Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Tag: 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, Walt Disney 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.

The Toy Story area

My favorite area of the Walt Disney Studios was the Toy Story part by far. 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.

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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

Fireworks from Disney's Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris – Sequoia Lodge

This is important to know about me: I am a huge Disney nerd. My family visited Disney World frequently when I was a kid, I worked there for almost two years during and after college and grad school, and I’ve gone back multiple times as an adult. I’ve always dreamed of going to all of the Disney parks worldwide, and one of the reasons I chose to go to France alone in November was because I knew none of the friends I’ve traveled with before would want to spend time at Disneyland Parc. Then my mom and sister and brother jumped on the bandwagon and it turned into a 2/3 family vacation.

We wanted to stay on site to make the most of what we figured was a once-in-a-lifetime trip there, so we chose the Sequoia Lodge. I’m a huge fan of the Wilderness Lodge at WDW, as well as the real National Park lodges out west that it’s based off of, so I was pretty excited since this seemed to be a close approximation of those. The lobby was pretty and well-themed, but lacked some of the grandeur that the Wilderness Lodge has. The Christmas decorations in the lobby added a warm, homey touch for the holidays though.

Family photo by Christmas decorations at Disney's Sequoia Lodge

We took some family pictures in the lobby thanks to the magic of self-timers on cameras.

As WDW veterans, we were not surprised to have to check in with security when driving onto the property. We were unprepared to have to show proof of our reservation though and it took me several minutes to dig through my phone in search of the confirmation. (I was saved by Google’s new-ish Trip app, but that’s a story for another post.) They also required us to pop our trunk for a quick peek before we were let into the parking area.

I dropped my mom off so she could check in while the rest of us parked the car. When the rest of us came in we were surprised to find more security there. My sister and I had to put our purses through an x-ray machine and we were all wanded with a metal detector before being allowed to enter the building. The security was a little off-and-on, so when we came back in hauling our large suitcases, no one was manning the checkpoint and we just walked in. The whole thing felt like security theater., which I hate. The whole thing just felt silly since none of the other doors even had key card locks to limit access to registered guests.

Other than the security show making me roll my eyes a little, we were thrilled with the hotel. One evening, we wandered through the Hotel New York and Hotel Cheyenne and were even more happy with our decision. The interior theming at the New York hotel was almost non-existent (although I thought the outdoor ice skating rink a la Rockefeller Center was a nice touch for Christmas) aside from some large apples decorating the check in counter. I liked the theming at Cheyenne a lot, but it’s very spread out and would’ve been a long walk to/from breakfast and the parks.

Snow flurries from Disney's Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris

We woke up to snow flurries the first morning.

Golden Forest Perks

We had had to make some modifications to our reservation to add my brother who decided to come at the last minute, and somehow while calling the reservation line my mom got us upgraded to a Golden Forest room at no extra cost. This entitled us to a special check-in area (basically there was a desk and chairs you could sit down at and a bowl of Disney chocolate coins that I may or may not have taken a whole pocketful of), guaranteed room in the main lodge, an upgraded breakfast, access to a lounge with free pop, water, and hot beverages in the evening, and an extra Fastpass per person for each day of our stay.

Having the room in the main lodge was by far the best aspect of it. We didn’t realize until the second night that there were separate buildings that had exterior walkways. This wouldn’t be an issue in the summer, but it was cold when we were there.

I also enjoyed the upgraded breakfast. I don’t really have a frame of reference for what it compares to, but the scrambled eggs were way better than the usual breakfast buffet ones, and I had about three helpings of perfectly cooked bacon each morning. We didn’t get much of a chance to use the lounge in the evening, but I did discover on the second night that they would give you cans of pop and bottles of water to take back to your room, so I walked out with an armful of drinks to share with the family.

Our room had a perfect view of the parks and getting to see the landmarks when we first checked in was incredibly exciting. On our second night, after the parks closed, there was some kind of special fireworks and “bonfire” presentation on the lagoon outside of the hotel. Instead of standing outside in the cold for another hour, we just went up to our room and watched from the window in our nice, toasty room.

Fireworks from Disney's Sequoia Lodge in Disneyland Paris

The room was large by European standards and had plenty of room for the four of us. Our only complaint was the lack of outlets. There were only three places to plug things in in the room, and one of the outlets was controlled by the master light switch so it couldn’t be used when the lights were off at night. If you’re planning on traveling with a larger group, bring power strips or splitters because plugging in all of our phones, cameras, Fitbits, and other assorted electronics was a challenge.

We never hit up the bar in the lobby, but it had a roaring fire and was packed with people who looked like they were having a fantastic time. Instead, we spent our only real evening there attempting to use the pool. The Sequoia Lodge is the only place I’ve stayed at in Europe that actually has an indoor pool. We had to walk (run, actually) outside to get to the pool building. The map of the hotel we’d gotten when we checked in made it look like it was an enclosed walkway to get there, but it was not. And it was very cold. You entered the pool area through a locker room that had showers and a sauna, and for some unexplained reason a bunch of men were wandering through all of the changing areas.

I thought the pool area was very pretty and I liked the fake rock formation that housed the waterslide. My mom and sister were not pleased that you had to swim through the pool to get to the hot tub though. I found it a bit perplexing, but I went for a quick swim anyway. The hot tub ended up not being as hot as I’m used to and having to jump in the cool pool to get out of it kind of negated the effect, but I would’ve spent some more time there if the others hadn’t been waiting for me to leave. I settled for a couple runs down the waterslide and we headed back to the room. I had brought my waterproof camera on the trip just for this pool, but I sadly discovered that it does not work well indoors at all. I’ve gotten some gorgeous shots with it at several different beaches, but this was the first time I had used it inside. I didn’t end up with a single usable picture, sadly.

The hotel also has a great luggage storage area outside of the lobby and they took our crazy amount of luggage with no problem. We found out as we were rushing to leave that there was a quick shuttle from the hotel entrance to the train station, which saved us from having to powerwalk all the way there and try to figure out how to put our giant suitcases through the tiny bag scanners at the entrance to Disney Village.

I would definitely recommend the Sequoia Lodge if you’re planning on staying on-site at Disneyland Paris. It seems to have the best combination of theming and location, and was pretty reasonably priced compared to the higher-end resorts at the American Disney parks.

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