If you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris, can you afford to miss out on Disneyland Paris? Sometimes called EuroDisney, this is one of the most popular destinations in the world, a different version of Disney frenchified.
With a more muted pastel color palette, Disneyland Paris may have a lot of the same rides as you are used to at the North American resorts, but do you really want to miss out on C3PO speaking French? (Don’t worry, he comes with English subtitles.)
I think we can all agree that there are few things in this world that are more magical than Disneyland. The park inspires awe and wonder in children and adults alike, and conjures up fond memories of childhood. However, if you are on a time crunch in the equally magical city of Paris, you may or may not want to spare a day to head to Disney.
The park is located outside the city, and will involve a trip from Paris that will take the full day. However, there is a reason it welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world each year as the most popular theme park in Europe.
Whether you have a day or more to spend at the park, you will want to make the most of your time there. As a local, I’ve been to the park too many times to count (with friends, with toddlers, and with older children), and I can tell you to be prepared for a long day with a lot of walking. But beyond that, here are my top tips and tricks for anyone visiting Disneyland Paris for the first time. Allons-y!
I. Getting there
Disneyland Paris sadly is not actually in Paris. It is about 30-45 minutes outside Paris, in a suburb called Marne la Vallée. There are many options to get there, depending on your personal situation and family:
1) Taking the RER train to Marne la Vallée
If you are with older children or adults, I would recommend taking the RER train out to the Park. You can catch RER A at the Chatelet train station that is in the center of Paris, or even at Nation station. Be sure to head towards direction Marne La Vallée in the east of Paris. The trip takes around 35 minutes.
In order to buy a ticket at the machine distributeur, you will need to enter your destination, which will calculate the price per person (around €8-10/person). The machine doesn’t always accept foreign credit cards, depending upon your bank and country of origin, so you might have to pay with cash.
Note, RER A is probably the busiest train line in all of France, so be prepared if you are heading out to Disney on a weekday during morning. And Chatelet train station is large and entirely not stroller-friendly, so if you are going with small children, you might wear yourself out before you even get to Disney.
However, the RER train will deposit you right at the gate of the Disney Parks and Disney Village.
Pro tip: Buy two RER tickets per person, to get there and back, because you will find at the end of the day, that the lines are quite long for buying tickets back to Paris.
2) Driving to Disney
If you have small children and a lot of paraphernalia like strollers, etc., you may choose to rent a car and drive to Disney. (Bonus: kids sleep in the car on the way back!). You can read more about driving in France here.
Parking at Disneyland Paris starts at around €30, with higher prices for VIP parking slots.
The annoying thing about driving versus taking the RER train is that you will find yourself parked a good distance away. Take strollers for small children or rent them on site.
3) Taking a shuttle or private car from Paris
If you are looking for comfort, you may as well skip the price of renting a car and take a shuttle or a private car from Paris instead.
Depending on whether you have purchased your tickets already, you can combine pickup at your hotel, transport, and skip-the-line tickets for 1 or more days. You can see transportation options here.
II. Buying Tickets
1) The number of days you need at Disneyland Paris
Now, there are two parks inside of Disneyland Paris, as well as Disney Village that is just outside. The parks are right next to each other as is the Village, so it is easy to get from one to the other. However, there is a lot of walking inside each park.
The most popular ticket options are:
- 1 day, 1 park -> recommended if you have small children and 1 day to spend.
- 1 day, 2 parks -> recommended if you want to make the most of your day and are prepared to walk.
- 2 days, 2 parks -> recommended if you want to maximize your Disney experience and have plenty of days to spend in Paris.
Walt Disney Studios is meant to be expanded between now and 2025, so it is very much a work in progress. The new areas will include Marvel, Star Wars and Frozen.
Until this occurs though, you will be hard pressed to spend more than a few hours in this park.
2) Booking the best time to go
Now, I have been to Disney in October when it has been absolutely packed, and in the summer when it has been much less crowded. The crowds can be quite unpredictable. A few points to note:
- French kids are off school on Wednesdays, so it is usually more elbow-to-elbow.
- French schools have annual holidays during:
In addition, there are many public holidays and celebrations that are not the same as in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. If you are trying to avoid the crowds, check the French holiday calendar here before you book.
3) Dated vs Undated tickets
You can choose to buy dated or undated tickets, depending on if you need some flexibility.
If you have purchased undated tickets, you may need to reserve what day you plan to visit the parks. Depending on the season, you may need to reserve this date several days/weeks in advance. I have seen though, that it is possible to change the date on the reservation system, given availability.
You could alternatively arrive early and take a chance that the park is not full. But if you are going with kids, I would definitely recommend reserving. You can find Disney’s reservation system here.
III. Preparing your trip
1) Download the app
Once you have your tickets, it is time to download the app! The Disneyland Paris app is available on iOS and Android, and will let you make restaurant bookings, get Standby Passes (the new Fastpass), etc.
Once you are in the park, it will give you wait times for rides and allow you to make a list of favorites. Free wifi is available inside of Disneyland Paris, so I highly recommend getting the app before you head over.
2) Packing a bag to take with you
Since you will likely spend quite a bit of time there, take some quick snacks and refreshments so that you do not have to wait in line every time.
In addition, check the weather before going because it rains a lot in Paris, even in spring and summer. Essentials to pack would be:
- light sweater
- poncho in the rainy season
- small backpack
- stroller for kids under 5
- light snacks
- water bottles
You cannot bring your own picnic, but no one will protest if you carry some items like biscuits, chips, drinks, etc. especially if you are going with children. I once waited over an hour to order a meal inside the park, so we were quite happy to have been prepared.
IV. Where to Stay
1) Official Disney Hotels
There are several official Disney hotels around the park, but not all of them offer Magic time. In addition, prices may or may not include ticket entry, depending on the package you select.
From the cheapest to the most expensive, the official hotels are:
- Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch – 15 minutes by car, the accommodation is in small woodsy cabins. There is a pub within the resort for meals, as well as an indoor tennis court. You can book Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch here.
- Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe €€ – A Santa-fe themed hotel with Route 66 decor and free Disney shuttle. You can book Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe here.
- Disney’s Sequoia Lodge €€€ – A large hotel and restaurant with free Disney shuttle, VIP and themed-forest rooms. You can book Disney’s Sequoia Lodge here.
- Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne €€€ – Wild West themed hotel and restaurant with free Disney shuttle or a 10 minute walk the park. You can book Disney Hotel Cheyenne here.
- Village Nature Paris €€€€ – 15 minutes by car or Public Shuttle. This resort is a joint collaboration with Centre Parcs, so it offers the best of both worlds. The resort has indoor domed pools, the playgrounds, activities, climbing walls and other games for older children and adults. You can book Village Nature Paris here.
- Disney’s Newport Bay Club €€€€ – A New England inspired high-end hotel that is about a 15 minute walk to the park, or by free disney shuttle. With restaurant and lounge bar. You can book Disney’s Newport Bay hotel here.
- Disney’s Hotel New York The Art of Marvel €€€€ – The newest Disney hotel, it is about a 10 minute walk from the park, and also offers a free shuttle. With a Manhattan atmosphere, spas, swimming pools and lounge bar. You can book Disney’s New York hotel here.
- Disneyland Hotel €€€€€ – A 5 minute walk to Disney, this is a luxury hotel with large family rooms, a spa, fine dining, private suites and much more.
2) Other Accommodation and Airbnbs
There are quite a few other hotels and locals offering airbnbs in the area, however they likely will not offer shuttle service into Disney. In addition, airbnbs in the area might not be quite what you are used to in terms of size and comfort. You can read more about picking a French airbnb here.
The area of Marne la Vallée itself doesn’t have much around. There are two large shopping centers, Val d’Europe which is a traditional mall, and La Vallee Village, which is an outdoor outlet village.
Unless you plan on going to Disneyland Paris for more than 1 day, I recommend staying in Paris. You can read more about where to stay in Paris here.
IV. Inside Disneyland Paris Park
The larger of the two parks, the Disneyland Paris park is the one that has most of the rides, and where people usually head to first.
1) Food & Restaurants
If you are looking for a nice sit-down meal, or even just a table at a specific time, I recommend highly booking a restaurant in advance, aka as soon as you arrive. You can even book restaurants directly from the app a few weeks in advance, to be sure to get the restaurant of your choice.
The restaurants get quite crowded, starting around 11h30, so if you roll in at 12h15 and start looking for a table, you will be waiting for quite a while. Almost all the restaurants offer menu deals, but don’t expect a huge variety of options.
Now, there are a lot of small fast food places, but these are our favorite restaurants that deserve special mention:
- Café Hyperion € – very large and busy fast food restaurant with burgers and fries. There is often a stage show at meal times providing entertainment while you wait. First come first serve.
- Cowboy Cookout Barbecue €€ – Tex-mex and BBQ meals with a (very mild) touch of France. First come first serve.
- Plaza Gardens Restaurant €€ – typical French brasserie menu in an classic Victorian style setting. Reservation required.
- Restaurant Agrabah Café €€ – Middle eastern food in a beautifully decorated restaurant that looks like somewhere Aladdin and Jasmine might eat. Reservation required.
- Captain Jack’s Restaurant des Pirates €€€ – Seafood and French créole-style meals in a restaurant that looks like a tropical lagoon.
- Auberge de Cendrillon €€€ – a royal banquet hall with character dining. If you are looking to meet a princess, this is your best bet. The restaurant offers a refined French cuisine of entrée, plat and dessert. Reservation required.
Note, there are no free soft drink refills in France, as it is illegal. But there is plenty of French wine!
2) Best Rides and Attractions
The most popular rides (aka the ones with the longest lines) in the Disneyland Paris park are:
- Indiana Jones™ and the Temple of Peril – A fast-paced rollercoaster in the jungles of Adventureland for a perilous journey through an ancient temple. With a height restriction of 1.40m
- Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain – The old Space Mountain has become a part of Star Wars. It is a high-speed roller coaster that takes guests on a thrilling journey through space on a reconnaissance mission to spy on an Imperial Star Destroyer. In Discoveryland with 1.20 height restriction.
- Big Thunder Mountain – A fast-paced Old West rollercoaster in Frontierland, with 1.02 height restriction. There is always a line here, so plan accordingly.
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue – A motion simulator ride that takes guests on a thrilling journey through the Star Wars universe. In Discoveryland with 1.20 height restriction.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – a creepy ride in the dark that might scare the little ones, and get a little wet. The Restaurant Agrabah Café is inside the ride, which makes for an interesting experience. In Adventureland, with no height restrictions.
- Phantom Manor – A haunted mansion with ghoulish spirits that will definitely frighten the faint of heart (and the kids.) In Frontierland with no height restrictions.
- It’s a Small World – the classic boat cruise that travels the world. In Fantasyland with no height restrictions.
- Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups – the always fun spinning teacups that will make you go go daffy. In Fantasyland with no height restrictions.
- Alice’s Curious Labyrinth – A charming walk-through maze based on the story of Alice in Wonderland. It is rather large so they ask that small children do not enter unaccompanied. Note, there is a short version where you can exit, or a longer version that takes you inside the house where you can climb to the top for beautiful views all over the park. In Fantasyland with no height restrictions.
- Sleeping Beauty Castle – This is the iconic centerpiece of Disneyland Paris, offering beautiful views across the park. On the upper level of the castle, there are beautiful stained-glass windows recounting the story of Sleeping Beauty and her Prince. No height restrictions.
- Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast – An interactive ride where guests can use small lasers to shoot at targets and help Buzz Lightyear save the universe from the evil Emperor Zurg. In Discoverland with no height restrictions.
- Peter Pan’s Flight – A whimsical little ride that takes guests on a flying adventure through Neverland. In Fantasyland, with no height restrictions.
- Le Pays des Contes de Fées – A gentle boat ride for little kids and adults through a beautiful, enchanted forest with the fairytales represented in miniature. (Contes de Fées is the French word for fairytales.) In Fantasyland, with no height restrictions.
If you are looking to meet the characters, there are several meet-and-greet points in the park such as Princess Pavillion, Auberge de Cendrillon and Meet Mickey Houset. But depending on the crowds, they may pop-up anywhere. And of course, the characters will all be in the parades.
3) Events, Shows, and Parades
Most of the shows are in the Walt Disney Studios park, but there are outdoor events and parades at the Disneyland Paris park as well, depending on the season.
Instead, the Disneyland park has a lot of character selfie meet-and-greets, with everyone from Darth Vader to a random princess at the Princess Pavillion. You can find up to date info on the app, on the day of your visit.
V. Inside Walt Disney Studios Park
As I mentioned earlier, the Walt Disney Studios park is smaller, with a bigger emphasis on shows rather than rides.
1) Food & Restaurants
There are fewer restaurants in the Walt Disney studio park side, but these are likely to be your best bets:
- Restaurant en Coulisse € – A brightly lit Hollywood set serving burgers, salads and other snack foods. First come, first serve.
- Bistrot Chez Rémy €€€ – Traditional French and Italian cuisine in a restaurant where you are a pint-sized mouse (from Ratatouille) in a bistro with overlarge decor. Reservation required.
2) Best Rides and Attractions
In terms of rides, here are the top ones that you will want to queue up for:
- Avengers’ ensemble – A fast paced rollercoaster with an Avengers theme that is one of the most popular rides at Walt Disney Studios. This is the former “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith”, with 1.2m height restrictions.
- RC Racer – A large U shaped half-pipe rollercoaster that is part of Toy Story. Andy’s toy car hurtles up and down the half-pipe at full speed. With 1.2m height restrictions.
- Crush’s Coaster – A spinning indoor rollercoaster in the dark featuring characters from Finding Nemo. In Toon Studio, with 1.07m height restrictions.
- Tower of Terror – creepy hotel with a broken elevator that has a tendency to drop fast. Height restriction over 1.02m.
- Toy Soldiers Parachute drop – a thrilling drop ride from high above. With 0.8m height restrictions.
- Ratatouille: The Adventure – A 4D experience in Gusteau’s kitchen and a typical Parisian restaurant. In Toon Studio, with no height restrictions.
- Les Tapis Volants:Flying Carpets Over Agrabah – A family-friendly ride that takes guests on a flying carpet adventure through the world of Aladdin. No height restrictions.
- Animation Academy – An interactive exhibit that teaches guests how Disney animation is created, from concept to finished product. No height restrictions.
3) Events, Shows, and Parades
It is the shows in the Walt Disney Studio park that will really blow you away, with our favorites being:
- Mickey and the Magician – A musical live spectacle with song and dance that gives you the full theatre experience. With lovely songs and beautiful choreography.
- Disney Junior Dream Factory – A live show for the little ones, making dreams come true with special guests you may recognize.
- Kingdom of Arendelle Enchanted Moments – If you want to see Elsa and Anna, this is it.
VI. At Disney Village
Because it is a good distance away from Paris, the Disneyland Paris parks start to get quieter around 6-7 pm, and closes usually around 8pm. So if you are looking for dinner options, Disney Village just outside the main entrance to the parks, can be a good pick.
For people who want to get back to Paris, it is going to take around hour, so the question always arises of whether you want to eat in Disney Village outside the park, or head back closer to your accommodation. (I can’t answer this, we usually struggle with this question every time!)
If you are looking to have dinner around Disneyland Paris, there are several great restaurants in the area:
- King Ludwig’s Castle €€ – Inspired by the castle in Beauty and the Beast, this restaurant offers a lot of burgers and german-style sausages, with plenty of beer on tap.
- Billy Bob’s Country Western Saloon €€ – A restaurant and bar with a western theme and live music, you can exchange la France, for the Ol’ West. The menu is tex-mex, with plenty of cocktails on offer.
- Cafe Mickey €€€ – If you didn’t get a chance to meet Mickey in the park, this might be your chance. With Italian pasta and pizza offerings, this popular restaurant will require a reservation.
- Inventions in Disneyland hotel €€€ – Another chance to meet Disney characters is not exactly in Disney Village but in the Disneyland hotel next door. Set in a victorian decor, this is a quieter setting to meet and take a photo with your favorite personality. Currently undergoing renovations.
There are also the typical offerings by multi-national chains like Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Vapianos, and even McDonalds.
VII. Other theme parks around Paris
Now, I live in Paris so I’m obviously a little biased, but I would recommend heading to Parc Asterix themepark just outside Paris, rather than spending more than 2 or more days at Disney.
Parc Asterix is somewhat similar to Disney, with a larger emphasis on rollercoasters. And since it is based on the French comic books, there is more of a French historical flair to it. Disney is Disney, whether you are in Florida, France or Tokyo, but Parc Asterix is completely French.
There are also other great attractions like France Miniature which is a mini-reproduction of all of France, and is located around 40 minutes outside of south-west Paris. It also has a couple of small rides, although not at the same level that Disneyland Paris does.
For the younger set, there is the Jardin d’acclimatation which is a theme park for small children about 10 minutes on the metro from the Champs Elysées. If you are on a time crunch and looking for a theme park to spend 1/2 a day, Jardin d’acclimatation is perfect.
If you enjoyed that post and are planning a trip to Paris, you may want to read more about other day trips from the Paris area. Bon voyage et à bientôt!