I love Disney. LOVE Disney. I consider myself to live within a reasonable proximity to Disneyland and Disneyworld (I call this less than a 6 hour flight), and have been lucky enough to visit both. And they are AWESOME (see all previous posts here). This being our third time in Paris, we didn’t do any of the traditional tourist attractions in the city, but we decided to spend New Years Day at Disneyland Paris. This was my first time visiting Disneyland Paris, and my expectations were not incredibly high. From what I had heard it just didn’t compare to the North American versions – and I would agree with that. I have been so lucky to spend time recently at both other parks, so this was just a little less. There were less character interactions, less smiles, less open, less rides, and just a little less of that sparkle. There were also more cigarettes, colder temperatures, and less employees. I don’t know if it was just the New Years Day experience (which was likely less crowded, given that most people came out for New Years Eve and were “relaxing” the following day, but also seemed to have sluggish employees) or if this is the typical experience. I actually wrote Disney to express my disappointment, and they gave me 2 free tickets to come back and try again! How nice of them! And fortunately, I am going back to Paris in the summer, so I will do just that!!
However, it is still Disney. So a less than stellar day at Disney is still better than most average days. It’s just that Disneyland and Disneyworld set the bar too high. So I want to walk you through the good, bad and the ugly of Disneyland Paris.
- The castle. Because it’s a Disney castle, of course. This castle had lots to see and do – including stained class windows telling the story of Sleeping Beauty, glass blowing and glass art studio, stores, and a DRAGON in the basement. That’s right. A moving, fire breathing dragon. So that’s definitely something cool and unique
- Phantom Manor – patterned after Phantom of the Opera.
- Toy Story Playland – I’m not a kid. But if I were, or if I had kids, I’m pretty sure they would love it here.
- Agrabah – There is an entire village here. Something I hadn’t experienced before. Sadly, a lot of it was closed when we were there.
- The merchandise – the things that are beloved to European disney visitors are different than back here in North America. So there were stuffed animals for animals and villains that are rarely seen here. So that was fun to see.
- Space Mountain – WAY better than their North American counterparts. This ride is smooth, thrilling, and not jerky. Just great ride.
- Fireworks show – the fireworks show was focused on peace on earth. It incorporated 15 different languages, and people from all cultures and countries. It was really unifying in its presentation, and it was beautiful to see and experience. Even more beautiful considering the year that Paris had.
- Christmas – Christmas lights and decorations are just lovely. And Disney has always done this well.
THE BAD (not really bad – more disappointing)
- The Fastpass system wasn’t very helpful. Everything was gone really early, so we didn’t get to ride Crush’s Coaster or Ratatouille
- There were very few characters out for photos. Just princesses in Fairytale Hall, but the fast passes for this were gone before 9:30.
- The food. We were missing all the Disney greats, or the Paris version of the greats. There were no Beignets or Dole Whip equivalents. I had some pretty disappointing food at the Cowboy Cookout that I regretted.
- Smoking. It is not legal to prevent smoking outdoors in France. So people are allowed to smoke outside. Just not in lineups or inside the buildings. But it means people are smoking all around you and throwing cigarette butts on the ground everywhere. I was shocked by this, as you don’t see any smoking at Disneyland or Disneyworld – but it is France after all. One can hope this is a rule that will change with time.
All that being said, it really is a wonderful place to visit. Ray and I feel like it’s important to have fun, be a kid, and embrace the magic. It’s not always easy for me to “let go” of the responsibilities of life – and Disneyland is one of the few places I can make that happen. And this time I got to share that silly crazy laughter-rich adventure with my very very favourite of all people. Many wonderful memories to cherish for years to come.