As a kid who grew up roadtripping to Disney World almost every year and a former Cast Member, it’s long been a dream of mine to visit all of the Disney parks worldwide. I recently got to check Disneyland Parc off of my list, putting me halfway to this goal. Here are my thoughts.
It Knows How to Make a First Impression
The entrance to Disneyland Parc is truly majestic. Putting the Disneyland Hotel over the entrance was a stroke of genius, and it wasn’t until we were on our way in that I understood why the rooms there were so much more expensive than the other hotels on-site.
As we were walking through the train station to get onto Main Street, I was practically bouncing with excitement. I’d been looking forward to exploring the Studios, but I was positively giddy to hit what I considered to be the main attraction.
As a lifelong WDW visitor, my first trip to Disneyland California a year previously had been the realization of a goal many years in the making. It was both new and familiar in a fascinating way because so many things looked like the Magic Kingdom I’d known and loved my whole life, but were just different enough to throw me out of my routine and cause me to really appreciate the details. Walking into Disneyland Parc was accompanied by the same sensation. Main Street looked almost like it does in my WDW-based mind, but at the end was a stunning, pink castle.
The castle. It absolutely lived up to my expectations. In fact, the only thing preventing me from declaring it the best out of the three Disney castles I’ve seen so far is my own childhood nostalgia. And a general dislike of the color pink. The gorgeous details on it were incredible, and it only got better when it was lit up at night. I suppose that being located in Europe provided some pressure to make the fairytale castle at Disneyland Paris especially beautiful, and the Imagineers who designed it definitely rose to the challenge.
We happened to hit the park while a lot of rides were being refurbished for the 25th anniversary, but the only thing I was really disappointed about missing was Big Thunder Mountain. Many Disney fans cite it as their favorite version of the ride, and as a Frontierland girl from my Cast Member days, missing out on it was hard. Since it was a slow weekday during the off-season, a lot of the quick service restaurants were closed too, which left a good stretch of Adventureland almost completely empty. I have to admit that I’m a bit tempted to visit Disneyland Paris again just for a chance to check out the things that were closed.
Ride Highlights at Disneyland Parc
My two favorite ride experiences at Disneyland Parc were It’s A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought both of them topped the versions at either of the American parks. WDW’s Small World, with which I’m most familiar, starts out with a lot of detail and cultural variety in the European room and then sort of slowly fades as you move through the other continents. It felt like the Small World here made more of an effort to acknowledge individual cultures in other parts of the world instead of just tossing a couple dolls out there and calling them African. It even had a whole room for North America with Canadian hockey players and American football players. I was delighted. The final show scene with the kids from all over the world seemed better too. And cleaner.
Pirates of the Caribbean had a much better storyline than the WDW version and is a lot closer to the original in California. Most of the iconic show scenes were close approximations of the WDW ones I was used to, but there were additional elements that I really liked. We were totally unprepared for there to be a camera on the drop, which got us a great picture of my mom, who hates drops and barely tolerates the one on Pirates, on our first ride.
Space Mountain was the other ride that stood out to us. We rode it four times during our day and a half in the parks. It’s much more intense than the WDW version (I can’t comment about DL’s because it was under refurb during my only visit there) and we loved the speed and loops weaving through planets. It’s currently being turned into Hyperspace Mountain, but from what I’ve read it doesn’t sound like the track will be changing. I would’ve loved to have seen that theming as I am also a huge Star Wars fan, although it doesn’t really seem to fit with the overall steampunk style of the building.
Disneyland Parc’s shining moment was Disney Dreams. Do not miss this show if you visit. We lucked into an almost front row spot and had a fantastic view of all of the show elements. When I watch Wishes at WDW I normally prefer to be a bit further away from the castle. My ideal spot is usually right where Main Street widens out to the Hub, but we would have missed out on a lot if we had been that far back. The closer you can get to Sleeping Beauty Castle for Disney Dreams, the better.
Disney Dreams combined the best elements of Wishes, World of Color, and the castle projection shows and wove them together with classic movie clips and songs to make a thoroughly enthralling spectacular that I didn’t want to end. Everything from the fountains to the projections to the fireworks was perfect.
Per family tradition, we wandered through the Emporium and snapped some pictures on the delightfully empty Main Street before heading out of the park and making our way back to the hotel.
Read more about our trip to Disneyland Paris:
- Disneyland Paris – Sequoia Lodge
- Disneyland Paris – Disney Village
- Disneyland Paris – Walt Disney Studios
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