The word that keeps coming to mind with Shanghai Disneyland is unique. It is such an original Disneyland park that you can compare it, but will find it has taken an unusual spin on the traditions that Walt Disney originated. Before this I looked at one of those artistic spins – Mickey Avenue. It can be called the Main Street of Shanghai’s version of a Disney park, but it’s still so original that it’s hard to define it as just that. The next part of the park beyond the Avenue is another part of the park that seems like it’s like the rest around the world, but has it’s own uniqueness. Gardens of Imagination is the place beyond Mickey Avenue. In other parks this would be unofficially called The Hub – the center of the wheel and spoke design that guests can come to in order to go to almost any of the other lands in the park. It’s a central gathering place in Disney parks. But, Shanghai Disneyland has made this to be its own land within the park. So, let’s take a look…
The most noticeable difference between most parks’ central hub and Gardens of Imagination is the size. I estimated that from the end of Mickey Avenue to the front of Enchanted Storybook Castle is the size of Main Street in most Disneylands. That is huge for a gateway area! What’s the reason? Well, it is a “land.” There are attractions here and even a few eateries. There’s even a waterway in front of the castle, almost like a moat. It’s more of a park than a small center.
In The Eye of the Beholder
Gardens of Imagination was one of the most beautiful areas of Disneyland. It was made to be a nice park for a very themed place. Between waterways and lush trees, this was a place to relax at. Much seating was provided here, and the scenery makes for something to do while resting. One picturesque spot is a duplicate Storytellers statue first made famous at Disney California Adventure, but this one sitting in view of the grand castle. It makes for a beautiful photo op.
What To Do
Gardens of Imagination is not just for relaxing, or coming back to get to another part of the park. There are things to do within this land. The main attractions are Dumbo and the Carousel, both very mainstays of Disney parks. I believe this marks Dumbo as being the only attraction in every Disneyland park around the globe. The whimsical attractions have a circus like feel to them. They did blend in somewhat with the surroundings, though themed to be more cartoony as you got up close to them. The area around Dumbo even had circus style music versus the orchestral Disney songs that played more throughout the Gardens. For one that was used to seeing Dumbo and the Carousel on the other side of the castle, it took some getting used to. But, it brought life to the spacious area that is usually just for sitting.
Elsewhere in the Gardens were a couple of other sights to see: Meet Mickey and Marvel Universe. Both were “behind” Dumbo and fashioned to be part of the circus-like theming the flying elephant provides. Meet Mickey was the central greeting spot for the mouse. A very graphic and lit up queue greeted guests with several iterations of Mickey through the years. It was a fun way to go to meet the one that started it all. And, yes, this is the new looking Mickey Mouse. I found it to be a great fit and more like meeting a cartoon than a fuzzy walking character.
Marvel Universe is the spot to catch all that is Marvel. In a faux tent structure, guests can meet Spider-Man or Captain America, watch a history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, shop for some Marvel products, observe props from the films, become Iron Man, and even learn to draw Marvel characters. It was a lively area. Some of the props and backdrops for character greetings seemed a bit familiar. My speculation is this is where Disneyland’s Super Hero HQ stuff went after shutting down in Tomorrowland. Besides being familiar, I thought it all found a great home with some fun, interactive elements to make Marvel even more popular in China.
Marked as an attraction, but something to walk by often and snap pictures at is the Garden of the Twelve Friends. Murals showcase Disney characters as the Chinese zodiac. It was a pleasant alley to get to other lands.
The real treasure of Gardens of Imagination was the Wandering Moon Teahouse. This inspired building was like going to an age old temple. Inside was traditional Chinese cuisine for dining pleasure. The real treat was in the dining rooms. Each had a different theme to them, and were all beautiful unto themselves. It felt like a delicate teahouse and had a bit of isolation from the crowds of the park. Though, you can still get a view of the hustle and bustle of the main walkways. With delicious food and outstanding atmosphere, this wins for the best place I ate at during my visit. It was always a pleasure to walk by as well.
Gardens of Imagination was a remarkable place to keep going into. The more I went through it the less it felt like that usual center of the park. There was so much that made me stop and admire. Having attractions nearby made it all fantastic. And Wandering Moon Teahouse gave it a stake in Chinese tradition. Being one of the first impressions of the park, this gave good insight as to how richly beautiful the rest would be, but with a balance of great entertainment that captivated the imagination. No wonder for its name!