There really is no place like Disney. It was a complete dream of mine to visit at Christmas time after first visiting to celebrate our little boys 4th birthday. And with our third trip fast approaching I can’t quite believe that we are so close to spending another 5 magical days at Disneyland Paris. We visited last Christmas and have recently been asked for my top tips so I thought why not share them with you all in a little blog post. I can’t believe I didn’t write a post about our trip if truth be told, so what better time then when I am head to toe in preparations for this years trip – 33 days and counting.
If you didn’t already know, Christmas time is one of my favourite times of the year so to experience the magic of Disney at such a special time of year is a dream come true for our little family. This year we have kept our trip as a surprise which we haven’t managed to do before – he won’t find out until the morning of our trip as we board the Eurostar. It’s hard to express in words how magical Disneyland Paris is at Christmas time, despite the
cold freezing cold every part is unimaginable. It is a place where you can escape reality and enter a world of magic and wonder where dreams really do come true.
Walking down Main Street really does set the tone for your trip. Christmas songs are playing, snow is falling and the street is lined with Christmas decorations and lets not forget the giant tree glistening as you race through the turnstiles. As you enter the park you can’t help but feel like Tinkerbell has sprinkled her pixie dust all around you. The highlight of our visit last year was the Christmas parade with all the characters in their festive attire, very quickly followed by the Mickey’s Magical Christmas lights where Santa, Mickey & Minnie fill Main street with the sound of caroling and light up the enormous tree. Character meets come a close second with our favourites being the big man himself and then Mickey – be warned we queued almost 2 hours to see Mickey and a little less for Santa but totally worth it. I would go as far to say that the rides come third on the list although I am not sure that will be the same this year – our boy is growing up fast and really is a thrill seeker. The additional shows put on over the festive season are a must and the perfect way to warm up with a hot chocolate whilst you rest your tired feet. The boys even grabbed a nap last year whilst I scrolled through all the photos on my camera roll.
Disney really is something special, they just know how to create a real feeling of magic. When we started to think about how we were celebrating the run up to Christmas this year we couldn’t think of anything better than the festive loveliness of Disney, it sounds cheesy and maybe even too gooey for some of you but in all honesty there’s no place I’d rather be. The week before Christmas is such an exciting time and so we thought why not soak up the merry magic one more time. I cannot wait to walk down Main Street again, it is after all my favourite part. Seeing the castle for that first time twinkling in all it’s festive glory is something else. We were mesmerised by the truly enormous Christmas Tree which is situated outside City Hall in-front of the band stand. Disney at Christmas is a photography lovers dream.
Mr H and I are in full planning mode, our evenings are spent doing bits of research, writing lists, planning what we are going to wear (in all seriousness its freezing), which shows we want to catch, which rides we need to get fast passes for, where we are going to eat and in general how we are going to spend our 5 days. With visiting at Christmas time before we are focussed on planning our trip a little more than we would usually. Mainly because it is so blooming cold that we don’t want to be caught out by hitting one of the larger queues for a ride or even character meets which we did on our last visit. And also because there are additional shows on this year with it being the 25th Anniversary year. I’m going to share our plans for this year in another post, do keep one eye open for it if you are interested.
And here are my top tips…
1. Wrap up warm – we never imagined it to be as cold as it was. Think brisk winter days, a breeze like no other and if you are unlucky rainstorms. I think what we forgot about was the time you spend in queues not moving very far at all. This year we are buying thermals for us to wear, it is bitterly cold at Christmas time and you most definitely need hats, scarfs and gloves. Layers and more layers and don’t be afraid to double up on socks too. Your little tootsies will love you forever.
2. Character meets – If you want to meet characters but don’t fancy all the queuing then I would highly recommend you book character dining. You can eat at Inventions during the day or evening, the food is of a really great quality and you will individually meet between 5-7 main characters at your dining table. It is our favourite restaurant and creates the best memories. If you love photography then I would book a spot for lunch as the lighting really isn’t camera friendly in the evening. You can also book breakfast with Disney characters in its new location of the Plaza Gardens Restaurants. We did this when it was at Cafe Mickey and despite the food not being amazing I would book it each year, which reminds me I need to book our spot for this year. Failing that you can meet characters at designated spots in the park, you’ll find a list of these in the form of an itinerary as you break through the turnstiles.
3. Which brings me nicely to pre book your dining. Having visited during the summer and at Christmas time I can honestly say that it was so much busier, you won’t believe the difference in the crowds. You are able to book spaces for restaurants 60 days prior to your trip. At the point of booking you are able to book exclusive dining as well as the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Mickey and Friends – an absolute must. You will have so much fun, the atmosphere is electric, the food is scrumptious with free refills of beer and soft drinks. I cannot wait for this show and I know that it will be the first thing our little boy asks about when he finally realises where we are going.
4. Measure your little one before you visit, research the rides on the main Disney website before you visit and make a list of the ones you can experience. This will save you so much time and tears. Our first visit we hadn’t realised how strict they were and despite being a millimetre too short they wouldn’t let him on a ride and he broke his heart, thankfully we didn’t queue for more than a few minutes but ultimately if we had planned better we wouldn’t have let him even see the ride.
5. Preparation is key – I can’t stress this enough, perhaps in the summer months when it isn’t as cold you can just float around the parks whereas during the festive season it is a) too busy and b) too blooming cold to aimlessly wander around wondering what to do. Work out where you want to spend your days, I would recommend doing a park a day. Make life easier by dedicating a day on each park to kick off your trip then return to the bits you missed, want to do again or just the bits you LOVED. Our favourite by far was spending time in the Disneyland Park although based on all the activities over in the Studios this year I think our time may be split 50/50. For all those planners out there and for all those first time visitors here is the schedule for this years festive season. You are very welcome guys. Enjoy.
6. Pack snacks – you will be eternally grateful for a few snacks when stuck in queues for rides or character meets. We pack a few for each day to nibble on however I would also recommend nibbling on all the Disney shaped biscuits and cakes at Cookies Counter and Casey’s Corner. Its a must don’t you think? When at Disney eat all the Mickey shaped food. And is there really such a thing as too many treats at Christmas time?
7. Disney Magic Hours – If you stay in one of the main Disney Hotels of which there are seven you will be treated to an extra hour in the park prior to the main gates opening. It used to be 2 hours although it has only ever been 1 hour at Christmas due to how late the sunrises. It may only be one hour now but it will be an hour you will spend wisely, it does mean that you are up and about early – I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can meet the characters on main street, the queues are manageable, take those silky shots of the castle, walk down main street without the crowds and well just enjoy the magic. Both parks open at 8.30am – note that not all attractions are open, we use this time to meet the characters as in all honesty that has always been the most magical part of our trip.
8. Fastpass – In a nutshell do it. There are only certain rides that allow you to do so however you can find the list on the website. You need to head over to the ride, pop your ticket into the dedicated fastpass machines and you will be given another ticket with a designated time to return. Absolutely worth it for these rides as the queues build so quickly. They do however go very quickly so I would head over to your favourite ride each morning to get a fastpass as you are unlikely to get one in an afternoon. It is also worth pointing out that you can only get one fastpass per person at a time.
9. Meeting Mickey and Santa – oh my goodness all the heart eyes for these two special meet and greets. They will be the biggest queues you come across but oh my goodness they were both magical and absolutely worth the frost bite. Again the exact location is on the guide so be sure to take a look. For both of these we queued for something silly like two hours, I sent the boys off to explore and stood with a hot coffee in a queue and waited patiently. You get to meet them on a one to one basis in decorative rooms. Other than the character dining there is no other place where you can meet Mickey on his own.
10. And lastly… If you do nothing else on your trip you must watch the parades and illuminations as the park closes. We watched at least one parade every day, you do need to find your spot some 45 mins before it starts. My top tip would be to take up a different spot each time you watch it so that you get to see it from different angles. Our favourite spot was at the bottom of Main Street opposite Casey’s Corner. At Christmas time there are two different parades to enjoy although the festive one has to be my favourite. Staying in the park until late to watch the illuminations with littles takes some planning. We tend to time it with the day that we watch the Buffalo Bills show as that keeps us warm and entertained until after 9pm.
Christmas with a dusting of Disney magic is the best Christmas to have. I can’t quite describe how the Disney Magic feels – it is the best feeling ever. And where better to spend the run up to the festive season than at Disneyland Paris? If you think a trip to Disney at Christmas time is just for the littles then think again, Mr H and I were equally as excited. From the Christmas decorations to the Mickey shaped food to the Christmas songs on the Parades. You will not be disappointed.
If you have any other tips to share then do leave them in the comments so that others can read. I have added this post to Karen’s #MondayEscapes over on her blog Mini Travellers.