It is difficult to visit a Disney Park for the first time without making the obvious comparisons to one’s “Home Park”; difficult to resist the “mine is better than yours” mentality. Every Park I have visited (not done yet!!) has its own personality, with elements that make it unique. To all true Disney fans, there really is no good or bad, there is only magic with a different point of view… Here’s how Disneyland Paris will measure up for Walt Disney World fans.
** Updated November, 2019
Disneyland Paris for Walt Disney World Fans
1. True Confessions It was our main impetus to visit Disneyland Paris. In 1995, the first photos of Space Mountain: De la Terre a la Lune, with its attached super Columbiad Cannon surfaced. Naturally, we were hooked.
This giant “space gun” was used by Jules Verne to catapult humans to the moon in his novel From the Earth to the Moon. After a significant remodeling in 2005, Space Mountain: Mission 2 was born, and now travelers are catapulted from the base of the cannon with a 1.5 G force at 42 mph. (Not quite the 0 to 59 mph start of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, but it still grabs your attention!) On your trip beyond the moon, you experience three variations of inversions- a corkscrew, a sidewinder and a cutback- all with the Synchronized On-Board Audio Track in your ear. There are a myriad of supernovas, wormholes and comets to traverse, but since my eyes were closed for most of the trip, I have to rely on the testimony of my two sons. This is NOT your momma’s Space Mountain.
Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain
Mind you, this attraction received a Star Wars makeover in 2017. As with most overlays, the basic ride apparatus has remained the same. However, you are now catapulted into hyperspace, with movie scenes and the Battle of Jaku soundtrack in your ear. (In French, no less!)
2. Biggest Surprise We love The Seas With Nemo and Friends, and a clam-mobile dark ride is what we expected from Crush’s Coaster at the Walt Disney Studios Park. Of course, our first clue that we were in the dark should have been the ride’s lines and wait times.
|65 minutes was one of the shorter wait times we saw.|
OK, maybe the pre-ride short offered some hints! But we were totally unprepared as our turtle shell spun us sideways, upward and backward as we were whisked along the EAC. (It is a bit similar to the Primeval Whirl; no two rides are the same, as the shell spins differently depending upon the weight and placement of the guests.)
For me, the quick, sudden sideward movement reminded me of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter and its swooshing ride effects. (Am I allowed to admit that?) This is a not-to-be-missed attraction. We rode it 5 times and it was still not enough!!
3. A bit of Mary Poppins When Walt Disney was envisioning plans for Disney World, he wanted to avoid some of the pitfalls he had experienced in Anaheim. Buying large tracks accomplished much of this, and it is said that he wanted to place a lagoon (Seven Seas Lagoon, as we now know it) between the parking lot and the Park to create a barrier between the real world and his. It is true that this final bit of the journey to the Magic Kingdom does add much to the excitement and anticipation created. I wonder what Walt would think of Paris’ Disneyland Hotel? Walt Disney World fans will notice this beautiful 19th century-type Victorian structure is very reminiscent of the Grand Floridian. In fact, it was executed by the same architectural firm.
Because the entrance to the Disneyland Park sits under the hotel, Imagineers were especially careful to blend this structure with that of Main Street USA. Below is the view from one of the windows of the Disneyland Hotel:
This leads the Hotel’s guests to feel as if they are truly part of the Park, part of the magic. It is certainly how we felt! Perhaps this is the next best thing to sleeping in the Castle Suite in Cinderella Castle. This Disneyland Paris hotel also allows these guests to enter through a side gate, which meant that we never saw more than one or two families in an entrance queue at one time.
I hope Walt would be pleased. It certainly was enchanting from my perspective. (Be sure to read my Disneyland Hotel Paris | An American’s Review!)
4. Once upon a time… In the land where fairytales were written, in a continent to this day besprinkled with the genuine article, this Park needed a castle with an extra dose of fantasy.
Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant, or Sleeping Beauty Castle, is for me, the most breathtaking Disney castle I have seen. Though modeled after the much smaller Disneyland original, Imagineers took additional inspiration from the Mont Saint-Michel monastery in Normandy, and stained glass patterns from Notre Dame de Paris. The hallmark square trees that circle the edifice come directly from Walt Disney Pictures’ 1959 classic film, Sleeping Beauty.
Sleeping Beauty Castle
In preparation for the April 2012 20th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris, the Castle has been repainted and restored to its original color scheme, and given additional glowing golden spires and vivid pink and blue hues. The Victorian colorscape starts at the rosy Disneyland Hotel, is pulled straight down Main Street, and capped at the Castle . Repeat after me, ooh-la-la…
5. The Dungeon In the bowels of the castle sleeps Maleficent (permanently transformed into her dragon state). La Taniere du Dragon is a wonderful interactive element added to Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the mystical beast was the largest Animatronic figure ever built when installed in 1992.
La Taniere du Dragon
About every 15 minutes, she comes to life- snorting, blowing off steam and inspecting her “admirers”. As Walt Disney himself acknowledged, there was a need for something “to do” in a Disney Castle, and over 30 years later, his desire came to pass in a land far, far away. This is a definite DO NOT MISS.
6. Princesses around every corner Perhaps because I have two princes, do I take special note of little princesses. More than at any other Park, it seemed that every little girl was bedecked as her favorite Disney Princess. Is it possible that the dresses sold at Disneyland Paris are couture-inspired? I’ll let you be the judge.
|Ariel’s Wedding Dress|
|Cinderella’s Wedding Dress (with faux mink)|
|There were actually 3 Aurora variations- her Castle IS nearby, after all.|
Incredibly, the Cinderella Wedding Dress (and the photos do NOT do justice) cost 100 Euros in 2014, or about $140. (Certainly more now!) There’s a reason God did not give me daughters… Attention, if you are a Walt Disney World fan of the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, get on a plane. Now!
7. Walt’s- An American Restaurant In the land of les gourmandes, how wonderful is it that the best eating establishment in all of Disneyland Paris celebrates Walt and his roots.
|The facade was getting a well-needed makeover.|
Walt’s- An American Restaurant
Though the food was the best we tasted in the Disneyland Park,
it was the theming that I fell in love with. As you climb the stairs to the second floor, you are escorted through 5 different seating areas, each modeled after one of the lands in the Park: Adventureland, Discoveryland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Main Street. We were very fortunate to be seated at a window table so that we could gaze down upon Main Street:
|The view from 1401 Flower Street…|
However, my favorite room by far had to be this one:
|Adventureland-inspired Arabian Nights|
I love eating at the Carnation Cafe in Disneyland, and wish Walt Disney World had its own version. Eating ON Main Street U.S.A. makes me feel as though I truly live there… No wonder it made my cut in An American’s Top Picks for Dining in Disneyland Paris!
8. Another French Revolution Upon opening, the French evidently did not take kindly to EuroDisney’s “dry” Park; it was countercultural. While I know it was Walt’s wish to preserve the family-friendly atmosphere in Disneyland, there was something very special about my son celebrating his 20th birthday with his first smoking cocktail at the Blue Lagoon Restaurant.
|Something to sip while watching the Pirates of the Caribbean boats float by!|
We love eating at Disneyland’s Blue Bayou as well, but there’s no smoke there… Now, we know that Walt Disney World has joined suit. We all know that we can now dine with alcohol at Magic Kingdom.
9. Beauty Disneyland Paris is both visually beautiful and well-designed. One could easily spend a day strolling around Fantasyland just looking.
And the full immersion that takes place in each of its 5 lands is noticeable. Each area is purposely encapsulated by its theming; you absolutely know when you enter or leave a land. Here are some examples from Frontierland:
|Phantom Manor is a full-out Wild West version of the Haunted Mansion|
10. “Runability” No, that’s not French, it’s my make-up word. Because there are “only” 2 Parks, Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios, it doesn’t seem as though there is as much walking. Though its Magic Kingdom portion is larger than its Floridian counterpart, there are only 2 Parks to “Hop” to, its Studios has fewer attractions, and there is no mammoth Epcot to traverse. Somehow, there was more time and energy to fit in several runs during our 10-day trip. As I blogged in July, my all-time favorite Disney running path is the 1 mile or so between the Polynesian Resort and the Wedding Pavilion at Walt Disney World. However, the perimeter of Lake Disney was a fun and pretty track; just watch for the folks filing out of the bars in Disney Village!
The walking paths around the Sequoia Lodge were absolutely beautiful and made for another fine choice. (You would swear you were running in Northern California.) Fittingly, it is along these paths that I ran during the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon. Their races are beyond magical!
I know where my heart is, but I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Disneyland Paris IS for Walt Disney World fans. However, you might just want to read my 8 Things Americans Will NOT Find in Disneyland Paris to adjust expectations.
Of course, on the plane ride home, we were finalizing plans for our next trip to Walt Disney World. No cheating for us! But with that said, we really need to get back to Disneyland to make another droid at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…. And that’s what makes our Disney world go ’round!