European Travel with Kids: Disneyland Paris

By Kate |

Family at Disneyland Parc Paris

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.

Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris with Kids

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.

Disneyland Parc Paris

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.

Carrousel and Castle Disneyland Paris

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.

Pirate Ship Disneyland Parc Paris

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!

Mad Hatters Tea Party Disneyland Paris it's a small world Disneyland Paris

We enjoyed Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Star Tours and Autopia in Discoveryland (similar to Tomorrowland).

Tomorrowland Disneyland ParisAutopia Disneyland Paris

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.

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The rest of our character encounters occurred when we happened upon one or at one of the many park parades.

Meeting Characters at Disneyland Paris

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!”

Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland Paris

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle / Le Château de la Belle au bois Dormant

Disneyland Parc Disney Dreams Light ShowDisneyland Paris Anniversary Disney Dreams Castle Light Show

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.

Toy Story Drop Disney Hollywood Park ParisSlinky Dog Ride Hollywood Parc Disneyland Paris

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.

Disney Hollywood park Paris Stars n Cars Parade Stars n Cars Parade Disney Hollywood Paris

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.

Dream Castle Hotel Disney Paris

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. Dream Castle Hotel Disneyland Paris

Through Our Lenses

Carrousel de Lancelot at Disneyland Paris

Le Carrousel de Lancelot

Castle Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland Paris Distance from Disneyland Paris to Walt Disney World

Proof of an awesome, long day at Disney? This is what the kids looked like each night before we got to the shuttle bus to our hotel.Sleeping on Shuttle Bus

Kate

Kate

Kate started The Shopping Mama™ in January 2009 when, after graduating law school, she traded in online legal research and writing for locating the best products for children. She shops for three kids ages 7, 5 and 2 from their home in Japan. Her military family is making the most of back-to-back overseas assignments by traveling every chance they get.

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  1. 1.

    What a magical trip. I’ve always wanted to see what the other parks looked like around the world. Thanks for taking us along for the ride! Looks like such a great time!

    • .
      KateKate

      It was really amazing! The kids talk about it all the time and I am sure we will be back before we move.

  2. 2.

    Your trip looks fantastic. While anyone would love a trip to Paris, this itinerary is a great way to get in touch with your inner child and to let your kids be kids. Plus, your little ones look truly entranced by the magic of the It’s A Small World ride.

    Excellent post, and thank you for sharing!

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  4. 3.
    Jocelyn Brody

    Looks like a great trip! We are going next week with our almost-2 year old. We are from Philadelphia heading to Dubai but decided to stop for 2 days before and 2 days after to break up the long flight. Anyway- that said, we are staying at Dream Castle hotel for the first two nights and plan to only go to the park one day. Do you suggest the hopper pass (to visit both parks in one day) or should we just stick to one? Again- our daughter is not yet two so she won’t be able to go on a lot of rides… Not to mention it is pretty cold over there now. Just wanted to get your opinion on doing both parks or sticking to one. Thanks!

    • .
      KateKate

      I think it depends on what you and your spouse want to do. If you want to ride roller coasters, then it’s probably worth it to go to both parks as Walt Disney Studios Park has some fun roller coaster (Aerosmith, Tower of Terror, Nemo). But, if you’re just going for the experience then you could easily enjoy Disneyland Park for the day. If it makes a difference, the park entrances are VERY close to one another and it’s easy to go back and forth. It’s not like in Florida where you need to travel from one park to the other.

  5. 4.
    Candice Metz

    Love your article. I used to work at the Magic Kingdom during college and loved it. A few years later my husband and I took a trip to Hong Kong and went to Disneyland Hong Kong and totally get what you mean about the employees not being in character and it just being a job. We felt that way there. It was the environment. In Hong Kong I got the feeling that they could care less that you were there and not to make your experience memorable. Now as far as my experience we also didn’t have a language barrier issue but were annoyed by the locals pushing us around like we weren’t there. We stood by the street waiting for the parade and some locals came and sat right in front of us on the curb on my feet. I loved going to a new park but was shocked by how small everything was compared to things at Disneyworld. In the states. I stood next to the castle and it was half the size as the US castle. Thanks for the post!

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  7. 5.

    I’m a Disney/travel blogger and I had to read this when I found it. My 15 year old son and I are headed to Europe this summer and I will be so disappointed if we get to Paris and don’t have time to at least see the gates. Thanks for the info!

  8. 6.

    We’re headed there in a few weeks and so very excited. So glad to see that it is different than the parks here in the states!We can’t wait to experience it!

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