After a lifetime of getaways to the Disney parks on both coasts of the United States, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris required more than climbing the Eiffel tower and watching Le Tour de France. But when this Traveling Mom told friends she would release her inner child with a trip to Disneyland Paris, she was met by scoffers. Why would an adult want to visit Disneyland Parid when she could visit the original and the biggest Disney parks in her home country? Is going to Disneyland Paris even worth it? She thinks so. Here are her four reasons why.
I’ve flown into the Orlando airport four different times, and each time made a beeline toward the bus that would take me to my Walt Disney World resort hotel. At the end of vacation, the same thing was done in reverse. Nobody in my family knows what Florida looks like other than what we’ve glanced at through the bus windows! And the only reason I know what lies outside of Disneyland in Anaheim is because many of my relatives live in that area.
Disneyland Paris is different. While this Disneyland does offer convenient on-site themed lodging like the US parks, this one has a better partnership and connection with its namesake city. Disneyland Paris even offers city excursions to places like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre!
I decided to visit Paris on my way to Spain to volunteer a week at Diverbo’s Pueblo Ingles program for adults. Although this meant going alone, the City of Lights isn’t just for couples! Besides museum hopping and eating authentic French food in the heart of France’s capital, I planned a day excursion and bought a Disneyland Paris Express ticket. This ticket not only grants you access to both the Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios parks, but provides round-trip bus transportation to Disneyland Paris from one of four downtown locations.
If I go back with my family someday, I’ll probably use this type of ticket again. The other families I rode the Paris Express with appreciated the convenience of this service to enhance their vacation with small children. However, if I go by myself again, I’ll take the subway. The “Metropolitain” runs later than the Paris Express, and the subway station is closer to the park entrance.
I might have been the only American at Disneyland Paris that day. Unfortunately, many Americans settle for the two domestic Disney Parks instead of venturing with Disney into new lands. But just like at Walt Disney World, there are representatives from so many countries. Whimsically learning about French culture was expected, but gathering bits of insight into even more countries was included as well!
I can only speak two sentences in French: “Do you speak English?” and “I don’t speak French!” Fortunately, Disneyland Paris may be the only place in France where people are not only willing to speak in English, but required! Because so many guests come from the neighboring UK, all cast members that work with the public must be fluent in both French and English. (And since Disneyland Paris hires internationally, this may be a fun career aspiration if your kid is learning French!)
Even though I succeeded using only English that day, French culture was still prevalent. Movie posters translated into French lined the walkways. Some restaurants offered French specialties with their fare. I did have to figure out that the ride labeled “Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains” was about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And by looking really carefully while riding the Studio Tram Tour, I noticed a truly Parisian nod to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Are you as sad as I am about the closing of “Lights, Motors, Action” at Hollywood Studios? You can still see this car stunt show, but you’ll have to go back the place where it originated. Walt Disney Studios is one of the two parks at Disneyland Paris, and is most comparable to Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. “Moteurs…Action!” as it is called here, is just one of the unique attractions you can’t find anywhere else.
My personal favorite was one of the newest rides, “Ratatouille: The Adventure.” This 3-D ride experience appears to shrink participants down to the size of a rodent, and introduce them to Parisian dining through the eyes of a rat. I enjoyed the special effects of hiding under a hot burner, getting swept away by a mop, and experiencing a 3-D champagne cork shooting right toward me! As a bonus, this is one of the few attractions at Disneyland Paris with a single rider line, which I found helpful as it was one of the most popular attractions!
Other Pixar movies inspired unique rides at Disneyland Paris. Crush’s Coaster is a ride for thrill seekers as well as anyone excited for the upcoming movie, “Finding Dory.” There are also several rides based on different Toy Story characters. With names like Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin and Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, these rides are family-friendly versions of what you might expect at a county fair.
Difference in the Details
Of course, Disneyland Paris still has the classic attractions we all know and love, often with a little twist. While even toddlers giggle at the absurdity throughout the Haunted Mansion in the United States, the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris has more frightening elements mixed into the same story line. Since I’ve been disappointed with “Pirates of the Caribbean” ever since the movies caused a remodeling of the attraction, it was refreshing to be able to go on the only remaining version of the ride that hasn’t been infiltrated by Captain Jack Sparrow.
Because attractions have to cater to both French and English speakers, it was interesting to see how rides were modified to make this possible. On many rides, voiceovers were limited or even eliminated. Where an explanation was required, the languages flowed together so beautifully that I may have subconsciously learned some French! On the Studio Tram Tour, each car had a screen with what appeared to be a newscast. One of the news anchors spoke English, while the other spoke French, but they still appeared to be interacting with each other just as if it were a real show. Ratatouille: The Adventure was another ride that required narration, often done by multiple characters having a bilingual conversation.
Perhaps the best difference is the centerpiece of every Disney Park: the castle. Like the park in California, the one in Disneyland Paris is also known as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but there are some notable differences. Not many people know that Disney castles are modeled after real-life castles. The original Disneyland castle is modeled after a castle from Germany, while the one in France is based on… well, a French castle of course! This spectacular landmark only proves that while other Disney parks may be older or bigger, there is nothing quite like Disneyland Paris!
Which Disney Parks have you been to? What unique Disney experiences make Paris seem worth the trip?