|Friday, 28 January 2011 04:07|
Disneyland Paris (formerly Euro Disneyland and Disneyland Resort Paris), located in the Paris suburb of Marne-la-Vallée, is the Disney European variant of their archetypal "Magic Kingdom" theme park. It was the second Disney theme park resort to open outside the United States, after Tokyo Disney Resort.
Disneyland Resort Paris consists of two parks, Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Paris, and a shopping district, Disney Village. Disneyland Paris is the park everybody has heard of and expects, and Walt Disney Studios Paris has a more general movie making theme - but it's still very Disney. The Village is comprised of stores and restaurants.
Disney's theme parks are famous for their "Audio-Animatronics," attention to detail, service mentality, crowds,and high prices. The intention is to completely recreate the "magic" of the Disney franchise; employees are not "staff" but "cast members"; the park is kept insanely clean; and everywhere you will find a perfectly running machine. For example, you won't find the same Disney character twice within sight - there are no duplicates. Children are clearly the focus of Disneyland, but older visitors are not neglected either.
All the theme parks follow basically the same setup, but of course there are many regional differences.The total commercialism is something you have to either accept, ignore or enjoy. Besides the merchandise stores at every corner, many rides are "sponsored" by various large corporations.To make the experience even more magical and enjoyable, the City of Light is just a half-hour train ride away.
When to Visit
With 12 million visits, Disneyland Paris has overtaken the Eiffel Tower as the most popular tourist destination of the Paris region, and is the fourth most visited theme park in the world, behind Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. Likewise, it is infamous for its crowds. At all attractions all over the park you will see "barricades" and signs along the lines of "Waiting time at this point - 45 minutes".
Like many theme parks, it's enjoyable visit to Disneyland Paris with good weather and as few people as possible. The best times to visit Disneyland Paris is on weekdays outside public holidays and school vacations. The least-visited times seem to be September-October and May-June. Considering the French weather, June is likely the safest bet. You'll probably be able to get some very good deals during these times. If you are lucky, you won't have to wait at all except at very popular rides, and even then the waiting time can be as low as a few minutes.
Note that even when the park is not very crowded you will have trouble seeing all of the attractions. For a more or less complete tour, you will need at least two days. It should be said quite clearly that Disneyland Paris is a lot of fun when you do not have to wait a lot - but waiting for a ride for 45 minutes or more can be stressing. However, see below for "FastPass" tickets.
Getting To Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Resort Paris is well connected to both international airports in Paris.
From Charles de Gaulle International Airport, (IATA: CDG), TGV operates high-speed train service to the resort from Terminal 2. The trip takes about 10 min.
From Orly Airport (IATA: ORY), you will need to take three trains: Orlyval (from Orly Airport to Antony), RER B (from Antony to Chatelet-Les Halles), and finally RER A4 (from Chatelet-Les Halles to Marne-la-Vallee Chessy).
Alternatively, VEA operates bus service to Disneyland Resort Paris from both airports, costing €17 for adults/€13 for children aged 3-11 per trip.
One choice if you live in France or in a nearby region (Central Germany, Southern United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) is to take a car. The highway system of France is decent enough and Disneyland Paris is easy to find. You should keep a supply of cash and/or credit cards ready, however, as the French charge hefty fees for the use of the highways. A trip from Frankfurt, Germany to Disneyland Paris can cost approximately €30 in fees.
If you are driving from the United Kingdom, note that France drives on the right.
The best way to reach Disneyland Resort Paris, which has its own railway station, is by train: they are reliable and run frequently. Note that when booking tickets the official name of the station is Marne-la-Vallee Chessy (this is useful for automatic ticket machines as the human ticket sellers all know the station for Disneyland).
RER A4 runs from central Paris to Marne-la-Vallee Chessy, with frequent trains taking 35 min for the journey. Be aware that a Paris Metro ticket is valid on RER only for travel within Zone 1 (Disneyland Resort Paris is in Zone 5). If you use a Paris Visite pass, make sure that it reads 'Zones 1-6' and not 'Zones 1-3. In either case, using an invalid ticket will result in a €25 fine.
The seven main rail terminals in central Paris, the trains that serve them, and directions from them to RER A4 are explained in the chart below. All of them are served by the Metro and/or RER.
From Within or Outside France
Eurostar operates a daily service from London's St. Pancras station, Ebbsfleet and Ashford direct to Marne-la-Vallee Chessy taking, on average, just 2 h. You can then leave your luggage at the station, and it will be moved to your hotel while you enjoy the parks.
Marne-la-Vallee Chessy is also served by four TGV train lines from destinations to the east and west such as Nantes and Lille.
Bear in mind that most international railways linking Paris with other countries arrive in central Paris: see the chart above.
After you arrive, first get to your hotel if you have booked one. You will get your tickets here, as well as information material, such as park maps, and breakfast vouchers.
Visiting Disneyland Resort Paris is about as equally expensive as visiting any of the other Disney parks around the world. There are four types of tickets sold. The 1 Day 1 Park Ticket allows you to visit only one of the two parks for a full day. In addition, there are three Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to visit both parks on the same day, available in 1-, 2- and 3-day increments. The 3-Day Park Hopper ticket represents the most ecomomical deal; the ticket price per day is lowest.
Children under age 3 are admitted free.
Also worth investigating is the Annual Passport - which appears to be cheaper for 12+ age groups than the 3 day park hopper. Buy a 1 day ticket and visit guest services once inside the park to get your annual passport (with its face price reduced by your 1 day ticket purchase price.)
You may want to check the different language versions of the site which will have different types of tickets available. The local French version often has specials that are unavailable on other sites, such as a €40 ticket with a 5-day advance purchase. Depending on the exchange rate, you may save by going to a different country's site.
Once you are in the park, your main mode of transportation will be walking. Disneyland is divided into four themed sections (Discoveryland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Fantasyland) and the central shopping and information area Main Street USA.
If you need to get from one side of the park to another, you can take the train which circles the Park and has a stop in each of the major sections.
If you find yourself at the back of the park during heavy rain, there is an undercover walkway that will take you all the way from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride to the front of the park.
Bus services exist which can take you from Disney Village and the central entrance to the hotels. These buses are free of charge.
Wheelchair accessibility is very good, and there are very few areas that have the usual obstacles, such as confined stairs, that make access impossible. A very good system of disabled access for most rides is in place, but for safety and evacuation reasons, some rides still require that the rider be able to walk or climb a ladder. It is a good idea to get a disability pass from the Information Center on arrival at the park; doing so makes it easier for staff to identify and assist disabled visitors. The pass will not grant a disabled person the right to jump the queue, but it does allow assisted access to rides via the exit gates rather then the more restrictive entrance gates.
What to See
Disneyland Paris is mainly a place for doing, not for seeing. But this doesn't mean there are no places with a good view.
There are many shows available throughout Disneyland Paris.
Rides and Attractions
Most "activities" in Disneyland Paris consist of various rides. However, there are discos and bars in the village where people meet and dance.
Easily the primary attraction of Disneyland, rides can be quite crowded depending on popularity - even on otherwise empty days at the park.
Some notable rides are:
If you can plan your timing somewhat, you may wish to take advantage of the FastPass system. When you get to a ride, you can get a so-called fast pass that allows you to bypass the queue at a set, later time. Even when the park is only moderately crowded, it's a good idea to get fast passes for popular rides early (Big Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones for example). FastPass exist only for a few rides.
You first go in front of the ride to get a coupon with a time frame. You then have to come back in that given time frame to take the ride. If you don't like the proposed time frame, you need to come back later. You cannot take another FastPass ticket before the start of the time frame of your first fastpass. There is a limited number of fastpass so you should take them before they are all gone.
This is a great system for people with very young children. Essentially only one has to queue while the other waits with the baby and then is taken straight to the front of the line.
Note - if you are using the Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, the Baby Switch process is slightly different. Once the first adult has been on the ride, they collect a ticket at the exit. The second parent then has to queue through the FastPass entrance (although the ride attendants recommendation is merely to push your way to the front of the queue), which can take some time.
If there is one thing you will never have a problem finding in Disneyland Paris, it's stores. Various themed and general stores are spread liberally throughout the park, selling Disney merchandise and general memorabilia. They carry everything from pencils to books, from Indiana Jones fedora hats to Cinderella costumes. The sky is basically the limit on the money you can spend at Disneyland Paris - you can buy glass/crystal trinkets and sword replicas in the central castle. If you come to Disneyland Paris with children, be prepared to reach deep into your pockets; cowboy hats and pistols or knights' swords seem to be essentials for boys; Cinderella costumes for girls. Either way, a set of goodies for a child will probably set you back approximately €50. Add to this plush dolls, t-shirts and action figures ... it's easy to spend €50-100 a head on "souvenirs" - or more.
The main shopping area of Disneyland Paris is Main Street USA. The largest store at Walt Disney Studios Paris isDisney Studio 1, which you will see straight ahead after you enter the park. Disney Village has a large collection of retailers, including a Disney Store.
Disneyland Paris sports many restaurants and bars that have mostly one thing in common: They're expensive. Some are simple fast-food spots, others are quite fancy. The food is often expensive. Cafe Mickey is expensive (€130 for four people) but the characters came around and you may save some time not queuing up in the park to have the kid's pictures taken with the characters.
Remember that the park closes early in the winter, spring and autumn so it is hard to eat dinner in the park after dark.
Hotels / Resorts
Disney offers various hotels in and around the park. They vary in quality and style. All should offer a free safe to store your valuables during the day, including notebook computers (Laptops). Inquire at the reception. Most are within easy walking distance from the Park
An asterisk (*) indicates hotels that offer point exchanges to members of the Disney Vacation Club .
As well as the above, there are several outer hotels, all of these offer transport to the park but they don't have a Disney theme and may not be included in special offer packages.
One such hotel is the Holiday Inn, which is situated alongside the official Disney hotels. It is also served by the Disney bus from Charles de Gaulle airport, and by the frequent shuttle buses to/from the parks. It has a circus theme throughout, and has good sized family accommodation.
Communication should not be an issue for English-speaking visitors. Although Disneyland Paris is mainly French, all menus and signs are also available in English and some in other languages. All Cast Members speak English; and as they are recruited from all over Europe, several of them speak over three languages. If all else fails, the visitors are from all over Europe and the world, and a bystander might be able to translate. Besides French, many sights are also written in English and possibly German as they are the three most commonly used languages in Disneyland. Maps are available in French, English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and German while passing under the train tracks after you have purchased a ticket and entered the park.
|Last Updated on Monday, 21 March 2011 20:00|