Last month I had the pleasure of running the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon. I was even more excited to visit a park I had never been to before. True to Rachael fashion I did a lot of research on the park like best things to do, where to eat, what to expect, things like that. What I found was this…expect the park to be a little older, not as well maintained, a lot of rides to be closed and restaurant hours sporadic at best. Ok, got it. You know what they say, prepare for the worst hope for the best. With that in mind I kept my expectations very low so not to be disappointed.
First day we arrived and headed straight for Walt Disney Studios Park. Everything I read said to skip this park if you didn’t have time or if you had extra time go to the stage show (which we didn’t end up having time for) and the Ratatouille ride. Also Chez Remy was supposed to be a pretty solid dining choice so we had made reservations there. We got to the park about 2 hours before closing (yeah the parks close SUPER early, this one closed at 7pm) and did single rider for the ratatouille ride. Under-whelmed comes to mind but it was cute none the less. Then we headed over for our dining reservation which was for 5pm but because of travel delays (and going on the ride, which realistically only took 5 minutes total) we got there at 5:20pm and were told the restaurant was now closed. Well that was a super bummer but ok we weren’t really hungry anyway.
We left the Studios and headed to Disneyland proper. To get to the park is a little strange because the Disneyland hotel is right in-front of the entrance. To me that’s super awkward but maybe its a European thing. Anyway, once you go through the ticket stiles you are on main street. We actually walked in right as the parade was passing through and we stopped to enjoy it. It was definitely a cute parade but not Walt Disney World quality by any means. Bonus though, Merlin was on a float and that was pretty dang magical.
After the parade we headed down main street for a view of, arguably, the most beautiful Disney castle. All I can say I wow. This castle is beautiful from every angle. My biggest gripe out of everything though is this. There is NO ONE to take your photo by the castle, or well anywhere really. This stinks because I really don’t like asking strangers to take my photo with Joe. Disney in the USA does a fantastic job with photopass photographers and I don’t know why it hasn’t made its way to Disneyland Paris yet but that needs to happen stat!
Once I took copious amounts of photos I knew the next thing on our list had to be a visit to the dragon. Yup you read that right, there is a dragon under the castle and its awesome! The tour of the castle was closed both days we were there so we didn’t get to see the full monty but seeing the dragon was my main goal and she did not disappoint. Complete with movements, smoke and red eyes this dragon was stunning. Loved loved loved it! Bring this to Disneyland RIGHT NOW.
The rest of the day we just explored the park, went into the stores, got a bite to eat and watched the nighttime show. Of all the things I was most looking forward to it was the nighttime show. Reviewers said this castle projection show was better than Walt Disney World and coupled with the water element it was a sight to see. Well folks, the water element was not working the time we were there and the show was a little underwhelming. Pair that with poor crowd control and I left supremely disappointed.
A quick note about crowd control…it pretty much doesn’t exist. Guests, from what I saw, can pretty much do whatever they want and cast members wont say anything. Case in point for the fireworks I had the perfect vantage point…until a girl decided to get on top of a trash can at the start of the show and stay there the whole time. Now all my photos have a girl standing right in the middle of the castle. That was a really big bummer. Even during the parade the cast members tried to get people to move but were so weak in their request no one paid them any mind. Of all the things that were different from the USA parks this was the most surprising (other than the smoking issue I talk about below). I think a lot of issues could be solved by effective cast members…but I digress.
When we came back the next day during early morning hours for hotel guests we rode Peter Pan’s flight and Snow White’s Scary Adventure (both in French) then got in line to meet Sleeping Beauty. Now I don’t know if it was just luck of the draw but every princess I met while on this trip was very pretty. At Walt Disney World…I hate to say this…but sometimes the princesses aren’t as pretty as I envision them to be. Here though, all the princesses were pretty, friendly and spot on with their character. It was a very welcomed touch of magic.
We also rode Phantom Manor (Haunted Mansion) which was pretty dark and scary for Disney standards. At one point you actually go underground and are surrounded by bones and corpses. I mean its not SCARY but compared to USA Haunted Mansion its a lot different. I really enjoyed it though it was nice to see a classic get a french twist. Pirates of the Caribbean ride was pretty much the same as all the other versions but Its a Small World was pretty different. First being it was all in French and second the decor and different lands were different than in the states. I read mixed reviews about this but I happen to really loved the french take and didn’t miss copious amounts of glitter on every surface.
We also went through the Cheshire Cat’s labyrinth which was fun but half of it was closed for renovation. This section of the park was where it was most evident that its been neglected and the maintenance was not what it should be. Paint was so faded you could barely see the Cheshire cat, some parts of the maze had been re-painted making a stark contrast to the sections that hadn’t. Just in general the whole maze felt very run down and something that belonged in an abandoned park not a Disney fully functional theme park.
There were quite a few rides we didn’t go on but the only one I was disappointed we didn’t get to do was Thunder Mountain. This was closed for renovations which was sad but everything else I wanted to do we had time for and didn’t feel rushed. The big dining experience I was very excited for was at Auberge de Cendrillon. The food I didn’t really care about but the characters. Here you meet Disney Princesses and their Princes!! Its not clear from the website or reviews which princesses or princes will be available when you go so its kind of a luck of the draw thing. You can see from the photos that I met quite a few characters for a dining experience. Both mice from Cinderella, Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel and Eric. I was bummed I didn’t get to meet Prince Philip but even more disappointed I didn’t get to meet the Beast in human form. From pictures I saw that he has meet there before but sadly not today. Don’t worry though, I wasn’t disappointed for long because during the half marathon he was there along with Prince Charming! It was a great weekend for meeting Princesses and Princes folks 🙂
Some things to note about Disneyland Paris:
- I never experienced a line longer than 30 minutes but the longest wait time I saw was 60 minutes for Space Mountain.
- Smoking is available anywhere in the park so non-smokers like me this may be uncomfortable for you
- All cast members I met spoke English but there were still some language barriers when asking questions or ordering food
- Characters I met spoke fluent English and there were no issues there
- 1 day is plenty for Disneyland Paris but if you do have 2 days go check out Walt Disney Studios its very small and will only take a 1/2 day to see everything.
- Very few rides have fast passes, the ones that do have passes get them while you can. I didn’t see any rides run out of fast pass times though so it might not be an issue
- Finding a place to eat dinner can be a challenge. Not all quick service locations are open for dinner and the table service restaurants mostly need advance dining reservations.
- While the park does have some areas that look run-down and not up to Disney standards it really is a beautiful park. Landscaping here is on point, each land has wonderful themeing and I just cant say enough about the castle.
Overall I would have to say this is a solid Disney Park. While it doesnt live up to America standards, if you go in expecting that you will be happy with your experience. Like I mentioned above the only thing I was disappointed by was the nighttime show because #1 there was a person in my direct line of sight that should not have been and #2 an element of the show wasnt working. Other than that I was happy with my time at Disneyland Paris. I dont know if I will go the next time in Paris but if improvements continue to be made the way they are for the 25th anniversary it might be worth a peak back.
CHIME IN!!! Have you been to Disneyland Paris? Do you like meeting the Princes? Where is your favorite Disney castle?