If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a Disney fanatic. So obviously, my favourite holiday to go on is a Disney holiday! I was thrilled a few weeks ago, when I got to spend a fantastic 5 days in my favourite place on Earth!
Myself and my boyfriend decided to visit Disneyland Paris again after spotting a great offer online. Disney were offering 2 days and 2 nights hotel and park tickets free when you booked a 2 night stay, so of course we jumped at the chance to get 4 nights/5 days in Disneyland for the price of 2 nights! We booked through Abbey Travel, however I really would not recommend using them. We booked flights, hotel, transfers and park tickets through their website, making sure to check and double check over and over again that we had all the details correct. However when we got our confirmation email, they had only booked us in for 3 nights, not the 4 nights we had planned for. Long story short, through a lot of emails, the staff member that we dealt with admitted she had made the mistake, and told us that we would have to change rooms for our last night. As we were unhappy with this, we expressed that to her, and she agreed that she would leave a note with Disney, and later assured us that it was all sorted. Upon arrival, this was not the case. Although we had booked everything in my boyfriends name, somehow my name was on the booking, which was very confusing when we arrived and the hotel staff were trying to find our reservation. Also, the hotel were still unaware that we were staying for 4 nights, and didn’t give us park tickets for enough days, as they thought we were only staying for 3 nights, so basically the lady in Abbey Travel had not passed on the message. Long story short, the hotel staff were fantastic, and sorted everything out without much hassle, but it was definitely frustrating for us. I’d highly recommend booking with Breakaway instead, I’ve used them for previous trips and only received the highest standard of customer care.
Anyway, back to the trip! So we flew into Charles De Gaulle with Aer Lingus, on an early morning flight, so we could make the most of the first day in the parks. We then used the ‘Magic Shuttle’ service from VEA, which I’d highly recommend. It is a tad pricey at €20 per adult each way, but its so much easier than trying to negotiate trains! If you are staying in a Disney hotel or partner hotel you can use this, or if you are going straight from the airport to the parks. You just hop on the bus, and sit back and relax, while travelling the short 30 minute journey to Disneyland, and the coach will drop you to the door of your hotel. You can book the tickets online before you go, or buy them there and then at the bus stop.
We had booked to stay in the 4* Disney Hotel New York, which is the second closest hotel to the parks and Disney Village. Having previously stayed in the Santa Fe and Sequoia Lodge hotels, I was interested to see what the New York had to offer, and I was really pleased with it! Its a bit dated for sure, it has a sort of 1990s feel to it, but I really loved it. The staff were fantastic, and went out of their way to help us whenever they could. Breakfast was included in our stay, and there was a really nice choice of both hot and cold foods, fruits, meats, pastries and cereals. Alongside an array of hot and cold drinks, you can certainly fill your belly with delicious food ahead of a day in the parks! The rooms in the hotel were fantastic too, really big with 2 large double beds, and the bathrooms were really large too, with a huge bath and one of the best hotel showers I’ve ever had the pleasure of washing in!
Another highlight of the New York Hotel is the spa area. There is a huge indoor/outdoor swimming pool, with a large jacuzzi, steam room, saunas and a gym. We spent an afternoon there and it was an amazing way to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. There is also a fantastic bar in the hotel called the New York City Bar, which I’d highly recommend visiting even if you’re not staying there. They do such an amazing variety of cocktails, my favourite being a ‘Glow Tini’ which comes with fantastic flashing ice cubes and is just sooo tasty! The hotel is a 30 second walk from Disney Village, and less than a 5 minute walk to both theme parks, so it is in the perfect location!
On to the theme parks themselves; there are two parks in Disneyland Paris, the main Disneyland Park and the Walt Disney Studios Park. The Disneyland Park is the original park, and the larger of the two. This is where you’ll find Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and all the major rides and attractions. There are 5 lands filled with a variety of attractions, shows, characters and restaurants. Upon entering the park you will walk down Main Street USA, which is my favourite part of Disneyland! It is meant to be a turn of the century American street, and it has tons of themed shops and a Town Hall and a barbers, amongst lots of restaurants and cute little details. As you walk down the street you are greeted with the most amazing sight of the huge pink Disneyland castle, which you can walk right through into Fantasyland. This is where you’ll find all the classic rides related to the older Disney movies, such as the Teacups, and the beautiful Peter Pan ride, alongside the Carousel and It’s a Small World. There are also rides dedicated to Pinocchio, Snow White, the Alice in Wonderland maze, and of course this is where you will meet Mickey Mouse! This is the best land for smaller children, or those who love the classic movies. In Frontierland, a land themed to resemble the 19th century Old West, you will find the amazing Big Thunder Mountain, an amazing thrill ride based on a runaway train! However it is currently closed for refurbishment until late 2016, along with the Big Thunder River Mesa Boat. Another highlight here is the Haunted Mansion, where you will encounter some spooky fun, a really great ride for both young and old. The latest addition is the Frozen Fever Village which includes a Frozen sing a long show which is sure to please fans of the movie!
Adventureland is themed to resemble a sort of far off jungle, and includes the Indiana Jones Rollercoaster which is a high speed big thrill including a 360 loop! My all time favourite Disney attraction will be found here; The Pirates of the Carribbean ride. This is one not to be missed, its a river boat ride that takes you back in time to when pirates ruled the Carribbean. It contains animatronic pirates singing, dancing and causing mayhem. You really feel like you’re outside looking in on a chaotic town filled with pirates, and if you’ve ever been on it, you’ll know that the water has a smell that heightens the experience… I really wish I could describe it better, but any Disney freaks like myself will know when someone says ‘the smell of the Pirates of The Carribbean Ride’ exactly what they mean!
Discoveryland is meant to be a land from Tomorrow, although it probably needs some updating now, as its not as futuristic as I imagine it was when Disneyland first opened 25 years ago! However it is home to some of the best rides in the park; Space Mountain for the thrill-seekers, Star Wars for fans of the movie series, and Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast- a ride for the whole family where you have to try and beat your opponent by shooting targets with your laser gun while travelling through the galaxy!
The Disneyland Park is also where you’ll find all the shows and parades. As part of the Enchanted Christmas season there were tons of themed events. Each day there was a Christmas themed afternoon parade, with all your favourite characters singing and dancing, along with the guest of honour- Santa Claus himself! There is also a lunchtime ‘Royal Christmas Wishes’ show in front of the castle, where all the Disney princess and their princes come together to perform a medley of songs and dances. Its a really wonderful show for anyone like me, who loves the classic princesses!
In the winter season the park shuts early, so from 6pm as darkness falls the evening time events begin. There is a wonderful Christmas tree lighting ceremony where Mickey, Minnie & Santa sing and dance with the guests and count down to lighting the gigantic tree which sits pride of place in the centre of Main Street USA.
Finally, to end the day, there is the Dreams Spectacular nighttime show. This is by far my favourite part of a day in Disneyland. The guests all gather in front of the castle and watch in awe as all your favourite characters are projected onto the castle in a magical musical extravaganza, complete with added fireworks! If you love Frozen, you will love the Christmas themed show; where Anna, Else & Olaf bring us on an adventure with all our favourite songs, with the cast of Toy Story and many other classics joining in on the fun! I cannot recommend this show highly enough, its such an amazing spectacle for Disney fans of all ages, and the perfect way to end a magical day in the theme parks.
The second park is the Walt Disney Studios Park, which is really different to the Disneyland park. There are no parades or shows as such in this park; there is more of a focus on different movie themed areas, and meet and greets with characters. I definitely think this park is more appealing to teens or Disney fans who prefer the Pixar movies, and the newer generation of Disney characters. This is a park that you could definitely do within a day, or even half a day if its not too busy; however that doesn’t mean it isn’t jam packed with attractions. There are a variety of shows, including Cinemagique which is a wonderful journey through all the eras of film, Animagique which is a live entertainment stage show where Mickey and Donald and friends put on a magical performance which will appeal to the whole family. Then there is the Cars stunt show spectacular which is a huge outdoor event, thrilling the audience with out of this world stunts featuring cars and motorcycles and fantastic special effects.
The Studios Park also has Toy Story Playland, which aims to make you feel as though you’re as small as one of Andy’s tiny toy soldiers, surrounded by huge toys and rides. There are 3 fantastic rides here, and I love wandering around looking all the amazing details in this area.
Sticking with Pixar, there is also the Finding Nemo themed ride ‘Crush’s Coaster’ where you ride along the East Australian Current with Nemo and Squirt and you spin around in the dark, meeting all the different jellyfish, glow-fish and sharks, in an amazing thrill ride for young and old. Another new attraction is Ratatouille the adventure; where you’re shrunken down to the size of a rat, and enter a gigantic kitchen, and dodge and weave away from the giant obstacles in your path. It’s a 4D ride with amazing special effects that will blow your mind, seriously this is the best ride in the Studios Park; but be warned, get there early as the queues for this were as long as 90 minutes when I visited in an off peak season!
Along with all those wonderful rides, you will also find Disney favourites from other Disney parks worldwide like the Aerosmith Rock n Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror. The Studio Tram Tour is also not to be missed, its a great entertaining ride that takes you behind the scenes on a movie set!
I really love the Walt Disney Studios Park, as it brings so many different thrill rides and interactive attractions, compared to the classic rides and parades that you will find in the Disneyland Park. There are no nighttime shows or parades in this park, but after a day spent in the studios, most guests will take the short 2 minute walk over to the Disneyland Park to take in the Dreams Spectacular, or straight on to Disney Village to beat the crowds for the dinnertime rush!
Disney Village is an area of shops, bars and restaurants beside the theme parks; and its where we spent most of our time in the evenings. I’d definitely recommend having food and cocktails in Planet Hollywood, or strolling through the shops before having a drink in the Sports Bar. There is a pretty decent selection of eateries, from quick service (McDonalds), dining with the characters (Cafe Mickey) to sandwiches, fast food or sit down meals. At Christmas they have gorgeous little wooden huts selling roasted chestnuts, crepes, mulled wine and handmade decorations, which add to the fantastic festive atmosphere.
Disney Village is also where you’ll find the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which is an interactive dining experience to say the least! You have a traditional western style meal while watching a fantastic stunt show featuring cowboys and Indians, along with Mickey Mouse and all his pals. The audience is expected to get fully involved so be ready to join in with shouting, singing along and playing games while enjoying unlimited beer and soft drinks, all while wearing your own cowboy hat! I really enjoyed it, as something completely different than any other dining option in Disneyland, and a great way to spend the evening!
In our 5 days and 4 nights in Disneyland Paris, we spent plenty of time in both theme parks, enjoyed time relaxing in the hotel spa, having drinks in Disney Village, and visiting the nearby Val D’Europe shopping centre for a spot of retail therapy. We really enjoyed the Christmas atmosphere in the parks and hotels, and it was such a magical way to spend a few days away from the outside world. Seriously, when I visit Disney, I become completely immersed in everything Disney related, and am basically unaware of what is going on in the outside world, which I love, as it means I can really escape and enjoy myself.
My tips for visiting Disneyland Paris!
Stay in a Disney hotel
For me, this goes without saying. I think its vital to stay in a Disney hotel to fully enjoy the atmosphere. The hotels are all really close to the parks, some by shuttle bus, and some within short walking distance along by the lake, which has a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere in the evenings. Apart from convienience, the atmosphere and Disney magic carries right through to the hotels, and if you’re a Disney fanatic like me, you’ll love nothing more than Mickey soap in the showers, the Disney gift shop and movie themed cocktails in the hotel bars! There is also the benefit of the Extra Magic Hours in the mornings for hotel guests; where those staying in Disney hotels gain exclusive access to the parks an hour or two ahead of the general public, meaning you get to beat the queues on all the major rides and meeting characters, before the madness begins at opening time!
Wear comfortable shoes
This is another important tip! Seriously, you are going to be walking around for about 12 hours each day, so its really important to wear comfy footwear. Do not foolishly wear brand new shoes, or flip flops, or anything other than your good reliable comfortable footwear, as you will regret it! Who cares about whats fashionable, pop on your comfiest pair of trainers and go run around like a big kid all day!
If Fastpass is available for popular rides; use it! Basically a Fastpass is where you arrive at a ride, scan your park ticket or annual pass, and then you are given a pass to return at a later time specified on the ticket, where you can jump the queue and avoid waiting around. We usually picked a Fastpass for a ride, then popped off and had a spot of lunch, or enjoyed another attraction, before returning at our allocated time to enjoy the ride without the hassle of queuing for 40 minutes! Fastpass is not available on all the rides, but if the queues are long on a ride you really want to go on, then I definitely recommend using this service, to prevent wasting time standing in line! Also, if you don’t mind, Single Rider is a great option for a lot of rides, where you get in a separate line as a solo person, and they fit you in where there are gaps in the attractions for example, certain rides hold 4 people, and a family of 3 may wish to get on, so they slot a single rider in the empty seat. We used this option a couple of times as we didn’t mind riding separately, and also, when Ratatouille has a 90 minute queue, but its only 5 minutes wait for a single rider, well…youd be mad not to!
Money Saving Tips
If you are on a tight budget, you can still have fun at Disneyland! Instead of eating lunch in restaurants each day (which can be pretty pricey!) we brought some snacks with us in our backpack, as you are allowed to bring food into the parks. Each morning at breakfast time, we made up some bread rolls with ham and cheese, and I had brought along sandwich bags, so we popped them in alongside some crisps and cereal bars, and brought them along to eat in the park. Although it is probably frowned upon, we saw tons of people making sandwiches at breakfast time, with the same idea as us, so we thought why not! Obviously, be careful about what foods you are taking from the buffet, as some foods may spoil in your rucksack with the heat, but whatever you would normally put in a packed lunch is good, and saves cash! Also, if money is tight, McDonalds is a good cheap option for dinner in Disney Village. Merchandise and meals are pretty pricey, but it all depends on your own personal budget what you feel comfortable spending. For us, using Euros as our currency in Ireland, we had a good idea of what was expensive in comparison to prices in Dublin, however guests from the UK were making good use of the good exchange rate from Sterling to Euro, so they were making better savings than we were!
Dreams Spectacular & Parades
Stake your spot for the parades and Dreams show at least 30 minutes beforehand if you want a good view. For the parade, I like to stand on Main Street, outside Casey’s Corner is a good spot to see everything clearly. For Dreams, right in front of the castle is an amazing spot, you get to see all the projections and fireworks up close, but I also viewed it from further back and also right at the bottom of Main Street, and equally enjoyed it, and felt that each view gave a different experience for me, which was great! I’d also highly recommend making an early dinner reservation in Walt’s restaurant on Main Street, where if you request a table by the window, you will get the best view of the parade from above, while enjoying your meal and a glass of wine at the same time!
Hold off on queuing to meet characters
I love meeting the characters, and have previously went and stood in line at the Meet Mickey Mouse attraction to meet the main man in his dressing room and get some photos, which of course, I had to pay for! However, this time, we felt all the lines were so long, so we kept putting it off, and I’m glad we did, as on our last day, at around 1pm, we came across a whole host of characters wandering around freely down by the Hakuna Matata restaurant in Adventureland. I’m talking Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Balloo, Hook, Pluto, Rafiki and tons more! There were no real queues to meet them, and it was quick and easy to hop into photos with them. So if you are visiting for a few days, hold off, and see if you stumble across your favourite characters before waiting in line to meet them!
Visit the Disneyland Hotel
The Disneyland Hotel is a place that dreams are made of. It is situated right at the entrance to the Disneyland Park, and it is the most wonderful Victorian themed, luxury hotel. Of course, a hotel like this is way out of my price range, but just visiting for a stroll through it looking at all the amazing Christmas decorations (they had a huge house made entirely of gingerbread!) and sitting in the bar enjoying a glass of wine while people watching, was the perfect way to unwind for an hour in the afternoon, away from the hustle and bustle of the parks!
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
We booked this through our hotel when we arrived. It is only on certain nights of the week, so you should ask upon arrival when the shows will be on, so you can plan your nights entertainment ahead of time. If you have younger children, I’d recommend the earlier show, or if your party is all adults, the later sitting could be better, as it was mainly older children and adults present at that time. Also, do not pay for the ‘best seats’ as you will have a fantastic view wherever you sit! We bought the ‘Category B’ seats, and had a brilliant view of the show, and got the same amount of interaction with the rodeo clowns as everyone else, so you’re much better off saving money there. Also, arrive half an hour before show time and absorb the atmosphere of the band playing with Goofy in the bar area outside!
Explore Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Make some time to wander around the gorgeous pink castle. You can make a wish at Snow White’s wishing well outside, and when you enter the castle, walk upstairs and admire the beautiful stained glass window designs, along with the spinning wheel, and other details from the Sleeping Beauty movie. You can walk outside onto a balcony and look over the whole of Fantasyland. You can also walk underneath the castle to see the Dragon’s Lair, which is complete with a giant moving dragon, which is pretty scary and realistic to say the least!
So that’s all my thoughts and tips right now! I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather long winded chat about my favourite place on earth… if you’re still reading now, well done, I applaud you for sticking around!
Do you love Disney? Have you visited Disneyland Paris? Let me know all your favourite things about Disney in the comments below!