Our last trip to a Disneyland resort with children in tow was decades ago. My friend Lorna and her family recently returned from three weeks in Europe. You may recall Lorna’s article on Belize with Kids which was one of our most popular posts of the year. When she offered to share her family travel experience to Disneyland Paris I jumped at the chance to have her do another guest post.
Please join me in warmly welcoming back Lorna to Travel Tales of Life ~ Sue
As part of a holiday in France this past spring our family spent three days at Disneyland Paris. This was both our son’s and my first Disney experience. As a child, I used to watch The Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday at my grandmother’s house, and dream of one day seeing that magical, turreted, lit-up castle featured at the beginning of each episode.
I wanted to meet Mickey Mouse and Snow White, who of course lived in the castle, then I’d spend hours racing around upside down and backwards on all the park rides. But as an adult, I was not nearly so keen.
As an adult, I was more than aware of the potential for long queues and sizeable crowds, especially during busy times such as March break or Christmas. Plus roller coasters now make me queasy. I’m always thinking: So when was the last time this spinning looping rocket train was in for a brake check?
What was Disneyland Paris really like?
There was a lot to love about Disneyland Paris. Our six year old son, Tom, loved meeting Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters. He loved all of the rides, especially Pirates of the Caribbean, Crush’s Coaster, and the Star Wars themed area of the park. He loved the buffet food and ice cream, the candy floss and balloons, the constant (some would say frenetic) activity and countless stores selling Disney-themed memorabilia. He loved the fireworks.
The highlight of Disneyland Paris for me was seeing this place through our son’s eyes. And I have to admit that finally seeing the castle was pretty darn cool, too, at least from a distance. Inside, the castle was little more than a gift shop. Or maybe Mickey, being an enterprising sort of mouse, renovated the ground floor to accommodate demand. Maybe he still lives in the upper floors.
We visited the park mid-week in mid-June, and even though most kids should still have been in school, it was crowded. Some of the rides had 60+ minute queues, although there was almost always something to look at while you waited: a babbling R2-D2 in not-to-scale spacecraft with a French-speaking C-3PO nearby, Toy Story movie clips and a giant Buzz Lightyear, replica pirates locked behind bars just out of reach of the treasure, a spaniel mocking them with the key in its mouth.
While standing in line, I often thought of queuing theory, that mathematical study that predicts wait times, and decided that Disney must employ the best queuing theory minds today. And yet an hour long queue is an hour long queue.
Not necessarily a budget-friendly place
We spent just over three weeks total in France this past summer, exploring Paris, the Côte d’Azur, Monaco, and surrounding towns and areas. Disneyland Paris was hands-down the most expensive part of this trip.
For convenience and accessibility, we stayed at the Disney Hotel. This bustling, almost 500 room property is located at the park gates, a definite plus if you need a break from all the action. Rooms have the look and feel of a Holiday Inn, albeit with a Disney twist (think of Mickey Mouse ears on the shampoo bottle caps, one of the Seven Dwarfs smiling from your headboard). Daily park passes and buffet breakfast were bundled into the overall cost of our stay at the hotel.
When I tell people that we went to Disneyland Paris or EuroDisney, as it is sometimes still called, I am often asked how it compares to the Disney amusement parks in Florida and California. Having never been to either place it is a tough question to answer, though my husband has said that Disneyland Paris was smaller in scale than the others (I thought it was expansive with more than enough things to see and do over a three day visit).
Final Thoughts of Disneyland Paris
We went to Disneyland Paris in part for convenience, as it is only 20 miles outside of Paris, and in part so that our son could experience firsthand The Happiest Place On Earth. But there is very little French culture here. This is the one part of France where, literally, you can walk down Main Street USA eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that, by the way, was acquired after waiting in a 20 minute queue.
Despite the crowds and the significant expense, I am happy that we went and that our family had the opportunity to experience this together. Finally fulfilling a childhood dream of seeing the castle made me smile and reach for our son’s hand: Look! I said. That’s where Mickey Mouse lives!
Lorna Carley lives and writes in Calgary and Canmore, Canada. Lorna is passionate about literature, travel, the mountains, and her family. This is not a sponsored post and expenses associated with Disneyland Paris were paid for by Lorna and her family.