November 21, 2023, 6:39 PM ·
If Mystic Manor is Hong Kong Disneyland’s “boujee Haunted Mansion,” then Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars is the park’s boujee Thunder Mountain.
Like Mystic Manor, Big Grizzly Mountain opened as part of Hong Kong Disneyland’s 2012-13 expansion. The 3,605-foot Vekoma Family Coaster anchors Grizzly Gulch, a themed area between Adventureland and Mystic Manor’s Mystic Point that recreates an old frontier town in the American west. Disney California Adventure fans might recognize a familiar shape atop this mountain, but unlike in Anaheim, visitors will find animatronic grizzly bears within. That’s just one of the features that help make Big Grizzly Mountain my favorite Disney roller coaster, anywhere.These mine cars might be “runaway,” but they can’t seem to help coming back to the main pathway through Grizzly Gulch, time and time again. The Grizzly Mountain coaster makes multiple passes underneath the pathway, helping bystanders feel like they’re sharing in the thrills.
Photos by Robert NilesAnd there are thrills on this coaster, despite it being based on a family coaster design. The track evokes a hybrid of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Expedition Everest to create a fun ride that delivers from beginning to end. To get the full effect of your visit to Big Grizzly Mountain, it helps to understand Chinese superstition about numbers. You know how many America high-rises won’t have a 13th floor? Well, the number four takes over 13’s role in China. There was no fourth floor in the hotel where I stayed in Hong Kong, for example. And while four is the unlucky number in Chinese superstition, the number eight plays the opposite role – kind of like “lucky number seven” in the U.S. So when your Big Grizzly Mountain mine car heads toward the Lucky Strike Shaft Eight, only to have one of those grizzlies switch the tracks and send you instead down Shaft Four, well, that’s when you know that the Theme Park Trope Number One has been invoked, and things have gone terribly wrong.
Like on Thunder, you are hugging terrain for almost all of your ride on Big Grizzly Mountain. But the many tall trees closely surrounding this track help the course feel even more contained, amplifying the feeling of speed throughout. The bumps along the mountain even manage to produce a few quick pops of airtime on the ride – something I did not expect on my first go around.The second lift feels almost identical to Thunder’s B-lift… until you notice the sign for “Shaft 44” and the packing crate from the “Never Fail Chain Company” next to the track. That’s when you might realize that we’re not on Thunder’s second hill, but on Everest’s third. Sure enough, we soon are falling backward as you try to remember if there was a phone number on that crate to call for a refund on that chain that obviously did fail after all. It’s another wild ride in the wilderness, back under Grizzly Gulch, before we encounter more of those grizzlies.The combination of curious grizzly bears and a lost cache of TNT drives our explosive finale, blasting us forward for our return to the station.The grizzlies get the starring roles here, driving every action that changes the direction of our mine cars. The pacing and narrative on Big Grizzly Mountain are superb. Add them to a fun ride that delivers just enough thrills to entertain devoted coaster fans without scaring away newbies, and Disney has a solid winner here.Mystic Manor and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars deliver one of the best one-two combination openings for neighboring attractions in any Disney theme park. They provide an outstanding way to start your day at Hong Kong Disneyland. Tomorrow, I will review the park’s also-impressive way to end your day.For discounted tickets to the park, please visit our partner’s Hong Kong Disneyland tickets page.And to keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter.