We’ve visited Disney parks in Orlando (multiple times), California, and Japan, but somehow we’d never made it to Disneyland Paris, despite its proximity to England. We’d always had the impression that it was an inferior park, that it couldn’t live up to the American originals—the weather is terrible, the customer service doesn’t compare, and the rides are limited.
As Paris was Simon’s only hope of visiting his happy place this year, we decided to give it a go anyway. In August. During school holidays.
Our expectations weren’t high, but we actually had a fantastic day. It’s still Disney after all. We left the worries of the real world behind for a day of stress-free fun and magic. We had perfect weather, the staff were friendly (if not American cheery), the rides were as fun and creative as always (with a few new ones to try), and the crowds weren’t any worse than normal. Best of all, Disneyland Paris is very accessible—just a few hours on the train direct from London or under an hour from the centre of Paris.
Disneyland Paris consists of two parks (the gates are a few minutes walk apart)—Disneyland Park with the fairytale castle and classic characters and Walt Disney Studios Park, which is much smaller and a little like Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Walt Disney Studios is one of Disney’s weaker parks, but it has a couple of the most thrilling rides, so for adults and older kids, it’s definitely worth combining the two.
Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios One Day Itinerary
Ideally you’d have two days to visit both parks, but it is possible to experience the highlights of both in one day, especially in the summer when opening hours are long. When we visited on 22nd August, Disneyland was open from 10am to 11pm and Walt Disney Studios until 9pm.
Our Disneyland Paris itinerary is for adults and older children, so we skipped popular kids rides like Peter Pan and didn’t spend any time queuing for photos with characters. Star Tours and Big Thunder Mountain in the main park were closed when we visited, so I recommend adding them if they are open.
Even in August, we didn’t queue for more than 15 minutes on most rides—I’ve noted when we waited longer.
Walt Disney Studios 10am-1pm
We started in Walt Disney Studios as we wanted to ride Crush’s Coaster, which is very popular and doesn’t offer FastPass (a ticket that allows you to choose a time to ride later). We arrived an hour before opening at 9am and there were only a few people ahead of us in the queue. They actually let people into the park from 9.30am, so it’s worth arriving early. We’d heard that rides sometimes start before the official 10am opening time, but sadly this wasn’t the case for us.
When the doors opened at 9.30am we headed straight to Crush’s Coaster, as did many others. We had to queue for 40 minutes as the ride didn’t open until 10am. By the time we got off the ride the queue was up to an hour.
Crush’s is a roller coaster in the dark through a Finding Nemo themed world. It’s fun and we’re glad we did it, but it’s not worth a long wait. You could try the single rider queue to reduce the wait time but it wasn’t moving very fast when we saw it.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Our original plan was to ride Ratatouille next or pick up a FastPass for it, but it was temporarily closed so we headed to Tower of Terror instead.
This haunted elevator ride in the Hollywood Tower Hotel is one of our favourite Disney rides, and it’s just as good in Paris. We love the attention to detail in the spooky abandoned hotel and the anticipation as you rise up in the elevator before a sudden stomach-lurching plummet.
Rock N Roller Coaster
Rock N Roller Coaster is Disney’s most thrilling ride with an incredibly fast launch and 360-degree loops. The pre-ride theming didn’t feel quite as good as the Orlando version but we still love the ride.
Armageddon: Les Effets Spéciaux
We were still waiting for Ratatouille to open, so we just went on Armageddon because it was close by and had a 5-minute wait. You join the crew of the film on a space station that’s hit by a meteorite. The special effects are quite dramatic, but you could skip this one if time is limited.
Ratatouille: The Adventure
Ratatouille finally opened and said it was a 5-minute wait, but I don’t think they’d updated it as we actually waited 35 minutes. If we had known we would have used a FastPass. The queue was over 60 minutes by the time we got out, so it’s best to do this popular ride early (straight after Crush’s).
Ratatouille was worth the wait though. It’s a 4D experience in the dark where you shrink down to the size of Remy the rat and whizz around the gigantic kitchen and restaurant amongst characters from the film. We love the theming of La Place de Rémy outside too.
Disneyland Park 1pm-4.30pm
We’d done everything on our Walt Disney Studios list (except for the CinéMagique show, which didn’t start until 3pm), so we headed to Disneyland Park.
La Tanière du Dragon
We began with a stroll down Main Street USA, which is just as cute as in Orlando, towards the castle where you can find an impressive dragon lurking underneath. It’s a quick walk through without queues, so don’t miss it.
We shared a set meal at Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost, which included a pizza, salad, fruit and drink for €15.
Phantom Manor is Paris’s version of the Haunted Mansion. We love all the details on this slow tour in the dark through an eerie mansion inhabited by 999 ghosts.
The queue said five minutes but we actually waited for 20 minutes. I don’t think the queue times are as accurate in Paris as they are elsewhere.
Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin
The queue for Indiana Jones was 25 minutes so we picked up a FastPass to return 35 minutes later. We passed the time in the cute Aladdin walk through, which shows miniature scenes from the film.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril
With our FastPass we only had to wait for a few minutes. The Indiana Jones ride in Paris is very different from the one in the US—we weren’t expecting an outside rollercoaster with inversions! Unfortunately my ears got banged against my headrest multiple times and I came off feeling disorientated.
Walt Disney Studios 4.30pm-8pm
We headed back to Walt Disney Studios for the CinéMagique show and to ride some of our favourites again.
CinéMagique is a fun and unique 30-minute show that takes you through the history of cinema. It’s well worth seeing and a nice break from rides.
Mickey and the Magician Show
Leave your cynicism at the door as Mickey and the Magician is a full-on Disney musical spectacular featuring songs from classic Disney films like Aladdin, the Lion King, and Frozen.
Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic
By 6pm I was flagging and considered heading back to our hotel for a nap but decided to stick it out. The tram tour seemed a good option for a rest, although the 15-minute wait was a bit longer than I would have liked. The tour takes you behind the scenes to see movie sets and props with a couple of dramatic special effects. It’s not terribly exciting, so skip it if time is limited.
Rock N Roller Coaster
Tower of Terror
Simon’s Disney energy is inexhaustible so while I took a break on a bench with a book, he rode his favourite rides again. For some reason these great attractions never have long lines in Paris. Simon walked straight on Rock N Roller Coaster so rode it twice.
Disneyland Park 8pm-11.30pm
Back in Disneyland we were disturbed to find that all the restaurants in Frontierland were closed, so we had veggie burgers (€10 with salad or fries) at Au Chalet de la Marionnette in Fantasyland.
Pirates of the Caribbean
The queues had been fairly long (well, 25 minutes) at Pirates all afternoon and there’s no FastPass, so we waited until the queue was down to five minutes.
Pirates of the Caribbean is a boat trip in the dark through the world of pirates. The Paris version is even better than in other parks.
Our plan was to walk through Fantasyland to Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, but sadly it was closed. Make sure you do this one earlier in the day. We were a bit annoyed that the Disneyland Paris app or leaflet didn’t give times for the rides and restaurants that closed early.
We headed to Discoveryland instead where Space Mountain only had a 5-minute wait (although it felt a bit longer). This dark rollercoaster is one of our favourite Disney rides and we were surprised that the Paris version has even more thrills including inversions. Unfortunately it banged my head a lot and I felt sick afterwards.
We planned to ride Buzz Lightyear but didn’t want to queue for 35 minutes and FastPasses had run out. Do this earlier in the day if it’s important to you as the queue doesn’t seem to go down, even an hour before closing.
The Space Mountain queue was up to 15 minutes so Simon got a FastPass to ride it again.
Les Mystères du Nautilus
A walk through Captain Nemo’s historic submarine. Quiet and fantastic details.
Simon’s FastPass didn’t save him any time as he ended up in the same place as everyone else.
After an ice-cream, I sat near Main Street while Simon ran across the park for a last ride on Indiana Jones (no queue at all).
Disney Dreams Show
The grand finale to a magical day takes place at the castle at closing time and features lasers, colourful fountains, songs from Disney films, projections onto the castle, and fireworks. Definitely worth sticking around for.
We watched from Main Street and as soon as the show ended made a quick exit down one of the arcades that run parallel to Main Street. We got to the hotel shuttle bus just as it was leaving so we didn’t have to queue.
Disneyland Paris Tips
- Both Disneyland Paris parks, the train station, and Disney Village (a collection of shops and restaurants) are a few minutes walk from each other.
- Disneyland Paris can be reached direct on the Eurostar train from London in just under three hours. We changed at Lille as it was a little cheaper.
- From Paris take the RER A train to Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy, which takes about 35 minutes from Nation.
- I would have loved to stay in an official Disney on-site hotel, which gives you early access to the parks with extra magic hours (8am to 10am when we visited) and makes going back to the hotel for a rest easy. Unfortunately they are all very expensive. You might find some good package deals in off-season.
- We spent two nights at the Vienna House Magic Circus hotel, which we booked on Booking.com for €108. It was modern and comfortable with a pool and good breakfast buffet. It offers a free shuttle from the train station/parks that only takes 15 minutes and we never waited for long. You can also walk to the parks in about 30 minutes (which we did the night before to visit the Village for dinner).
- Hotel Kyriad and Hotel Explorers are nearby on the same shuttle route and could be slightly cheaper.
- If you want to stay in Paris, we always find the best deals on Airbnb (Sign up here for $39 off your first stay) where whole apartments are much cheaper than hotels.
Visiting the Parks
- Buy your tickets in advance on the Disneyland Paris website. Their deals are much cheaper than buying at the gate and will save you time. You need to print your ticket at home.
- Download the Disneyland Paris app so you can check queue times and decide which ride to do next.
- Avoid visiting on weekends and French/UK national holidays. Usually I recommend visiting Disney in off-season, but I don’t think it’d be much fun in the cold/rain.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before opening time as they often let people in early.
- Get each person in your group to pick a few must-do rides and focus on those first.
- Use a FastPass for the busiest rides. These are free tickets that give you an allocated time to return and skip the main line. You are only allowed one pass at a time, but you can get a new one as soon as your time window starts. So, if your FastPass for one ride says 2-2.30pm, at 2pm pick up another FastPass before you go on the ride. FastPasses can run out later in the day though.
- Consider the single rider line for rides like Crush’s Coaster, Ratatouille, and Space Mountain.
- Take a water bottle with you so you can fill up from the water fountains.
- Ideally take lunch and snacks into the park to save money. There are no grocery stores near the parks and hotels. The nearest supermarket is Auchan, one train stop away in Val d’Europe.
- The cheapest decent food option is Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village, where a freshly-made hot sandwich costs €7.
- The table service and buffet restaurants in the parks are very expensive (€30+ per person), so we stuck with the quick counter service places. Expect to spend about €10 for a main meal. All restaurants have at least one vegetarian option marked on the menu.
- You can find restaurant menus at DLP Guide.
- As always, we used our Trail Wallet app to track our expenses.
- Eurostar tickets from London to Disney via Lille cost £65 (€76) each one-way booked three weeks before. Prices are lower the further you book in advance.
- Two nights at the Vienna House Magic Circus hotel cost £185 (€217) plus €9.92 (£8.46) city tax.
- One day/two park Disneyland Paris tickets cost £45 (€53) each in August booked in advance. You can get tickets for as low as £36 (€42) visiting at less busy times.
- We spent £67 (€80.85) on food for two people over the two days including two dinners, lunch, three ice-creams, two coffees, and a cupcake.
- The total cost per person for two nights/one day at Disneyland Paris was £240.
Our favourite Disney parks are still DisneySea in Japan and Magic Kingdom in Orlando, but we think Disneyland Paris is just as good as Disneyland California and it’s actually a lot bigger. If you are in Europe and want a taste of Disney magic, we definitely recommend it.
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