park player. The effect was very apparent on Happy Valley Shanghai, with many spots in the park literally deserted without any guests. Not only this makes the park feels "empty," but it also left me creeped out and uncomfortable, because I felt as if I'm the only guest at the park.
|Despite the solid theming overall, Happy Valley Shanghai is generally deserted by guests.|
|I wouldn't dare to go to Haunted House without anyone else.|
Nevertheless, if the park wants to remain competitive in the upcoming years, Happy Valley Shanghai must quickly improved itself. The opening of Shanghai Disneyland has clearly affected the attendance of the park in general.
In 2020, Six Flags will open its own theme park in Mainland China, Six Flags Zhejiang, which reportedly will have record-breaking roller coasters, live shows, thrill experiences, and more. From the sound of it, it's clear that the new park will directly compete with Happy Valley Shanghai. It doesn't help that Six Flags Zhejiang will be located near Hangzhou, which is roughly only 45 miles (~65 km) away from Downtown Shanghai. With the distance between the two parks being so close, it's expected that Happy Valley Shanghai will take even bigger hit in terms of attendance.
|The front promenade of Happy Valley Shanghai provides a nice view of the Diving Coaster, Fireball, and S&S Tower ride.|
The fate of Happy Valley Shanghai is unfortunate: despite being a solid theme park, it suffers from the low maintenance and quality control that is typically expected from Chinese local theme parks. In order to compete with future entrants - particularly foreign ones, especially Six Flags Zhejiang - Happy Valley Shanghai must find a quick way to turn around, creating experiences that fit better to local needs and rely less on attractions alone.