One of the highlights of our summer travel this year was a trip to Disneyland Paris. Consisting of two separate parks, Disney Paris is an hour outside the city (by train) and an easy 3 and a half hour drive from our military base in Germany. To be honest, we were a little hesitant to visit after enjoying “the real thing” in Florida. Disneyland Paris is, indeed, much smaller than the park complex in Orlando, but it is well worth the visit. We had an amazing three day trip and will likely return.
Disneyland Paris consists of two parks: Disneyland Park / Parc Disneyland (similar to the Magic Kingdom) and Walt Disney Studios Park / Parc Walt Disney Studios (similar to Hollywood Studios). We spent two full days and one night in Disneyland Park and one half day in Walt Disney Studios – a great way to spend our time with our young family, including a six year old, four year old and one year old.
Disneyland Park Paris
After a quick stop at our hotel (to catch a ride on the free shuttle – more on that later), we headed straight for Disneyland Park.
Our trip was relatively spur of the moment – we bought park tickets and booked our hotel only a week before our trip. In other words, I didn’t have a lot of time to research the parks and I didn’t really know what to expect. My biggest surprise? How Disney Disneyland Paris actually is. I expected Disney-lite but the parks did not disappoint. Honestly, the main difference between the experience in Paris and in the States was the people. The people working at Disney Paris felt like employees, where in the States they act as cast members, always in character.
Despite the park being in France, there was not a language barrier. Both my husband and I speak a little French, but most employees spoke English, signs were in French and English and we used an English map. The only instance where the language was a “problem” was on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride because, while the ride is nearly identical to the ride at the Magic Kingdom, the pirates spoke French (very quickly) so neither the kids nor I could follow the story.
The vast majority of the rides in Disneyland Park are identical to rides at Magic Kingdom. For example, The big kids took a brave ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland and a dizzying ride on Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Fantasyland. The entire family loved ‘it’s a small world’ in Fantasyland; I think we went on it five times!
We enjoyed Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Star Tours and Autopia in Discoveryland (similar to Tomorrowland).
For many kids, meeting characters is a highlight of a Disney visit. We only went out of our way once to meet a character at Disney Princesses: A Royal Invitation / Princesses Disney: Une Invitation Royale and it was NOT worth the time and effort for 2 minutes with one princess.
The rest of our character encounters occurred when we happened upon one or at one of the many park parades.
Disney Dreams Show
On the first day of our visit we decided to ditch bedtime and stay at Disneyland Park to see the 20th anniversary show Disney Dreams. It’s impossible to adequately describe the show with words, so trust me when I tell you it was amazing! It was totally worth staying up (way too) late with the kids to watch the “enormous extravaganza of lights, colours, lasers and fountains fills the air and sweeps through much-loved Disney stories in pursuit of Peter Pan’s escaped shadow!”
Walt Disney Studios Park Paris
Disneyland Paris is divided into “Lands” and Walt Disney Studios is separated into “Lots”. While there were some familiar rides (like Tower of Terror / Tour de Terreur and ), but there were also many original rides we couldn’t experience in the States. In Toon Studio we loved Toy Story Playland where we rode Toy Story Mission Parachute and Stinky Dog Zigzag Spin / Zigzag Tour.
As far as my six year old is concerned, the highlight of our Disney trip was riding Crush’s Coaster – an awesome indoor coaster inspired by Finding Nemo. Truth be told, it was my favorite ride, too. My daredevil daughter still brags about riding the Tower of Terror / La Tour de la Terreur.
My husband’s favorite thing was Moteurs Action Stunt Show Spectactular featuring Lightning McQueen. It was a really impressive car stunt show that was, at times, a bit loud for the younger kids.
The Disney Stars ‘n’ Cars parade was short, sweet and a great opportunity to see and wave at the kids’ favorite characters.
Dream Castle Hotel
Dream Castle Hotel is, hands down, the most kid-friendly hotel we’ve stayed at while traveling in Europe. This should come as no surprise, really, given that it and a number of sister hotels operated by the same company cater to families visiting Disney. Our room had a King sized bed, bunk beds with privacy curtains and room for our travel crib. The complimentary breakfast was larger than most with loads of fresh fruit, hot breakfast foods and cereal. And, typical of European hotel breakfast, there was also a large array of cheese, meat and delicious baked goods.
One of the best features of the hotel is the free shuttle to the Disneyland Parks. The two Parks share a parking lot and main entry and the shuttle bus stop was right in front. The buses ran on a regular schedule, more frequently around the park’s opening and closing times, and we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes.