In December of 1985, Michael Eisner and Frank Wells (Disney’s then-CEO and COO, respectively) signed a letter of intent with then-French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius to build the Euro Disney project in Marne-la-Vallée, France. On March 24, 1987, Eisner and then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac signed an agreement stipulating that construction move forward. On April 12, 1992, the Euro Disney Resort opened.
Since opening day the resort has undergone several name changes, welcomed a second park, and dealt with some vexatious financial moments. It has persevered, however, and to this day remains one of the top tourist destinations in all of Europe.
While far from an expert, I have been lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris three times since 2010. I’ve been to Disneyland in Anaheim countless times however, and have taken about twenty trips to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. That said, if you’re planning to visit Disneyland Paris any time soon, and thus far have only visited the American Disney parks, the following article may be of some assistance.
author’s note: obviously some of this list is comprised of my personal opinion–also, there are a couple of mild spoilers in regards to attraction descriptions.
1) It can get a little chilly
Anaheim is warm. Lake Buena Vista is warmer. Paris isn’t as warm.
Unless you’re counting the soap suds Disney releases into the air following winter-themed events, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to encounter snow in an American Disney park. That is not the case in Disneyland Paris.
Paris does get fairly cold. The coldest month of 2014 was December, with an average daily low of 37°F. The coldest day of the year was December 29, with a low of 19°F. When I was there in February of 2010, it reached the low 20s.
A lot of you might scoff at the notion of 20 degrees being considered cold. And sure, being from the Bay Area I’m fairly spoiled in terms of weather. But 20 degrees for a Disney park is cold. So, you might want to change that planned February trip to a May trip.
2) DLP has some awesome attraction variations
With the benefit of technology and decades of wisdom, the Imagineers were able to put some pretty awesome twists on the attractions we all know and love.
Disney fans often have fun comparing mutual attractions between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Who has the better Space Mountain? Small World? Haunted Mansion? Well the answer to that last one is: neither. Because to me, Disneyland Paris has the best Haunted Mansion, hands down (note: Mystic Manor is precluded from the race because it isn’t haunted, it’s enchanted). Phantom Manor has a terrific backstory, a beautifully haunting score, and is noticeably more creepy than its American cousins. The resort also boasts the best Big Thunder, and some really cool variations on attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World. Oh, and their Space Mountain has a loop. These differences are more than enough to quell any “I’ve already ridden that ride here” arguments you may have.
3) Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Anaheim anymore
You’ll see some stuff you’re not quite used to.
Disneyland Paris has had designated smoking areas since 2008. Wanna know how I know that? By doing research for this article. Because you could have fooled me, since during all three of my visits, people smoked in attraction lines. The smoking rules may very well be enforced at times, but there are more than a few occasions that they’re not. And while I may be old enough to remember when restaurants offered smoking and non-smoking sections, I’m just so used to not having to deal with it at Disney unless I’m walking through the Big Thunder Trail, past the loading area for the Tom Sawyer Island rafts, or by the Monorail track between the Matterhorn and the Autopia. It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened at least once during each of my visits. And it was kinda weird.
Speaking of weird, during Disneyland Paris’ 20th birthday celebration, certain times of the day produced a long, colorful train featuring dancing characters. I tried to find out the meaning of this train, but apparently there wasn’t one? If anybody reading this article happens to know, I’d love to hear it. Anyway, I had to snap a quick photo of it when it parked, because, rainbow train! #becauserainbowtrain
While in Disneyland Paris, you may run into products that are either labeled differently, or flat-out not displayed in the States. Do they sell women’s underwear inside the American Disney parks? I don’t know. I’ve never noticed. According to my dear friend Beth, panties are not very easy to find in the Disneyland Resort. But they are readily available in the Walt Disney Studios. And while not beyond the realm of understanding, it still struck me as a little odd to see them dangling on an end cap.
4) The maintenance can be sporadic
Marty called: wants janitors.
This has been a long-standing complaint. From what I’m told the American Disney parks can’t touch the Asian Disney parks in terms of cleanliness. Well, if that’s the case, I may have to declare Disneyland Paris dead last in the global race for Disney Resort tidiness.
In addition to cigarette butts, you may notice guest-placed stickers left on posts for days, Sharpie marks on trash cans, and more cobwebs outside than in every Haunted Mansion combined. During my last Disneyland Paris trip I actually met two Americans who worked at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, respectively. When we met again later in the day and compared notes on the charming European version of It’s a Small World, we all concluded our review with the exact same thought: “I wanted to take a broom to those cobwebs.” Honestly, I noticed them so much during my last trip, I started photographing them.
5) Disneyland Paris is gorgeous
No hyperbole here. Like or dislike the resort, it has its beauty.
I have to end this article on a positive note. In fact, I think I may have to write a follow-up piece with an exponentially more positive viewpoint of this French treasure. Because despite its few flaws, I gotta tell ya, Disneyland Paris is beautiful. Incredible architecture, amazing ride variations… that castle. There is so much to enjoy about the resort, I couldn’t let you think it was all scattered snow and cobwebs. Disneyland Park in Paris is actually one of my favorite places in the world. I am hoping to make a return trip this fall, in addition to partaking in runDisney’s first ever Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in September of 2016. So while some of my points were less than cheery in an effort to help prepare you for what you may end up experiencing, as a lifelong American Disney parks frequenter, I can assure you, Disneyland Paris is well worth visiting.