The long gestation of Universal Studios Beijing theme park rumbles on, with its opening delayed until 2021.
Negotiations between Universal and Chinese authorities began as long ago as 2001, in the now almost unimaginably different pre-Olympic era. Final permission was granted in 2013 and a site was purchased in up-and-coming Tongzhou, now also home to some of the city’s administrative functions. However, progress has been slow, and a recent announcement promised the park would finally open in 2021.
The announcement came from local authorities rather than Universal, as did the earlier opening date of 2019. Universal are playing their cards very close to their chest; we approached them to contribute to an article on Beijing theme parks, and they did not respond. www.universalbeijingresort.com celebrates the completion of the site’s project management, though even on their own website the quotes used come from another source.
However, construction has begun on some of the attractions, as documented on theme park fan websites like www.themeparx.com. They carry pictures of the site and are able to identify some of the rides from their skeletal form. www.themeparkuniversity.com reports that there will be areas themed around Harry Potter, Transformers, Kung Fu Panda, and, erm, Waterworld.
Theme park watchers speculate that there is a sudden urgency to construction so that the park can open in time to benefit from visitors to Beijing’s Winter Olympics in 2022. However, the company behind it is saying nothing.
Universal Studios Beijing is not the only theme park in development which is keeping mysteriously silent. We also approached the company behind the Peppa Pig attraction due to open this year and the Legoland Discovery Center. They did not respond to requests for news about opening dates.
All this leaves Beijing, when it comes to theme park thrills, sadly lagging behind Shanghai, though we say it through gritted teeth. While southerners rejoice in the biggest Disneyland in the world (though of course, Disney World in Florida makes it look like one of the Seven Dwarves), we take a look at the alternatives Beijing has to offer:
This attraction, situated near the East Fourth Ring Road, is thrillseekers’ best bet for real rollercoaster action.
Weekdays 9.30am-8.30pm, weekends 9am-8.30pm. All ages. RMB 260 (kids under 1.4m RMB 195, under 1.1m free). Xiaowuji Bei Lu, East Fourth Ring Road, Chaoyang District. 朝阳区东四环小武基北路北京欢乐谷.
Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park
Beijing’s oldest theme park, opened in 1986, Shijingshan will please younger kids, though some of its rides are looking rather tired.
Weekdays 9am-5pm, weekends 9am-6pm. All ages. RMB 10 (from April 1), RMB 5 (kids half price), free for kids under 1.2m. 25 Shijingshan Lu, Shijingshan District. 石景山区石景山路25号
Crab Island Resort
This distinctly Chinese park offers quirky attractions like indoor fishing (for real fish).
8am-6pm. All ages. Free entrance (entertainment facilities need to be paid on site). 1 Xiedao Lu, Chaoyang District. 朝阳区蟹岛路1号.