I’ve had a request (from my sister) to do a Disneyland Paris post with some advice as the runDisney DLP half-marathon weekend is coming up in about a month and she’ll be running and hasn’t visited for a while. I do really enjoy going to DLP, usually for a long weekend here and there as it helps me with my Disney fix between visits to Walt Disney World (and I’m hoping to book to go back soon)!
My sister will be doing a bit of a whirlwind trip so it’s more important for her to know what not to miss. On top of that, I’m trying to pick things that are more unique to DLP. So you won’t find Star Tours on this list, or Tower of Terror – you can do the exact same ride at other Disney parks.
So here we go! And I’m going to start at the top with the number ONE do-not-miss attraction:
Mickey and the Magician (seasonal)
And the kicker is what’s in the brackets: this show is officially billed to operate seasonally and at time of writing, is scheduled to stop on September 2nd, 2018 with no official word on when it’ll be back and I can’t find anything unofficial either. Personally, I think it’s silly to not have detailed public for dates for after Sept 2nd because this show is spectacular. I put it in the number one spot for a reason and I suspect others would put it high too. Hell, it’s one major draw for going to DLP and I’d be disappointed to visit and NOT get the chance to see it.
It’s a wonderful show. Sister to Mickey and the Magical Map (also amazing, I love it) at Disneyland in Anaheim and to Mickey and the Wondrous Book in Hong Kong, the show is split English and French (Mickey speaks French and the other characters speak in English). It follows apprentice Mickey while he’s cleaning up around the sorcerer’s… ‘work-space’? As the likes of the movie Fantasia proved, Mickey gets a little caught up in things, but it makes for great entertainment! It’s a magical show, quite literally, with performances of hit songs from different Disney movies.
It’s the kind of show I’ve always loved – original in storyline, but taking the opportunity to perform the greatest hits. It’s not just a 30 minute shortened version of a film (though I enjoy that style, too). It’s more unique and knowing you can only see it at this one theatre, makes it more of a draw. It has those sister shows, as you can tell in the costuming and set design, but it’s not a carbon copy from one park to another.
I also admit to having somewhat of a bias as Mickey is a friend of mine and during my last trip to DLP, he arranged for me to get VIP access for seating and to see him after the show and graciously pose for photos. Perks! My pal always makes things magical!
But if it is operating, make sure to plan part of your day around which showing you’re going to attend. And get there in plenty of time as it fills up quickly. The only downside is the size of the waiting area and how you can feel like a sardine before getting access into the auditorium, but it’s a small grumble. Always make sure to see this show, especially if you’re a theatre fan.
This isn’t the same as IllumiNations at EPCOT; the theme isn’t remotely similar! That capital N makes all the difference. In EPCOT it’s a firework, laser and fire evening show that celebrates the world, the nations that make it up and takes you on a journey from the big bang through a potential future. In EPCOT there isn’t an IP (intellectual property) in sight and the music was composed specifically for the performance.
In Paris, Illuminations replaced Disney Dreams for the 25th Anniversary. It uses projection mapping, fireworks, lasers, fire, water, mist and other effects on Sleeping Beauty castle and runs through the most famous and most loved music Disney has produced. I loved Dreams but I do think this is an improvement. Similar in style to the likes of Happily Ever After and somewhat based on Ignite The Dream in Shanghai, it takes on that style of evening show that Disney is favouring now. I’m one of those people who believes HEA is better than Wishes, so for me, it’s all heading in the right direction.
It’s uplifting, it’s a true celebration, and the perfect end to an evening.
Big Thunder Mountain / Phantom Manor
But wait! I hear you ask. You said no attractions that could be found elsewhere would make this list! Well, here’s the thing. As much as you can find A version of the rides elsewhere, they aren’t the same. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Paris hands down beats the versions I’ve ridden at either of the USA parks. It’s longer, it’s more exciting, it goes under the water! It’s probably the most popular ride in the park.
You NEED to fastpass this and in order to get a fastpass you have to be in the park early (Paris is old school paper fastpass that you get on the day). At rope drop the line will head to Frontierland to either get straight on or to collect fastpasses. The last time I was there I walked with the crowd and we still had an hour long wait to get on the ride. So this is a ride to plan into your day specifically.
Phantom Manor in Paris concentrates more specifically on the Bride. It’s more similar to the Mansion in California than in Florida and also has a section geared towards a more ‘wild west’ feel. The French have a bit of an obsession with the wild west era and in Paris, the Phantom Manor is in Frontierland, so it has that aspect of it to link it into its location.
But at the end of the day, if you go to a Disney park and don’t ride any version of these rides, you’re missing out. They would be must-do’s anywhere.
Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic
This is almost nostalgia based rather than anything else. The Studio Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios left us a good few years ago to make way for Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge. It was a classic that alas became smaller and smaller over the years, but I’ve got fond memories of the Earful Tower, the wardrobe area and the houses on the backlot! As far as I’m aware, Paris and the Walt Disney Studios is the last place to feature the Catastrophe Canyon set and I’ll always have a place in my heart for that!
The tour trams feature a voice over by Jeremy Irons, and you visit the boneyard, the Canyon and a London set based on the movie Reign of Fire. A backlot tour is what makes it feel more like an actual Studio and I enjoy that aspect!
Ratatouille: the Adventure
Coming soon to EPCOT in an expansion of the France pavilion, the Ratatouille ride shrinks you down to the size of a rat. In fact, you ride in an actual rat and see everything from their POV as you make your way around Paris streets and get chased through the restaurant that Remy and Linguini work in (Gusteau’s). It’s a trackless dark ride that spins and is in 3D. It could be considered a thrill ride, but isn’t too strong on the thrill aspect.
It’s a really fun ride and it’ll be a good addition to EPCOT once built, but in the meantime, it’s exclusive to DLP so has to be a must-do!
Top 10? Top 20?
Need more to do? Of course you do! So let’s just take a quick look at both parks as a whole.
A lot of Disneyland Paris is walk through and exhibits. Aladdin’s passage, the Pirate Galeon, the Mysteries of the Nautilus. The vast majority of rides are in Fantasyland and can be pretty standard – Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Dumbo, Tea Cups etc.
If you do one walk through, well, it has to be under the castle to go to the Dragon’s Lair. Journeying under Sleeping Beauty Castle you can go see Maleficent as a dragon. But be careful, because she’s sleeping!
Despite there being rides you can find in any Disney park, I’d still make sure to hit Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Star Tours etc. Space Mountain has been transformed in to the Star Wars themed Hyperspace Mountain. I like the ride, I like that it’s a launch coaster, but I still fine it a bit rickety here, so tend to try to avoid it so as not to get a headache from battering around in the restraints! But it’s still one to do, maybe later in the day!
And, of course, take the time to see the afternoon parade. I’ll admit that I’m not sure if they’ve reintroduced the Maleficent float to the parade. After the fire that destroyed the sister float in the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom, they took her out of action in Paris for safety. I’ve not seen if she’s back up and running – hopefully they found her to be safe – and I always love a parade. The music for Stars on Parade is really good… and catchy!
The one thing I would AVOID is the Indiana Jones ride. It’s theming is poor, certainly in contrast to the Indy ride in California and the roller coaster is old and rickety and just… not fun. Steer clear of that and don’t waste the time queuing for it!
Walt Disney Studios
The rides in the Toy Story Playland are pretty basic ‘fairground’ type rides. Think Dino-rama at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But they can still be pretty fun. I do quite like the RC Racers!
If you can get on Crush’s Coaster then go for it! It is the longest queue in the park and a bit of a slow load, but it’ll be fun. And you can’t go wrong with the Tower of Terror or Rock n Roller Coaster.
If you miss Lights, Motors, Action at Hollywood Studios then never fear! Originally sourced for Walt Disney World from Paris, it’s still going strong here! And something else that almost made my top 5 is Stitch Live! On a par with Turtle Talk with Crush (and far superior than Monsters Inc Laugh floor) in Florida, the animation does well while Stitch talks live with audience members. As with most of these, the audience plays a role so as a positive, you can really get a different show each time. Downside with that is some shows aren’t as good as others.
The Studios isn’t a huge park currently, so you can easily do everything in one day. I look forward to the three land expansions, but we’re still a good few years away from those opening!
My favourite places to eat are actually quick service while in Paris. Here’s the thing; they’re french. They make good food. Their quick service is far superior to what you’ll find in the American parks, because the expectations from European (and mostly French) guests is high.
In Disneyland, I happily head to Casey’s Corner for a quick bite to eat. I usually head to the rear of the arcade and get a seat there. It’s covered so is a good place to head in bad weather and there’s plenty of seating. In the Studios I LOVE the Café des Cascadeurs by Moteurs, Action. It’s just a small diner, mostly hidden away. It’s classed as quick service, yet you are served at your table and can watch as they make your burgers to order for you. Very good value for money and it’s so small that the atmosphere is great and you don’t feel crowded.
Beyond the parks, it’s just easier to head to the Disney Village and go to Earl of Sandwich or Five Guys. I’m sure a lot of the restaurant experiences are great, I’ve just not had a chance to do them personally as I’ve usually been doing DLP on more of a budget! Buffalo Bills is fun though, but you go for the show rather than the food!
Now to state the obvious- don’t forget to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. It’s usually just a handful of rides opened during these but getting in the park early is always a bonus, even if just to get great Main Street pictures when it’s practically empty! And you can head to the bakery for breakfast 😉
If it’s a busy period, then EMHs can really help get you through a lot of things before the rest of the punters arrive.
- some attraction photos courtest of the official Disneyland Paris website. All others mine!