We had plans to go to Shanghai in January 2020, but COVID got in the way and we cancelled. It had always been one of my goals to visit the most populated city in China. With COVID preventing us from leaving the country for Christmas 2020, my friends and family decided to make the best of it by spending our holiday in Shanghai!
Because we were so busy with the end of the semester grind, we actually forgot to plan our trip to Shanghai until 2 weeks before we were supposed to leave! I couldn’t believe that we were able to find rooms at hotels near the Bund and Shanghai Disney with so little time left. My family of 3 were accompanied by our friend’s family of 4, and 3 other teachers. We really didn’t have any plans as to what we would do when we got there(except for Disney), because our goal was to get out of Beijing and enjoy ourselves. We took a 2.5 hour plane ride from Beijing to Shanghai and had another hour drive from the airport to the hotel. We decided to get a hotel right at the center of the city because we didn’t want to be paying a lot in transportation costs. We chose to begin our trip at the JinJiang Metropolo Classic Hotel on Nanjing Road. Our hotel was beautiful and inexpensive! It was directly on the Walking Street that had high-end shopping and food stalls. It was even right next to the subway and the Bund!
We had amazing food options in the city! Some were very expensive and some were moderately priced, but they were all delicious! Our first restaurant was called The Nest, not very far from the Bund. This gastropub was definitely on the expensive side and appealed to very high-end tastes. Our party had beef tartare, caviar, steaks, etc. Our party of 10 had a pretty big bill afterwards, but it was worth it for the experience. Another place I would recommend would be Beef and Liberty, right next to the Ritz Carlton Hotel. We have had some fair burgers in China, but this place was by far the best! They had authentic milkshakes too, which is not always easy to find in Beijing. The kids favored this restaurant above all others and we ordered way too many Mac n Cheese bites. Our favorite breakfast place was the Spread the Bagel. There are only a few bakeries in Beijing that offer bagels and the varieties are slim. Spread the Bagel had a ton of options and made bagel sandwiches too! We were in heaven during brunch times! We even made it to the Taco Bell, but were disappointed as it had as few selections as the Beijing location. There was also an Italian place, whose name escapes me, but we ate good on this trip!
We hadn’t had the chance to go to many museums since COVID had begun, so we jumped at the chance in Shanghai. We visited the Shanghai Museum first, which was a museum about ancient Chinese art. We were in luck, because they also had an exhibition open about the Tang Shipwreck, showing off the treasures from 1200 years ago. The items were still in great condition, despite their age. The items included mostly ceramics, but they found some gold and silver artifacts as well. My favorite part of the museum was the exhibition on currency. I love coins and it was really amazing to see all of the different currencies the Chinese have used over the many thousands of years. We really loved the Shanghai Natural Museum, though. This museum was perfect for kids and adults alike. There were dinosaurs, animal exhibits, 4D movies, etc. We spent nearly the whole day there because we enjoyed it so much! This museum was one of our favorite stops in the city of Shanghai.
Our very last touristy thing we HAD to do was to view Shanghai from one of the famous observation decks! There are three different choices of buildings (because they are so tall), but we went with the World Financial Center because we were told it had the best view. We could have gone to the Shanghai Tower (tallest building in China) for the same price but I am in it for a better view, not altitude sickness. Because the tower was so close to our hotel, we decided to take the subway one stop over and walk to the center. We managed to get there and up the 100 stories about 10 minutes before the city lights turn on at 7 p.m. I don’t know if it was our timing or just a regular Tuesday night, but there was NO ONE else there for most of the time. We managed to get a few amazing pictures from the observation deck and got a few professional ones taken after the city lights had turned on. I had never been anywhere close to that height before, it was quite the rush! After we had gone back down to the ground, we enjoyed taking pictures between the big 3 skyscrapers and went back to the hotel to prepare for Disneyland the next day!
The next morning, we packed our luggage into the Didi and headed to Disneyland! The drive from the city to Disney took about 40 minutes and we ended up at the luxurious Disneyland Hotel. This place was gorgeous! It reminded me a bit of the Grand Californian Hotel in California. Although we showed up WAY before our check-in, the hotel had no problem put our luggage into storage and letting us head to the theme park. The hotel staff spoke a fair amount of English and helped us with anything we needed. We stopped for first at the hotel canteen first and had the best beef curry noodle bowl I HAVE EVER HAD. Then we got on the shuttle and headed for our Christmas Eve Disney fun! I wasn’t quite sure how busy Disney would be because Christmas is not a public holiday in China. While many international schools have it off, public schools and most businesses do not take the holiday off. There were also COVID restrictions and the park could only have so many people in it at one time. This made Christmas Eve/Christmas the perfect vacation time for us! The longest we had to wait for a ride was 30 minutes, the rest of the time it was between a 10-15 minute wait. I will take that any day!
Christmas Eve was great, but Christmas was even better. Disney opened up a 30 minutes early due to the holiday and our Magic Hour from the hotel let us into the park an hour earlier than that! We managed to ride the Tron rollercoaster 3 times in less than 30 minutes. If you have never heard of it, it is worth looking up, I have never been on a ride quite like that. This park actually had a lot of things that the California Disney did not have. For instance, there was a lot more going on in the Shanghai Disney Castle, which is largest castle in all of the Disney parks. The castle had stores, the Bibbidi Boppidi Boutique where you could dress the girls as princesses, and had the Snow White Story-Telling Exhibit. Plus, some of the rides are just better than the California Disney. This was especially true with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride! I was never impressed by the California one, but the Shanghai one has everything! I won’t go too much into it, but this ride was worth the awards it has earned. They are not finished building either, we saw construction still going on and it is for their not-yet-finished Zoo Topia land. We may have to go back to check that out!
We went back to our hotel for dinner and decided to do it big by eating at Lumiere’s Kitchen. This was the big buffet with every type of food you could imagine. They had seafood, pasta stations, desserts, ice cream, carved meats, etc. It was delicious, albeit expensive. I don’t know if we would have come to this restaurant if we had a bunch of little kids, but we really enjoyed it. It was even better because the Disney characters were walking around in their Christmas outfits and saying hello to the kids. It was worth it to do it once, but I am not sure I would do it again if given the chance. I will go back to the canteen and have my beef curry noodle bowl instead! Afterwards, we got back on to the water ferry that the hotel provides and went to view the Christmas fireworks at the Disney castle.
The Fireworks Show on Christmas Day was SUPER CROWDED. I wondered where the heck all of these people had popped up because I hadn’t seen any crowds all day. We were told by the hotel staff that they recommended showing up 1.5 hours early to see the show and that still wasn’t early enough. Any places that had seating were long gone and we stood in the cold next to a trash can the whole wait. The Chinese have no problems squishing in…and they did. I had hoped the park would rope off the area once we had reached capacity, but they didn’t. We had people moving around trying to get a better spot even after the fireworks began. The most infuriating person was a women that showed up a minute before and lifted her child onto her shoulders directly in front of us. My husband had to tell her in Chinese that she had to move. She was beyond rude and had to be yelled at by 10 other visitors before she finally moved. The show came and went and while it was beautiful, the headache we had to go through was pretty unfortunate. Ah well, DISNEY!
Overall, Shanghai was an amazing city and we loved being there! I now see why so many expats end up moving to Shanghai because it is so Western and wonderful. I said before this trip began that this would be our only time visiting Shanghai. Now I know that we will HAVE to come back before we leave China.