Three Weeks in Europe - Disneyland Paris
I love Disney - and that’s an understatement. My bucket list contains a lot of fun travel, but getting to every Disney Park on the planet is high up there, and lucky for me, I got to cross another one off the list!
Disneyland Paris is actually in Marne-la-Vallée, about a half hour east of Paris. We had rented a car, so we drove, but there is also a train that takes you from the city to the Park. It was nice having the flexibility to not have to rush to make it to the train, or worry about when we left the park in the evening, (plus driving in under the “Disneyland” sign is SO EXCITING) but I might decide to take the train the next time, because parking a car in Paris proper can be expensive, and we also had to pay for parking in the park. It definitely would have been more budget conscious to take the train, and wait to rent the car until we actually left Paris the next day, but the flexibility it gave us was very nice. Driving in Paris is a little scary, though. We’re not used to their driving style, or those roundabouts!
Anyway - there are two parks in Paris - Disneyland Paris, which is similar to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, and Walt Disney Studios, which is a bit of a hybrid between Hollywood Studios in Orlando, and California Adventure in Anaheim. The day we went, both parks opened at 10. We had pre-purchased our tickets (this is great because we went during an off time, and they have different pricing depending on the time of year, if you purchase ahead of time online), and I was able to print them at home, so we headed straight to the entrance of Walt Disney Studios. A part of me wishes we had gotten the cute tickets they sell there - great souvenirs - but that’s a small price to pay for convenience. I had looked at the attractions in each park, and made a list of everything we (let’s be real - I) wanted to do, and since Walt Disney Studios closed first that evening and had fewer rides we wanted to hit, we decided starting there would be ideal. Also, by getting there early, we hoped the lines wouldn’t be too crazy. Our first stop was Crush’s Coaster, which was about a 50 minute wait already! It was worth it, though. You’re on a shell that holds four people, two-by-two, with you back-to-back with the other couple in the shell. It even spins a bit as you go through the ride, on the East Australian Current with Nemo, Crush and all their friends!
Our next stop was the Ratatouille ride, but when we got there, it was broken! We were getting hungry, so we walked back through the building you go through after entering - it was filled with restaurants and quick service options. We ended up each getting a sweet pastry with chocolate and nuts that was shaped like a pretzel 😋 Weirdly, they were playing the Harry Potter theme as we ordered our food…
I decided I wanted to try waiting to see if the Ratatouille ride would re-open, so we went to the Tower of Terror. This line was about 45 minutes, and was nearly identical to the Tower of Terror in California Adventure, except in French, which was fun! Plus, I do love seeing out over the park as the doors open while you’re dropping. I was amazed, though, that there were several people smoking in line! This is what really showed us we were in France and not America. Even though you’re still technically not allowed to, everyone smokes everywhere. We also noticed that, in general, it’s not as clean as American parks, especially the bathrooms. If you’re a super germaphobe, you might consider bringing hand sanitizer. Next we went on the Studio Tram Tour, which is similar to the one that Hollywood Studios used to have. You are guided through sets and props by a French actress and Jeremy Irons, the voice of Scar from The Lion King. They have the same canyon fire and water stunt as Orlando did, and they have a scene from a movie with dragons set in London. It was much shorter than the one from Orlando, and made me miss the original a lot!
After this, we headed back to Ratatouille, because the Disneyland Paris app said it was open! The line was an hour long, so we opted to stand in the Single Rider line. We ended up waiting about ten minutes, and even got to sit in the same car with a family of four! (You’re in two rows of three, so the family went two and two, and Nathaniel sat behind me). I’m SO glad this opened up, and the single rider option was definitely the right choice for us. It’s a really cool trackless ride with 3D glasses, so you feel like you’re one of the rats running around the kitchen.
There is also Toy Story Playland in Walt Disney Studios, but all the rides there were much more amusement-park like (they reminded me of rides that might be in Eliches in Denver), so we decided skip them. We also weren’t able to ride the Rock-n-Roller Coaster, because it was closed, being refurbished for Disneyland Paris’ 25th anniversary.
We then headed over to Disneyland, which is easy to get to, similar to the parks in Anaheim. The entrance to Disneyland Paris goes underneath a beautiful, elaborate hotel. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to stay there. As we entered, I noticed it’s similarities to other parks. You walk down Main Street USA, which leads to Sleeping Beauty Castle. There is a beautiful gazebo, and some topiary all based on Mary Poppins. Through the gazebo you can see the Castle 😍 This castle is much smaller and pinker than the one in Disney World. In ways it’s similar to the one in Disneyland, but it’s more elegant.
They had egg shaped characters placed throughout the park - we were thinking maybe they were leftover Easter decorations, but we didn’t confirm. There are also a lot of topiaries. Just in front of the castle, they had scenes from several classics made out of colorful bushes. I guess the French are just fond of making sure their trees and bushes are perfectly trimmed.
We walked to Discoveryland, which is their version of Tomorrowland. One cool thing about Discoveryland that it doesn’t get as dated as the American Tomorrowlands do, by using a Jules Verne/Steampunk theme, and it is quite beautiful. Our first stop was Space Mountain, which we were surprised to just walk right on, there was practically no line! This is a much more intense coaster than either Space Mountain in the States, though, and even goes upside down! It made Nathaniel’s hair super crazy, and made me happy I wore braids!
They have a lot of walk-throughs in Disneyland Paris, so we walked through the Nautilus submarine after, and then grabbed fast passes for Buzz Lightyear (which was temporarily closed), and headed to Frontierland, where they have Phantom Manor, their version of the Haunted Mansion. Again, it’s very similar to it’s American counterparts, but it was fun to hear the opening monologue and all the narration in French. The ending graveyard scene was Western (like American cowboy) themed, too, since it was in Frontierland. Thunder Mountain was closed for refurbishment, and we could see it from the queue for Phantom Manor. The moat around it was drained, which was a cool sight. It’s interesting how the French don’t seem to care about hiding their construction. I feel like Disney World is extremely careful to hide as much as possible!
We then headed back to Buzz Lightyear, which was open again. It was fantastic hearing Buzz talk in French 😂 The laser guns aren’t attached to the ride vehicle, so you get to move them around a lot more. The cable on mine was not great, though, so I missed out on a lot of points.
Our next stop was Adventureland to go on their Indiana Jones coaster. This also had an upside down loop, but it lacks the story-feel that the ride in Anaheim has. Next was Pirates of the Caribbean, which is long, like the one in Anaheim, but they put the skeletons at the end (rather than the beginning), which actually makes a lot of sense!
We were getting hungry for dinner, and there’s a restaurant called the Blue Lagoon that overlooks part of the ride. We went in, but they said they didn’t have any room for walk-ins, so we went outside, and called them up (the SIM we got had 100 minutes of talk over Europe), and made a reservation about 30 minutes out, which worked out perfectly! While we waited, we walked back to Main Street to get coffee, and they have a nice little walkway behind the shops, which is a bit less off the beaten path than Main Street itself.
Dinner was yummy - I got veggie ravioli and Nathaniel got pork. We also got wine and more coffee, because we still had hours to go. It was fun watching the Pirate boats go by, too - we waved at the passengers!
After dinner we explored Fantasyland, where we rode Pinocchio, Snow White, the Storyboats, and the Casey Jr. Train, which are all nearly identical to their Anaheim counterparts. There is also Alice’s Labyrinth, which is a big walk-though maze, based on the Alice in Wonderland movie. The Queen of Hearts’ castle is in the middle, and has a great view of the park, too! Next we went on it’s a small world, which, again, is very similar, but is half in French, and has a lot of landmarks from the countries represented. It was fun to see what they chose to represent the US - they had the Statue of Liberty right next to the Hollywood Sign 😂
We then headed back to the castle - it was close to sunset, so I knew I had to get some more pictures. Under the castle is a dragon, which is actually pretty scary - it’s in a cave, and smoke comes out of it’s mouth and nose. The castle also has a walkthrough that shows stained glass of scenes from Sleeping Beauty, and a balcony with a beautiful view of the park. This is where we stayed for sunset 😍
We had gone on all the rides we wanted to at this point (a lot was closed because they’re preparing for their 25th anniversary), so I got to grab a few pins (they had Paris exclusives, and I needed a 2016 pin - I’ve got one from every year since I started pin collecting), and walk through the shops on Main Street. Before close, we decided to hit Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear and Pirates of the Caribbean (where we had a boat all to ourselves) before close at 11 PM - we basically walked onto all of them, and Discoveryland was EMPTY as we walked out of Space Mountain. This also gave me enough time to decide on my souvenirs - at 10:45 I got two scarves and a coffee mug (I have a couple dozen Disney mugs, and the scarves are practical and have hidden Mickeys!) At 11 sharp, I was done, and we walked onto Main Street right as the Nighttime Spectacular began. While the fireworks aspect was tiny compared to the American parks, they beautifully utilized the projection technology onto the castle that the other parks use. They played songs from a good selection of movies, both in English and French, and even included the Hunchback of Notre Dame, since that’s set in Paris! I LOVE that movie, and feel that it’s under-appreciated, so I was super excited when “Out There” came on!
As soon as it was over, we briskly walked to the car, and headed back to the hotel. Even though it was our first time to these parks, we felt pretty proud of how much we did - we went on every ride we wanted to (some twice), ate well, and got perfect souvenirs (just wish they took the Disney Dollars our Disney credit card racked up - those are only good in the US parks). One day was perfect for the amount of rides open, but maybe sometime Maddie and I will go, more things will be open, and we can spend a couple days. Plus she and I have to go to all the Asian parks! Maybe we could conclude in Paris, or something 😉
Ugh, just recounting this day (sorry, not sorry, it’s so long) is making me homesick for my second home, and I wish my next Disney trip weren’t so far away!