If you know me, you may know that I am a huge Disney nerd, and one of my goals is to visit all of the Disney Parks around the world. I had already added Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Walt Disney World in Florida and Tokyo Disneyland. While I was living in Germany a few friends and I executed an epic turn around trip to Disneyland Paris and I got to add my 4th Disney Park to my list. The drive from Stuttgart is about six hours but it was a beautiful drive through the French countryside, especially the area that boarders Germany know as Alsace. My friend commented, “No wonder France and Germany have been fighting over this area for so long. It’s awesome.”
I was a Disneyland Cast Member for five years and have been an Annual Pass holder for longer than that so I’d consider myself somewhat of an expert on Disney Parks. While they all have their own unique additions, for the most part they are similar. In my experience there are certain times of the year that are the best to go to the parks. We went on the Monday of Memorial Day because my friend had the day off work. Usually weekdays are less crowded than weekends, but not only was it a Monday, it was also raining. So basically, there was no one in the park giving us plenty of time to see as much of the two parks as we could, even riding a few rides multiple times.
Discoveryland is similar to the Tomorrowland you’re probably used to. I’m not sure why they changed the name as all the other lands were the same as the US parks. The first ride we went on was Space Mountain: Mission 2. The building has the same basic structure every other Space Mountain but this one is kinda steampunk, with the Nautilus parked out front. Mission 2 = way better than original. There was a *freaking* loop! And I’m pretty sure it went much faster than 28 mph like the one in California. We hit Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (cuz Astro Blasters is too American I guess) and they were exactly the same as home. The only difference was at Star Tours captain spoke French. But the video – which was the original 80’s version not the updated 3D – was in English. There was also Captain EO, but we chose to skip that one.
Straightaway when you enter Disneyland Park you will be greeted by Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. (It’s not Belle’s castle although that would make a lot of sense) The castle is highly regarded as the most beautiful of the Disney parks, and I’d have to agree. There’s a Sleeping Beauty walk-thru like the one in Anahiem but there’s also a pretty awesome feature unique to Paris, La Tanière du Dragon, or the Dragon’s Lair. Remember how Malificent turned into a dragon in Sleeping Beauty? Well, now we know where she’s been hiding. You enter the grotto from the left side of the castle, and instantly are thrust into darkness. As your eyes begin to adjust and you walk up the path, you’ll start to hear the sounds of dripping water and feel the mustiness of being underground. Then all of a sudden, you are face to face with the dragon herself. This was definitely one of my favorite experiences, but heed the warning of their website: may be frightening to children.
I was most excited to see Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, because it is unique to Paris but also because Alice in Wonderland is my favorite Disney movie. While it wasn’t exactly the hedge maze I had envisioned, it was still really cool. When you enter the maze you are offered several choices on your path to the other side, and it’s a lot harder that I thought it would be. Most of the characters make an appearance throughout the maze.
We also rode ‘it’s a small world’ which was similar to the Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions but the layout was slightly different throughout. Still cute.
Adventureland in Paris has a fun addition – Pirate’s Beach with full scale replicas of Skull Rock and the Jolly Roger from Peter Pan! The Jolly Roger can be boarded and you might run into some pirates, so be careful! Just past the beach is Pirates of the Caribbean in all it’s original glory. It was exciting to see Pirates they way Walt designed it again. Not a Johnny Depp in sight. Animatronic male pirates chasing wenches. It was wonderful!
Frontierland is home to Phantom Manor, the original Paris attraction that is similar to the Haunted Mansion. I was really excited to check this one out. My excitement only grew when I met the “ghost host” at the front of the Manor. He let me take a picture with him, but told me it might not come out as it’s hard to take pictures of ghosts.
Upon entering the house you are brought directly into the expanding rooms. How do you say “dead center of the room” in French? I don’t know but the host said the spiel in both English and French. They had the stretching portraits like in the original but they were different characters. But the room went pitch black and had a hanging man in the attic. The original pictures were hanging in the hallway. I was pretty shocked that the house was laid out in the exact same order as home. Loaded on at the moving walkway, go up the stairs, see the floating candlestick, the coffin room, the purple wallpaper, clock with the number 13, Madame Leota, the ballroom scene. It wasn’t exactly the same, but it was close enough that I was starting to become a little disappointed. That was until the “attic” scene. Instead of going into the garden where the ghosts are having a party, you go underground and you see skeletons coming out of their graves. It’s a little creepy actually. That whole section is creepy.
Big Thunder Mountain is also a part of Frontierland. At home in Anaheim, Big Thunder is one of my favorite attractions. In Paris, it is so much better. It went faster, and had a better track. I regret not riding it a second time. Out of the Paris originals I would say that Phantom Manor and Thunder were my favorite attractions. When we came out of the ride the sky had cleared up and it was actually sunny. I was able to capture this amazing shot of the mountain.
Walt Disney Studios Park
The second park at Disneyland Paris is the Walt Disney Studios Park – a much smaller version of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. It has Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster, The Hollywood Tower Hotel (Tower of Terror), and the Studio Tram Tour. It also has many shows like Playhouse Disney and the Art of Disney Animation that we have in California Adventure.
Tower here looks exactly the same. Same costumes. Same script. Same gags. Same library decorations. It was a little weird. I was not expecting so much English to be spoken. We rode twice. The first time, the bellhop did the whole spiel in English and the video was in English. The second time, the bellhop spoke again in English but the video was in French. Either way, I can never not like this ride, especially now that the one in Anaheim has been replaced.
Oh hello there Cars Land! Not quite, but they have a nice sign and a small tea cup like ride for kids with the Cars. Part of the ride building had Luigi’s House of Tires and the Curios shop attached. This area of the park also had Toy Story Playland with a Parachute Drop, Slinky’s Spin and RC Coaster – all of which we passed on. A Paris-unique attraction called Crush’s Coaster randomly had an hour wait which was the longest wait in the park so we decided we would rather go on Rockin’ Rollercoaster again instead. If anyone has ridden this, can you tell me if we made the wrong choice??
One of my favorite things at the park was noticing Disneyland hand-me-downs. It’s super nerdy but I always find that kind of detail hilarious. There is a restaurant in the front of the park called Restaurant en Coulisse, which is reminiscent of Five and Dime that was in Disney California Adventure when it opened (if you can remember that far back) with several different walk up restaurants to choose from and a shared dining area. The Cast Members were wearing blue aprons and hats from the Catering Truck in DCA (also now defunct). And to top it all, these are the exact trash cans used in Hollywoodland in California Adventure. I couldn’t help but laugh. These look like they have seen better days. Or more accurately, they look like they have been on the back of a container ship crossing the Atlantic ocean.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Parks. The attractions were different enough to be exciting and the E-tickets I wish we had at home like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the upgraded Big Thunder and Space Mountains just added to the experience. There were some parts that bothered me a little. The biggest thing that bothered me was the lacking Show. It is one of the most important things that all US Cast Members are taught so it was hard to see Cast Members wearing jewelry, pointing instead of talking, saying their safety spiels so quickly that I couldn’t understand the English or the French and the fading paint on almost everything. Another thing was that even though there were smoking sections, people were smoking all over the park and no one was stopping them. I know that it’s France but it’s still Disney and it’s upsetting to see the high standards that should be second nature not being upheld.
People have asked me now that I’m back which I like better, California or Paris. I will always call Disneyland in California my favorite resort. There’s really no beating the home team. But I can now add Disneyland Paris to the contenders to second best. I can’t decide between Paris, Tokyo DisneySea, or Epcot in Florida.
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