Disneyland Paris and Me: Bienvenue to the Magic of Disney
First visits: the distant days before children and digital photos!
Our first visit to Disneyland Paris was as a couple in 2002 and formed part of a longer trip to Paris where I popped the question to my now wife! Visiting on a day pass, traveling by train from central Paris was extremely straight forward. We had a blast enjoying the rides, shows and famous parade. Visiting as a couple was great. We could go and do as we pleased and spend time in areas with the most daring rides. For those not to have visited, Disneyland Paris is split into four separate lands plus Main Street; the main shopping area and parade route.
Visit two in 2007 was a day visit with my brother’s family. Four adults and a 7-year-old who had the luxury of us taking turns to queue for fast passes! He was loving life going from ride to ride having a fantastic experience as did we watching him enjoy. Back then, fast passes were free, so a perfect way to limit queuing time and max his time having fun; worth paying for today. We enjoyed all that was on offer including brilliant character encounters who appeared randomly around the park. We stayed into the night for the firework display which was out of this world; Disney do fireworks as good as I have seen.
February half term fun: too good an opportunity to refuse!
The lure of some fantastic offers took our family to Disneyland Paris in February 2011, 2012 and 2013 for long weekends of excitement in Marne La Vallée.
The first of three visits was with our 8 month old baby and an extremely excited 3-year-old! We selected the popular self-catering option at Davy Crockett Ranch, a short drive in our own car from the park. When traveling with small children we preferred self-catering for increased flexibility for those early morning breakfasts and a living area to relax after the children were asleep.
The lodge style accommodation is comfortable and the bunk beds a big hit! In 2011 we needed a travel cot, which was duly supplied and fitted snuggly into our double room. Breakfast is collected from a log hut at the end of the avenue and is plentiful offering bread, croissants, jams, Nutella, yogurts or fruit puree’s, juices and hot drinks. The Disney branded packaging instigated much excitement as did the themed toiletries provided.
Disneyland Paris is encapsulating from the moment you leave your car and it took a little time on our first visit for our eldest to understand what it was all about. By the time we had walked along Main Street, underneath Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and reached Fantasy Land, any uncertainty had disappeared! For younger children, Fantasy Land offers most. The teacups, It’s a small World, Dumbo and the Carousel were enjoyed repeatedly. The character sightings and pursuit of autographs was great fun. The parade; even with a wobble over the ‘Disney Villains’, was again awesome. Grabbing a vantage point high above Main Street by the train station is a great tip!
In 2013, we split time between the two parks at Disneyland Paris, introducing time in the Walt Disney Studios. We enjoyed the shows for younger children; in particular the Disney Juniors complete with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Winnie the Poo! We also found Minnie Mouse in the Studios which made our little girl very happy!
Outside the parks, we explored the Disney Village where dining at Café Mickey became a favourite. The food is what you’d expect and the character experiences were amazing with each coming to meet us at our table in turn for photos and autographs. The encounters felt personal and the children loved meeting Mickey and his friends. The magic of Disney captivates younger children and as parents, seeing them live this magic is a fantastic experience.
Returning with older children
Our latest and without doubt best visit to Disneyland Paris came in 2018 with 8 and 10-year-old children who could enjoy everything on offer. A 3 night stay and a 4-day pass covering both parks. We again opted for accommodation at Davy Crockett Ranch as we had a camping trailer with us and we knew it worked well.
We booked a fantastic half board meal package, splitting meals over lunch or dinner allowing flexibility around our plans. Meal reservations are essential. The dining highlight was a Signature Character Dinner at the Manhattan Restaurant of the New York Hotel a short walk from the parks. The Marvel theme came complete with photos with Thor, Captain America and Black Widow and a high-quality buffet meal in extremely pleasant surroundings of a fine dining restaurant. The New York Hotel was fully renovated for 2020 in a Marvel theme with each floor dedicated to a different Marvel superhero, so be sure to ask for your favourite!
We also included a character breakfast in the Plaza Gardens Restaurant, just off main Street. A great buffet breakfast and privileged encounters with a range of characters. Our package also included an exclusive meet and greet with Spiderman, no queuing and lots of time to use our Disney Photopass, really great for the children.
Other stand out moments from this Disneyland Paris adventure were the 30th anniversary firework display – simply amazing and the ‘Extra Magic Time’ each morning – exclusive access to certain attractions before gates open to the general public – only applies to Disney hotel guests and we made full use of this heading for our favourite Buzz Lightyear ride. The Stunt show at The Studios was fantastic; we’d not seen it before and would recommend. Super entertainment and a chance to take the weight off your feet!
Lastly, the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West dinner show with Mickey and Friends in the Disney Village was brilliant. Cowboy hats donned, we were treated to a spectacular show, enjoyable meal and a superb evening to round off our visit and latest Disney Land Paris experience with a bang!