“Laughter is Timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.”
As a mother of two girls, I am well versed in all things princess. I’ve had Cinderella, Belle, Elsa and Anna, waltz through my front door to sing, dance, and paint the faces of spellbound girls in poofy dresses and sparkly tiaras. I’ve put together more than one castle, mastered “Let it Go”, worn flowing pantyhose braids on my head, picked up trails of plastic jewels and swept up plenty of fairy dust.
But Disney is about so much more than princesses. A Disney Park is a real life fairy-tale filled with magic and adventure for every age. It’s the land of heart racing roller coasters, dazzling parades, swashbuckling pirates and character encounters in front of enchanted castles. It’s spinning tea cups, main street shopping, haunted mansions, mouse ears and glass slippers, all topped off with one of the most amazing fireworks shows you will ever witness. Every.single.day.
Typically, when someone around here says they are headed to Disney, the most common question to follow is “World” or “Land”? We’re Canadians and we love heading south of the border for a healthy dose of sunshine and magic. (We also love having strong opinions about which park is better and why.) But I want to talk about a different park, the one not often considered in the great Disney debate. It’s the park I found when I broke tradition…..and went east instead of south.
I found Magic en Francais….
Disneyland Paris is broken into two separate theme parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. There is also Disney Village just before the gates which offers shopping and dining options, as well as things like Character Dining and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
While Disneyland Paris may not be the largest or grandest of the iconic theme parks, it will fill your bucket and then some. If you are going to dream, plan and spend money on a family Disney vacation, you should consider the location as a major factor. Located only 32 km from the the heart Paris you can soak up a few days of magic and add a few more exploring the historic and iconic corners of the city of light and love. We spent an amazing five days doing this before heading off to Italy, and it was absolute perfection.
Disneyland Paris was such a fantastic way to connect as a family. It’s almost difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is that makes it so special. Perhaps it’s the iconic castle coming into view thru the hustle and bustle of Main Street. It could be the hysterical laughter as you careen around bends and corners, or that moment you hug Mickey Mouse himself. Or maybe it’s simply watching the kids, wide eyed, as their young minds explore and capture the magic for themselves. Whatever it is, it’s a place you will never forget. The location or size of the park doesn’t matter, the number of days you spend is irrelevant. 1 day or 1 week, age 5 or 75, a Disney park is the epitome of wonder and excitement.
We went mid June, the perfect time of year. The weather was sunny and pleasantly warm during the day, and waiting times varied from simply walking on, to at most 30 minutes. We didn’t once find the need for using a Fastpass but can see where these would come in handy during peak times. After winding down and around…and then even further down one of the empty pathways, we asked about the line posts we had seen way back at the top. The gentleman informed us that people at that point had approximately a “3 hour wait”….ummmm…..we love pirates too, but no.thank.you.
Our Favorite Moments:
The Parades: It will never cease to amaze me that these enormous efforts of color, magic and music are daily productions. To me, this is Disney’s finest offerings rolled into short, amazing bursts. We were fortunate enough to experience both the Disney Magic Parade, filled with every character you can possibly imagine as well as the very special Elsa and Anna parade….where Anna waved and blew a kiss to Brooke….Dreams.really.do.come.true.
The Epic Fireworks Display:
We didn’t make it back to the hotel in between and so we bought ourselves a blanket to snuggle under, found the perfect viewpoint and settled in for a jaw dropping combination of color explosions, dancing fountains and favorite musical numbers, as giant scenes played out on the castle walls. Our entire family loved this spectacular display, it was the perfect ending to a storybook day.
Meeting a Real Life Princess:
We made it our mission as we entered the gates on day 2 to head straight over and book our spot at the Princess Pavillion. There is no additional fee, but you must book a time that day by getting in a lineup near the entrance and reserving a spot, so go early. You then arrive at the Pavillion at your set time and meet with 1 princess, which one you get is a surprise! We got to meet Rapunzel, and Brooke was completely spellbound. I loved that there was a photographer but we were able to take our own photos as well! This seems uncommon nowadays, but I appreciated this aspect of Disneyland Paris!
Rides we had to do more than once: While we enjoyed so many, our favorites included Big Thunder Mountain (the threshold thrill ride for my 6 year old, but we loved it and were able to ride as a family!), Buzz Lightyear’s Blast, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean , and of course what trip would be complete without a spin on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and a trip thru the colors and songs of It’s a Small World.
*** Please be a considerate tourist. Plenty of rides are in the dark, and there is nothing worse than sitting behind the person who takes a hundred shots with the flash on.
Walt Disney Studios Park
We spent about half a day here, and while our time was short, we enjoyed every minute. The girls got their gorgeous little faces painted, filled their thrill ride buckets and enjoyed several unexpected, but extra special moments!
Luck was on our side: Just as we exited the building from the face painting, we happened upon a gathering crowd and loud music. We joined the forming circle and were treated to an extravaganza of character meet and greets! Complete with dancing and music, the cast went around the circle posing for photos and signing autographs, taking time with each child they passed. It was perhaps one of my favorite moments of our entire Disney adventure!
We once again found ourselves in the right place at the right time when we came around a corner to find a lineup forming to meet Mickey himself! These character meets tend to pop up here and there, but the lines were always massively long when we spotted them….so we were so thankful for this!!!
Rides we loved: I fell in love with the Ratatouille ride! It’s absolutely unique and so much fun! At 100 km in less than 3 seconds, the Aerosmith Roller Coaster was quite possibly the craziest ride I’ve ever been on. I missed out on the Tower of Terror, but couldn’t convince my terrified daughter to go, and someone had to stay with the kids….next time! The kids also enjoyed the Tram Tour , a low key behind the scenes experience.
** The ride I would possibly recommend avoiding with younger kids is Armageddon, it terrified both of our girls, and there were at least a dozen kids screaming and crying afterwards. Your call, just be aware.
And all the other stuff I can offer for advice:
Getting to Disneyland Paris:
- We flew into Charles de Gaulle airport and pre-booked a private transfer by emailing John at ezyshuttle. The 70 Euros was well worth it. We had a driver waiting for us (even with a 3 hour delay to kick off the journey) complete with “Butterfield” written on his iPad. Chris was so pleasant and was happy to drive us through some beautiful countryside and villages, rather than straight highway, as an added treat. It was less than 45 minutes to the hotel at Disneyland.
- From the city of Paris: Disneyland is 32 km from city centre, and is accessible by the RER A regional train that arrives directly at Marne-la-Vallee station, a 2 minute walk to the magic. It’s a quick 35 minute ride, was very easy to use and after buying our tickets that morning at the window, we traveled back into Paris this way, luggage and kids in tow.
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Disney partner hotel Explorer’s Hotel Algonquin, a quick shuttle ride away. While there are more upscale Disney hotels in the area, we were quite happy here. We got an incredible rate on AMA Travel that included breakfast (always a bonus), and the kids loved the bunkbeds and the water park. This was part of a month long journey thru to Italy, so was an excellent choice for our budget.
***Note that we went mid June and the lineups were almost non existent. During busier times you may want an additional day or two to combat wait times. To me, 3 days would be ideal. We did 2 full days.
- Day 1 we booked “1 Day/1 Park Mini” tickets and focused on Disneyland Park. The 2nd day we booked “1 Day/2 Park Mini” tickets and did both.
- ***Tickets are titled as ‘Mini’, ‘Magic’ and ‘Super Magic’. These are based on what day of the week you will need them. We knew our exact dates and they happened to fall on ‘low season days’, so we went with ‘Mini’. ‘Magic’ covers all high and low season days and ‘Super Magic’ covers every day of the year, including holidays. To check specific dates, check out the
- At the time, I found our best deal on tickets by calling the park. The french version of the site had different options and prices for tickets, and they honored those prices when I called directly (a tip I learned on the very helpful Tripadvisor Forum). I picked up the tickets at the park itself, but had to pick up the tickets each day rather than all at once.
I hope you have experienced this magic for yourself, or will get the chance in the future. Pick a park, any park, and go. You are never too young, or too old, for magic.