A woman named Sabrina in a movie called Sabrina once said, “Paris is always a good idea.”
I agree. You know what else is always a good idea? Disney! You what is always a double-ly good idea? Disneyland Paris! The sky is gray and today is blustery, so thinking about this visit to Disneyland Paris is truly lifting my mood. Even though our day there was rainy and gray as well, a rainy day at Disney is better than a sunny day anywhere else!
Chris was willing to devote a whole day of our time in France to visiting Walt Disney Studios and Parc Disneyland, which was also a good idea. We had a fantastic time and we got the chance to pat ourselves on the back for some other good ideas, however there were still a few things we could have done better.
The very first thing that we should have done better was wake up. We did wake up, of course, but not early enough. It was a rainy, gray, windy day and we were still trying to adjust to the time difference so we hit the snooze button a few too many times. Our hotel was a short walk from Notre Dame, but a long train ride to Disneyland. Had we woken earlier, we would have been on an earlier train and arrived at Disney Studios closer to opening time. Instead we didn’t reach the gates until a full twenty minutes past rope drop. We did, however, pre-purchase our tickets which meant a much smoother entrance than if we would have had to buy them that morning. Score! Our plan was to beeline through the park to Tower of Terror and grab a FastPass before joining the standby queue at Crush’s Coaster. The return time we got at Tower of Terror was only a little over an hour away! Perfect! But the queue at Crush’s Coaster was already up to 70 minutes, and much of the line was outside in the rain.
We had no choice but to wait or risk not being able to go at all, because the ride does not offer FastPass and the line is only likely to get longer as the day goes on. So we waited and got rained on for about 40 minutes. 28 more minutes (yes, we timed it) of queue was contained under a canopy and then went inside the building, where an amusing pre-ride safety video and Finding Nemo themed décor was waiting. The ride was a blast, worth every minute of the queue in my opinion, but had we been there earlier it could have been much shorter.
Waiting 70 minutes put us in line perfectly with our Tower of Terror FastPass, where we waited literally 5 minutes. One of my all-time favorite rides, it delivered big time. I loved hearing the pre-show video in French, so Parisian! However, our plans were derailed when we headed immediately to Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster to grab FastPasses and found that it was down for the day.
Instead we entered the Armageddon: les Effects Spéciaux show. With no clue what it was, we figured for a 10 minute wait we might as well try it. Well, my advice is, don’t. The show is very disjointed and just involves moving from room to room to room supposedly experiencing some special effects. There was never a place to sit either, so it was hard to enjoy. Not one of our best ideas.
We ended our time at Walt Disney Studios with the Cinemagique show. This, in my mind, is the most brilliant thing at this theme park. It even edged out Crush’s Coaster, which just a few hours earlier I was certain couldn’t be topped. A quick summary of the show is that a young man ends up inside of various movies. I won’t say much about it because I don’t want to give away the magic, but it is truly imaginative and so entertaining especially if you are a film buff.
After bidding goodbye to this magical, somewhat movie-themed park, we headed over to Parc Disneyland and were greeted by the massive, majestic Disneyland Hotel that serves as the gateway into the park. What I wouldn’t give to stay in a castle-facing room inside that big pink dollhouse!
We followed a gray-skied photo shoot in front of the castle with a spin on some Disney classics, including Pirates of the Caribbean (which has some super cool rocks in front of it), Phantom Manor (Paris’s answer to the Haunted Mansion), Space Mountain Mission 2 (much faster and more colorful than her sisters in the states), and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (the laser guns on this version are able to be lifted, which mean much better aiming for me!). We also took in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, a slightly rickety but super fun coaster, and we wandered through the Nautilus submarine. I heard a rumor that the Nautilus will be closing soon so I’m glad we got the chance to see it! FastPass worked wonderfully to cut our wait times on a few of these attractions, it is definitely a good idea to make use of that system.
You may have heard that the FastPass system at the Florida Disney parks has been shaken and stirred into a whole new design, but in Paris the system works just as it always has. Slip your park ticket into a ride’s kiosk and receive a paper voucher with a one hour window on it. Simply return to the ride within that one hour window for access to the much shorter FastPass line! It was invaluable when it came to certain headliner attractions, like Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, and Indiana Jones.
Our next great idea was making a dinner reservation at the Plaza Gardens buffet. The restaurant was crowded and loud but the food was great. It really hit the spot after our busy day. The food options in the park on a whole aren’t great- overpriced buffets, expensive character dining, really expensive signature meals, or fast food. I wish there had been a more casual sit down option available, but even though this buffet was very expensive it served its purpose well.
Soon after eating we were on our way to Fantasyland! Going up the stairs inside of Sleeping Beauty Castle leads to a charming little gallery with animated paintings and stained glass displays. A ride on “it’s a small world” was so fascinating because we got to see how our country was presented without being on our own soil. The dolls were darling and the song infectious, as always.
And this is where our day came to an end. We had heard wonderful things about the Disney Dreams show that was due to begin at 11pm, but we gave it a miss for two big reasons. 1- We still weren’t completely adjusted to the time difference and were feeling exhausted. 2- The walk between our hotel and the train station seemed like it wasn’t in the best area, and the thought of walking it after midnight was making me anxious. So after a final farewell and a touch of souvenir shopping, we headed back to the hotel. Getting off the train and wandering through the area around 9:30pm and seeing how many people were out and about made me wonder if my anxiety about the walk was misplaced, but it was too late to go back.
An idea that would have made our whole experience better? Getting a hotel room in Marne-la-Vallée. While the Disney hotels are very expensive, I’m sure with a bit of research we could have found something reasonable in the area for one night. It would have allowed us a shorter commute, the possibility for a midday rest, and the ease of staying for the nighttime show.
All in all though, Disney fans should not hesitate to add a Disney day into their Paris vacation. The parks are much smaller than their Florida sisters and lots of magic can be experienced in just a day. The classics are there right alongside some special attractions that you can only find in Paris. And the train ride from city center to Disneyland is just short enough to make the trip in a day, if you’d like, although based on what I learned this time around I would try for a hotel in the area next time.
No matter how you do it, Disneyland Paris is always a good idea!