Take me back. If ever there was a time to have the Disney blues it is now. Lately I have noticed so many people getting excited for a big trip to see Mickey and friends and in all truth I can’t help but think could we squeeze a trip in this year? The answer sadly is no, for now I will have to live vicariously through my camera roll and everyone else’s adventures. Since returning from Disneyland Paris at Christmas time I have been desperate to share some of our magical trip with you. There really is so much that I want to share – it’s just finding the time and words to write up. Pages and pages could be written about the place where let’s face it dreams come true – it really is the most magical of places. Even the biggest cynic couldn’t help but smile when you take those first steps down Main Street.
For a little while now I have been writing notes down, bookmarking photos I want to share and stealing snippets from the boys memories of our trip. We all love so many different parts that I thought it would be nice to share it from all perspectives. I have been writing down some of our tips, the best bits, what we’d do again and those we wouldn’t. After three years of visiting I really do feel like this year was our best. It really is all in the planning when it comes to Disneyland Paris and a little of knowing what works and the bits not to miss. The most popular question I get asked is what are your must do’s and so I thought that might just be the best place to start. Do you have a note pad ready?
1. Meeting your favourite Characters
We have visited three times now and each year this has been without doubt George’s favourite of all the attractions. It really is one of the most magical parts, watching our gorgeous boy meet his favourite furry animals or movie character and the smile that spreads across his face. Just beautiful. Each trip he writes down a list of the characters he would like to meet and as each day passes we aim to tick two off so as to mix up the day a little. Be prepared for the queues, one way to avoid the queues is to utilise the infamous Disney Magic Hours.
As you enter the park there are day planners which detail where each character will be and at what time. It goes without saying that there will be queues, you can often beat them by getting in the queue 30 minutes before they open. We often stand in line with a hot chocolate and snacks to distract us all from the time slowly ticking by.
2. Lunch at Inventions
Our favourite restaurant to eat, not only because we get to dine with the characters but also because the food is of such a high standard and the desserts are scrumptious. It’s a real treat for all the family. As it is a buffet lunch you are sure to leave feeling totally satisfied if not a little over fed. It is a dedicated Character Lunch or Evening meal, at least 5 of the main characters come to your table where you have a personal meet & greet. Some of our favourite memories each year are made at this lunch. Do book at the earliest point you can which is 60 days in advance of your stay. Inventions is located in the main Disneyland Hotel which is a treat in itself – and if like us you wander around you might even be lucky enough to see a Princess wandering through, if only I had asked Belle for a photo. I would highly recommend booking lunch or Sunday brunch rather than the evening meal, it just feels less hectic and pssst go for an early seating and arrive 15 minutes early! Ssshhh don’t tell anyone.
3. Ride Thunder Mountain
Thunder Mountain was in our little family’s Top 3 rides this last trip. It was closed on our second trip in 2016 which left us all a little disappointed, however at Christmas time it was open and we rode it five times. A runaway mine-train that makes its way up the mountain, its fast and furious and so much fun and best of all we could ride it as a three which is most unlike many rides. A must have for any thrill seeker. Always a popular ride so definitely one to get a fast pass for. We love this part of the park and as George has grown over the years we have spent more time here.
A must for all and a real time-saver. So many people don’t utilise the fastpass and often think that you have to pay for them. They are free however they are limited so the trick is to be quick. The rides you can fastpass are… Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Thunder Mountain, Ratatouille, Tower of Terror and possibly a couple of others which you’ll find on the Disney website. These are the main ones we used a fastpass for, over and over again. How does it work? Head over to the ride you wish to get a fastpass for as soon as it opens, exchange your ticket in one of the dedicated self service machines and you will be given an extra ticket with a ride time shown (see below). There will also be another time on the fastpass ticket which shows what time you are able to get another fast pass for a ride. Be warned – there are limited times throughout the day, most are taken by lunch.
5. Eat Mickey shaped treats
When in Disney you must eat Mickey shaped treats. It is the law. Whether a cupcake, a pretzel, a waffle, a marshmallow or a cookie I highly recommend you make your way to the sweet treat shops on Main Street and fill your belly with a tasty delight in the shape of Mickey or Minnie. And on the way home stop off at one of the food kiosks in the Disney Village for a delicious pretzel and Nutella waffles. When in Disney!
6. Ride Star Tours
By far our favourite ride of our festive trip. We rode this daily and sometimes twice. It wasn’t what we expected and most definitely the one George said ‘again, again’ as the ride finished. If you are a Star Wars fan then this is a must for all, it’s interactive and with being a simulator you really do feel like you’re aboard a Starspeeder. It’s current and so unlike any other ride at Disneyland Paris. The area where you queue is really interesting with droids and many famous characters. You will not be disappointed.
7. Buffalo Bills Wild West Show
What can I say? It would be so sad if you visited Disneyland Paris and didn’t attend this show. It’s quite simply fantastic, a great atmosphere, you get to have a dance with Goofy at the bar before finding your seats, the food is tasty, the drinks are free flowing and before you know it you’re in the middle of a Wild West Show with Mickey & Friends. We always sit in Category Two seats, if we were to go again I would definitely book Category One, just that little bit closer to the action. The show lasts two hours and in all honesty it will be some of the best time you will spend at Disney. You’ll be banging your cutler on the table and rallying for your cowboy as he races around the track. There are animals, gun fire, a gorgeous story, singing and dancing that will leave you screaming Yee-Haw from your seat! One not to be missed.
8. Magic Hours
For these two hours alone I would recommend staying on site at one of the Disney hotels. There’s a really good range all different prices and for this reason alone worth the extra pennies. You get to walk down Main Street without the crowds, meet characters and generally feel the magic without hoards of people. You can ride Crush’s Coaster & Ratatouille without standing in a 60 minute queue, and if like me you love photography you might even get yourself a silky shot of the castle. Some of my favourite photos and memories as a family were made on our first morning where we fully utilised the magic hours.
9. Dragons Lair under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
I’d probably say there are two elements to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle you must visit. Venture up the winding stairs and take a look at the stained glass windows, they are truly beautiful and even more so on a bright day with the sunshine spilling through the windows. As you leave the Castle you should exit to the left and go beneath to see the Dragons Lair. George loved investigating and was quite mesmerised – apparently the Dragon only lives below the Castle at Paris.
10. Fireworks show
A must even if only once. We try to catch the show as often as possible which can be tricky at certain times of the year. In the winter it is so cold you’ll struggle to feel your nose and in summer you’ll be tired from such a long day. During the summer months the show is on as late as 11pm, it mirrors the park closing times which is something to consider when planning your day in the parks. A question I am always asked is where to stand, that’s such a tricky one to answer. Last year we stood at both the back near Casey’s Corner but sadly you do struggle to see all of the display over the base of the castle. We also queued for 45 minutes and got a spot right at the front of the castle which was fantastic. We saw so much more of the fireworks and display projected against the castle. Our favourite spot but one which took some conviction.
Is there anything else you would add to the list? We are actually just in the planning stages of our first trip to Disney World Florida and oh my goodness am I so excited. We are visiting in the summer of 2019, only 548 days until our next trip. Nothing like a countdown.
I have added this post to Colette’s #TriedTested over on her blog We’re Going On An Adventure.