In the last few weeks I found myself repeatedly thinking about Disneyland Paris. Because some guys asked me advice for a job abroad and then because my memories at Disneyland, where I worked for almost two years during my Master, tend to relax me and therefore I recall them quite often.
In Disneyland we go back to childhood and is a welcome relief!
I know, it may seem weird that a lover of solo travel and backpacking, who lives for opera and theater alternating with silence and dreams might love Disneyland and actually my friends often ask about that, but the fact is that in this magic kingdom I find all these things.
My passion for the world of Disney comes from afar. From past Christmas spent at the cinema with my mother and my uncle, from the rough pages of Mickey, from the beauty and the attention to details of the classic cartoons that made me go from laughter to emotion and tears in a few moments, from the dream that I never really abandoned that a world in which animals speak and teach actually exist…
The first time I entered the park outside Paris it was shortly after its opening. I was a teenager and I was there with my brother and my mother … three grown up children not insensitive to the magic recreated in a space defined by the will of a man whose ambition has always been to make people dream and imagine.
Then, when I moved to Paris to finish my studies and to specialize I needed a part time job and I immediately thought of Disneyland, also following a positive-thinking-strategy.
Between sending my resume and the cover letter (lettre de motivation in French, precisely because it has to explain why postulating for a job rather than another), their phone call, interview and signing the pre-contract it has only been a week. The pre-contract is required because the final signature is due only after a three-day rehearsal period to learn everything and more about the universe built by Walt Disney and on how to “go on stage.”
Disneyland Paris: Main Street
By the will of Walt Disney, all the Disneyland parks open on Main Street to create an immediate break with the real world that remains well beyond the park gates. Main Street is the main street of Marceline, Missouri, birthplace of Walt Disney, just as he remembered it to be in its infancy, in the early ‘900.
Main Street opens on Town Square and the magic begins! On the square there’s the seat of the first railway station of the park, but this is not the only transport option, there are in fact also the stops of Main Street Vehicles and Horse-Drawn Streetcars … the dive in to the past is guaranteed!
Here there is also the City Hall where the cast members will do their best to answer your questions, inform you and, if you pay the extra lavish expected by VIP tickets, they will lead you around the park, will book your tables in restaurants and you will avoid the queues at the attractions’ entrances… super butlers.
On both sides of Main Street, to avoid traffic jams due to the parades, the rain in Paris or just for a bit of calm, were built two tunnels, the Liberty Arcade on the left, to honor of the construction of the Statue of Liberty and the Discovery Arcade on the right, to honor the great inventions of the nineteenth century. Both give access to shops and bars along the way and are lit by beautiful gas and electric lamps.
Everything in Main Street is designed to make you slow down, take your time and indulge in fantasies and daydreams … aromas diffused in the various squares side, the great barber with vintage furnishings and techniques (including an original working phone!), the noises of simple domestic life that you can listen to below some windows … for you to browse, listen, laugh and relax!
That said, if you opt for a single day in the park, I recommend you not to respect the desire of Walt Disney and go directly to the most popular attractions and take a walk on Main Street only in the evening, once the attractions closed.
Visiting Disneyland Paris: useful info and lots of tips
From the center of the Park, Central Plaza, you have access to all the worlds. The one with the worse queue lines is Discoveryland and for this I recommend you start here.
Discoveryland is the future imagined in the past, by Jules Verne, Leonardo Da Vinci, but also George Lucas and designers of cartoons … in short, a future that will never go out of fashion 🙂
Being the imagination of many artists, even the style of the attractions are varied. You will pass from the legendary Nautilus to the ships of Stars Wars to the mythical launching pad of “From the Earth to the Moon”, Space Mountain. A nice mix of dream, laughter and adrenaline!
My favorites are undoubtedly Stars Wars and Space Mountain, even if the Nautilus has something magical …
* For the first two it is almost essential to get a fastpass (if you stay in a suite is already included in your ticket and not free from time bands!), You can get it at the entrance of the park or at the entrance of the attraction itself. However, if the queue is not too long, keep in mind that the path pre-attraction is always worthwhile in highly requested attractions.
From here you can go directly to the enchanted kingdom of the Park, Fantasyland. Whether using the covered walkway on the right or going back from Central Plaza for a triumphant entry through the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Fantasyland is the realm of fairy tales, cartoon characters that have made the dreams of millions of fans of Disneyland, the characters that inhabit the imagination of children and adults.
It is also the only part of the Park entirely suitable for children who can enjoy all the attractions (be careful because children often get scared in Snow White …) and met princesses and other characters.
* Not to get stuck in Peter Pan’s Flight you better get a fastpass and enjoy the other attractions while waiting for the fixed time.
At the exit of Peter Pan’s Flight there’s a direct access to Adventurland … where I love getting lost and where I loved working … between Africa, Asia, the East and the Caribbean.
In this “world” there are perhaps fewer attractions, but the environments are really dreamy. Every detail is fully taken care of and even the cast members are competing to play pirates and explorers.
My favorite non-attraction is undoubtedly the tree house of the Robinson’s! Very nice also the adventure proposed by Pirates of the Caribbean, while in the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril I almost prefer the queue line path (the most avoided one thanks to fastpass) … maybe too much adrenaline for me 😉
The transition between Adventurland and Frontierland it’s very natural, because the Far West seems almost another setting of the previous land…
As in Main Street, here aromas and sounds are disseminated specifically to influence the visitors who can’t help but be enraptured by the gold rush of the world of cowboys and conquistadors, where leather coats, skirts and nineteenth century are trendy and where during the Halloween period pumpkins are masters.
The attractions of this part of the park are all worth it, if only for the wonderful movie sets and costumes. My favorite one is the Phantom Manor, but perhaps only because my work experience began right here, between a shudder and a little cry … to experience again and again.
* The star attraction in Frontierland is Big Thunder Mountain, so you better start by collecting the fastpass at its entrance before venturing into the far west.
The Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris
Years after my master I went back to discover the Walt Disney Studios. This second park is less cared from the point of view of the sets and costumes, and so for me less magical and adventurous, but some of its attractions are really worth it.
The Studios are divided into four environments:
- The Front Lot whose architecture is that of Hollywood studios during the thirties. From the functional point of view it corresponds to Main Street, even if the appeal is not quite comparable …
- The Toon Studio, where the cartoon characters “work” and where you can find the to me wonderful attraction of Crush’s Coaster … yes, I love Nemo!
- The Production Courtyard, true reproduction of the ancient movie studios, with its life-size sets, revealed film tricks and especially with the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which I was not tired of even after the fourth time !!!
- The Backlot, where special effects and action movies are kings and queens and where you can take a souvenir photo in the rain of “Les parapluis de Cherbourg“, a legendary French movie.
Eating at Disneyland Paris
The level of gastronomy in Disneyland is not good and its value it’s even worse, but the sets of the restaurants and bars always deserve to be admired.
If you want to eatnot pre-cooked, frozen etc food, I can only recommend the Silver Spur Steakhouse in Frontierland or the Auberge de Cendrillon in Fantasyland, both Parisian pricey and needing an advanced reservation.
In the Disney Village, my favorite is undoubtedly Annette’s Diner, where maxi burgers and milkshakes are a must.
Shopping in the Park
You will surely be tempted on several occasions by shopping … better to leave it for the evening, once the attractions close, to save time and above all not to be weighed down by bags or fragile parcels.
If you are staying in one of the Disney hotels, you can get the direct delivery to your room and then buying souvenirs and gifts during the day will be much easier.
I have repeatedly mentioned the fastpass, but to summarize: it is a democratic and very useful pass allowing to gain time during the day.
You can pick it up at the entrance of the attractions providing it (Star Tours, Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Indiana Jones, Big Thunder Mountain and Buzz at Disneyland and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Les Tapis Volants in Studios) simply by entering your entrance ticket and withdrawing a receipt indicating the time slot in which you can go and enjoy it jumping the queue.
You are entitled to only one fastpass at a time and the delay tolerated is 10 minutes.
The number of day passes is limited based on the number of visitors and in the overcrowded days they can run out already at lunch time …
As mentioned before, if you stay in a suite the VIP fastpass will already be included in your ticket to the park and in this case it will be unlimited and free from any time slot!
Shows and parades
Shows and parades take place throughout the day in the Disney Village and continue even after the closure of the two parks.
Many of these also deserve from the artistic point of view and offer an extra chance to smile watching ecstatic faces while children watch their idols …
Timetables and detailed programs are enclosed to the brochure distributed at the entrance, but to better organize your day, I suggest you visit the official website of the Park a few days earlier and select the shows that inspire you.
Noteworthy is the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which is staged twice a night and includes dinner, although poor … but the show is beautiful and very charming, perfect if you love cowboys and Indians’ stories.
Planning your visit at Disneyland Paris
To plan your visit and establish routes and programs in real time, I recommend this app: Disneyland Paris App
To fully enjoy Disneyland Paris, book a package of 2 nights and 3 days in one of the Disney hotels, this will allow you to enjoy yourself without being stressed by queues lines. So you can spend a day in each park, without haste and with the opportunity to attend performances and parades, leaving the last day to repeat the attractions that you preferred, go shopping and maybe even take a dip in one of the beautiful hotel pools.
There are lots of different packages and special offers follow each other relentlessly, both online on the official website and at travel agencies around the world …
There are seven hotels dedicated to seven historical tourist destination in the United States and are therefore aesthetically different from each other, but all designed to accommodate families with children (based on the offers, children stay for free up to 12 years old and anyway always till 7 years old).
Those staying in these hotels are also entitled to a very useful extra “magic hour” in the morning before the official opening of the park, check-in and check-out service with luggage storage in both cases and special meetings with Disney characters.
My favorite hotel is undoubtedly the majestic Newport Bay Club, but if you go during winter, the warmth of the Sequoia Lodge with its huge central fireplace is special 😉
Visitors with disabilities
For visitors with disabilities or even momentarily ill because of casts, there are special admission tickets that allow you to skip the queues, attend parades etc. To get them you will have to submit a statement of your doctor and your disability card.
For any questions, request, suggestion or problem, do not hesitate to ask the cast members at City Hall. They are always available, prepared and informed about everything that happens in the Park and will always know how to help you, especially if you approach them with education even when complaining 😉
If you need a French facsimile for the disability statement, or if you just have questions about parks, hotels, sightseeing or on a job terms and conditions, do not hesitate to contact me!
Celebrating your birthday at Disneyland
Celebrating your birthday at Disneyland is a very frequent choice and, especially if you are with friends, a very cool one.
There are no discounts for the occasion, but there is still an offer for those who decide to spend their birthday in the Park and I’ll tell you in detail in this dedicated article!
I leave you with the dedication of Michael D. Eisner to Disneyland Paris‘ visitors. A dedication that every cast member has to learn …
To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Once upon a time…
A master storyteller, Walt Disney, inspired by Europe’s best loved tales, used his own special gifts to share them with the world. He envisioned a Magic Kingdom where these stories would come to life, and called it Disneyland. Now his dream returns to the lands that inspired it. Euro Disneyland is dedicated to the young, and the young at heart… with a hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for all the world.