Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
So I was there on a Hen Do – 10 girls, with about 60% of them completely un-Disney and slightly bemused as to where they had found themselves. The arrival into Hotel Santa Fe was bleak. The sky was grey, the buildings, although a cheery terracotta, were patchy in places, and the whole place had lost its charm. It’s a shame, as it really is just the exterior that spoiled my stay – the staff were friendly (very helpful in sorting arrangements for my gluten free diet), the bedrooms were basic but still of a Disney standard (lovely attention to detail for all the room décor), – but whenever you left your room or returned at night, it had a very downbeat vibe. I won’t be staying there again. For not very much more you can opt for Hotel Cheyenne which is cowboy themed and a lot better maintained.
So after dumping our bags we headed straight for the parks, jumping on one of the frequent shuttle buses that leave every 10 minutes from outside the main building. On the Saturday night we realised you can walk from Disney Village to the hotel and this is very quick and more enjoyable than the bus. The path runs alongside a canopied river and can be used to access Newport Bay, New York, New York, Cheyenne and Santa Fe. Once off the bus, the excitement start to boil in the Disney fans and I found it very difficult being in a group of 10. I had to exercise my very best patience and tolerance and practice being a ‘grown up’…which basically resulted in a reduced ‘COME ON LET’S GO!’ and much more looking at the map, planning our next move and pacing up and down. There was quite a lot of building work going on – in preparation for the 20th Anniversary. The central garden area at the top of Main Street was boarded off, as was the route to the main entrance into Disneyland Park from Disney Village. There was also a large area boarded off between Disney Village and the Studios, but none of this spoiled anything for us. Alice’s Labyrinth was closed though, which I was sad about.
Our first ride was It’s a Small World – the Hen’s favourite – which we end up riding twice over the whole weekend. The last time, we all ride round singing the song until our voices dried up. The we hit Snow White and the Carousel, then headed over to Thunder Mountain. Now, it is at this point that I started becoming a source of knowledge for some of the less-experienced girls, and I tried my very best to provide unbiased, highly descriptive and truthful information about the rides and how they will make you feel. I honestly did not know that the Thunder Mtn over here is so much more intense than the one in Florida! So after convincing two girls in particular that this was a family ride, really quite tame and a good roller coaster introduction, I came off the ride completely windswept and breathless, worrying about the new recruits…..but they LOVED IT! Yay! Thank goodness. So then we hit Phantom Manor, where the ghost holograms that inhabit your car at the end weren’t working, and that was us done for the day. The park shut at 8pm. We headed to Disney Village where you simply aren’t going to sit down straight away if you haven’t booked. We opted for a cheaper option and had bar snacks in Billy Bob’s Country and Western Saloon which were limited for choice but hit the spot.
On Saturday we headed to Disneyland Park for 8am to use our Magic Hours. First though, we swung by City Hall to book our dinner for this evening. Decided to pay a bit more and treat the Hen to a character dinner, as it was only from £24.99! (Pounds and Euros were one for one.) We hit Space Mountain straight away – COME ON! Love this ride, so much more exciting than the one in Florida. Is up there with Rock n Roller. So smooth and that first acceleration – better than Rock n Roller for me, as you’re shooting up an elevated track, rather than something flat. Then over to Space Ranger Spin – still can’t get over 100,000 (any tips anyone?!) – before breakfast at the Plaza Gardens Restaurant. The hotel gave us the choice to eat breakfast at the hotel or in the park for no extra cost, so we did the latter, and I recommend it. Much nicer setting, and lets you get up and out straight to the park without any fuss.
Over to the Studios next – the thing I was looking forward to most! Went over at 10am, but missed the opening so by the time we got to Crush the queue was already at 80mins. With no offer of a fastpass we had to join, and it wasn’t that bad to be honest – only queued for an hour after all, and the time passed quickly with everyone chatting. The queue was mostly outside however, so those of us with thick coats were grateful, and I, who as usual had failed to anticipate the weather, was generally freezing, although at least it wasn’t raining. The loading area inside was cool, as if we were approaching a dock with boats and seaside fish and chip shacks. There were only two seagulls reinforcing their ownership of something unseen, but they were still entertaining enough for everyone in the queue to mimic and reminisce on the film’s glory. So you sit in the hump of a giant sea-turtle’s shell which spins as it moves along the track, so you never know when you might go backwards. The speed and G-force really surprised me, and although it doesn’t go upside-down, it’s pretty intense. The surroundings are beautiful, with jellyfish all around and sharks appearing here and there…it was just over too fast and I was not about to queue again.
I ran off to get fastpasses for Tower of Terror, then met others in the new Toy Story area. This was cool to walk round but queues too long for me. Some of our party did the Slinky Dog which really just goes round and round and is just for little ones in my opinion. The RC Coaster looked cool, but wait time was 80 minutes, and the Parachutes were out of action (although we saw them back up by end of the day) and this was the only thing I wanted to try here. If the queues are big I would advise a walk round this area, but just queue if you’ve got little ones. It could also have done with a café in this area, but couldn’t find anywhere to get coffee apart from back by the entrance. Also there was a boarded up area just past RC Coaster, but there was no indication that this might have been for Ratatouille. Tower or Terror and Rock n Roller were absolutely fantastic and made my day. What really thrilled me, however, is that I got to share them which two (different) people who had never experienced anything like it and managed to conquer their fears, and both were so excited and proud that they had done so. Seeing the 60% of our group quickly change and become Disney advocates was exciting too – they went from wanting breakfast late and a lie-in, to wanting to be at the park for opening time. After meeting people who can’t understand why we return to Florida so frequently (and quite frankly think we’re mad), and then seeing similar people transform into admitting they see the attraction and appreciate the attention to detail and the atmosphere, was very rewarding.
We did two shows at the Studios, Cinemagic and Animagic. Animagic was brilliant, Mickey and Donald fun, with Donald exploring an off-limits film storage area and bringing characters and songs to life – all blacklit puppets and costumes – had everyone singing along. It was good as well because Mickey spoke French and Donald spoke English, so everyone (mostly) could understand. Cinemagic was a vaguely amusing film about a man being sucked through different eras of film history, but I wouldn’t bother doing this again or really recommend it unless you manage to nip in (like we did) and not have to queue, and fancy a sit down in the warm (!). The Backlot Tour is something that disappointed us – queuing time said 30mins, but we queued for at least an hour in a completely unprotected area and the wind was freezing cold, at this point we were all quite miserable (but I had a big bag of jelly beans – proper Theme Park Insider – which everyone was grateful for). The Catastrophe Canyon part was obviously brilliant and everyone loved it, but the rest of the ride so short that it left us wishing we hadn’t bothered.
The Studios parade – Cars and Stars – was fun, quite short, but great to see some sparkling classic cars. The Disneyland Park parade however was very impressive. It lasted 15mins and the floats were brilliant, they were huge, 3D tableauxs and two films shared one float displaying something front and back. The Alice in Wonderland was my favourite, depicting the scene when Alice is the ‘serpent’ trapped inside the house. The music and the dancers were lovely to watch, and some of the princesses promenaded with their princes down our side of the audience, so it was lovely to share their smiles at close hand.
Other character moments occurred that afternoon including Eeyore (my favourite), Tigger, Buzz, Sulley, Mulan, and Cruella. Which brings us to our character dinner. Boy, how hungry we were when it got to 7.30pm! We were so excited, being shown to our seats and there was Snow White and Cinderella! We were seated right at the back, being such a big party, and so got to see all the smiling faces of everyone on our way in. After some lovely pictures with the two princesses, we all sat down and our waitress handed out the menus….. Hang on a minute! The ‘from £24.99’…and transformed into ‘£64 set menu’…! Everyone’s face paled and there was a hush around the table…what were we going to do?! Well after a few minutes’ fear, and me running to the loo in tears (can’t take confrontation!), we made a hasty exit with the very kind waitress arranging a booking at Café Mickey for us that same evening. The waitress explained there are two places to get character dinner in the park – Cinderella’s Restaurant (which we happened to choose) and the Cowboy Barbeque – but the leaflet just says from £24 for both of them. They are aware of this misleading issue and are in process of printing new information in time for the Anniversary.
Some of the group then carried on with a few more rides and three of us opted for a drink and respite in the Sports Bar in Disney Village. And they even sell Magners, (albeit at £6 for a SMALL bottle) but cider is cider and it tasted goooood, so it was lovely to relax for half an hour. Café Mickey’s was fantastic. Even though we ate quite late, at 10.30pm, there were still characters – Mickey, Captain Hook and Smee – and a fun atmosphere. The prices were less scary and they were accommodating with my diet. Note to self: anything with Cinderella in the title is likely to be pricey. But at least we got our princess pictures!!!
Our final day was just as packed, legging it straight to Space Mountain again and then Indiana Jones. I can honestly say the riding Space Mtn is my favourite way to start the day – 8.15am, being hurtled through the dark before breakfast beats any morning commute to work! I was a bit disappointed with Indiana, as even though it does go upside down, the ride is so short and not as exciting as Space. However, we had fastpasses so if you can run on it – great! Other rides we did: Peter Pan, Storybook ride, Casey Junior (fun to relax on these kiddie rides!) Pirates (no Jack Sparrow as yet) I would have loved more time to explore Adventure Isle and do the Motors, Lights Action show, and spend more time looking round Main Street, and do Captain Eo and the old Star Tours (for old time’s sake)…but time had run out. I’ll tell you something though – I hadn’t been bothered about coming back to Paris (I’d last been when I was 18yrs – 10yrs ago) as I always thought – it’s not proper Disney, I’m only bothered about Florida – but now for me it’s up to scratch. There are a few things that you have to know to miss – but others that are better than Florida. And I will definitely be taking my parents and husband back there soon. I certainly feel like I’ve had a satisfying top-up of Disney magic!
I'm supposed to be planning a hen do soon, unfortunately I know my friend wouldn't want to do anything like this. :(
Sorry to give you negative news...Unless of course they had a refurbishment before you went, who knows.
Once again thanks for posting your trip report. It helps people like us who have never been to Disneyland Paris get a better idea of what to expect.
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