I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando more times than I can remember. I’m assuming it’s at least in the double digits, so to say I’m familiar with the park is probably an understatement. Disneyland Paris is something else, however, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the park was not a mirror image of its predecessors.
Opening in April of 1992, the park is still celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year though it’s now officially crossed the 26 year mark. But we’re also celebrating other significant milestones with this park visit. The first time my mother ever got the chance to experience a Disney Park, it was with my grandmother, which was also her first visit too. It was on this trip that my mother became obsessed with Disney and Mickey Mouse, passing along her love to me as well. So, for the first time, we were both visiting a Disney park for the first time together, neither of us having been to Disneyland Paris before.
And the park is certainly unique! Not only does it have exclusive rides, but even the classic staples found at all Disney Parks are different–and we were even able to enjoy experiences that no longer exist at older parks. One of these was Captain Jack’s restaurant (though of different name back then), which is a sit-down restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is seen from the boats going through. My mother explained that she went to this restaurant with my grandmother too, so we made sure to check it out as well. The food was amazing but I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt as full in my entire life.
We rode Pirates of the Caribbean 3 times in the course of our visit, it being one of our all time favorites from Disney Parks. Though the dialogue spoken in the ride was French, the Pirate’s Life song was sung in English so it was both familiar and fun. It also wasn’t a copy of the original, there were a few added features like a Barbossa who, under moonlight, dazzled in cursed skeletal glory. Different odds and ends like poor kitties floating on crates, a captain’s quarters, and of course the view of Captain Jack’s Restaurant made it a unique treat despite the many times I’ve been on the ride in Disney World. We also saw the new addition of a Pirate Red-Head, which has since changed over from the original wench auction.
The park worlds are all different too! There is Frontierland (not set-up the same as Disney World at all), Adventureland which is broken up by an Adventure Isle which contains a pirate ship, Skull Rock, and a maze of dark tunnel caves which is a whole lot of fun put would have probably given my parents a heart-attack if my brother and I played in them as kids. Fantasyland which includes enough exclusive features to set it apart, and Discoveryland which replaces Tomorrowland as the sci-fi otherword but with more of a steampunk flair in aesthetic. There is also a second park called Walt Disney Studios which takes the place of Hollywood Studios at Disney World which includes Tower of Terror and one of my old favorites, Animation Studio which has since been turned into a Star Wars outpost in Disney World.
And, of course, the Disney castle is different–instead of Cinderella, the castle in the middle belongs to Sleeping Beauty and upstairs there is an entire stained glass gallery featuring her story. Also, underneath the castle in a dark cave lives the dragon…
As for the rides that can’t be found at Disney World? We tried them all! Ratatouille being the most well-known, we hit up that one first especially since the lines for it are ridiculously long. And though it was fun, I can’t suggest that an hour wait is worth it. It was certainly a pleasant ride, but we were good with one go. You ride on a mouse mobile chasing around in Gusteau’s restaurant but the ride relies mostly on motion with the action happening on screen and the mouse car moving in place along in response. There are some fun moments where you do move through the kitchen and pleasant smells like citrus are injected into the air. Another exclusive ride that left us a bit wanting was Indiana Jones and The Temple of Peril. It’s a short mine cart roller coaster that hooks and loops around a cool looking temple ruin, but it mostly jostles you around and both my mother and I repeatedly had our heads pinging back and forth against our headrest so we left the ride feeling a bit disoriented and woozy. The ride also lacks the magic of integrating you into the world of Indiana Jones which other Disney rides are pretty good about doing, nothing during the ride had anything to do with the whipped crusader aside from name alone which was a shame. It could have been a roller coaster from anywhere.
One of my favorites was Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, which was a refurbishment of Space Mountain, a similar thing having happened to the ride at Disneyland California too. Space Mountain, in my experience at Disney World, isn’t a ride that had aged well. Half the time it’s broken down and the other half it’s rickety and rough, throwing you around in an un-enjoyable experience that’s hardly even dark enough anymore, the blackness of space impossible when the roller coaster tracks are visible. So I was excited to see how Hyperspace Mountain improved upon the formula and I was not disappointed. IT WAS COOL! First thing it does is launch you so fast it straps you back and you momentarily loose your breath as your body tries to adjust to the velocity, and once you’re finally able to breathe again, you’re being thrown around in the dark with flashing lasers and dogfights between X-Wings and Tie Fighters, it’s honestly a treat.
Surprisingly, in a country that prides itself on food, Disneyland Paris didn’t have much variety in options. I remember when I was a kid, the food wasn’t that impressive at Disney World either, but over the years they’ve really strengthened their culinary prowess and now you can’t turn a corner without a stall having its own unique dish to salivate and throw down $20 for (I’m exaggerating but also it’s kinda on the mark) If you’re curious to see what Disney World has going on in the food world, I suggest following Disneyfoodblog but be prepared to pack your bags and book your tickets. At Disneyland Paris, every single stall either had popcorn and ice cream or sugared crepes and a hot dog. Don’t get me wrong, these hot dogs are something else. They’re giant doggies nestled in a baguette and I could probably eat one every day but you just want some options, you know?
And maybe this is simply because of the culture in Europe. We saw signs telling people that picnicking within the park was not permitted and we were wondering, was that seriously a thing? Evidently. Most of the visitors at Disneyland Paris brought in school sized backpacks full of food that they’d consume in line for a ride. There was one guy chowing down a bowl of noodles before getting on Hyperspace mountain and I have to wonder if he had an iron gut.
A few other stray observations…
Both parks are small, which is no surprise since the internet is pretty up front about warning visitors of this. Walt Disney Studios takes less than an hour to walk all around with no stops, so if you’re planning a visit, get the multi-pass.
France being France was eager to let us know what they were responsible for inventing which was pretty funny. Declarations were featured in a few of their rides like ‘the French invented animation!’, ‘the French invented special effects!’, ‘the French invented shooting films on location!’. It was honestly endearing.
It’s a Small World WAS sung in French!
There was a severe lack of adult beverages which is the opposite problem at Disney World. Do Europeans not need to be drowning in booze in order to get through a day spent with their kids?
Both days the Aladdin signing autographs was white as hell.
Do Europeans get the same sense of wonder and awe with our history and aesthetic as we do theirs? Frontierland is an ode to the American West, do their minds tick and whirl with imaginings of Cowboys and Native Americans?
Some guy accidentally sneezed on my mother and she reflexively said “Bless you!” to him which cued a fervently concerned discussion in German where the wife was pretty sure my mother meant something along the lines of gesundheit rather than the other probable two worded phrase she might have fired off instead.
Other treats, a pineapple dole whip float. It’s not the same as the swirl featured in Disney World but it did the job. And the beignets are delicious!
All in all, I’m super glad we checked out Disneyland Paris. As lifelong Disney fans, it was really cool to experience Disney in a different way and I’ll always remember it fondly as that crazy time we went to visit Mickey Mouse in Paris. Now I’ll need to visit Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo too!