Disneyland Paris is arguably Disney’s most beautiful theme park, combining the classic layout of the original Disneyland with stunning European-style architecture. It holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first of the company’s parks that I was able to visit, after my then girlfriend (now my wife) took me there on a pilgrimage when I was 21. Having nurtured a growing obsession with theme parks from a young age after my grandmother brought me back a map of the California version, it lived up to every expectation I’d built up over that time. And Disneyland Paris at Christmas, I thought, would be an incredible experience.
Since making that first visit, we’d often discussed how great it would be to see the Disneyland Resort Paris at Christmas. In 2010, we decided that it was finally time to raid our bank account and make that dream a reality. Boy, was it worth it! In an incredible stroke of luck, the entire resort (and Paris as a whole) was blanketed in several inches of snow for two entire days. Despite the obvious logistical problems this caused, the resort kept right on running – giving us the opportunity to enjoy rides such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in a truly unique setting.
While it was an amazing experience, we did pick up several tips from our trip to the Enchanted Christmas events. We’re planning on heading back again this year, and there are a few essential strategies that we’re going to follow this time around. Some of these tips are specific to the Disneyland Resort Paris, but many will be applicable for visits to any Disney park over the upcoming holiday period.
Don’t miss the hidden gems – on the surface, Disneyland Paris is just another clone of the original Disneyland. Look beyond the familiar attractions, though, and you’ll find a range of often-overlooked elements that make the park truly special. Many guests never realize that a dragon lives under Sleeping Beauty Castle or that you can actually walk through the Nautilus submarine in Discoveryland – don’t be one of them!
Learn the lingo – one thing that makes the Disneyland Resort Paris seem so exotic next to its cosmetically similar US counterparts is that everywhere you go, you’ll be accompanied by the sound of the beautiful French language. Of course, every Cast Member at Disneyland Paris speaks English, and speaks it well. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate overseas guests making an effort to address them in French. You’ll often receive a great response – one waitress pointed out some free drinks vouchers that we’d probably never have uncovered otherwise.
Park hop to make the most of the Christmas events – it’s easy to “hop” between Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park. Many of the most popular (and low capacity) rides, such as Crush’s Coaster, are located at the Studios. Get these under your belt early in the morning, and you’ll be able to focus on the array of special Christmas shows at Disneyland Park in the afternoon and evening.
Break up the trip with a visit to Paris itself – you’ll need at least two days at the parks to experience everything they have to offer. However, you’re likely to be exhausted if you stay late one night, and return early the next morning. With Paris only a short train ride away, why not slot in a slower-paced day wandering around some of its more traditional attractions? The Champs-Élysées looks stunning during the festive period.
Stay near the magic – if you have the money, staying on-site at the Disneyland Resort Paris is a great experience. The Disneyland Hotel, overlooking the original park, offers views that are worth paying a premium for. If, like us, you are on a budget that prevents this, then don’t worry: Paris is packed full of reasonably-priced hotels. We found Torcy a great place to stay – it’s not very picturesque in itself, but is super convenient for getting to the theme parks or into central Paris.
Relax and enjoy the atmosphere – this may seem at odds with getting up early to avoid the queues! But if you do that, it gives you the breathing space in the afternoon and evening to really absorb the special atmosphere of Christmas time at Disneyland Paris. You’re in the City of Lights. It’s the season of love and goodwill. Mickey’s in attendance. Have fun!
Of course, the cynical among us might dismiss theme parks’ Christmas celebrations as simply another way to wring more cash out of gullible visitors. They may be right – but this is one case in which I’m happy to be a sucker.
ThemeParkGuy Nick Sim is already counting down the days to his next Disneyland Paris visit. Together with his wife, Natalie, he combines his love of amusement parks and travel over on Theme Park Tourist.