The one brand in the world that really needs no introduction.
The happiest place on earth. Where dreams come true. Where fantasies come to life and where big kids become small again.
As a child it was always a family dream to one day visit Disneyland and when it did eventually happen, I remember it being an absolute bucket-list moment for us all.
I’ve since gone on to visit Disneyland in California a number of times, finding each visit as magical as the last.
It’s unsurprising then, that when we booked our dates in for Paris, a visit to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park was top of my to-do list!
With high expectations, we set off on the train (an incredibly easy way to get to the parks) to see if our Parisian Disney dreams could live up to our past experiences.
Disney – A Step Above
Disney set the benchmark for theme parks the world over – they consider things other parks wouldn’t dream of.
Worried your children might see another Mickey floating around the park? Don’t be – there’s only ever one of each character out on duty at a time (and they’ll never talk for fear of voices sounding different or ruining the magic).
Have you ever wondered just how they make Main Street look so long (and the iconic castle centre-pieces so far away)? Forced perspective! As you move further down Main Street, the shops become wider making everything appear further away than it really is.
As you walk from area to area, keep your ear to the ground. In doing so, you’ll notice subtle sound-effects that change to reflect the theming of that part of the park.
They really do think of everything!
Two Parks – One Pass
Between Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park guests are able to enjoy the majority of classic Disney favourites and a number of new rides and though you can pick just the one park and stick to it, we always recommend the Park Hopper tickets. They give you maximum flexibility to come and go as you choose. Bounce around to avoid the lines and make the most of your favourite rides!
The Rides You Can’t Miss
A perennial Disney favourite, Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris (known as Starwars Hyper Space Mountain) is the fastest of all five incarnations (46mph in just two seconds!) and it’s also the only one to go upside-down. Unfortunately it was closed for our visit but we love the original and can only imagine how awesome this version would be!
If you’re after a rollercoaster style ride that builds up to an amazing ending, be sure to check out Big Thunder Mountain. It starts off fairly sedately but the last blat is incredible – I won’t ruin the surprise, just make sure you check it out for yourself.
Keen for another coaster? Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril is a bit rickety but it absolutely makes sense given the theme of the ride. The queuing area is especially well appointed and the ride itself excerpts some fairly major g-forces on riders (with a surprise towards the end!)
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was the ride I was most excited to try out at Walt Disney Studios Park. The take off was incredible but I must admit that I found the rest of the ride a bit uncomfortable – probably a combination of the number of earrings I wear (they don’t go well with roller coasters) and the fact that we’ve been spoilt with more modern coasters. The music was well-matched though and as a dark ride, it’s a great introduction for those wanting to ride a bigger coaster without seeing what’s in front of them.
Though we ran out of time to jump on, we’ve also been told by friends that Crush’s Coaster is great fun. This spinning, wild-mouse coaster is suited to the whole family and would make a great addition to your day if you have the time.
… and saving the best to last, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was our absolute favourite ride between the two parks. Like the original, it’s impeccably themed and run by cast members that never once break character. The ride itself features a number of significant drops – enough to bring on the butterflies in your tummy but not so much so that it’ll put people off – it’s a balance that can be hard to find but is done perfectly on the Tower of Terror.
It must be said too – let’s all cross our fingers that one day Splash Mountain is added to Disneyland Paris. What a ride!
Make Your Day Even More Magical – Practical Tips
It’s practically impossible to have a bad day at Disney but there are a few things you can do to improve your experience.
It’s All in the Planning…
Unfortunately even Disney can’t work real magic and this does mean that from time to time you’ll find rides out of commission. They post the expected ride closures ahead of time, allowing guests to thoughtfully plan any potential visits.
Pro tip: Check the opening times, expected ride closures and any special events for the day of your visit on the Disneyland Paris calendar.
The Fast Pass – Your ‘Golden Ticket’ to Disney
Though we visited on a Monday just before the school holidays in the hopes of finding the parks relatively quiet, it wasn’t to be. With rides ranging from a 45 minute wait time up to 1.5 hours or so, the Fast Pass would normally save the day in helping to get guests through lines (without the headache of actually having to wait in line). The concept is fairly simple – when you first enter the parks, make a beeline for the ride that you’d most like to ride, scan your ticket and pick up your Fast Pass. This fabulous little ticket will, for-all intents and purposes, hold your space in the line at a certain point in the day whilst you head off and enjoy other attractions. Simply return within the given 30 minute window and jump yourself to the front of the queue via the Fast Track entrance.
Unfortunately for us, the day we visited ended up being so busy that all of the Fast Pass tickets were snapped up early and we only managed to get our hands on one each. There’s a limited number of passes up for grabs each day – after all, if everyone in the park could take one for every ride, nobody would get ahead! This is great in the sense that everyone has a fair shot at jumping to line (unlike in some other parks, like Six Flags Magic Mountain and Thorpe Park, where guests with deep pockets can buy their way to the front time and time again) but it does mean that you’ll struggle to benefit from this place-saving technology on particularly crowded days.
Let’s face it though, you’re at Disneyland – there are much worse places to be standing in line!
Minimising Your Wait Time
Whilst in the parks, try to pick up as many Fast Passes as you can. Failing that though, use the following tips to try to avoid the lines as much as possible:
- Upon entering Disneyland Paris, turn right first towards Discoveryland. The majority of Disney-goers head to Frontierland (the first zone on the left after Main Street) so by starting at the other end of the park, you’ll avoid many of the larger lines off the bat.
- Consider the hours of operation. Disneyland Paris is open a fair bit longer each day than Walt Disney Studios Park and as it’s the experience that most visitors are there for first and foremost, it makes sense to pop across to the Studios first. Not only will the lines likely be shorter there first thing in the morning but you’ll be guaranteed to tick off your must-see rides, leaving the rest of the day/evening to explore Disney.
- Be smart about lunchtime. Most visitors to the parks dine between midday and two – not only will the lines at the food outlets be longer then but the lines for the rides will be shorter. If you’re able to, plan in either an early or late lunch and make the most of the quieter periods around the parks. Alternatively, if your tummy is grumbling, you may like to consider heading to Disney Village where you’ll find fewer visitors. We speak from experience when we say it’s probably worth walking another 5 minutes to save spending 20 in another line – the food cues certainly aren’t as entertaining as the ride ones!
- Make the most of parade times. Queues are generally shorter then as most of the guests will be enjoying the paradise as it snakes its way through the park so it’s a great time to hit the rides.
- Catch the train around the park but do so from Frontierland, Discoveryland or Frontierland. You’ll find Main Street to be the busiest station in the park.
- Mums and Dads, don’t wait twice! If you’re travelling with a little one that’s too small to ride, you can avail the ‘baby switch’ policy – just ask a cast member for information.
- Splurge and have the parks to yourself. If you choose to stay onsite at one of the Disney hotels, you’ll be allowed into the parks before and after everyone else, plus you’ll have the added bonus of being able to return to your hotel to relax when things get busy (and then be able to pop back across when the lines die down).
Regardless of the park you step foot into, Disney really do a magical job of their theming and in creating a truly immersive experience for the whole family and their Paris parks are no exception.
Though the parks are smaller than their American counterparts, they’re a great introduction to the world of Disney!
If you’re visiting France, be sure to allow yourself time to visit Disney. After all, it’s the happiest place on earth and who’s not looking for that?
Off to Disney or know someone that is? Pin this post to return to these park tips!
Thank you to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park for providing us with a one day park hopper pass for the purpose of this review. As always, all thoughts are our own.