On our recent Paris Family Vacation, Ella and I couldn’t resist the pull of Disneyland Paris and naturally, I did as much research as I could to ensure the visit was action-packed and worthwhile. Today, I’m sharing with you Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Paris Guide for Families
The Park Formerly Known as EuroDisney bears some similarities to its North American counterparts, but differs in many ways.
Having taken Ella to Disney World eight times, I was at a bit of an advantage when planning our Disneyland Paris visit, but there were a few aspects of the park that were surprising to me.
Disneyland Paris uses a different Fastpass systems, has a variety of different ride offerings and different character meetings, is much more interactive, but misses the atmosphere and magic that Disney World fans would associate with the parks.
While I don’t regret taking a day out of our Paris vacation to visit Disneyland Paris, it wasn’t the magical “home coming” experience that my fellow Disney World fans would expect from a Disney park. Even Disneyland has a magical bubble around it that doesn’t seem to suffer much from being in downtown Anaheim and being treated like a playdate destination by locals.
The imagineering at Disneyland Paris is gorgeous and the unique attractions make it well worth a visit, and the small size of the parks allows you to see everything in two or three days. (Or, just check out their unique attractions in one day, if you’re willing to skip character meetings and table service dining.)
The resort is divided into two “parks”: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Disneyland Park is similar to Magic Kingdom, with Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the centre and the majority of attractions. Walt Disney Studios Park is like the French version of Hollywood Studios, with behind-the-movies attractions, Toy Story and Star Wars.
There are so many unique aspects to Disneyland Paris that any true Disney lover will appreciate and I will say that our visit was 90% amazing. (I’ll elaborate at the bottom of this post about the other 10%.)
How to Get to Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is located about 35-40 minutes away from Paris, or 32 kilometres/19 miles.
We opted to take a €60 uber to the parks so that we could have an easier morning and maximize our time at the parks.
There is also a Regional Express Network train (RER/TGV – the A4 line in the direction of Marne-la-Vallée) that will take you right to the gates of the parks. At the time of this writing the train is €9 each per passenger, each way.
Disneyland Paris Resorts
Disneyland Paris has eight official resorts, all of which afford their guests an extra Magic Hour in the morning, which means you can access the park an hour earlier than non-resort guests.
The hotels can be booked through Disney or via Booking.com which sometimes ends up being cheaper.
The Disneyland Paris resorts are:
- Disneyland Hotel – a 5-star Victorian-style luxury hotel
- Disney’s Hotel New York – a 4-star hotel reimagined with Marvel artwork and flourishes
- Disney’s Newport Bay Club – 4-star hotel with a nautical theme reminiscent of Disney’s Beach Club
- Disney’s Sequoia Lodge – 3-star mountain lodge-style retreat nestled in a “forest” 15 minutes from the parks
- Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne – a 3-star hotel styled to look like an Old West frontier town with subtle Toy Story flourishes
- Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe – a 2-star hotel inspired by CARS with a Southwestern flair
- Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch – offers individual bungalows and an epic indoor pool area
- Villages Nature Paris – individual apartments in a green village with access to 5 immersive worlds in its Aqualagoon
You can alternatively stay at a local partner hotel in Chessy or book an Air Bnb in the area.
Disneyland Paris Rides and Entertainment
Character meetings, rides, parades and seasonal festivals and events are all on offer at Disneyland Paris’s parks.
Many of the 51 rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris are similar to those offered at the US parks, but there are 10 completely different attractions and a couple of the attractions that the two parks share that have striking differences, making them worth checking out.
I will be sharing a separate post about all of the unique rides, character meetings and more available at Disneyland Paris.
There is one parade daily at 5:30pm (earlier in the winter) and a nightly fireworks display lasting 20 minutes just before the park closes.
Disneyland Paris Prices
Disneyland Paris is the most affordable of all of the Disney parks at $63-101 per single day ticket (compared to $109-143 at Disney World at the time of this writing).
Annual passes currently start at €149 (approximately $170 USD) which is amazing, and makes it so that if you’re planning to spend more than two days at the parks, you’re better off buying annual passes and getting the associated perks along with them (such as preferred parking, restaurant discounts, VIP seating, discounted friends and family tickets, free cocktails, etc).
Fast Pass System
While Disneyland Paris still has the “old fashioned” paper Fast Pass system, where you can visit an attraction early in the day and receive a paper “Fast Pass” with a return time, they also have a paid Fast Pass system through their app (ranging from $58 to $192).
This is steep compared to the Max Pass at Disneyland which is $20/day, but it can allow you to plan your day better and ensure that you get to visit everything you plan to while at Disneyland Paris. Keep in mind that the cost is per ticket holder.
Best Times to Visit Disneyland Paris
Since school breaks differ in Europe to North America, for the lowest crowds you may want to time your visit to be in mid-January to mid-March, or mid-April to mid-May. (We visited in late April.)
Generally, Monday to Friday will have the lowest crowds as you will avoid the locals who flock to the parks on weekends. Tuesday through Thursday is an even safer bet.
Winter in Paris is cold and the parks have a lot of events for the holidays, so a visit during that time will require warmer clothing. Summer visits will have more attractions and entertainment than in the Spring, but crowds will be considerably bigger and it can be muggy.
Also, the parks have shortened winter hours of 10 AM – 6:30 PM and some of the rides close early during the winter.
Events at Disneyland Paris
Like its US counterpart, Disneyland Paris offers running events, Halloween and Christmas festivals, weddings and vow renewals.
It also hosts a Marvel festival, Lion King festival and Star Wars celebration. During those times, you will find several unique events, character meetings and entertainment offerings catered to those festivals that aren’t available year-round. They may be worth planning your visit to coincide with them, if anyone in your party is a huge fan.
Dining at Disneyland Paris
There are 50 restaurants in the Disneyland complex, with 28 of those being located in the parks. This is in addition to food carts located throughout the parks offering candy apples, drinks, crepes, cheese plates, etc.
Disneyland Paris offers three tiers of dining plans which can only be booked if you are staying on property at a Disneyland hotel. Prices start at €34 for adults and €24 for kids for a buffet breakfast and one additional buffet meal per day, and go up to €105 for adults and €71 for kids if you want to access table service or character dining. You are given paper vouchers to redeem for your meals.
Unlike at the American parks, children must order from the set children’s menus and there are no snack credits.
There are mixed reports of whether you can get free iced water at counter service restaurants, however there are plenty of water fountains available.
There are three opportunities for character dining at the parks: a Mickey and friends breakfast at Auberge de Cendrillon, a princess lunch or supper at Auberge de Cendrillon, or a Mickey and friends buffet breakfast at Plaza Gardens Restaurant. There are a two additional character meals available at Disneyland Hotel and Disney Village.
For the most part, the food we enjoyed was better than your typical theme park fare, but it wasn’t up to the Disney (or Paris) standard.
In France, it’s typical of servers to give you a lot of space and not check in several times throughout your meal. Generally, I like this, but at the parks it can eat up a lot of your park time so you will want to prepare for that. It also can be annoying if your waiter forgets items or there are any issues with your order, because they don’t check in and you will have to get up and find someone to fix any potential issues.
Disneyland Paris has some wheelchair accessible rides, while others require transfers. Not all restaurants have automatic doors, but all had ramps or were at street-level. Some rides have induction loops for guests with hearing impairments. You can view their full accessibility maps (including accessible restrooms) here.
Unlike American parks, Disneyland Paris requires a doctor’s note or other substantial documentation of a disability in order to accommodate guests with disabilities. Your documentation needs to contain details of what specific accommodations you require. (While this is the “official” stance of all Disney parks, most often US-based cast members just ask if you have documentation and then don’t look at it out of privacy concerns.)
I don’t think this is a bad policy, as it stops people who would abuse these accommodations from taking advantage, it’s something you need to be prepared for if you need these accommodations. (And I understand that some guests may find having to disclose details of their needs uncomfortable.)
Military Discounts at Disneyland Paris
Military families can present service identification at the gates to receive 50% off one adult two-day ticket and one child two-day ticket. There doesn’t appear to be a distinction between veterans versus active service members, and it is applied to military service men and women from all countries.
Tickets have to be purchased at the entrance of the parks.
Some guests have reported having the discount applied to more than two members of their family, but I would advise budgeting to the 50% off just the two tickets and then if the cast member helping you gives you a discount off of more tickets, it will feel like a bonus!
What I Didn’t Like About Disneyland Paris
At the beginning of this post, I said that our visit to Disneyland Paris was 90% amazing, but I always pride myself on being honest with my readers and I need to be honest in where this park falls short: guest interactions, food, and other park attendees.
- Guest Interactions
At Disneyland Paris, I had one interaction that was “typical” of Disney. The rest were either bland or had a subtle note of irritation – whether it was asking a question or ordering food. Whether they assumed my accent was American (I’m Canadian) or whatever the reason, I didn’t find this attitude typical in Paris – most people we interacted with in Paris were friendly, especially when I tried to engage with them in French.
If it wasn’t a Disney park, I wouldn’t find this notable – but is is a Disney park. Interactions with cast members should be friendly, hospitable and pleasant. I do understand that every culture has different standards of hospitality (I grew up mostly in Asia and have been to over 40 countries) but I am coming from a DISNEY perspective here.
There were no overtly negative experiences, but having witnessed how much of the magic can come from cast member interactions at the US parks, I think this is an area that Disneyland Paris can stand to improve upon.
Disneyland and Disney World both have amazing food (if you know where to look) and despite my research warning me to the contrary, I really hoped that a Disney park in FRANCE would have some noteworthy snacks or that at least our (expensive) sit-down meal would be memorable.
Um, no… But thank goodness you can bring your own snacks into the park! Grab some picnic essentials (like a jambon-beurre or some good croissants) before leaving Paris, and just save your money. Grab a Dole Whip (because those are always essential) but skip the forgettable crepes or overpriced meals and save your euros for when you’re back in Paris proper.
- Other Park Guests
While Disney World does attract a lot of entitled “this is my kid’s vacation and y’all better get out of my way” types, for the most part, my trips haven’t been affected by them, aside from witnessing bratty behavior and two small incidents that both ironically happened within a couple hours of each other (one woman snatched a lollipop right out of my daughter’s hand at the Boo To You Parade and a man once knocked my daughter’s lemonade clean out of her hand while he was rushing past us on Main Street – both times, a cast member noticed and IMMEDIATELY replaced those items). However, at Disneyland Paris I suddenly understood the attraction of jackets with studs on them!!!
I had so many people brazenly walk into me, my daughter and my friend, whether we were walking or standing still (even from behind); talk loudly on rides; take way too long for photo opps despite long lines; or just generally be disrespectful of other park guests.
I’m not the type of person to be affected by other people’s behavior, but it did affect our visit in that photo opps took longer and I did get annoyed by getting literally walked into by multiple people to the point that I started squaring my shoulders like I did when I played high school football. I had to ensure that my daughter was right beside me at all times because even grown adults saw nothing wrong with walking straight into a 4 foot tall 7 year old girl. I had to call some adults and teenagers out for walking into her. (Most of the people I said something to looked or acted embarrassed afterwards, so maybe it’s just something that they did at the park due to overwhelm – but they obviously knew it was wrong.)
This is something that Disney can not control, but I feel like I should be honest about it so that you are not surprised by it like I was and you know to keep your children close to avoid them being seriously hurt by another guest.
Overall, I’m really happy that we chose to spend one day of our week in Paris at Disneyland Paris. Ideally, I’d have spent two days at the parks.
If you only have a day or two to spend at Disneyland Paris, my biggest recommendation is to skip table dining and lining up for snack carts, and prioritize only the character meetings and rides/attractions that are unique to the park.
Bring your own food, get there early and wear light layers to accommodate for changes in weather.
Are there any questions about Disneyland Paris that I didn’t answer in this post? Please let me know and I’ll do my best to get you the information you need.