Four theme parks in Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Shenzhen for holiday thrill seekers
- Southern China is a haven for thrill-seekers – if you know where to go
- These parks, in Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Shenzhen, offer various levels of sophistication
When it comes to famous theme parks and thrilling rides, southern China probably isn’t the first destination to come to mind. Scepticism over the country’s health and safety standards and a lack of international marketing means that many visitors from outside China either avoid making the journey, or do not even know these places exist.
However, for those feeling adventurous enough, there are a surprising number of attractions that entertain millions of guests a year and are located only a short distance from Hong Kong.
China has a healthy appetite for thrills: the number of visitors to the country’s theme parks is likely to reach 220 million in 2020, nearly double the attendance of 2015.
Whether you live in Hong Kong and are looking for a fun holiday treat, or you are visiting the city, here are four theme parks that you can reach without having to board a plane.
Ocean Park – Hong Kong
Forget Disney: as local residents will know, this theme park is suited to thrill-seekers.
The park makes a challenging mountain terrain a key part of its design, featuring a cable car that gives a bird’s-eye view of the South China Sea as it takes guests to the rides (an underground train is available for anyone afraid of heights), plus the appropriately named Hair Raiser roller coaster, which tips the rider upside-down four times in a track partially suspended over the hillside.
As well as a host of other rides, including a fun mine train, there is also an aquarium featuring different shark species and a zoo housing pandas, monkeys, penguins and exotic birds.
180 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong, tel: 3923 2323
Admission: adults HK$480 (US$61); children (aged three to 11) HK$240.
Shenzhen, China – Happy Valley
Shenzhen’s Happy Valley theme park, just across the border from Hong Kong, has somehow managed to remain one of the Chinese city’s best-kept secrets. The 350,000 square-metre park is divided into nine zones with more than 100 attractions to suit all guests.
Guests can take on the many stomach-churning rides, including the white-knuckle 60-metre tall air-launched Bullet Coaster, which accelerates to 135km/h in two seconds. Younger, or less brave, guests can look forward to tamer funfair games, water chutes, shops, restaurants and sideshows.
Overseas Chinese Town, Nanshan district, Shenzhen, China, tel: 0755 2694 9184.
Admission: 230 yuan (US$33) for adults; 120 yuan for children (free for young children under 1.2 metres tall).
Knight Valley, OCT East – Shenzhen
A little weird, but lots of fun – Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) East, around 40 minutes drive from the heart of Shenzhen by bus or taxi in Dai Mei Sha, is a large development overlooking Mirs Bay that stretches from the coast to high up in the mountains. Set within stunning greenery, there are two 18-hole golf courses, a cable car, a wetlands garden, an alpine-themed town, exhilarating rides and immersive themes.
OCT, which opened in 2007 and welcomes four million guests a year, is divided into three theme parks: Knight Valley, Tea Stream Resort Valley, and Wind Valley, and features eight hotels and a Buddhist Temple. The park’s reputation suffered a damaging blow in 2010, when a deadly accident on a ride designed to simulate the experience of a rocket launch led to the deaths of six people and injuries to 10 others. However, new, US-designed rides opened since the crash have boosted confidence in the venue.
All the rides are in Knight Valley, including the Mountain Flyer – one of only two wooden roller coasters in China, which opened in 2011 and makes full use of the park’s vertiginous terrain to reach speeds of 98.5km/h and features swooping 45-metre drops.
OCT East, 879 County Rd, Yantian Qu, Shenzhen Shi, Guangdong Sheng, China, tel: 0755 8888 9888
Admission: 200 yuan for Knight Valley only; 300 yuan for one-day Knight Valley and Tea Stream Valley. All tickets half price for children (free for children under 1.2 metres). For more information, see Travelchinaguide.com.
Mysterious Island, Ocean Spring Resort – Zhuhai
On the west coast of Zhuhai, about 45 minutes’ drive out of the city, within a large recreational park that also includes a giant hot springs, entertainment complex and water park, Mysterious Island has six themed zones and boasts a “quasi-Mediterranean ambience”.
The Island’s purported mysteries aside, what we do know is that the park boasts the intimidating Man-O-War – formerly known as the Screamin’ Squirrel – created in a unique “saxophone” design. Not for the faint-hearted, this is said to be one of the most uncomfortable ride designs. The few Trip Advisor reviews of the park note that the Man-O-War breaks down frequently, although the park is clean and the layout is well designed. Well, at least the springs are worth a look.
Pingsha Town, Gaolan Port Area, Zhuhai, China, tel: 0756 7728 888.
Hot Spring and Mysterious Island ticket: 299 yuan