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Dave Adams
Writer

Highlights (and Lowlights) of Visiting Disneyland Paris... and Other Parks in France

Published: July 31, 2015 at 10:45 AM

It’s probably obvious because I’m writing this but I am a big theme park fanboy! Living in isolated New Zealand however has meant that it has been far too long since I last visited a Disney Park (13 years!) So traveling through Europe with my wife this year we relished at the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris and its companion park, Walt Disney Studios. Below I have compiled my top three highlights and lowlights for each park from our recent trip to the Disneyland Paris Resort, from the perspective of a fanboy with fresh eyes. Plus, I offer some thoughts about an excellent alternative to Disneyland for theme park fans visiting France.

Disneyland Paris

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland Paris

Let start with the lowlights:

1) Wifi — Disneyland Paris is one of the biggest attractions in Europe, drawing over 14 million visitors annually, many who travel across international lines to visit, like me and my wife. With data connections on international roaming, we depend on wifi, so for the life of me, I can’t understand Disney’s strategy in promoting the use of its app to check wait times throughout the park without providing adequate wifi coverage to do so.

2) Odd Eating Times — Being theme park fans ,my wife and I arrived early and avoided rush-hour meal times. We assumed that the dining venues would be open for the duration of the park. We assumed wrong. Arriving hungry we were surprised to see most of the dining venues wouldn’t open for a good hour after the park opened. We found the same with dinner, with an 11pm close time we assumed the eating venues would stay open late. When we went to find food around 8pm however. we were really surprised to find practically all but the pricey fine dining restaurants to be closed!

3) Indiana Jones: The Temple of Peril — I remember riding the Indiana Jones ride in California as a kid and LOVING it, so the opportunity to ride another Indiana Jones-themed ride was pretty exciting. This was our longest wait of the day, 45 minutes, so anticipation was high. Unfortunately our anticipation was not met. We found the ride, an Intamin looping coaster, to be quite jerky. The tight loop really strained my neck, and the shoulder restraints played ping pong with my wife’s head. Unfortunately, it’s not quite up to Disney’s usual high standard in my opinion. [Editor's note: Tokyo DisneySea has a clone of this ride, called Raging Spirits there.]

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, there actually is a LOT to celebrate here. Disney has produced a really high quality park, full of life, magic and quality rides. I found it really hard to narrow it down but here are my top three for the day!

Highlights:

1) Disney Dreams — Having just spent two nights earlier being blown away by watching the Bastille day fireworks off the Eiffel Tower, I was actually worried that the Disney Dreams fireworks and light show much be a bit of a letdown. I couldn’t be more wrong! For the second time in two days I found myself saying “this is the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen!” I give it a 12 out of 10. The way they have managed to link together heartfelt movie scenes, lights, songs, lasers, fire and fireworks together is mind-blowing. I came away glowing; it’s a must see!

2) Big Thunder Mountain — While the queue could use a little work (some fans & some in-line entertainment – the lines get really big) the ride itself in my opinion is perfect! So quick, so smooth, great turns and some great dark ride moments as you ride your way under the river.

3) Staff — Reading the discussion boards before arriving, I was very aware that the French staff has a reputation for at times being a little complacent and unhelpful. Which made me really pleasantly surprised to find that the staff we’re in fact very helpful. Given not 100% of the staff could understanding my English-speaking Kiwi accent, but all made an effort and we came away very pleased. Collectively the staff add real magic to the park!

Also notable mentions to Phantom Manor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Alice’s Labyrinth, which in our opinion were all exceptional attractions! Note that Space Mountain 2 and Les Mysteres du Nautilus were down for maintenance on the day we arrived, so those two attractions have been left out of consideration.

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios Paris

Having been away from a Disney park for 13 years, my wife and I decided to ignore Robert’s advice (sorry Robert) and make a day out of visiting Walt Disney Studios Paris. We were glad we did, with a better E-Ticket line up than its sister park Disneyland Park Paris, we had a great day! [Editor's note: Hey, one of your Top 3 wasn't built yet when I was there!]

Let’s start with the highlights!

1) CineMagique — This one came as a complete surprise to me and is unique to Walt Disney Studios Paris! This celebration of cinema magic brings movies to life, elegantly blending together movies and reality with just about as much humour and heartfelt emotion that you can handle. Prepare for a wild ride; this 25-minute show references a full 60 films with precision!

2) The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — An unbeatable classic! The ride is exceptional and the French cast members pull it off excellently, making it all the more memorable. We ended up riding it three times, back to back to back, we loved it so much!

3) Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquee de Remi — I was really excited ride the new motion-based 3D trackless dark ride. It didn’t disappoint; it is very clever and enjoyable! The ride elegantly blends set and screen to the point where they are almost indistinguishable from each other. It is high paced and fun for the whole family.

Lowlights:

1) Eating Options — For travelers on a budget, such as me and my wife, the options were very minimal. The park offers three budget restaurants, but on the day we visited (in the peak of summer), one was closed for the day and a second closed early, leaving us with just one option. We weren’t too keen to revisit the one budget restaurant. We thought we might go check out Bistrot Chez Remy, but again, with budgets in mind we couldn’t afford one of the set menus on offer but did notice an à la carte dessert menu that we could afford and so made a booking. Unfortunately this was probably the most sour experience we had in all of the whole trip as we were rudely informed that we’d misunderstood their use of “à la carte” as you could only order these in addition to their set menus. Perhaps this is normal for Disney restaurants but it certainly wasn’t obvious to us, embarrassed we left the restaurant and instead decided to eat later at the Disney Village. (this was our only negative encounter with the Parisian Disney staff.)

2) Vanilla Theming — I know it is meant to be backlot/movie production-themed, but I just felt the general park theming was a little vanilla for Disney, the different lands being a little indistinguishable and little rashly assembled. Certainly not the immersive wonderland that many Disney fans have come to love.

3) Crush Coaster Wait Times — While the Crush Coaster (again unique to Walt Disney studios) is a pretty fun dark ride, the wait times were pretty tough, seldom dropping below an hour the whole day with no Fastpass available. It’s a ride aimed at kids with a line that exceeds any kids attention span (even patient adults will struggle). The only other option was single rider, which only shaved off 10 minutes off the group ride line.

While the park is smaller, we quite happily made a day of it and enjoyed ourselves immensely. After a 13-hour marathon effort at Disneyland Park the day before, we were quite happy to have a shorter second day. It is small, but packs a punch. Don’t discount it!

Parc Asterix

Long before the magic of Harry Potter could be found at any theme park, there was the magic of the Druids found at Parc Asterix Paris — whole theme park almost completely dedicated to the well-loved comic book series of Asterix and Obelix + their many adventures!

The park itself is well decked out with theme and ride galore mixing excitement, humor and a plethora of shows. The park features the two extremes of coasters, Featuring OzIris, one of the best B&M coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding, and Goudurix, a Vekoma ride that was voted in 2012 as the world's worst roller coaster (its pretty rough – my wife and I temporarily lost partial eyesight on the ride).

The park also hosts a number of fun, bone-drenching water rides, an impressive wooden ride, Tonnerre de Zeus (Thunder of Zeus), which demonstrates some serious speed and length (although a little jerky at parts), and bobsled roller coaster that was very smooth and enjoyable.

Roller coasters aside, the real magic of this park lies in its uniquely themed rides and areas. The village of Asterix and Obelix was impressively fitted and was accurate to the books. It’s a great place for a meet and greet with your favorite characters!

The shows also were strikingly good, some of the best we’ve seen and very fun for the whole family, showcasing some good old druid magic and a showdown between the Gauls and Romans. We also were pleasantly surprised by Le Défi de César, a madhouse ride that packs in a lot of surprises and clever theming.

The park makes for a great day out for the whole family and will be a little lighter on your wallet than Disney! For a one-of-a-kind park, and for Asterix and Obelix fans, you’ll find Parc Asterix hard to beat.

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