Me and my young family think that Disneyland in Paris is fabulous! We’ve visited it twice now (Easter 2004 and August 2005) and we’ve had a trip to Disney World in Florida in-between (Christmas/New Year) and I couldn’t honestly say which is better. Sure, Disney World is bigger and it’s all in English but it’s so far away! In my experience both have their positives and negatives.
People also say that the weather in Florida is better. Well, it certainly doesn’t get cold in Florida but it can get unbearably hot which can make the Disney experience miserable. I’d much rather have mild/warm weather (like you get in Paris in the summer) than soaring temperatures when you’re trying to navigate round a busy theme park. The heat saps everyone’s energy and makes everyone irritable.
People also say that Disneyland Paris is expensive but I’d say that’s true about Disney in whichever country you go to. Whether you’re talking about the cost of accommodation, food, snacks or gifts, Disney isn’t cheap but then the experience is second to none and nobody does a theme park like Disney!
One thing really going for Orlando is that there is so much to do there (maybe too much?!) and each one of the 4 Disney Parks is fabulous. However, when it comes to Paris there is a major imbalance between the Disneyland Park and the Disney Studios. We struggle to find things to do at the Studios in Paris and if it wasn’t for the Stunt Car Show then it wouldn’t really be worth the visit. This is a massive disappointment because the Disney/MGM Studios in Florida is fantastic and needs two days set aside to see everything.
When you compare the Magic Kingdom in Florida against Disneyland in Paris then the obvious differences are the size and the language. But then the use of space in Disneyland is phenomenal with so much packed in and they also do try and cater for all languages (English, German, Spanish and French). You do have to remember that you are in Europe. We found that most of the signs were in French with English underneath; most of the staff speak pretty good English (much better than my French!) and that they make a good effort during the shows too. When we went to see the Legend of The Lion King it was entirely in English with French and German shows scheduled for other times during the day. The Winnie The Pooh show was in a mix of French & English and for Honey, I Shrunk The Audience you get a pair of headphones to put on and you can choose your language.
Ok, enough of the comparisons because it’s fair to say that its “swings and roundabouts” when you try to compare the two side by side.
Each time we’ve been to Disneyland in Paris we’ve stayed there for 4 nights and stayed at the fabulous Disneyland Hotel which sits pride of place right over the entrance to the Disneyland Park which means that you can be in Fantasyland one minute and back in your room 5 minutes later. I’ve written a separate review for the Disneyland Hotel in the appropriate section but I will stress that staying here has made our visits so much more enjoyable.
The first thing that strikes you about any Disney Park is how clean it is. Then you might notice the fabulous attention to detail. There really is so much to gaze and marvel at and the flowerbeds, trees and grass are always pristine. Disney really does go out of its way to make the surroundings pleasant and safe.
One word of advice (and this applies to everything Disney whether it’s meal times, retiring to bed or getting into the Parks)… THE EARLIER THE BETTER! The best time to be in the Disneyland Park is between opening time (usually 9:00am) and 11:00am, during this time you more or less have the park to yourself and can walk up to any ride and get on pretty much straight away. After 11:00am it does start to get busy. When it gets to noon you should be thinking about lunch because by 12:30/1:00pm everywhere will be packed.
We managed to spend the equivalent of 2 full days in the Disneyland Park and we enjoyed everything that we did whether it was Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of The Caribbean, Honey I Shrunk The Audience, Peter Pans Flight, It’s A Small World, Casey Jr – Dumbo’s Circus Train, Mad Hatters Tea Cups, Carousel, Adventure Island, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Autopia (speedway), Alice’s Curios Labyrinth and the Pirates Beach.
Yes you have to queue sometimes, annoying as it is, but if you do get in early then you can get so much more done before the hoards arrive. I think that every queue that we did encounter stayed moving and we never really became frustrated or fed up.
Both of the parades were wonderful but then I’ve yet to see a duff Disney Parade! This Fantalusion Parade which was on at 10:30pm was especially good. Each float is wonderfully lit and this is enhanced by all the lights in the park being switched off as the parade starts. This parade was then followed by the Wishes Firework Display which was nothing short of spectacular and really does fill the sky.
Our two kids are aged 7 and 2 and there is much to do here no matter what age you are. There is certainly as much for the little kids as there is for the big kids. Our 2 year old daughter had a whale of a time and still talks animatedly about what she did and saw at “The Disneyland”. We didn’t take our own buggy this time and instead we hired one which is easy to do and costs €6.50 a day. When you take it back you can ask for a receipt so that if you also visit the Studios on the same day (or vice versa) then you can get a stroller without having to pay twice. The buggies also have a useful foot plate on the back for slightly bigger kids to stand on.
As I said earlier the Studios Park feels a bit empty when compared to the Disneyland Park. However, the redeeming features are the Stunt Car Show which is awesome (even if there is a bit too much talking in-between the stunts), Aladdin’s Flying Carpets and the Studio Tram Tour (complete with Disaster Canyon). I think there’ll be more for us to do here when our kids are a bit older.
All in all I cannot fault a trip to Disneyland in Paris especially if you stay at a Disney Hotel (I would definitely recommend the Disneyland Hotel!). There’s always something to do and marvel at, it’s clean and it’s safe.
You will find yourself being swept away with it all because it’s truly magical, totally unique, utterly charming and your kids will love you for it!