Our family loves all things Disney, and though Disney World will always be our “home park,” we were thrilled to visit Disneyland Paris this spring! I read everything I could find before our trip. Based on most articles, I was expecting to be a bit underwhelmed by Disneyland Paris, but friends, I was completely charmed.
First, the basics. Disneyland Paris has two parks–Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios. Disneyland is very similar to Magic Kingdom, and Walt Disney Studios is most comparable to Hollywood Studios. The gates to both parks are very close to each other (maybe a two minute walk), and outside the gates is Disney Village, which has retail and restaurants. If you are staying at a Disney property other than Disneyland Hotel, you’ll walk through Disney Village to get to the parks.
Much of what I read online recommended no more than 1-2 days at Disneyland Paris. Because our trip was in the off-season, Disneyland was offering a great deal on rooms and tickets, so we decided to stay 4 nights. We had five day park tickets and used every single day of our tickets, never once getting bored! I honestly don’t think two days would have been enough for us, at least not with young kids (all ages 7 and under). Yes, we were in Europe, and yes, there are lots of historical things to see…but we were also on family vacation and found our days at Disneyland full of joy and fun!
Below are some of our thoughts and impressions, what we loved, what we didn’t love, and what you need to know if you are planning your own trip.
Know before you go:
- As with any Disney experience, do your research BEFORE you leave home. Know the Fastpass system, the most popular rides, and any reservations you might need beforehand (hotel, dining, etc.).
- When we visited (March 2019), Disneyland Paris was still using a one-at-a-time paper fastpass system, but they were also beginning to experiment with a pay-for-fast-passes system. Check online for the current status before your trip.
- If you’re a Disney World or Disneyland California regular, realize that some things may be familiar but not quite the same. For example, we often utilize the Photo Pass system in Florida, but after researching Disneyland Paris’s Photo Pass, we determined that it was not economical for us, as they only offer photos at a limited number of character meet-and-greets.
- Much of what I found online made me think that the park would be super low-key, with very few lines and very little waiting. We definitely did not find that to be true. We found the lines comparable to what you would see at Disney World, with some substantial wait times at popular attractions.
What we loved:
- Everything! No really, we loved it. I cannot recommend Disneyland Paris highly enough!
- We really enjoyed seeing characters that we don’t normally see in Florida. Minnie in a princess dress, Goofy in a beret, plus Spiderman and Captain America were huge hits for our kids!
- Hearing the shows/characters speak French was really a treat. Most stage shows were done in a mix of French and English–you didn’t know exactly what was being said at all times, but you could always follow along.
- We loved experiencing new rides! Some big hits were the parachute drop in Toy Story Land, Ratatouille, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, Snow White (Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains), Pinocchio (Les Voyages de Pinnochio), Crush’s Coaster, and the RC Racer.
- Possibly even more fun than new rides was comparing the rides that exist in both Disneyland Paris and Disney World and noting the usually subtle differences. Things like an extra drop in Pirates of the Caribbean, an extra scene in Peter Pan, and a totally different feel in Small World were so fun! Oh–and Big Thunder Mountain, which is a family favorite, boards on the mainland but then goes underground to an island, which was very surprising!
- The theming in Disneyland Park is very impressive. As you move from land to land, you are completely immersed in new decor and vegetation.
- We stayed at a Disneyland property (Newport Bay), and we were glad we did! Being able to walk to the park (about 10 minutes) and getting to enter an hour early were super helpful.
- The Disneyland Paris parade was EXCELLENT! It was short, but the floats were large and impressive. The fireworks were also a big hit. We found it easier to find a good viewing spot for the fireworks show, and because they didn’t use the ones that go really high, the show was a bit quieter for the kids.
What we didn’t love:
- Our biggest disappointment was character dining. In Florida we love character meals, so we immediately reserved dinner at Cafe Mickey. Although the kids loved meeting the characters, the food itself was very underwhelming (some was even bad), and the price was extraordinarily high. We were glad to experience it but wouldn’t necessarily recommend a character meal, especially if you are trying to stick to a budget.
- We also found the park dining to be lacking. The quick-service meals we had were pretty bad, but we did have better luck with food from the carts in the parks. The best food we found was a croque monsieur food cart, a crepe cart, and a waffle with nutella on top!
- While we enjoyed our hotel, we were surprised to find that it offered no casual dining or snacks. We had to walk over to Disney Village (about 8-10 minutes) and go through security to get anything other than sit-down restaurant food.
- Walt Disney Studios closed early in the off-season (5 pm), which pushed everyone to the same park for the last few hours of the day. This closure felt a bit too early, even in March.
Some tips we learned:
- While the park food was expensive and underwhelming, we did find a perfect breakfast spot–McDonald’s. There is a McDonald’s in Disney Village, and it has a bakery inside with fresh croissants, pain au chocolats, other pastries and even macaroons! For just a few Euros, our whole family could pick up a fresh pastry to start the day!
- Another food trick we learned was to take advantage of the small convenience store in the train station. There is a train station located directly beside Disney Village, and the convenience store inside has great snack options.
As with any Disney trip, your experience at Disneyland Paris depends largely on your own attitude. Things will go wrong, you will wait in line, you will overpay for something, and your child will have a meltdown, but…..you’ll also get to hear your kids giddily describe Hyperspace Mountain. You’ll see their eyes light up when Darth Vader asks them who their trainer is. You’ll notice them smile the first time they hear Mickey speaking French. You’ll have a video of them exploring the dragon’s cave under the castle that you watch on repeat. And you’ll make memories that can’t be replaced.