Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Tag: Disney (Page 1 of 2)

Disney's Hollywood Studios for adults

The Grown-up’s Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios (raise your hand if you still call it MGM sometimes) is undergoing a pretty substantial overhaul at the moment. Large sections of the park have been closed in order to construct new Star Wars and Toy Story areas, and while that has left it looking a bit sparse at the moment, in a couple of years it may well be the most exciting spot at Disney World. Because of its two large thrill rides, it’s long been known as the “teenagers’ park”, and there’s lots to offer for grown-ups. Read on for all of my top tips about Hollywood Studios for adults.

The rides

Hollywood Studios doesn’t boast a lot of rides at the moment, but the ones it has rank as some of my favorites at Disney World.

Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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The Grown-Up’s Guide to Epcot

After being a bit neglected over the last few years, Epcot is about to see some big changes that will be a bit of a departure from its original vision. I picked it to be my first park guide in my series about Disney World for grown-ups because it’s historically been considered the non-kiddie park. I dispute that, as it was always my favorite as a kid, but I was also kind of a weirdo. This is the place where you’ll see the most childless adults hanging around, so feel free to start here if you still feel awkward. Read on for my top tips about Epcot for adults. Don’t forget to check out my grown-up’s guide to all of Disney World here.

Drinking around the world

I guess I have to start with this one. Any Disney fan over the age of 21 (sorry, even though you’re drinking in pavilions made to resemble other lands, the standard American drinking age still applies) has probably heard about drinking around the world. It’s a pretty simple concept: you head to World Showcase – that’s the part around the large lagoon at the back where all of the different countries are– and have a drink from each of the 11 pavilions. You’ll want to get an early start – most places open at 11 – to make sure you can pace yourself throughout the day. You don’t want to be the person who gets kicked out of Epcot because you’re falling over drunk. I highly recommend saving your last drink for just before Illuminations so you can enjoy it during the fireworks show.

Margarita inside of Epcot's Mexico pavilion

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Disney Springs is a great spot for adults at Disney World.

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World

Disney is just for kids, right? Think again. Whether you’re reliving childhood memories or visiting for the first time, a Disney vacation is a blast for adults of all ages too. As a veteran of several grown-ups only trips, here are my best tips for making the most of your vacation to Disney World for adults only.

Don’t be self-conscious

A bus ride at Disney World - Disney World for Adults

I’m wearing a Pocahontas tank top. I’m drinking pop for breakfast. I am ready for some Disney magic sans kids.

Even if friends and family back home think you’re a little weird for going to Disney World or Disneyland without kids, no one at the parks will care. If you look around, you’ll see plenty of adults there by themselves from college-aged travelers to honeymooners to retired couples to intrepid solo travelers soaking up the magic on their own. And even if you were the only adults there sans children, everyone else would be too busy enjoying themselves to care. Don’t let worrying about what other people think of you put a damper on your fun.

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Cinderella Castle and the Hub at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

The Most Important FastPass+ at Every Disney World Park

Booking your FastPass+ reservations is an essential step when planning a visit to Walt Disney World. Not all FastPasses were created equal, however, and it’s important to make the best choices when making your selections. I’ve put together a guide to the most important FastPasses at each Disney park. I factored in the popularity of the ride and the usual standby wait time along with my own personal preferences. Your choices will obviously vary based on your tastes and the people in your travel group, but here are my best recommendations for your initial three Disney World FastPasses.

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What to Pack for a Disney World Vacation

Your resort is booked. Your dining reservations are set in stone. Your FastPasses are all scheduled. The only question that remains is what to pack for your Disney vacation.

Packing for Disney parks

Packing for Disney parks can be daunting for first time visitors. There’s a lot to think of ahead of time, and I really don’t like having to waste money buying overpriced essentials at the airport, parks, or hotel just because I forgot to bring something I need. I usually start my packing lists about a month in advance and keep them on my laptop so they don’t get misplaced. I have sort of a “master” list in one file that I alter for each specific trip.

Suitcases and a dog

My dog wouldn’t stay out of the picture, so I gave up and just took the shot with him in it.

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An Ode to Wishes

The Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks spectacular, Wishes, will soon be performing its final show. It has been inspiring guests to trust their heats and make wishes since it debuted in 2003. As a former Cast Member who spent several months working at the park, I’m particularly attached to Wishes and was devastated to hear of its upcoming finale. Wishes’ replacement, Happily Ever After, is slated to have its opening performance on May 12th. The clips of the new show that have been released look very good, but before we welcome that new show, it’s time to look back at what has made Wishes so magical for so many years.

From the iconic flares that kick the show off to the castle-framing fans of light to that evil face that I was always determined to see right-side up to the spectacular beauty of the finale, Wishes was not to be missed. No fireworks show will ever capture my heart quite the way Wishes did.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

Who would think something as simple as a flare would be such a dramatic part of the show?

Being an intern at Disney World meant working the closing shift, and while that had the downside of ending late at night most of the time, it also included the perk of daily Wishes viewing and/or listening. Within a few weeks, those of us who worked at night had seen and heard the show so many times that we could tell how far into the performance it was based on just the sound of the firework bursts. The soundtrack wasn’t played in the ride station, and even though it’s open air, you couldn’t see the fireworks in the station, but we quickly learned to judge how far along the show was by the sound of the explosions echoing through the park. The light, airy bursts from the love section, the crackling sizzle that accompanied the villains portion, and the thundering booms leading up to the finale were as distinct as the music that accompanied them. This wasn’t just fun – it was a valuable skill on nights when the park remained open after Wishes, because the end of the show would signal an upcoming rush of people wanting to board.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

That silhouette still makes me smile.

If there weren’t many guests around to load and unload, we’d have our own sing-alongs providing an off-key, but spirited soundtrack to the invisible fireworks. And, let’s face it, sometimes the presence of guests didn’t even deter us from performing – hey, they call us Cast Members at Disney because we we’re all part of the show, right?

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

It’s even pretty when viewed from across the Seven Seas Lagoon!

By the end of our time working there, Wishes was so ingrained in my heart that it would bring a tear to my eye during the finale. That’s also when my favorite firework of all time explodes – the biggest, loudest shimmery gold one you can imagine. Wishes was an almost nightly ritual for several months, and I spent my last evening as a Cast Member standing on Main Street singing along. Just like certain songs can transport you back to a place and time that you remember fondly, this 12.5-minute long combination of lights, music, fireworks, and a flying fairy will always make me think of some of my happiest days.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

This one! This is my favorite firework of all time.

I tried to make it back to Orlando to watch it one last time, but the whole full-time job thing made that impractical. I’ll have to console myself with listening to the soundtrack over and over again. As luck would have it, I’ve taken enough pictures over the years that I could probably reconstruct it if I arranged them all together. These are some of my favorites.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

What would you wish for?

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“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.”

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“If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.”

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This is perfection.

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

The genie has some wishes to grant!

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Uh oh, be careful what you wish for.

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Always let your conscience be your guide.

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Good news: the Blue Fairy is here to save the day.

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The Hercules music used in this section is perfect.

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“Wishes! Dream a dream. Wishes! Set it free.”

Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

“Wishes! Trust your heart. Just believe!”

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And the grand finale.

I know Wishes isn’t the height of all entertainment, but it will always be near and dear to my heart. I have so many amazing memories associated with this show, and it’s the only way I want to end my evening at Disney World.

Check out this incredible video by OnlyHDVideos:

Do you have any fond memories of Disney shows or attractions?

Planning to go visit Disney World solo? Here are some tips to make the most of your trip.

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The Wishes firework spectacular is ending its 13-year run at the Magic Kingdom. Look back on some great memories and photographs with a former Cast Member.Pin - Wishes2The Wishes firework spectacular is ending its 13-year run at the Magic Kingdom. Look back on some great memories and photographs with a former Cast Member.
Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom - Disney World for adults

How to Visit Disney Parks Solo

When you tell someone that you’re going on a trip to Disney World or Disneyland, one of their first questions is usually, “Who are you going with?” If your answer happens to be “no one,” frequent reactions include disbelief, confusion, or, worst of all, sympathy because poor little you couldn’t find someone to go to Disney World with you. Visiting Disney parks solo isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who like it (or have no other options), it can make for some of the best experiences you’ll ever have.

As a veteran of several solo trips to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, here is my best advice for making the most of your time alone…with thousands of other people.

Paradise Pier at California Adventure

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Disneyland Paris – Disneyland Park

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 Park 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 Park 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.

Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris
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.
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris

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.

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.

Ride Highlights

My two favorite ride experiences at the park 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.

It's a Small World at Disneyland Paris

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 theme of the building.

Space Mountain 2.0 at Disneyland Paris

Disney Dreams

DLP’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. With the pending demise of Wishes, I’m hopeful that the new fireworks that that replace it incorporate some of the elements I loved in this show.
Disney Dreams at Disneyland Paris

This show is amazing!

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:

What to see at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris – Walt Disney Studios

Our first taste of Disney park magic at the Walt Disney Studios. While we were doing our pre-trip planning, I was looking at the Studios’ ride line-up and was kind of under the impression that it was a half-day park. I wasn’t wrong. The week we were there, Studios was the EMH park instead of Disneyland Park, and the first morning, we did everything but Crush’s Coaster (it was broken) and the shows in less than two hours. We were there on a very cold and rainy Monday in November which undoubtedly contributed to the lack of lines, but I still don’t think it would be a full-day park.
Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris

I love empty parks.

My favorite area of the park by far was the Toy Story part. I’m a sucker for goofy photos and there were so many cute spots for pictures in that tiny little section of the park. I also loved the way the fences were styled like K’nex. I wished that the weather had been better the morning we spent there because if it hadn’t been raining, I could’ve wandered through this area for hours. I’m now even more excited to see the Toy Story area that is currently under construction at Hollywood Studios in Disney World.

Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris

We’re fun people.

My favorite ride in the Toy Story area was the RC Racer. I’m a roller coaster junkie and love the stomach-flipping feeling that you get from big drops. Even though this ride is pretty small, it was quite a bit of fun and delivered plenty of that feeling. For those who are nervous about coasters, the sensation was more along the lines of a pirate ship swing ride than an actual coaster.

We did the Backlot Tour next and it was great to see the familiar Catastrophe Canyon since it’s no longer at WDW’s Hollywood Studios. The tour itself was a little weird though. There was a video with two narrators – one speaking French and one speaking English – but they were conversing with each other in their own languages so half of the dialogue was in French and half was in English. It made it impossible to understand unless you knew both languages. It would’ve been much better to just go with a French voiceover and have English subtitles on the bottom of the screen instead.

We had an early lunch reservation at Bistrot Chez Remy. We picked it more for theming than the menu and were not disappointed. We were the first table seated that morning because we accidentally showed up a few minutes before they opened. I loved the clever little touches the Imagineers added to really immerse you in the world of Chef Remy. There were giant paper drink umbrellas over some of the tables, and our chairs were designed to look like the tops of champagne corks. I hung my coat up on a fork that was almost as tall as I am. It was exactly the kind of cheesy that I love.

Bistrot Chez Remy at Disneyland Paris

All four of us had steak frites with ratatouille, and it was about what you’d expect for theme park food. The steak was decent, but not memorable, though the fries it came with were delicious. I’d never had ratatouille before, so I was excited to get to try that. It tasted a lot like minestrone to my unsophisticated palate.

Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris

The Ratatouille ride consistently gets rave reviews, but I didn’t really fall in love with it. I felt like it was lacking something and was a little hard to follow. I was fascinated by the ride system and the way the cars moved through moreso than the ride itself. I could also see it being a problem for people who get motion sick.

Crush’s Coaster was closed the whole first morning, so we had to come back during EMH on our second morning to ride it. My sister and I tried to talk our mom, who doesn’t even like kiddie coasters, into riding it. after the first 30 seconds or so of the ride, we were convinced that she should give it a shot. We had gone through the outdoor curve and the slow show scenes and thought it would be perfect for her. Then we got into the main building where things opened up and we were zooming around curves left and right. It packed quite a bit of punch for such a small ride and I loved it. It was the only ride we had to wait in line for more than five minutes for on either day – it had gone up from 25 to 45 minutes by the time we got off – or we would’ve ridden it again.

My only regret at the Studios was missing the shows. I had read about them before coming and was excited to see them, but the timing just didn’t work out for us. We were only at Studios for a couple hours the first morning and less than an hour the second morning and left before the first showings each day. No one else was willing to walk back later in the afternoon to check the out, so we ended up skipping them.

Read more about our trip to Disneyland Paris:

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Disneyland Paris – Disney Village

Disney Village serves as the gateway to the two Disney parks at Disneyland Paris. It’s full of shops and restaurants both Disney-specific and part of large chains. I was able to dine at two of them (both featuring Mickey!) during my visit.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show

Our initial introduction to Disney Village was chaotic and involved a lot of power walking, but when we got a chance to take it in more slowly later on, I found it quite enjoyable. We had spent way too much time eating and touring Pointe du Hoc and were afraid that we were going to miss our 9:30 reservations for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the Disney Village, which I was hoping would present a delightfully cheesy picture of the American West. I was not disappointed.
 Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

We had to run from the Sequoia Lodge to get there on time, but we made it with seconds to spare. I’m told that we missed a fun singalong with Goofy out in the lobby area, which would’ve been fun, but I was just relieved to get to see the main show. We were given straw hats representing our team color – getting to cheer “Go Blue!” warmed this Michigan girl’s heart – and took our seats just as the lights were dimming for the intro.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

I was pleasantly surprised by the food. I’d read in a bunch of places that the overall food quality at DLP is a bit lacking, so I went in with kind of a skeptical mind. We started off with a bowl of chili, which is a dish that I’m fairly picky about due to my dad’s most excellent family recipe, and I thought it was fairly good. It was served with a side of tortilla chips, which was a little odd, but it was tasty and hot and I loved that it was served out of a big metal bucket.

The main course was delicious as well. I got a large piece of bone-in chicken, a couple of ribs, an unidentified sausage, and a pile of really good potatoes. We also got some sort of tropical juice and a choice of soft drink or beer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the sausage, but everything else was delicious. Dessert consisted of some of the best apple cobbler that I’ve ever had anywhere. It was served piping hot and I definitely burned a lot of my mouth eating it because I just couldn’t wait for it to cool down. I keep thinking that eventually I’ll learn to let my food cool before eating it, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe my thirties will bring me more wisdom.

The show was as cheesy as expected. Minnie, Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Goofy performed a couple of song and dance numbers and there was a cowboy brawl around a campfire. Annie Oakley did a bunch of sharpshooting and the cowboys raced to deliver letters a la the Pony Express. Sitting Bull and a group of Native Americans were also featured.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

Buffalo Bill himself

The end of the show pitted the audience members against each other, as the cowboys and Native Americans split up into four teams for some skill competitions. They were either totally rigged to keep the score close, or the judges were totally blind, but it was fun to cheer our guys on. Each team also had a rodeo clown to lead it in cheers and get everyone into the competition. The last task involved audience participation passing a ball up and down the rows and then giving it to the actors on the field to try to make a basket with it. I don’t think any of them has a future in the NBA, but we got really into cheering them on. Our team ended up winning, which was great because my family tends to be pretty competitive.

The winning team gets to have three audience members chosen to help “guard” a stagecoach shipment of gold. My brother and I were both chosen, so we got to climb down onto the sand – I wouldn’t recommend volunteering if you’re wearing heels or other shoes you wouldn’t want to have filled with dirt or if climbing up and down a short ladder would be difficult for you – and were taken backstage to participate in the final scene. We got to ride in a stagecoach with the ringmaster as it drove around in the arena. We were pretty terrible guards because we were almost immediately attacked by bandits, forced out of the stagecoach, and tied together like characters in an old cartoon. Fortunately, it’s a Disney show, so without giving away any spoilers, it had a happy ending. It was the perfect way to kick off our Disneyland Paris stay.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris

This post is going to feature an unfortunate amount of pictures of me.

We were delighted to find that the Disney Village stores are open late, even in the slow season, so we took advantage of that and did our souvenir shopping early. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the merchandise was fairly cheap for Disney theme park items. Even taking the exchange rate into account, things seemed like a good bargain. I bought a light-up Christmas ornament for 14 Euros, and most of the regular ornaments I looked at at Disney World a few months earlier were around the $25 mark. Their pins were pretty pricey though. Most of them were 7-10 Euros, which is a lot more than they retail for in the American parks. If you’re a pin fan, I’d recommend buying them from the Disney Shop Parks app or at one of the American parks if you’re able to unless there’s something specifically DLP-related that you want.

Cafe Mickey

Our other experience in the Disney Village was eating at Café Mickey on our last day. We had purchased the dining plan, and this was the only character meal it covered (characters will no longer be appearing at the restaurant after the end of March) and it sounded like a fun way to wrap up the Disney portion of our trip.

I hadn’t looked at a menu prior to booking, and we found that there were only a few options available. I ended up with a cheeseburger, which is the kind of thing I usually avoid when traveling abroad, but nothing else really appealed to me. For dessert, I had a Mickey cupcake, which was adorable, but looked better than it tasted.

 Cafe Mickey at Disneyland Paris

We were amused by the eclectic mix of characters milling around. I’ve been to plenty of WDW character meals and they usually have some kind of theme ie. princesses, Pooh characters, Fab Five, etc., but this one featured Mickey, Rabbit (from Pooh), Goofy, Pluto, and the penguin from “Mary Poppins.” I was particularly excited to see Rabbit because I’d never met him before, and it’s rare for me to get to see new characters after working at WDW for almost two years through college and grad school.

Cafe Mickey at Disneyland Paris

I’ve spent enough time in Europe to know that meals take longer than most Americans are used to, but we were shocked at how long it took for our food. It took at least half an hour for our desserts to come, and they were all pre-made, so it’s not like there was a lot of prep work involved. When we finally got out of there, we had to run back to the hotel to get our luggage out of storage and hop on the RER train. We almost missed our Eiffel Tower tickets because we were running so late. I would leave yourself a huge cushion of time if you’re planning on dining there because you might end up missing Fastpasses or other commitments if you cut it too close.

Cafe Mickey at Disneyland Paris

Meeting Mickey is a good excuse to be late.

I really liked having the Disney Village as the gateway to the parks. It felt very much like Disneyland in Anaheim. As much as I’ll always consider WDW to be my Disney home, the way it’s spread out will always be a major drawback. Park-hopping with a five-minute walk sure beats a 20-minute bus ride and going through security again.

It’s also a great way to get a taste of Disney without having to shell out for park tickets. If you’re a Disney fan visiting Paris but don’t have the time, funds, or desire to spend a day or two at the parks, you could hop an RER train out to Marne-la-Vallee and spend an evening at the Disney Village enjoying the food, dinner show, or general Disney atmosphere before heading back into the city.

Hot air balloon reflection at Disney Village in Disneyland Paris

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