DISNEYLAND PARIS

Age has never been or will never be a restriction for anyone to visit Disneyland Paris. You are never old enough to experience the magic of Disneyland Paris. There is a choice of high speed rides for those seeking thrills, to gourmet dining, to spas, umpteen laser shows, fireworks, witches, princess, princesses and a lovely exciting holiday atmosphere that makes Disneyland Paris an experience that you will cherish forever. In fact Disneyland is a perfect getaways for adults too. There are umpteen attractions including two parks – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. Your tickets are valid for both the parks. There is also a Disney village that has an IMAX, theatres, bars, restaurants, Disney souvenir shops, and even a golf course. You have lots of opportunities to bump into your favourite Disney characters and see breath taking parades. You can choose to stay at either one of the seven Disney hotels that are close to the Parks or at any other neighbouring hotels which are connected by free shuttle buses. There are almost many cafes, restaurants and bars with cuisines from every part of the world to whet your appetite.

The amusement parks are open yearlong and are situated outside Paris about 20 kilometres away. You could also consider the option of staying at Disneyland and visit Paris as it is only a short train ride away from Marne-la-Vallée, the place where Disneyland is located. If you stay at the Disney hotels, you could enjoy the benefit of having an early access to the parks at 8:00 am instead of 10:00 am when the gates open and the crowds come in. Though not all the rides in the Parks may be open for these “Extra Magic Hours” as it is called, the most popular of them do tend to be open during these extra hours. There are comprehensive details on opening times and availability of rides in the Disneyland Paris website.

Even though technically it is possible to visit both the Parks in one day, let me caution you that it is not worth doing it because you will only leave the place with a very heavy heart and a sense of un-fulfilment. Ideally you need two or three full days to see Disneyland Parks and one full day to Walt Disney Studios. If you intend on experiencing all the rides, you will definitely need to add a day or two.

Disneyland Parks are huge and do not make the mistake of underestimating its size. For a pleasant experience, you need to plan in advance and get your bearings right. Go through the maps, which are also available online, and identify the site of the attractions. Check out the closures that you may experience on your days of visit. There will be closures at all times as the rides need to be maintained. These are well planned and well publicised closures, in fact published months in advance. There are free apps that let you know the current wait times of each ride which will help you identify the rides near you that are less crowded. Also, take care not to overdo your Disney experience by cramming all the rides into one day. Pace your trip accordingly so that you and more importantly, your kids, still have the energy left at the end of the day to see the fireworks and the amazing laser show which happens at the Park closure time.

Disneyland also offers a facility called Fastpass, using which you can avoid queues at one ride of your choice each day. It is not available for all rides, but the most popular ones are included. You can have a list of the rides that accept Fastpass by checking out the Disneyland website.

To extend your stamina levels till night, inter-spread your rides with shows such as Animagique and Cinemagique or the Cars Stunt Show (all are at Walt Disney Studios and do not miss them). These shows are very entertaining and as they have huge capacities for seating, so you do not have to queue for them. All these shows have French and English commentary. These shows, in addition to help you catch your breath, also allows you to sit down and relax.

Though there are umpteen restaurants throughout the park and in the Disney Village, do not expect a high quality food experience. Most of them are modelled on the American fast food joints serving burgers, rolls, pizzas, steaks, grills, ribs and of course lots of colas. Those looking for a cheaper option can always find solace in the lone McDonalds that charge only their standard pricing. So water down your expectations with regard to quality of food. Almost all restaurants tend to be crowded, especially during peak dining hours and reservations are almost mandatory, else prepare to wait a long time. Fortunately, the Disneyland restaurants have a common phone reservation facility and you could book your tables days in advance. Make use of this facility and you will thank me for that. The restaurants in Adventureland and Fantasyland do seem to have lesser crowds and increased variety though. Most restaurants in the Park tend to be open till just before the park closure and outside the Park, you have restaurants in Disney Village that are open till 11 pm. The restaurants in Disneyland hotel and Sequoia Lodge Hotel are of very good standards and have exhaustive buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and also a variety of ala carte.

For some savings on dining costs, choose a meal plan along with your hotel reservations, either a half board (one main meal plus breakfast) or full board (two main meals plus breakfast). By choosing these meal plans, you are not restricted to dining only at your hotel of stay and these vouchers are accepted at almost all dining establishments inside the Parks and the Village. You would still need to reserve your table in advance to avail seating at your preferred time. After park hours are the busiest.
The one exception compared to other Disneyland Parks of the world, especially in the US, is the ready availability of alcohol including wine and beer in almost all restaurants, even inside the Park. Europeans in general and French in particular are more tolerable to alcohol and the legal drinking age is 18 for spirits and 16 for wine and beer.

Food is generally expensive in Disneyland and Disney Village. You are allowed though, to bring your own food into Disneyland Park and there is no restriction, but alcohol is not allowed to be brought from outside. General food items like sandwiches, diet bars, chocolates, wafers, and bottles of water or fruit juices are perfectly okay as long as they are not made of glass. There is also a designated picnic area near the main parking lot where you could sit down and have a small picnic.

Be prepared for an airport style security check at the entrance. It is always better that you do not carry bags or oversized luggage. You do have left luggage facilities to store your belongings in case. You are not allowed items with wheels like suitcases, and skateboards, weapons of any kind, folding chairs, glass containers including bottles and perfumes, and pets unless they are guide dogs.

Characters –Meet and Greet
You can catch up with your favourite Disney characters in Fantasyland. Characters tend to move in and out of Fantasyland all the time and you can join them and have your photograph taken. The sure shot way of meeting your favourites are if you are having a meal at Café Mickey’s. Do understand though that these meals with characters tend to be expensively priced, but they do ensure that you meet your favourite characters in a relaxed manner and it could also be the only place where you could exclusively meet characters whom you may never meet elsewhere in the Park. I had a wonderful time at Café Mickey’s where we celebrated our twin sons’ 6th birthday and the cake (extra charge of 27 Euros) was brought out by Mickey and his gang accompanied by the “Happy Birthday” song playing in the background. Least to say, the kids were mighty impressed.

There are also other meal options at different restaurants in the Park where characters drop by your table and you can take photographs and autographs. You can find more up to date details about those in the Disneyland Paris website. If you happen to stay at any Disney hotels, you could meet the characters during all meal times, especially at Hotel Disneyland.

There is also the Princess Pavilion where you can meet your favourite Princesses, especially the extremely popular Ana and Elsa from Frozen, though you will have to pre-book your space for meeting both them between 10:30 am and 11:30 am and believe me, these spaces get filled up much before that as the tickets are very limited. This does ensure though that the wait times are very less, usually around 20 minutes. In case you happen to miss out getting a ticket, you could still hang around have a glimpse at your Princess from the aisles.

PARADES

The parades that happen several times a day are hugely popular including the main parade (Disney Magic on Parade) which happens once a day. The timings are given in your daily activity map that can be collected at the entrance. Ensure you catch a vantage point along the parade route at least 15 minutes before the parade starts and maybe even 30 minutes beforehand in case it is a weekend or a holiday. For those who have already seen the Parade the previous day, it would be the best time to queue up for the rides that otherwise would have had longest queues. Most of these queues would be very less during parade time and you could just walk through.

FROZEN SING-ALONG

This is asingalong interactive live show featuring characters from Frozen. It is staged at the Chaparral theatre in Frontierland. The show is of a very high standard and has appearances by Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf, accompanied by villagers of Arendelle, singing and dancing and also features clips from the movie. The show is bilingual in English and French and is staged multiple times over the day. As the theatre has a high seating capacity, you do not have to worry much about getting a seat though the vantage seats are given to children who have bought Frozen costumes from the Park stores and then the next preference is given to those children who happen to be dressed as these characters. So you may still have to queue up a bit more early if you are keen on a perfect seating.

Disney Dreams
Everyday, before the Parks close, a spectacular multimedia event featuring lasers, water effects, smoke effects, laser, music and video is staged with the Disney castle as the projection screen. This show is one of the highlights of your Disney experience and is not to be missed. There are no tickets or queues. You just have to be present in the wide open space in front of the Disney Castle, though it would be better to stay a bit back so as to get the bigger picture, and a bit straight,facing to the castle. Almost all the attractions close down before the Disney Dreams start and the Park itself is closed immediately after the show.

Some of the must-see shows in Disneyland – in no particular order

DISNEY DREAMS – POWER PACKED SHOW – EVERY NIGHT BEFORE CLOSING TIME

This is the biggest spectacle of shows in Disneyland. This show was launched to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris and it can be guaranteed that it is not a show you will see anywhere else, not even in other Disney Parks in the world. It is a dazzling, show-stopper combining water and smoke effects, fountains, fireworks, laser projections, and fire encompassed around a new musical score and an epic story about the power of dreams. It is a true spectacle in every sense conceived and executed by the technical experts from Disney Imagineering along with the animation masters from Pixar and Walt Disney Studios.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

A band of Pirates attack you as you sail on a moonlit voyage through the seas and lagoons of the Caribbean. This was the last attraction that Walt Disney personally supervised before his death. It was first staged in 1967 at Disneyland California. The version at Paris was refined and re-enhanced providing an entirely different experience so as to include the latest audio- animatronics and special effects into play.

BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN

This is indeed the wildest ride that you will have on a rickety old train. The train takes you a non-stop high-speed ride over mountain landscape with sudden drops, surprising highs, sharp curves and blind bends.

RATATOUILLE

This is the latest show to hit town thanks to a five year toil by Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Imagineering. This state-of-the-art dark ride, Ratatouille is loosely based on the film of the same. The ride combines special effects, 3D projections, and a trackless ride as you shrink to the size of a rat and scramble along with him through the kitchen and dining tables trying to avoid the chef who’s bent upon breaking a few of your bones. It is one of the most popular attractions and equally enjoyed by people of all ages.

CINEMAGIQUE

Enter into the magic world of Cinema and join stars Martin Short and Julie Delpy as they pay an ultimate homage to movies over the ages from the wild Westerners to the musicals like Mary Poppins and back to the ever popular Titanic, as they take you on a love story spanning the history of cinema. A must see.

HOLLYWOOD TOWER OF TERROR

At the peak of the Hollywood’s golden age amid the glitz and the glamour, the Hotel Hollywood Tower was a star of its own before something happened that could not be explained. Something terrible. And now it is repeating itself once again. And it is happening to you.

This attraction took almost six years and 180 million Euros to fructify but once it was opened to public, the Hollywood Tower of Terror became the most popular attraction in Disneyland Paris and maybe one of the greatest Disney attractions of all time. The near real life effects are just too good and to literally top it all – a sheer drop down that is faster than gravity into a depth of 160 ft. Not for the fainthearted indeed. The shrieks of visitors as they literally plunge through the darkness can be heard from far away adding mystic to this Tower of Terror. Do not miss it.

PHANTOM MANOR

Once the house of Beauty, she still lives here. It is a story of a young woman who lived in this house a long, long time ago. She was engaged to a miner and she looked forward eagerly to her marriage. The wedding day arrived but alas the groom did not turn up. From that time onwards, she has been wandering the hallways of the house waiting for her fiancé to come. What happened to him? Enter the Manor and see for yourself.

SPACE MOUNTAIN

This a Roller coaster with multiple inversions, but that is not the thrill itself. It is the beginning of the ride when you are set inside a cannon and literally fired into space. It is the first roller coaster to have synchronised sound on board, the first coaster to have multiple inversions and the only Space Mountain to have the unique feature of a cannon launch. Go for it.

ADVENTURE ISLE

You have to use your bravery and skill to master the routes of Adventure Isle and bypass the Skull Rock and Captain Cook’s Pirate Ship to get to the Spyglass Hill searching for a treasure that was lost long ago. This is an attraction that is unique to Disneyland Paris accompanied by a very beautiful setting of bridges, pathways and caves. This is also a perfect escape on a blistering day away from the crowds where you can spend a few hours exploring this beautiful surroundings. You will be treated to an entirely different experience at night when the hanging lanterns illuminate the entire island.

CRUSH’S COASTER

This is a thrilling undersea dive along with Nemo on a spinning turtle shell. This was opened in 2007 and is another unique ride only found in Disneyland Paris and it is also one of the most popular coaster rides in the Park.

DISNEYLAND RAILROAD MAIN STATION

A ride along the entire Disneyland Paris on the Disneyland Railroad is a must for all rail aficionados. In fact the setting of the Main station is a replica of Western railroad stations in USA set in the early 1900s and has to be seen to be believed especially for its attention to detail.

THE BUFFALO BILL SHOW

It is a one-and-half hour dinner show that showcases the Wild West with cowboys, Red Indians, a Sheriff, a gun trotting lady sharpshooter and lots of horses, bison and cattle with a special appearance by Mickey and friends.

The ticket includes a dinner which is authentic Texan style barbeque. There are vegetarian and pork free menus also and kindly request these menus as soon as you arrive for the show. Beer and wine is also available. As live animals are used a lot of dust could be raised and hence the show is not suitable for people suffering from asthma or other respiratory disorders.

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