Today I want to write about something a little different. It is a guide to Disney Paris, whether you’re going for one day as part of a trip to Paris or going to the parks for a few days.
My obsession isn’t with Disney per se, it is with Beauty and the Beast. I can’t tell you how much this film means to me. I had read the book as a child in Dunnes one day when my mam was queuing, very bold of me as shops aren’t libraries but anyway. I instantly fell in love with the characters and the story. I remember seeing the film in 1992 in Tallaght. It was the second time I’d been to the cinema and I had been excited for weeks. I very clearly recall loving Belle because she read books and thinking Gaston was a horrible fool. I remember feeling scared when Maurice sits in the chair shivering as the Beast enters the room. I felt excited for Belle’s yellow dress as I had never seen something so pretty and I was so annoyed that the Beast turns back to his prince form at the end. This is something that still irritates me, he should have stayed as Beast.
My desire to go to Disney started at about 4 years of age. I had seen the castle at the start and end of films. For those young people reading this, there used to be a short video on Disney parks before /after Disney videos. I had seen the cups and they became my dream. 26 years later my dream was realised and I finally got to sit in the magical cups. The cup ride itself may have only lasted 30 seconds but it truly was amazing.
The Tea Cups at Night
It was an absolute joy to be in Disney. I loved it. It is truly the happiest place on earth. I went to Disney at a bad time of my life and it really did cheer me up. I felt like Disney was there for me and it has become a friend. I can’t wait to go again. Anyway here are my tips and travel guide:
Travel from the city
Travel from the city is relatively easy and although there are buses, trains are the easiest method. The trains run from about 6am until midnight and are very regular. The train station, Marne La Valee, is a purpose built Disney station that is situated minutes away from the gates of the parks. Marne La Valee is in Zone 5 of the train system so in Paris you will need to be on a zone 5 line. Depending on what station you are coming from you may need to change trains but don’t worry, it is relatively straightforward. I’d allow about an hour for travel.
Travel from Charles de Gaulle airport
Travel from the airport is quite simple. CDG has a train line under it so you can trains into the city or straight to Disney. There is also an option to take a TGV train which is an express train taking about 10-15 minutes to get to Disney. Depending on the time of day, prices vary but the most you’ll pay is €18. It is well worth it and you’ll be dropped to the door of Disney and get the train back to the airport from the same place
I do not recommend staying in the parks. The hotels are incredibly expensive and to be honest, you won’t be in the room very much so it just isn’t worth the money. I stayed in the Parks and Suites hotel which is a couple of minutes away from Disney. The hotel is very nice and the rooms have a small kitchen, comfortable bed and large bathroom. The hotel runs shuttle buses to Disney from 7am to 1am and the shuttles operate every few minutes at a cost of €2 per day. You will be dropped right to the gate. Most hotels nearby operate a similar service.
There are two parks, the main park and Walt Disney Studios. Personally I find the main park to be the best and if you’re only going for one day I’d recommend making the main park your priority. If you have tickets for both parks you can come and go between each throughout the day as you please. For best ticket prices go to 365tickets.ie.
When you first visit the parks you will need to queue to validate your piece of paper to an actual park ticket. This only needs to be done for your first visit. The park then opens at 9am. Unless you are staying in the hotels you can’t get to any of the lands (areas with attractions) until 10am but you can walk around Main Street, visit the shops, try on silly hats and have some breakfast. I actually quite like that time in the morning. Once the clock strikes 10am you can go where you please. My first port of call is Fantasy Land and straight to the cups. I’ve been very lucky and have never had a long queue for this ride.
You will hear lots about queue times in relation to Disney. There are some attractions which seem to have a very long wait and others that are fine. Each attraction has a clock outside letting you know the estimated wait time which is great. Dumbo always seems to be busy as is Peter Pan in Fantasy Land and as a result I haven’t been on either. Other rides might have no wait time at all or might be a c0uple of minutes. There are quick passes that you can avail of and you’ll get to attractions in much faster time.
Fantasy Land is home to the Princess Pavillion, It’s a Small World, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and loads more. It is by far my favourite place. I also want to mention the boat ride attraction. It is so beautiful and lovely. There are cute little boats and you sail through different Disney stories – Le Pays des Contes de Fées. I love it and the queue usually isn’t bad for it.
Discovery Land is home to space mountain. Star Wars is also housed here. There is a Jedi Academy and shops containing lots of Star Wars bits and pieces. There is also a giant submarine that you can walk around. Discovery land also contains Videopolis and Autopia and the cutest Wall-E and Eva monument.
Adventure Land contains Aladdin’s passage and Indiana Jones’ Temple of Peril. My favourite part, however, is the pirate area. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is here and oh my God it is incredible. Make sure to go on it. It is such an experience. You walk through an old castle and sail the seas as a pirate. During the day there can be a bit of a queue but at night there is no wait time at all. We went on this several times and of course bought pirate hats for the adventure.
Frontier Land has a sort of wild west theme to it. The Big Thunder Mountain ride is housed here. There is also a huge river boat. During Halloween season, Halloween Town is situated here. You’ll find Jack Skellington and a band playing music from The Nightmare before Christmas. My absolute favourite attraction in Disney lives in Frontier Land, The Phantom Mansion. I love love love it. I probably went on it about 10 times when we went and I especially love it at night. It is amazing.
There are opportunities to meet characters but they are only at certain times of the day and there can be a long queue. For me, it isn’t really worth it. You will, however, see lots of characters walking around and although they usually don’t stop you might get a quick picture of them as they pass. As we were there at Halloween there was a villain show we attended. Himself was wearing a Beast had that I insisted he buy. Gaston came over to us to shout at La Bete and was so nice and took pictures with both of us and had a bit of a laugh. He told me to leave my filthy beast and to run away with him! As much as I hate Gaston, it was great fun and one of the highlights of our trip.
In short, the food isn’t great. It is mostly burgers or chicken nuggets and chips and a lot of time even that is bad. There are very cheap and very expensive places to eat. My advice is to go the cheaper places. The food is the exact same but you are paying for settings. Keep it cheap and cheerful. There are lots of little kiosks all over the place that make a lovely crepe and hot chocolate so definitely avail of these.
Outside the park gates there is a Disney village which contains shops and restaurants that are at a slightly better price point. I recommend Ludwig’s Castle. The inside looks like a medieval castle and you’ll get a pretty decent meal at a reasonable price.
There are a couple of main themes in Disney, Spring / Summer, Halloween and Christmas. My advice is to go for Halloween or Christmas because the park opens later and is so unbelievably beautiful in the dark when it is all lit up. There is a fireworks display at 1opm once it is dark and it is the most spectacular thing you will ever see. I went at Halloween because it is my favourite time of year and it was fantastic.
You absolutely can do Disney Paris in a day but research exactly what you want to go on or what you want to see. Get there for 9am and have a crepe and hot chocolate for breakfast. Walk around Main Street and visit the shops before entering the lands at 10am. Enjoy the day and go on whatever takes your fancy. My four must have attractions are the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Phantom Mansion and Le Pays des Contes de Fées . Have dinner in Ludwig’s Castle and enjoy the fireworks that night with another hot chocolate.
I thought buying souvenirs in the shops would be so much more expensive but it actually isn’t that bad. My advice is to buy a souvenir. Buy a mug that you can use when you’re back at your desk to remind you of your happy time in Disney. Buy Disney ears or a hat and enjoy the silliness of it.
Val d’Europe is a purpose built town for Disney employees and has an absolutely massive shopping centre which is fantastic for make-up lovers as it has a Sephora and Kiko. The shuttle bus from Parks and Suites will bring you there and collect you from it and bring you back to the hotel. There is also an aquarium in the centre and plenty of places to eat.
This has been a long post but I hope I have covered the essentials.