Disneyland Paris Trip Report
Published: August 9, 2014 at 1:42 PM
Upon entering Disneyland Park, we marveled at the detailed and immersive theming of each land. When you are in Frontierland, for example, every ride is themed to the American Old West, and you cannot see Main Street or Adventureland which are adjacent. You are truly transported to the location they are trying to recreate. Even the restaurants continue the theming in their design if not always with the food they serve - but more on the food later.
In terms of the rides, there were very few that we did not like. In fact, as many have stated on this site, Big Thunder Mountain is amazing. We rode it at least five times and kept finding new elements to enjoy. Phantom Manor was another favorite at Disneyland Park; the story and ride are much darker than the Magic Kingdom version, yet you still get some of the familiar elements (Madame Leota, the ballroom scene, and “Grim, Grinning Ghosts” spring to mind). At Walt Disney Studios, we were very impressed with Crush’s Coaster and the new Ratatouille ride. (Pro tip: grab a Fastpass for Ratatouille then ride Crush’s Coaster immediately - the line never gets any shorter.)
The newest ride, and our favorite, is Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, so I will go into that a bit more. The mini-Paris that has been developed to house Ratatouille is beautiful. There are real buildings mixed in with facades surrounding a courtyard that houses a beautiful three-tier fountain. The music playing is taken from the Ratatouille soundtrack and provides that perfect background to explore the area. The queue for the ride itself is also well done. Covering the queue outside the building is a metal and glass pavilion designed to look like an open-air market. There are a number of fun billboards for Chef Gusteau’s frozen dinners lining the outside of the connecting buildings. Once inside the show building, you are mostly standing in cool, dim hallways but the star is the one room where you spend a little time. You are made to feel like you are standing on a Parisian apartment rooftop with all the sounds that accompany such an experience. Dogs barking, people yelling and singing, lights turning on and off are part of the atmosphere. The highlight, though, is the large,electric sign for Gusteau’s. Occasionally, Gusteau comes to life to talk to you in English or French (and also to make sure his restaurant has the proper number of stars displayed). The effect is magnificent and a lot of fun.
Once you arrive at the loading platform after receiving your 3-D glasses, you are returned to the rooftops of Paris except, this time, you have been shrunk down to the size of a rat. Neither Rob nor I had experienced a trackless ride before and were not disappointed with Ratatouille. Since we were able to ride a total of three times, we were able to get all three experiences offered by the group of three cars in which you travel. The 3-D film and live elements combined with a fun, light story of trying to help Rémy get to his restaurant to make ratatouille make for a delightful ride with all of your favorite characters from the film (even if they are just in the background). The ride seamlessly blends French and English so that anyone with knowledge of either language can easily understand what is happening. There are so many details that we always found something new to point out, and the ride was fresh and exciting each time. We only ever experienced one technical issue, and I was impressed with the way the ride system was designed to handle it. Instead of hearing the same track over and over while waiting for the cars to start moving again, we simply were stopped and waiting. The sound re-started when the cars did.
When you reach the unloading platform, you get a great view into Bistrot Chez Rémy. The theming is wonderful and continues the story with you still shrunken to rat-size. We decided not to eat here simply because the menu was not exciting. There was one starter and three decidedly boring main courses. The desserts were the only interesting dishes. In the end, we felt that we were better off saving our money.
The only rides we did not fully enjoy at either Disneyland Park or Walt Disney Studios were Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril and Space Mountain: Mission 2. Rob and I both found Indiana Jones to be quite a rough ride, and I hit my head on the restraint a couple of times. In addition, the theming was superficial and generic, squandering a valuable IP. The cars are also quite tiny with hardly any legroom for adults. Rob did enjoy Space Mountain and rode it twice. I, however, felt quite dizzy and a bit ill after riding. As an avid coaster fan, I was looking forward to the more intense version of the ride but found that there was no way to gain orientation if you started to feel dizzy. The track is so well-hidden in the dark, and the space elements are so well done that there’s never a chance to gain a point of reference for your direction.
Truly, our only real complaint with the rides was the maintenance issues. Neither Rob nor I have been on so many rides at the same park that broke down time and again, day after day. There was also at least one element on nearly every ride that did not function properly. (I think the exception was Big Thunder.) Being so used to Disney World’s standard of maintenance, we were surprised to come back on our third day to find ride elements that had been broken three days previously were still not back in order. Most of the issues were with broken animatronics, and all of the continuous loaders had issues at some point.
Besides the rides, there are a number of fun areas to explore that fit in well with the theming, especially at Disneyland Park. There are walkthroughs, play areas, Alice’s maze, two arcades on Main Street, and many places to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Rob and I especially enjoyed Alice’s Maze for it’s interactivity and inclusion of a wide variety of characters from the film. The arcades were also a great way to get around the crowds on Main Street USA at any time during the day. The best of these non-ride attractions were Sleeping Beauty Castle (don’t miss the dragon in the dungeon!) and Les Mystères du Nautilus.
The parade (La Magie Disney en Parade!) and nighttime show (Disney Dreams!) are both a must for Disneyland park. The parade has an extremely catchy, fun song (I’m still singing it almost a week later) and a great variety of floats. The characters range from the princesses to The Jungle Book to Frozen to Mickey and are for the most part easily seen as the floats are tall. Disney Dreams! is a wonderful show starring Peter Pan (speaking in English) and Wendy (speaking in French) that combines projected animation with water elements, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and music. We see Peter Pan’s shadow travel through many of the favorite Disney animated films and get to sing along to the classics. Not having yet been able to experience the new technology with projections on a Disney castle, I was blown away by how beautiful and effective it was. As at any theme park with a parade or large show, it is nearly mandatory to arrive anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour early to get a spot close to the action. At the same time, we generally stayed back a little ways from the front and still had good views.
For us, food is an important part of a theme park experience, and we had mixed feelings about the food at Disneyland Paris. No matter how good or bad, the food is extremely expensive from the snacks to the sit-down restaurants. We were prepared to be gouged a bit but quickly understood why nearly everyone attending the park brings their own food. To give you a bit of an idea of the cost, we ate at Casey’s Corner for lunch on our first day. We each had a plain, foot-long hot dog and a soda. We shared a small fruit cup as well and paid about €18 (at an exchange rate of approximately $1.40/€1.00, that comes to $25.20). In the Magic Kingdom Casey’s Corner here in the US, you can get a Hot Dog Meal (hot dog, fries or apples, and a drink) for $7.79 or $15.58 + tax for two people. To be fair, the sit-down restaurant prices matched those in the high-end US Disney restaurants pretty closely.
In terms of the food offered, there are nowhere near as many choices as what you would find at Disney World. The snacks consisted of popcorn (nothing fancy, just movie theatre style popcorn), pre-packaged ice cream, waffles, and crépes (when you could find them). Rob was desperately searching for a Mickey soft pretzel or a cookie ice cream sandwich, but, alas, none were to be found. Most of the quick service restaurants served typical US fast food fare like hamburgers, pizza, and chicken fingers. We did have some very nice ham and cheese toasties in Walt Disney Studios, though. Robert Niles’ write-up from his trip last year has a lot of great details on the food in the park, and I recommend taking a look for a lot of helpful information.
We made two dinner reservations for our trip. The first night, we ate at Walt’s - An American Restaurant which is located on Main Street USA in Disneyland Park. We were intrigued by Robert Niles’ review of the restaurant last year and wanted to give it a try. Our verdict - this was the best meal we ate during our entire 14 day vacation. From the moment we walked into the restaurant, we received top-quality service. It was hard to believe that we were able to eat in such a nice restaurant wearing our theme park attire. There was plenty of diversity in the menu, so we had no trouble finding something to fit our palettes. Rob chose the tomato with pesto and goat cheese, and steak. I had the chicken caesar salad and mushroom ravioli. We both tried the raspberry cheesecake for our dessert. The food was cooked to perfection, and the portions were very generous. In fact, I felt that the portions were nearly too large. It was difficult to finish each course; my salad in particular was nearly the size of a main course itself. As I mentioned, our service was excellent as well. The waiter came back multiple times to check on us and make sure that our food was satisfactory. When you add in the great vintage atmosphere that ties in so perfectly to your views of Main Street USA out the window, Walt’s is the perfect theme park restaurant. If you take a trip to Disneyland Paris, you absolutely must eat there.
For our second night, we chose to try Blue Lagoon Restaurant in Disneyland Park. The great thing about this restaurant is its location. You are inside the Pirates of the Caribbean show building and watch the boats float by right after they leave the loading dock. The room is dark and has a wonderful tropical feel with palm trees and vines. You feel as if you are dining on the veranda and front lawn of a large Caribbean plantation. (Note that table location is key: not every table has a view of the boats. We could see them but would have tried to request a better table along the railing when making a reservation.) Beyond the theming, however, we were not much impressed by Blue Lagoon. We paid the same price as at Walt’s but received mediocre service and less than stellar food. Our waiter was pleasant but only came by to take our order and drop off food. Rob ordered salad, swordfish, and fruit with a smoothie. I had shrimp salad, Caribbean style chicken, and créme brulée. Rob’s food was good enough but nothing special. Taste aside, I’m pretty sure the shrimp salad made me ill. I ate a little of it (probably more than I should have since I was so hungry) but the excessive mayonnaise added to the fact that it wasn’t exactly cold made it into a not-so-appetizing dish. Again, my chicken wasn’t anything special but tasted ok. The only stand-out dish of the meal was my créme brulée. Instead of caramelizing the sugar in the kitchen, it was brought to the table while still flaming. This made for a great effect, and the dessert was pretty yummy, too. Similar to Walt’s, the portion sizes here were large. Even though I did not eat much of my starter, I could not come close to finishing my dessert.
I feel that it’s important to make note of the wonderful service we received throughout Disneyland Paris especially given reports that the cast member can be less than friendly. The staff were all helpful and polite. There were very few cast members who did not speak fluent English and were always willing to switch languages when our requests were beyond the French that Rob speaks. There was a bit of inconsistency in cast members’ enthusiasm while working rides like Phantom Manor and Tower of Terror - some were spot-on with their characters and stuck to it and others merely did their job of loading the cars. However, this difference only stuck out to me due to my many visits to Disney World. A special recognition should go to Doudou, the cast member manning the turnstiles at Art of Animation. He made the wait time time fly by doing silly voices, singing songs, and making jokes in at least 3 languages. He was worth the price of admission that day.
There a couple of last observations about the park that made this a very different experience than most others we have been to. Firstly, smoking is allowed everywhere except in the queues (although, next to a queue is okay) and inside buildings. As someone who has issues with smoke due to allergies and asthma, this was a bit of an issue at times and even led to development of a cough by the end of our time in Paris. Cast members were very good about stopping people from smoking in the queue when they could see it happening. Queues like the one for Crush’s Coaster that were hidden away were problematic; it was a constant struggle to find fresh air. Secondly, you need to be prepared to fight for your place in a queue. We discovered very quickly that there are more people who will try to game the system to get ahead in line. This includes both being sneaky by trying to slip in halfway through a long queue and blatantly walking ahead of everyone and inserting yourself at the front. As well-trained US theme park goers, it was quite frustrating to witness and experience. In wider queues, we often had to make sure we were standing side by side with our hands on our hips to prevent line-jumping. Neither of these completely ruined our time at the park but did put a damper on things at times.
Overall, Rob and I would definitely recommend that any theme park or Disney fan should consider a visit to Disneyland Paris. It has impressive and immersive theming, great rides, and a variety of activities for everyone in the family. As long as you remember to bring food with you for lunch and snacks, you can easily avoid paying exorbitant amounts to eat in the park. Below is a breakdown of how we spent our time in the park over the first two days we were there. We comfortably fit in nearly every ride and show (we really could have done every single thing there but skipped the ones that held no interest for us). We were there on a Wednesday and Thursday at the end of July, and the crowds were very manageable. We also discovered that the crowds on a Sunday are much smaller, and everyone tends to head home early. I hope that this trip report was helpful and inspires you to take a trip to a park that could use some more support from US theme park enthusiasts. If we’re ever in Europe again, I know I’m going back!
Day 1 Strategy
- Queued at the gates to Disneyland Park by 9 am
- Grabbed Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain.
- Rode Phantom Manor
- Rode Big Thunder Mountain
- Rode Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril
- Explored some of the caves on Adventure Isle
- Walked through La Cabane des Robinson (Swiss Family Robinson Tree House)
- Rode Pirates of the Caribbean
- Walked through Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin
- Ate lunch at Casey’s Corner
- Grabbed Fast Passes for Buzz Lightyear
- Rode Space Mountain: Mission 2
- Rode Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
- Rode Star Tours
- Walked through Les Mystères du Nautilus
- Rode Disneyland Railroad from the Discoveryland Station to Fantasyland Station
- Explored Alice’s Curious Labyrinth
- Rode le Pays des Contes de Fées
- Rode Les Voyages de Pinocchio
- Watched La Magie Disney en Parade
- Ate dinner at Walt’s - An American Restaurant
- Walked through Sleeping Beauty Castle (upstairs only)
- Rode Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains
- Rode it’s a small world
- Rode Peter Pan’s Flight
Day 2 Strategy
- Queued at the gates to Walt Disney Studios by 9:15 am
-Grabbed Fast Passes from a cast member for Ratatouille
- Rode Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy
- Rode The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Rode Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic
- Rode Ratatouille again
- Watched Cinémagique
- Grabbed lunch from the Disney Blockbuster Café and saw Les Indestructibles [The Incredibles] En Action
- Experienced Armageddon: les Effects Spéciaux
- Watched Animagique
- Rode Crush’s Coaster
- Rode Rock’n’Roller Coaster
- Walked to Disneyland Park
- Walked through La Tanière du Dragon
- Rode Pirates of the Caribbean
- Ate dinner at Blue Lagoon Restaurant
- Explored Adventure Isle a bit more
- Rode Big Thunder Mountain & Phantom Manor
- Walked through the fort at the entrance to Adventureland
- Watched the Disney Dreams Nighttime Spectacular
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