Get Your Thrills at Asia’s Most Amazing Theme ParksBy Rob LeDonne
Buckle up, because some of the most exciting theme parks on Earth are located across Asia. Promising experiences you’ll never forget, characters you love and sights that amaze, there’s truly something for everyone — whether you’re searching for heart-stopping roller coasters, dazzling displays of technology and innovation, or jaunts that in equal parts electrify and educate.
From instantly recognizable attractions to lesser-known gems, here are six of the finest theme parks Asia has to offer.
Ocean Park Hong Kong
Wong Chuk Hang / Nam Long Shan, Hong Kong
One of the world’s most visited theme parks, Hong Kong’s impressive Ocean Park is spread out across a gargantuan 226 acres, cut in half by a mountain (yes, an actual mountain) that visitors can traverse by cable car or railway system.
Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the immense property boasts elements of an oceanarium, where you’ll find the world’s largest aquarium dome, an animal and marine mammal park complete with panda habitat, and an amusement park (think LOTS of roller coasters), all of which offer the perfect mix of education and fun.
Rest up after a day of hitting the rides at the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, which is in walking distance from the theme park.
Wonderla Amusement Park Bengaluru
Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Aside from a typical assortment of rides that offer thrills (brace yourself for the wet and wild Boomerang), what sets Wonderla Amusement Park apart from the rest of the theme park pack is its wide array of immensely unique attractions.
Treat your eyes and ears to a high-tech dance floor where you’ll get rained on via an amalgamation of sprinklers, as well as laser shows and a musical fountain. Located just outside Bangalore city center, Wonderla’s delights are spread across 84 landscaped acres.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Lantau Island, Hong Kong
It’s the most magical place on Earth with a distinctly Hong Kong flavor. One of the famed stomping grounds of the likes of Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the iconic Disney gang, Hong Kong Disneyland mimics the brand’s famed properties in both Florida and California by offering legendary attractions such as Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street USA.
In addition, get ready to rub elbows with the likes of Woody and Buzz, as the park also has a “Toy Story”–themed area aptly dubbed “Toy Story Land.” Marvel fans will also love the “Iron Man Experience,” exclusive to the park, as well as two other rides — the magical Mystique Manor (which influenced Disneyland Paris’ Ratatouille ride) and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars coaster — both only available to experience at the Hong Kong resort.
Universal Studios Singapore
Sentosa Island, Singapore
Considered one of the best family-friendly theme parks not just in Asia, but in the world, Universal Studios Singapore (a part of Resorts World Sentosa) has been a top draw since opening in 2011. Its 49 acres house 24 attractions, many of which are inspired by your and your kid’s favorite movies and characters, from “Transformers” to “Shrek” and even the gang from “Sesame Street.”
In addition, Universal Studios Singapore also features areas that mimic the streets of New York City and ancient Egypt, allowing visitors to globe-trot without ever leaving the confines of the park.
Tama New Town, Tokyo, Japan
Calling all Hello Kitty fans! Sanrio Puroland is the perfect spot for the young or young at heart as your wildest Hello Kitty fantasy comes to life before your very eyes.
A 17-mile jaunt from Tokyo in the city’s bustling Tama New Town, this standout park offers a grab-bag of rides and attractions, as well a packed schedule of special parades and shows sure to dazzle. Make sure you bring your selfie stick, too, as Puroland gives visitors an opportunity to meet their favorite Sanrio characters.
Jeju Shinhwa World
Jeju, South Korea
Get double the theme park pleasure at Jeju Shinwa World on Jeju Island, which — in addition its sprawling, whimsically designed wonderland of rides — recently opened a water park, where families can splash around on 19 different attractions, including the RocketBLAST water coaster and a wave pool.
But first things, first. Start your visit at the theme park, which is divided into three distinct — equally imaginative — zones. Head into Rotary Park, a steampunk-themed land that reimagines 19th-century factories of the industrial revolution, where a dance team greets you upon arrival. Next, make your way to Oscar’s New World, a jungle-inspired realm where Incan and Mayan culture comes to life. Finally, Larva Adventure Village, where humans feel as tiny as larvae.
For easy access to the park, book a stay at Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort, in the thick of the theme park action.
Disney’s largest theme park outside of the United States, Shanghai Disneyland opened in 2016, and features the company’s tallest castle, the Enchanted Storybook Castle, as its centerpiece, with its architecture reflecting all of Disney’s princesses in its design.
Inside, guests can climb the castle’s stairs and explore the world of Snow White through different rooms that come to life with interactive effects (wave at Snow White’s furry friends and they’ll wave back as they clean her kitchen), or take a boat ride through The Little Mermaid’s world in the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.
Park designers have made sure the park reflects Chinese culture in a variety of ways. You won’t find Main Street at the entrance to the park, for example, and characters like Chip and Dale pair up with Donald Duck to learn Tai chi.
The two biggest draws of the park, however, are the thrilling TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure rides. Both exclusive attractions to Shanghai break new ground when it comes to theme park attractions — in fact, they’re two of the best rides available at any park in the world — and it’s obvious the wizards at Walt Disney Imagineering had a blast designing these attractions. In fact, they’re worth the trip to Shanghai just to ride them.
Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan is the only place outside of Los Angeles and Orlando where you can visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the recreation of Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle from the “Harry Potter” films doesn’t disappoint. This version is the only one that has The Great Lake from the books next to the castle. And yes, there’s butterbeer. Lots of butterbeer.
Other standouts at the park include an entirely new recreation of the town from “Minions” (order the delicious Minion sandwich cookies); the “Jaws” boat ride, where you’ll be hunted by the Great White from Steven Spielberg’s classic; and for the kids, Universal Wonderland, which features food and rides themed around Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street characters.
One way USJ really differentiates itself is through virtual reality rides based on popular Japanese properties like “Sailor Moon,” “Evangelion,” and “Final Fantasy.” These ever-changing attractions mix VR footage with actual coaster tracks, creating a whole new way to experience the properties, and keep you wanting to come back for more.
Keep an eye on this park since it will soon get a Nintendo-themed expansion with rides based on “Mario Bros.” and other popular video games.
Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
Two of Disney’s most popular theme parks in the world, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, along the Tokyo Bay, offer up the classic rides you’d expect to find in the U.S., but with a twist. Indiana Jones: Temple of the Crystal Skull is inside a massive Mayan temple, for example, and a plethora of themed food (Mickey Shaped pork buns), while you’ll find other hidden sights around the park, including a bi-plane with C-3PO as its call sign, a fun reference to “Star Wars.”
The standout of the pair of parks, though, is DisneySea, a water-themed resort whose main attraction is an erupting volcano at the center of the park that houses Mysterious Island, based on Jules Verne’s novel of the same name. The area is the base for Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus,and houses rides based on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” one of which blasts riders out of the side of the mountain.
And if you’re a fan of Duffy, visitors to Tokyo Disneyland were first to make Mickey’s plush bear popular when he was offered as an item you could buy from the parks’ stores.