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Disneyland Paris (March 2024)

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Jake S

Staff
Feb 23, 2023
1,481
4,747
orange county, ca
Hello!

My wife and I returned last night from a week-long trip in Paris and had a very nice time. I’ll include some sightseeing pictures in a follow-up post, but I’d like to start with our visit to Disneyland Paris.

We stayed in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris at the Hilton Garden Inn La Villette. It’s a (relatively) new hotel and we found it perfectly fine for the price ($164 a night including taxes/fees/etc.) We were a short walk from both a Metro stop (20/30 minutes to either side of the Seine) and an RER line (this is a quicker, more commuter-like series of trains).

To start: Paris is a great city for train nerds thanks to the wide breadth of lines (trams, subways, trains, high-speed rail) and beautiful stations. If you’re a Big Train Nerd, as I suspect many on this forum are, you’ve gotta get to Paris at some point.

We took the RER E line from the Rosa Parks station to Val de Fontenay where we transferred to the RER A line (magenta line to red line). We exited the A line at Marne-la-Vallée Chessy, which dumps you right in front of the security checkpoint for Disneyland Paris. I can’t overstate how easy this was; we were on the train for about 50 minutes and then walked 5 minutes from the train doors to the security gates.

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Thanks to the speedy journey, we arrived at the park an hour before it opened (930 am). That gave us some time to both get in line at the entrance to the turnstyle house and do a little bit of sightseeing. The park entrance is covered by the Disneyland Hotel which is fabulous. It creates a beautiful entrypoint for the park and is your first taste of the magnificent attention to detail that defines the castle park.

Before I get into some park photos, here’s what our day looked like: We know we wanted to hit both parks in one day, to allow for maximum time to see the sights in Paris. Based on my perusal of Thrill-Data, it didn’t appear long queues would be a problem so I opted to not purchase the Premier Pass which would have allowed copious line skipping.

Part of that decision was made for us because both Big Thunder and Crush’s Coaster were down for refurbishment. We also didn’t have much interest in riding direct clones, which meant we were happy to skip Web Slingers (though we quite like the ride), Tower of Terror and the Fantasyland dark rides.

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So, we started our day by rope dropping Space Mountain, which has a semi-permanent Hyperspace Mountain overlay. The facade remains gorgeous and its location in Discoveryland (nee Tomorrowland) creates a grand entrance to the land. The use of water helps make the land much more kinetic, something I’ve complained about regarding the Disneyland Tomorrowland.

We quite liked Space Mountain, though the projections (much like on the Disneyland version) feel cheap and temporary. The overlay as a whole, including the queue treatment, doesn’t do the attraction any favors. It reminded me of walking through a historic house that hadn’t been kept up well by the current owners; it has good bones, but perhaps not the best caretakers. That the owner is, uh, Disney doesn’t make for the best of looks.

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Discoveryland as a whole felt a bit staid, like it needed fresh life. We did enjoy the Nautilus walkthrough quite a bit, and I highly recommend all of the different walkthrough attractions the park has to offer. For those (like me) that think a great queue can greatly enhance an attraction, these are the experiences for you.

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Following our trip to Discoveryland we made our way to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It absolutely lives up to the hype. The stained glass is gorgeous, as are the large tapestries that retell the story of the film. Imagineering knocked this out of the park. But come on, we’re all here to see the dragon, right?



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We still had enough time before our lunch reservation at Walt’s to sneak through Adventureland to get to Frontierland for Phantom Manor, easily my most anticipated attraction of the trip. The setting of Frontierland is without a doubt my favorite of the four castle parks I’ve visited. Big Thunder, even dormant, looks spectacular on top of the river. And seeing both the spires of Big Thunder and the decrepit facade of Phantom Manor in one view is among the best I’ve seen at any theme park.

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The queue for Phantom Manor is similarly well themed, though its the “secret” exit area that provides the most fun elements (the graves of Henry Ravenswood and his wife, in addition to a large unmarked tomb that makes sounds/vibrates with heart beats/etc). Y’all are likely familiar enough with the ride that I don’t need to go beat-by-beat on it, but while it’s still wonderful visually, the lack of on-ride narration really takes something away from the attraction. I’d vote for bringing back the Vincent Price French narration, but it doesn’t seem there’s much appetite for that.

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That takes us to Walt’s, where I scored a reservation for 11:45 a.m. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, beyond a menu that consists of some of Walt Disney’s favorite meals. If you know anything about Walt, that’s a bold choice; the man was not exactly known for his refined palette. That said, it seemed like a fun conceit and even if the food was bad, hey, the space would be cool, right?

Thankfully, the food was quite good. I ordered what amounts to a deconstructed Chili Con Carne, while my wife opted for the Cajun-Spiced Arctic Char. We chose the Sweet Corn Soup and Chicken Pot Pie as our starters and went with the Caramelised millefeuille and Flower Street Sunday for dessert.

The favorites were the Chili Con Carne/Sweet Corn Soup/Millefeuille. The arctic char was nice, but the cajun spice was very light. If you’re hoping for a bit of bite to your food, this isn’t going to deliver it. I got a wine flight with the meal, which was fun but as I’m not much of a winehead, it was largely lost on me.

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From there, we decamped to the Studios park to check out the vibe and get on the couple of attractions we wanted to ride. After walking through the gates, you’re directed into a large, beige soundstage. This serves as a fully indoor Main Street-type area, complete with multi-story restaurants, large stores, you name it. It was a rainy day, and as such it was quite crowded in the indoor areas of the parks.

That didn’t do this entryway any favors. Featuring all the charm of 2002’s California Adventure, we were overwhelmed by the congestion and how poorly it compared on first blush to the castle park. After exiting the soundstage we were dumped into a congested walkway facing Tower of Terror and flanked by large construction walls. One of the large soundstages (which it appears Disney hoped to treat as “lands” at opening) was completely closed, perhaps to make way for the long-gestating Frozen project.

Anyway, we headed to Avengers Campus with low expectations and the hope that the Avengers roller coaster would have a short queue.

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We were pleasantly surprised. The Avengers Campus in Paris is much nicer to look at than its California Adventure-based cousin. It’s still a converted industrial park, yes, but there’s a blend of materials that give the land more depth. The facade for the Pym Labs restaurant looks great, as does the digital facade for the Avengers roller coaster. Farther along the land, the small vintage diner adds another compelling food option to the park.

We’d already eaten and weren’t going to wait 45 minutes for a Spider-Man clone, so we headed to Avengers. We waited only 15 minutes and were really pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it. The projections worked quite a bit better on this than Space Mountain, and French Iron Man was a delight. Brie Larson continued to sleepwalk through her performance of Captain Marvel, but we enjoyed the experience.

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At this point, we wandered over to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. It’s one of our favorite rides, so if the line was short, we figured we’d check it out. We were able to use the single rider line and waited only 5 minutes. It’s currently running in 2D, which is apparently something done on a semi-annual basis to, I dunno, refurbish the glasses cleaning machine I guess. Anyway, you’ll be shocked to learn the ride does not work as well without 3D.

What did work quite well is the Parisian street surrounding the ride. This is similar to what you’ll find at EPCOT, but with a new anchor restaurant paired with the attraction. As you exit, you can see into the restaurant through large glass windows and it looks fabulous. It’s no Blue Bayou in terms of feeding off the attraction’s vibe for ambience, but it’s a neat integration.

Outside the attraction were a series of food and drink carts — ostensibly a makeshift Christmas market. We’d later see the same setup outside of It’s A Small World. Obviously, Spring doesn’t begin for another week but it was a bit funny seeing mulled wine and the like for sale in the middle of March.

(Continuing on to Part 2)
 
Part 2!

By this point, we were ready to go back to Disneyland. But first, we stopped at the World of Disney Store in the Disney Village to check out the merch. I’d been told there wouldn’t be much to see in this department, and I’m happy to report that is not the case. We were disappointed that there wasn’t more merch that said “Disneyland Paris” on it and were a bit surprised to find so little in French. For instance, there was a large, exclusive Big Thunder Mountain Railroad collection … but all in English and none of it is marked by the park name.

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Still, I found a classic-looking Mickey Mouse sweatshirt that said “Disneyland Paris” on it while my wife came away with a Lion King spirit jersey that also said Disneyland Paris on the back. We were also blown away by the amount of Stitch merchandise; you could get just about anything with Stitch integrated into it … this made for some tough decisions.

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Anyway, we made it back to Disneyland and wandered through some of the themed areas like the Main Street arcades (awesome) and Fantasyland.

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My wife is a big fan of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which doesn’t exist in Paris. But a quick service restaurant themed to Toad Hall does exist, and it’s spectacular. The attention to detail even in a relatively small quick service space like this is a great reminder of all that Disney got right on opening day.

We took a trip on It’s A Small World, which was in great condition and doesn’t feature any IP-infusion, which was a welcome change. From there, we only had one attraction left on our hit list: Pirates of the Caribbean.

Some of you may recall I expected this to be an optional experience given the lackluster clone that exists in Walt Disney World. Thankfully, someone chimed in that it’s a must-do in Paris; and boy, were they right.

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The queue is wonderful. Set in an old Spanish Fort, much like in Orlando, you begin the descent through a dark series of caves and tunnels before turning up at the loading dock. You can just make out Captain Jack’s, a tropical-themed restaurant that serves the Blue Bayou role on this attraction. It’s not quite as dark or foreboding as Blue Bayou, but it fits the theme well and seems like a good vibe.

What makes this iteration of Pirates of the Caribbean so interesting is twofold: First, the story is shuffled significantly, making for a more cohesive story. You begin the story as a Pirate, are thrust into the sacking of a Spanish town and then die — leading to the spooky, ambient and ghostly scenes that begin the Disneyland version of the attraction. I found this to be quite a welcome change, and was surprised at how much better the storytelling was in this format.

The second major change is difficult to describe (if you’re amenable to spoilers, look up a POV). As you come down from one of the first lifts on the attraction, you see the massive pirate ship sacking the fort from high up in the soundstage. This isn’t just a wonderful view, it’s a great tease for what is to come later in the attraction.

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Neither my wife nor I are huge Pirates heads — but we came away from our visit with Pirates of the Caribbean as our favorite Disneyland Paris attraction. It’s that good.

At this point, it was getting on to 5 p.m. and we were cold, wet and wiped. We had intended on sticking around for the fireworks and drone show, but decided we preferred to catch a train back to our hotel to warm up after a couple of long days.

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While our attraction count was low, we both came away with a real appreciation for this resort. Disneyland is as beautiful as its been made out to be, and much of the joy of the park comes from wandering around. The Studios park is terrible, there’s no getting around it. In its current state, it is the worst Disney or Universal park I have been to. But the two, newer themed lands give me hope that it’s on its way to a California Adventure-style renaissance. If you have limited time, I’d opt for a Disneyland-only day; but we’re completists, and it was nice to have done both parks. A park-hopper isn’t expensive, at least by United States standards. So, keep that in mind.

I’ve already written too much, so I’m going to call it here. Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll be back with some general thoughts on our trip in the coming days!
 
Thank you so much for the report! I'll be there next month so loving seeing how the resort currently feels like.

I'm going with some friends who've never been but often visit the stateside resorts. I just asked that they lower their expectations because, in my humble opinion, it's the worst of them all. But still looking forward to it. :lmao:
 
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Great report! Love reading these any time they’re posted.

Disneyland Paris really is a beautiful park and, in my opinion, you did it right by just wandering through the walk-throughs and de-prioritizing the clones rides. I know people gush over Big Thunder Mountain in Paris but, to me, it didn’t live up to the hype (better than the stateside versions, for sure, but still paled in comparison to Paris’s Space Mountain for me)…so I would say you didn’t miss much there. Also glad to hear another glowing Paris Pirates review—my favorite version of any I’ve been on.

Also…that RER (A, I think it is..?) is a dream isn’t it?

Looking forward to more pictures from your trip if you share them!
 
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Thank you so much for the report! I'll be there next month so loving seeing how the resort currently feels like.

I'm going with some friends who've never been but often visit the stateside resorts. I just asked that they lower their expectations because, in my humble opinion, it's the worst of them all. But still looking forward to it. :lmao:
I'd rather spend a day at Disneyland Paris than Magic Kingdom or Tokyo Disneyland, but the attraction lineup doesn't really compare — especially now that Beauty and the Beast exists in Tokyo. I haven't been to Hong Kong Disneyland, but I'd wonder how that compares to the rest of the castle parks.

Great report! Love reading these any time they’re posted.

Disneyland Paris really is a beautiful park and, in my opinion, you did it right by just wandering through the walk-throughs and de-prioritizing the clones rides. I know people gush over Big Thunder Mountain in Paris but, to me, it didn’t live up to the hype (better than the stateside versions, for sure, but still paled in comparison to Paris’s Space Mountain for me)…so I would say you didn’t miss much there. Also glad to hear another glowing Paris Pirates review—my favorite version of any I’ve been on.

Also…that RER (A, I think it is..?) is a dream isn’t it?

Looking forward to more pictures from your trip if you share them!
It would've been great to get on Big Thunder for the vibes, but I find the actual coaster to be pretty dull in its other installations. Can't say enough good things about Pirates — I'm stunned I haven't heard that talked about more. It really feels like the fully realized version of the attraction.

Correct! Taking any of the RERs was phenomenal. Large trains that travel quickly and come frequently (at least by the standard of similar sized trains in other countries). Paris (and France in general) really is wonderful for train nerds.

More to come in the coming days!
 
What a great report! I also was blown away by their Pirates, and love how they made it a unique experience. I still think the OG is king, but this is such a close one. Both amazing. Magic Kingdom’s version could be torn down for all I care at this rate. What a waste.

We did a very similar trip, end of May 2023. Although we got lucky and a friend got us passes for the day, so we decided to buy the premiere access. This was my first visit to Paris, and first Disney park since 2014, so wanted to conquer it all.

in Disneyland we rode/did:

Space Mountain x2
Star Tours
Buzz
Autotopia
Teacups
Small World
Casey Jr. Circus Train
Snow White
Pinocchio
Peter Pan
Indiana Jones Coaster
Pirates of the Caribbean
Phantom Manor x2
Big Thunder x2
Castle sleeping beauty walkthrough (minus dragon due to refurb)
Fort walkthrough
Caves walkthrough
Aladdin walkthrough
Swiss Family Tree House
Alice's Labyrinth

in WDS we rode:

Crush's Coaster
Tower of Terror
Ratatouille
Avenger's Flight Force
Spider-Man Web Slingers

Disneyland Paris is gorgeous. WDS is… there.
 
I'd rather spend a day at Disneyland Paris than Magic Kingdom or Tokyo Disneyland, but the attraction lineup doesn't really compare — especially now that Beauty and the Beast exists in Tokyo. I haven't been to Hong Kong Disneyland, but I'd wonder how that compares to the rest of the castle parks.
I meant moreso when it comes to service and attitudes, food, etc. but also plenty of things that would be deemed bad show here but are deemed acceptable there. But still has some of my favorite versions of the rides so a stop there when in Europe is necessary and it's been almost a decade since my last visit.

As far as HKDL, it's actually one of my favorites of the castle parks. I just had such a great time. There's a charm to the park that I almost can't put my finger on.
 
but also plenty of things that would be deemed bad show here but are deemed acceptable there
This was my biggest gripe. They are just not interested in maintaining good show in a way other Disney parks are. I thought the service was fine; not as bubbly nor friendly as you’d see in the states but perfectly polite. They aren’t really hitting on bubbly in France lmao.

(Unless it’s champagne™️ of course)
 
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