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Disneyland Paris is one of my favourite places in the world. It doesn’t matter how many times I go or how old I am it’s still just as magical as the first time I went! Everyone should experience it at least once, but you’ll need to be prepared for your trip there especially if it’s your first time! This is the place to get all the info and tips you need before you go.
Disneyland Paris Magic Pass
Previously when visiting Disneyland Paris you were given room keys, meal vouchers if you had booked a plan, park tickets and needed to carry round cash or cards if you wanted to buy anything whilst in there. Thankfully Disneyland Paris has come into the 21st century and put it all on one Magic Pass! Each member of your party is given their own card which allows you in and out of the parks, shows which meal plan you’re on, allows you to pick up your fastpasses and can be used as a charge card for any purchases made whilst in the parks.
Although you want to try to keep hold of it, if you end up losing it due to all the fun you’re having it’s easy to go and get a replacement from the visitors centre.
Inside Disneyland Paris
Main Street is exactly what it says on the tin, the main walkway situated at the entrance of the park. It’s based on 1900’s America and has shops and restaurants all built in the same Victorian theming. You can get the majority of food options on Main Street, hot dogs, cookies, cakes, ice creams and one table service restaurant, Walt’s. There’s also a load of gift shops with varying products if you want some keepsakes from your trip.
The train that goes around the entire park and stops off in all the lands also has a stop on Main Street, so you can save some energy and jump on there if you don’t feel like walking!
Disneyland Paris themed lands
There are 4 main lands within the Disneyland Park, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland and Discoveryland. Each has their own theming and rides which relate to the theme. The lands flow well between each other and once you get your bearings it’s easy to navigate around them. There are a ton of back walkways so it’s always worth taking some time each day to wander and see where you end up! Knowing the back routes can be really useful particularly when parades are on and Main Street is extra busy. There’s something very satisfying about sneaking through the crowds and getting an extra ride in when all eyes are on the parade!
The easiest way to reach Fantasyland is by heading through the castle. This tends to be the busiest area purely because a lot of the smaller rides related to the Disney films are here so families seem to head there first. Dumbo, Pinocchio, Snow White and the Disney carousel are all situated here. Queues can be long and it’s especially worth trying to get a fastpass for Peter Pan’s Flight which is one of the most popular Disneyland Paris rides. Be aware that Fantasyland shuts about an hour earlier than the other lands as the parade passes through there and staff are preparing for Illuminations.
Adventureland gives you pirates, Indiana Jones and treehouses, the most important parts of a family adventure obviously! Here you’ll find the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, keep an eye out for Captain Jack Sparrow. A large Pirate ship that kids can play on and the Indiana Jones roller coaster. As with all the lands there’s lots of little hidey holes throughout the land, be sure to look out for the gaps in the rock face when you walk through the tunnel as you can find all sorts of hidden treasures along there!
There’s plenty of food choices again in Adventureland, but the one restaurant you don’t want to miss is Restaurant des Pirates which is actually inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride! You can watch the boats go past as you eat amazing Caribbean and Creole food.
You’re now entering Thunder Mesa! A mining town set in the 1800’s. The biggest ride you’ll find here is Big Thunder Mountain. It’s another one that’s extremely popular so you’ll want to get a fastpass as early as you can or try to ride during extra magic hours. Other rides in the land include the Thunder Mesa Riverboat and Phantom Manor. There’s also a playground for little ones at the back of the park with Native American theming.
There are a number of restaurants around Frontierland. The Silver Spur Steakhouse for a sit down meal, the Cowboy Cookout for a quick service bbq meal and a Mexican quick service restaurant. As always you’ll also find stalls around serving crepes and popcorn.
Discoveryland is off to the right once you get to the end of Main Street. It’s a futuristic, space adventure type land and has a variety of rides for kids and adults. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast is situated in this land, it’s an interactive laser ride for the whole family and I guarantee you’ll find yourself queuing again and again to try to beat your previous score! Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain is also in Discoveryland. It had a facelift in 2017 to bring it in line with the Star Tours ride and rumoured future theming for this land.
There are 2 large theatre buildings in Discoveryland, Cafe Hyperion which is a quick service cafe restaurant with a stage in the middle. There is different shows there throughout the year. The other theatre is situated at the far end of Discoveryland. It’s currently showing Mickey’s Philarmagic. Queues for this can be long, so it’s best to check the show times and arrive early for the one you want to see.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
A trip to Disneyland Paris wouldn’t be complete without getting a picture by the castle. It’s stunning and kind of breathtaking the first time you see it from Main Street! It’s situated in the centre of the park and tends to be where the majority of parades and character dance shows happen. You can walk through the castle into Fantasyland but don’t forget to go upstairs to see Sleeping Beauty’s room and round the side of the castle to see the dragon living underneath. Head to the left of the castle if you’re walking towards it from Main Street and you’ll see the entrance to the dragons lair. It can be easy to miss these bits especially when the crowds are heavy.
Walt Disney Studios
The studios, as they’re affectionately known, are next door to the main park. This park is designed to give you a backstage look at how some of your favourite Disney films and TV programmes were made. It’s far smaller than the main park and you could easily get the studios done in 1 day if you got there early and just wanted to go on rides. In saying that the theming is once again part of the magic and you won’t want to miss wandering into each of the different theatres and animation galleries. The most popular rides in the studios are Crush’s Coaster which always has a very long wait, Hollywood Tower of Terror and the newly opened 3D Ratatouille ride. The latter both have fast passes available but Crush’s Coaster doesn’t have the room for an extra fastpass queue so you either need to get there early or get yourself some snacks and settle in for a wait that will be at least 75 minutes most days.
The studios close between an hour and 2 hours earlier than the main park depending on what time of year you visit so be sure to check timings before you get there so you can make a plan of how to spend your days. They also have shows and parades on in the studios, the timings for these can be found at the entrance to the park.
Fastpasses at Disneyland Paris
Fastpasses at Disneyland are so worth it once you get the hang of how they work. You may think they’re straight forward but the amount of people sitting at fastpass entrances having to wait another half an hour because they don’t understand the time slots is a real issue! Everyone is entitled to get fastpasses using their magic pass. You choose the ride you want to get the fastpass for and find the ticket machine nearby. You’ll be issued one fastpass per magic pass used with a 30 minute time slot in which you can go and ride. You’ll queue separately to the main queue, I’ve never waited for longer than 30 minutes in a fastpass queue so you can see how useful they are when some rides are a 2 hour wait. Rules state that you’re only allowed one fastpass at a time, but check the bottom of your fastpass ticket and it will tell you at what time you can go and get another one. Make the most of this and try to plan your fastpasses in advance if you can! Bare in mind that during really busy periods fastpasses are picked up more regularly and they can run out a full 3 hours or so before the parks close.
In an exciting turn of events though, you have a couple of other options for fastpasses! You have the option of buying extra fastpasses before you arrive, see here for more information on prices and types. There is also a hotel fastpass if you stay in one of the eligible rooms at Sequoia Lodge- Golden State Club rooms, Newport Bay – Compass Club rooms or Hotel New York- Empire State Club rooms. These allow guests 1 extra fastpass per person per day that can be used on any of the participating rides.
Your final option is to book a suite at one of the above mentioned hotels or any of the Castle Club rooms in the Disneyland Hotel. With your suite you get the VIP fastpass which allows you unlimited access to all fastpass rides for your entire stay. I visited during Halloween this year and I was lucky enough to stay in the Presidential Suite at the Newport Bay Club so got VIP fastpasses. They were honestly so worth it. October half term was ridiculously busy and it saved us so much time being able to skip the queues.
Illuminations doesn’t need much introduction. Its the display at park closing of amazing fireworks and all your favourite characters projected onto the castle. There is a mixture of old and new films shown in the 20 minute show and it’s enjoyable for all ages. You’ll want to get there at least 30 minutes before the park is due to close if you want to get really close to the castle. Otherwise the show can be seen from Main Street if you’re less bothered about being right in the middle of the action. It’s well worth watching at least one evening that you’re there and kids will love seeing their favourite characters running up and down the castle singing songs!
Extra Magic Hours at Disneyland Paris
Extra Magic Hours is available to all guests who are staying in a Disney Hotel. This includes Hotel Cheyenne, Santa Fe and Davy Crockett Ranch which are slightly further out than the hotels mentioned above. Both parks officially open at 10am, but if you’re a Disney hotel guest or an Annual Pass holder you’re able to go into the parks from 8:30am and miss some of those giant queues later in the day. Use your EMH wisely! Crush’s Coaster is a great one to do early morning due to the lack of fastpass, but other people also have the same idea so you will need to make sure you’re at the gates when they open.
Food & drink at Disneyland Paris
Food & drink at Disneyland Paris is what you would expect it to be. Very overpriced and mass produced at the quick service places. You are able to take your own food into the park and by all means if you’re staying off site in an Airbnb for example I would definitely recommend taking pre prepared food in with you.
The table service restaurants are slightly different and there are a variety of menu options for different budgets. One of the restaurants I’ve always found to be good at Disneyland Paris is Plaza Gardens in the main park. It’s a buffet restaurant but the food is always tasty and it’s near the castle so you can refuel without going right out of the park.
Whatever you do don’t miss the waffles and crepes sold at stalls around the park. They have different topping and filling choices and are a Disneyland Paris staple!
There are also plenty of options for food at each of the hotels and if you’re on a dining plan you have your pick of restaurants. The dining plans offered are the Plus and Premium, the latter being more expensive but with a bigger choice of sit down restaurants included as options. You will need to work out what suits your family best and whether you’d prefer half or full board. Breakfast is included at your hotel but you also have the option of eating in Disney Village.
Disney Village is a collection of restaurants, shops and shows outside of the 2 main parks. You have varying choices of restaurants there including The Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Cafe Mickey or quick service restaurants or coffee shops like McDonalds, Starbucks and Earl of Sandwich. It’s certainly cheaper to eat at those 3 than in the park and you may find that you like to break up the day by leaving and getting some food in Disney Village.
There are a variety of hotels around the Disneyland Paris area varying in price to cater for all budgets. These are arranged by keys, denoting the number of stars each has. The most expensive is the Disneyland Hotel– 5 keys, situated right at the entrance to the park, its stunning and has obvious advantages over other hotels but it’s considerably more expensive than the next hotels down. The 4 key hotels are Disney’s Hotel New York, which is currently under renovation reopening Summer 2020 and Disney’s Newport Bay Club where I stayed last time I visited. You can read my review of their Compass Club rooms here.
The 3 key hotel is Disney’s Sequoia Lodge, situated at the back of Disney lake between the 4 key hotels and finally the cheapest option on site hotels are Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne and Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe both 2 keys. Both are still beautifully themed and offer great value so don’t dismiss them, plus they have Starbucks on site which is excellent for grabbing your coffee on the way in!
There are numerous other options off site which are great value and have really good reviews so it’s worth checking all of them to see which one best fits your budget and plan for Disneyland Paris.
Make sure you download the Disneyland Paris app! It will be your go to the entire time you’re there. It gives you opening times, queue lengths, parade times, allows you to book park tickets and fastpasses and gives a full interactive map of both parks so you can see where you are and navigate round.
Be aware that there are now security checks at every entrance to the park and village and at the entrance to each hotel. These can be very busy in the mornings so be sure to factor this into your timings.
Do your research before going and make some plans for your days. I know that might not sound very fun but having a plan especially if it’s your first time visiting, will make things so much easier and more enjoyable for you. Above all have the best time and fall in love with the magical place that is Disneyland Paris!