When: November 2018
Hotel:Relais Spa Val d’Europe
Why Disney Paris: I had wanted to go back since I had gone in 2017 to run a 10K and Half Marathon through the parks with my friend Karyn (recap here). While we got to see pretty much all of the parks during the race, we really didn’t to actually experience the parks because they were so packed. When trying to figure out a good place to spend Thanksgiving, it was clearly going to have to be Disney Paris! 🙂 I told my friend (and co-worker) about it, and she asked if she could come along – from there, a plan was hatched!
The Trip: The plan was to take the train to Paris, then hop the French regional train to Disney (which is only about 40 minutes outside of Paris). It was supposed to be as simple as any other train ride usually is – except, for maybe the first time ever, we got caught in cancellations and re-bookings. So much so, that it seemed like our Thanksgiving dinner was going to be pretzels in the Stuttgart train station before we headed back to our homes.
After three false starts (including one where we were actually on the train, and the second where we were shoved like cattle and faced standing the whole way), we finally were able to get on a train, with seats, and let the weekend begin!
Like in the states, there are hotels on the Disney property – but maybe not as well set-up or connected. The first time around, Karyn and I stayed at an affiliated hotel, and while there was a shuttle bus, the times were unpredictable at best and the prices were expensive. This time around, I booked a hotel in Marne-la-Vallée, which is a stop up from the Disney Paris stop. The train station literally drops you off right at the park gates, and our hotel was within walking distance to the train stop and plenty of food options. Not to mention, it was half the cost…all-in-all, a no-brainer.
Unlike Disney in the States, Disneyland Paris has not caught up to the digital age, so there are really no bonuses to staying on base for Magic Hours (they say they have them – but most of the rides are closed, so another reason to stay off park). Fast Passes are done via machine like Disney World circa 2006, so there are plusses to getting to the park early – if only to get those slips of paper. However, as we found out – Thanksgiving is a great time to go. Because it’s not a European holiday and schools are still in session, crowds are minimal. Plus, the park is already decorated for Christmas which was even more fun!
Disneyland Paris is actually two parks – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, but unlike Disney World, no shuttle is needed between the two as they are literally side-by-side. I can’t give much advice on ticket packages or food packages, because we took advantage of the Military ticket offered by Disney Paris. It’s a great price – 79E for two days at both parks. However, you can only buy them at the door (in the COVID era, you have to call for them over the phone from what I’ve been told). And because you can bring food into the parks, not to mention there is a 5 Guys in the park, and our hamburger-starved Stuttgart selves were looking forward to a fast food meal! Our one fancy meal was booking a Princess luncheon (mainly because off a tip, it used to offer unlimited wine, but apparently has ended that option).
After a long travel day the night before, we were ready to hit the parks! Our plan was to go to Disneyland Park the first day, and go to Walt Disney Studios the next day. Disneyland Park is quite similar to Disney World – with Adventureland, Frontierland, Discoveryland, Fantasyland and Main Street USA.
There are many similar rides to Disney World (and from what I have heard/read – the similarities are growing). Our first stop was walking right onto the Buzz Lightyear ride, before heading to Disneyland Paris’ version of Space Mountain (it has been revamped into a Star Wars ride called “Hyperspace Mountain.”
We made our way to Fantasyland to take a spin on the teacups (John opted out…his stomach was NOT in the mood!), before hitting the carousel and Dumbo. One section that isn’t in the US parks (that I know), is Alice’s Curious Labryinth – with a maze that presents a real-life wonderland!
The highlight of the day, even with the princess lunch, was the Castle light show, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the park. It was one of the coolest shows I had seen at any of the Disney parks (although my memories from our 4th grade trip to Disneyland in California is a bit hazy – so it may not include that park).
The next day, our plan was to visit Walt Disney Studios. Like in the US, it has the Rock’n’Roller Coaster staring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (is this still in the US? I thought they were getting ride of it), and the Toy Story area (which Disney Paris actually had first!). There is a cute Ratatouille ride and Crush’s Coaster, among others. (Also as a bonus, outside of the Ratatouille ride are stands from each of France’s wine regions for tastings!)
Final Impressions: Disney Paris is redeeming itself slowly from its EuroDisney days, when the park severely lagged behind the US parks. From what I’ve understood, even now the park continues to make improvements with tickets, packages, and overall experiences. If you have an extra day in Paris, I would suggest a little visit – two days with minimal crowds is really all you need. Even with one day, you’ll get a good taste of the park! With the two in the US checked off, as well as Disney Paris – I’m looking forward to exploring the Asia parks!