We continued with our mission to travel to all the Disney parks, which included Disneyland Paris. This was my first time here and Steve’s second time (first time was in High School). Disneyland Paris has quite an interesting history – first opening in 1992 under the name Euro Disney. Through its 25 years, the business has not done well financially, even though it remains one of the most popular destinations in Europe. The resort has two parks – Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios (opened in 2002), seven hotels, a shopping district and a golf course. We were beyond excited to visit the park. For me, it means I have been to every Disney Theme park.
How We Got There & Around
We left Munich at 6AM, to start our 6-hour train ride to Paris. The ride, like most train rides, seemed to go by quick, especially since we napped during most of it. Once we arrived in Paris, we had to transfer to the RER train line to make our way to Marne-la-Vallée, about an hour outside of town. Our hotel was just one RER stop away from the Disney Resort. We ended up buying the Navigo Découverte, which is a weekly pass for all Paris transportation. The pass allows unlimited travel in all zones (including the airport which is €12 on its own, nearly half the cost of the weekly pass!).
Where We Stayed
Our hotel’s location was PERFECT. We were one stop away from the Disney Resort, and perhaps a 5-minute walk to the hotel from the station. We stayed at Ibis Budget and yes, the room is tiny and there is nothing fancy, but at this point we have become accustomed to living in small spaces, so we didn’t mind. There was also a bakery next to our hotel that we hit up every morning for our croissant to eat on the train.
We had read an article on Mousesavers to use the UK’s site to get a fantastic deal – Buy 2 days get 1 free – which we happily did. When going to the US version of the site, the deal doesn’t exist. We were able to purchase the tickets online with no problem.
Three Magical Days
Our three magical days, were more like 2.5 days, since we arrived after 4PM on our first day. But, turns out, the two parks – Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios are similarly spaced like Disneyland Resort, meaning, both parks are very easy to get to and a park hopper is worth it. Both parks were pretty crowded, and taking advantage of the Fastpass system is key. We would grab a Fastpass in one park, head to the other for a different one – which involved a lot of walking. The crowds were not as “Disney Friendly” as Tokyo, often pushing in lines and shows, using their flash cameras on dark rides, and not “picture friendly” (walking in photos, pushing their kids to get photos, or taking long photo shoots and selfies, etc.). We were surprised at the lack of care in maintenance in rides – from Animatronics not working or missing, poor paint jobs, and often multiple ride maintenance issues, it was hard not to pull my hair and scream at times. Now, I should mention, that Disney Paris is known for these issues, and even recently, Disney acquired full control of the park – my only hope is they invest money into fixing these issues. Even with the issues we encountered, we still had so much fun, and Paris does have some truly unique rides and experiences.
Attractions & Areas to Highlight:
Main Street, U.S.A. – Similar to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, the main entrance street is themed to an American 20th century small-town. On both sides of the walkway are covered arcades (the Discovery Arcade and the Liberty Arcade), making a nice shortcut to Discoveryland or Frontierland on either side. During the morning hours, we saw the main street cars and horse drawn carriages. The covered arcades also have tributes to America, specifically, France and America’s relationship such as the unveiling of the Statue Of Liberty being on display in one of the window galleries.
Disneyland Railroad – The Main Street station is one of three currently open stations. The fourth station at Frontierland was not open. During our time there, we noticed the lines were 50 minutes. When we asked, they said they only had one train operating for the park. Also, the railroad closes at 5PM. We weren’t aware of that since we didn’t see a sign, but found out later by Cast Members that the ride closes everyday at 5PM. We ended up going on it on the last day of our visit when two trains were operational. The train ride was cute, and even had a “Grand Canyon” with Dinosaurs.
Adventureland – The Adventureland here is quite large, and has several themes – Caribbean, Middle-East, Africa and Asia. It actually reminded us a bit of Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. We were pretty much able to hit everything in this area, except Pirates of the Caribbean, which was closed.
Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin (Aladdin’s Enchanted Passage) – This is a walkthrough attraction depicting the scenes from the movie Aladdin (one of my favorites).
Adventure Isle – This island is the centerpiece of Adventureland – and is meant to be similar to Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. There are activities like the La Cabane des Robinson (Swiss Family Treehouse), Pirate themed playgrounds, and areas to explore like Skull Island and La Plage des Pirates (Pirates Beach).
Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril) – I hate to say it – but I hate this ride. Tokyo Disney Sea has a ride similar, Raging Spirits – and I hated that too. The ride is uncomfortable and quite painful for my head and ears. It does have a small loop, and some fire elements, but really – it’s a bit lame, especially considering it is the “Indiana Jones” ride. I had read that it was meant to be a bigger land with more attractions, but with financial difficulties they had cuts. I really hope Disney can reinvest and redo this ride – it doesn’t deserve to have the “Indiana Jones” theme.
Frontierland – Like Disneyland, the area is themed to an American Old West mining town with lots of cool wilderness landscaping. The “city” itself is called Thunder Mesa and has a strong storyline tied with it the area and its main two attractions – Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain. We were also able to play the Shootin’ Gallery here, as well as eat some BBQ. One attraction we didn’t go to is the Pocahontas Indian Village, which is a playground for younger kids.
Big Thunder Mountain – I love this ride – it is my favorite Big Thunder of all the Disney parks. There are a lot of dark sections (with bats!), and the ride actually seemed really long. All of the animatronics worked as well. The theming was quite strong, all related to the town of Thunder Mesa, which struck gold when mining the mountain. The queue was very well themed as well.
Phantom Manor – This is Paris’ version of the Haunted Mansion and it couldn’t be more different. First off, it has a Western Theme (as it is in the town of Thunder Mesa). The ride is inspired by Phantom of the Opera with of course a Western twist. The founder of Thunder Mesa and Big Thunder Mining lived in the Manor, with his daughter. His daughter is set to get married, however her husband is found hanging. If you are interested in the complicated storyline, click on the wiki article, it is really interesting how much thought went into the ride and the entire Frontierland. The ride is a bit more intense and scary, and not as “happy”. There was a small section dedicated to the singing of “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, but really the ride is meant to be scary. Overall, Steve and I liked this version, but I prefer the classic Disneyland version best. It was interesting to see the difference. This was one ride when guests behave badly – taking pictures with flash and talking excessively loud.
Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing – This is Paris’ version of the Mark Twain Riverboat. Here, the park has two boats – the Mark Twain and the Molly Brown. The Mark Twain boat hasn’t operated since 2011. We actually weren’t able to ride the Molly Brown boat, because the attraction closed at 5PM everyday – not for a show or anything on the river, but just because.
Fantasyland – Themed to storybook villages and various European villages. The thing that upset me the most here, a lot of the attractions close early, as early as 5PM! We ended up going on most of the rides during a rainy time at the park in order to avoid much of the lines. This is also where we saw many of the animatronics not working, and poor conditions of rides. We weren’t able to ride all attractions in this area – including Peter Pan’s flight (over an hour line each time we went by plus closes early), Dumbo Flying Elephants, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and the Lancelot’s Carousel.
Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle) – The castle is based on Sleeping Beauty (same as Disneyland). The walk through exhibit is quite beautiful, with large stain glass, tapestries, and interactive displays depicting scenes from the movies.
La Tanière du Dragon (The Dragon’s Lair) – This was quite awesome. Under the castle is a dragon’s lair, with a large animatronic of a dragon (89 feet today). The cave under the castle is dim, and is a maze. We strolled around until we came across the dragon, which was sleeping. After waiting a few minutes, the dragon woke up, growled and breathed smoke. It was quite cute, and fun. The dragon was in great condition as well.
Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) – The ride is exactly the same as Disneyland’s version, except the ending. I can’t express enough how creepy the ending is. The Snow White animatronic looked like a distressed Barbie doll, and her hand didn’t quite wave good-bye but instead looked like she was having mini seizures. The ride itself also seemed to be in poor condition too.
Les Voyages de Pinocchio (Pinocchio’s Fantastic Journey) – This is the same exact ride at Disneyland, but, some of the animatronics weren’t working, and overall the ride seemed to be in poor condition.
Alice’s Curious Labyrinth – This hedge maze is similar to the Shanghai version, except it is based on the 1951 movie, not the more recent Tim Burton movie. The attraction closes at 5PM, so we had to make sure to walk through this one early in the day. It had cute interactive features, and even a miniature castle to climb (at the top you get a great view of Fantasyland).
It’s a Small World – I had read that the ride had gone through a major revamp in 2015 for the 2017 25th Park Anniversary, so I was quite disappointed to see some dolls and other animatronics not working. In one area in particular, an entire scene seemed to be missing as we could see the floor covered in plywood. Everything else was similar to other Disney parks, with different scenes that made the ride interesting for us. In their North America section it was funny seeing the Golden Gate bridge and a Hollywood section.
Le Pays de Contes de Fées (Storybook Land Canal Boats) – This attraction closed at 6PM, but we ended up not waiting longer than 20 minutes because it was partially raining at that time. The Paris version is different than Disneyland because it runs on an underwater wire (not an on-board motor), it also does not have a on-board story teller. It also had different stories than Disneyland – the Gingerbread House from Hansel and Gretel, the Greek Temple from Fantasia, and the Emerald City from Wizard of Oz. Overall, we are not the target audience (duh), but I still think the version at Disneyland is better (I mean… getting swallowed by a whale, c’mon!).
Casey Jr. – Le Petit Train du Cirque (Casey Jr. Circus Train) – The Paris version is actually a powered roller coaster, and lots of fun for both children and adults. And with the on-board music and of course the “I think I can” going up the lift, it still had charm.
Discoveryland – Paris’ version of Tomorrowland – with more of a steampunk look. It is themed to early explorers and thinkers – with tributes to Leonardo da Vinci, HG Wells and Jules Verne. We didn’t ride the Orbitron or Autopia in this area.
Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast – This attraction is like the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland ones, except Buzz speaks French. It is always one of our favorite attractions.
Les Mystères du Nautilus (The Mysteries of the Nautilus) – Based on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel, this walk-through attraction takes guests through Captain Nemo’s submarine. The outside reminded us of Tokyo DisneySea’s Mysterious Island. The inside of the submarine was a bit disappointing. The one cool special effect was when a giant squid attempts to attack the submarine and “we” zap him. Other than that, it wasn’t really that exciting, and didn’t offer any interactive features for the guests.
Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain (Space Mountain) – This was an interesting one for us. The outside of Space Mountain is still in that steampunk look. Originally, when the ride opened in 1995, it was meant to be from the point of view of Jules Verne’s novel From Earth to the Moon. It is the fastest Space Mountain of all the parks, and the only one to include inversions. For the 2017 celebration of the 25th anniversary of the park, it became Star Wars Hyperspace theme. The theme felt out of place compared to the queue and the outside, however, the ride was fantastic. Steve has voted it his favorite Space Mountain (I am not sure I can make that kind of commitment yet). We loved it so much; we went on it twice during our stay.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – Disneyland has had this version of the ride since 2011, however, it is brand new to Paris (opened in March 2017). We waited about 30 minutes, and was not surprised that the ride was exactly the same – except in French.
There are quite a variety of shows here, and Meet & Greets, but we ended up spending most of our time in line for rides (the parks were packed). We did end up seeing a few shows here at Disneyland:
Disney Stars on Parade – the 25th Anniversary parade was cute, but not as extravagant as we expected for such milestone. Our favorite float was the amazing Maleficent one.
Disney Illuminations – This nighttime spectacular has fireworks, projections and illuminations. In both English and French. It is very similar to the other castle projection shows across all Disney parks. The hit song of the night? – Let it Go (in French). We enjoyed the show a lot.
We loved window-shopping here! There were lots of cute pins, shirts and hats. The 25th Anniversary was a star themed, so many of the merchandise had stars on it including the ears. I wasn’t a big fan of the 25th Anniversary stuff, especially since some items had Mickey as an astronaut, others in a diamond/silver suit, and one other as a pilot explorer – I felt very confused on what theme they were sticking to. Nonetheless, we enjoyed popping our head in the shops. We have also determined that one day we will buy the train set… we keep ogling over it at every park.
Food was a bit disappointing. Unlike other Disney parks with the hidden food gems and popular food blogs, we weren’t able to find anything truly spectacular about the food here. We did notice that most restaurants sold beer (Note from Steve: Kronenbourg 1664 can only loosely be called a beer) and wine, but only if you bought food with it. The parks also offered meal plans and meal sets. The cost of a meal for the both of us would be about 35 Euros. We ended up eating a big dinner and a smaller lunch at kiosks. I hope Disney reinvests in their food program. Being that it is so close to Paris, I thought food would be of higher quality.
Things to Consider:
- The park attractions are all in French, however the cast members seemed to all speak English very well.
- We saw quite a few characters with meet & greets throughout the park. We never seemed to find time to actually go to one, but occasionally would see a princess or character walking to and from their areas.
We had a great time at the park, but it was not our favorite Disney Park. Perhaps if we went outside of the busy summer season, it would have been better. Regardless of park crowd, the park seemed to be in bad shape. It is exciting to see that Disney is taking full ownership and I can only hope they will make much needed improvements to the park.