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For Disney fans and nostalgic millennials, there’s nothing like a stay at Shanghai’s Toy Story Hotel. The Pros: Sleek rooms, great service and a free shuttle to the theme parks. The Cons: No swimming pool or fitness center, few dining options and a bit of a language barrier.
Last summer, Disney opened Shanghai Disneyland and its two on-site properties — the posh Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the family friendly Toy Story Hotel. I’d wanted to visit ever since I heard about it, and finally got the chance thanks to a recent business trip to China. Here’s what it was like to stay at the Toy Story Hotel, which did a fantastic job of staying in character throughout.
After choosing my travel dates, I went directly to Disney’s website to book my stay. Rates for a Garden View room were listed as starting at 850 CNY (~$128) per night at the time, but for some reason the website’s flexible calendar didn’t reflect that. With not much flexibility for this trip, I settled on the lowest available rate of 1,552 CNY (~$233) per night. While it wasn’t necessarily exorbitant, it’s worth noting that there are many other nice hotels in the Shanghai area at comparable prices, some of which also offer more luxurious accommodations.
As I went through the booking process, a message popped up on the screen saying, “This order will be cancelled in 18 minutes if payment has not been made.” Needless to say, I paid right away but was concerned when I didn’t receive a confirmation email. I later saw the charge posted on my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card but there was still no confirmation from the hotel. Despite Disney not having a good loyalty program, paying with my CSR card still allowed me to earn 3x points, netting me 13,968 Ultimate Rewards Points for the travel purchase.
That evening, after still not seeing an email confirmation, I called Disney’s US customer services office but the rep wasn’t able to help me at all, claiming that since the locations operate in different silos, the US office doesn’t have access to overseas reservations. The agent suggested I call Shanghai, but I didn’t want to do that so I used the online chat service instead. After some back and forth with the online agent, she was finally able to confirm my reservation. For nearly 20 minutes, she consistently said to call the Shanghai hotel directly even though she was based there. The good news is I did (finally!) receive a confirmation email containing the details of my stay.
Check-In and Lobby
After a 30-minute taxi drive from Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), I was immediately greeted by some of the cast members, as Disney calls its staff. The hotel has a large circular entryway allowing taxis to drop people off in the middle and shuttle buses to the Shanghai Disneyland park to pick you up at the far end.
The Toy Story theme starts right away at the lobby doors — everywhere you look, you’ll see something from the popular Disney films.
The bellman received my luggage when I got out of the taxi and the next time I saw my bags was when they were delivered to my room.
The lobby area is by no means large, but has a casual feel, with its colors drawn straight from the movies.
No matter what time of day or night, the check-in desk always seemed to be bustling with travelers ready to begin their vacation. While going through some of the details of the hotel and theme park, I learned that Shanghai Disneyland is open from 8:00am until 10:00pm — don’t miss the fireworks at 8:30pm — while Disneytown is open from 10:00am until 10:00pm.
Upon giving the receptionist my travel documents and passport, I was handed a welcome packet that included my room keys, a map of the property and some information about the theme park and dining options at Downtown Disney.
Although my Garden View room seemed to be on the 17th floor, it was actually the 7th floor — which is also a little misleading as there are only a total of five floors at this hotel. The layout is vast, so be sure to request a room by the elevators if you mind long walks.
For me, the most magical part of my stay was the room. While I always try to not stay in the room too much during trips, this time I made an exception. From the wall décor and carpet to the night table and bedding, the Toy Story theme was on point.
The nightstand was bright and colorful, too. Unfortunately the telephone and alarm clock it held were a little dated, which was surprising since the hotel only opened last summer.
Even though the room isn’t very large, the designers found a way to fit in a small, colorful table with a couple of wooden chairs — they were very uncomfortable and I wouldn’t recommend sitting in them for more than a few minutes if you’re planning to get work done.
There was a flat screen TV above the dresser, which had a few drawers for storing clothes.
You’ll also find an in-room coffee machine with Dilmah coffee. It worked well, but the coffee was about average.
A relatively large closet held multiple hangers, and one of my favorite perks, Toy Story themed laundry bags and slippers. Surprisingly, the mini-fridge was not stocked, aside from the two complimentary bottles of water I received daily — much appreciated since the temperature was over 100° Fahrenheit in Shanghai when I was there.
This was one of the first hotels I’ve stayed in with two very narrow windows instead of one large one, giving the room a unique feel.
Note that I had reserved a Garden View room and was told at check-in that I could not have an upgrade to a Park View room. Keep in mind that there’s no loyalty program at Disney properties so you can’t request complimentary upgrades like you might with some of the larger chains like Marriott/SPG or Hilton. When I walked into my room, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see at least a partial view of the park.
The bathroom was small but did the trick.
Instead of simple toiletries, I found a Buzz Lightyear themed assortment.
Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soaps were provided by BATHE. The soap products were okay but didn’t smell all that great.
The combination shower/bath was decked out in red and white tiles, with the shower curtain showing various characters from the film, like Andy, Woody and Buzz Lightyear (more on that later).
Food and Beverage
In the morning, I often visited the Sunnyside Market — aka. the hotel deli — to grab a quick bite before I either headed to the park or ventured out to explore the city.
Don’t miss the desserts. Even though the taste of the tarts was not exceptional, having them shaped like Mickey — although, surprisingly not Woody or Buzz — made them a little better.
Every time I visit Disney theme parks in California or Florida, I always get the caramel popcorn. While the taste wasn’t quite the same in Shanghai, just seeing some of the same US-based snacks brought back some great memories.
The large dining area housed a buffet setting with no formal sit-down service options. For me, this was a letdown, since it would have been nice to have had a higher quality restaurant on site.
The offerings ranged from Asian to Western-style entrées, so there’s something for everyone.
The cafeteria-style buffet began with a traditional food tray. Overall, the food was decent, but nothing compared to what you’d find in downtown Shanghai restaurants.
Even though there was a very nice patio seating option, it remained empty because it was much too hot out. During cooler times of the year, it’s a nice option to have.
There are several shuttle bus routes available to take you to Shanghai Disneyland, the Shanghai Disney Resort Metro Station and to the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. Buses run about every 10 minutes and there’s always a cast member around to help you navigate and make sure you’re on the right one.
At Shanghai Disneyland, there are multiple bus stops, so make sure you are aware of the signs and look for your hotel’s bus stop. The walk from the park took about 20 minutes to get to the exit, so be prepared for one last long walk at the end of the day.
In mainland China, many sites including Facebook and Google are blocked and require a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access. In some fancier Shanghai hotels, a VPN is automatically built into the in-room Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, this hotel didn’t have that — not only that, the Wi-Fi was incredibly slow.
I was a little disappointed with the “Lotso” themed gift shop since I was only able to find a handful of Toy Story products — most items were general Disney merchandise. Prices were reasonable though, with mini-dolls for sale from $12.
Since this is a kid-friendly hotel, there’s a complimentary kids club available if parents need to tend to other activities while in Shanghai.
If you’re in need of cash — note that the theme park doesn’t take American Express cards — there’s an ATM hidden near the courtyard where Woody and Buzz stand.
Other Toy Story Tidbits
Since there were so many nice Toy Story themed areas all over the hotel, I wanted to call out a few I thought were memorable enough to share with you. First off, each floor has a large number sign with unique colors and fonts similar to the movie title design.
In the lobby, you’ll find dozens of hanging pictures showing the adventures of our favorite characters from the movies.
The coin pressing machine brought back some good memories, too, allowing you to press your own collectible Toy Story themed coin for just a few dollars.
The elevators had the display screen and voiceover speaker in both Mandarin and English to welcome and inform guests.
The carpeting that welcomes you after you leave the elevators was made up of multiple patterns showing Buzz and his friends in different scenes and colors.
Even the shower curtain was in keeping with the overall hotel theme.
The outside glass of the hotel had a pleasant design as well.
As Buzz says, “To infinity and beyond!”
And don’t forget you’re old pal Woody.
Buzz and Slinky even watch over you as you eat your meals in the buffet dining room.
If you’re looking for a super luxurious experience, don’t stay here. But if you and your family want to bring back fond memories of Buzz and Woody — and create new ones — this is a great option, especially if you plan on visiting Shanghai Disneyland.
Have you ever stayed at the Toy Story Hotel in Shanghai? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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