*Warning for Disney Fans: This post will inevitably contain errors about Disney. I will accidentally call things by the wrong names, and my descriptions will not be up to your standards. Please accept my apologies in advance, I am a mere mortal, and do not know as much as you.
Of course we went to Disneyland Paris! We both discovered our love of Disneyland late in life, thanks to some incredibly eye-and-heart-opening experiences guided by our very wise friends. Jessie, Clarko, and Brad held my hands on my first walk down Main Street in 2012 and I was forever changed. Patrick and I have loved visiting Disneyland in California over the past few years, so we could not pass up the opportunity to experience a little foreign Disney Magic™!
The official Disneyland Hotels were $$$$ so we booked a budget hotel which had a free, 5-minute, on-demand shuttle to the parks. Score! We checked into our hotel and spent the afternoon shopping for Disneyland supplies (fresh sneakers and artisanal granola bars). I hadn’t had a haircut since March and my head-mop situation was getting dire, so in a very spontaneous moment I decided to get a mall-basement haircut. The hairdresser didn’t speak English, and I speak about 10 words of French (mostly food-related) so we communicated via iPhone photos and hand motions. The haircut took about 5 minutes and involved an electric razor and texturizing scissors. Sure, whatever! It was shorter and cost €17, so mission accomplished. I think.
We spent the evening walking around Disney Village (like Downtown Disney in California), checking out the overwhelming souvenir shops, Lego store, and American chain restaurants. We stopped into Annette’s Diner (named after Annette Funicello, natch), a 50’s Americana themed joint to split a vanilla shake and basket of fries. It was all very Happy Days until half-way through our basket we watched, open-mouthed, as this monstrosity walked by. We took that as our cue to get the hell out of there.
The next morning, BRIGHT AND EARLY, we got to the Disneyland gates at 9:00am, right as they opened. We walked down Main Street, but it wasn’t Main Street, it was an uncanny-vally-twilight-zone-backwards-town Main Street. My brain kept telling me, “We’re on Main Street in Disneyland in California!”, but then instead of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor there was some other weird store.
Simultaneously fun and trippy. We ogled all the pretty shops and then saw the castle. And holy shit, the castle.
It’s SO MUCH bigger than the one in California. And it’s on a hill, and has little forced-perspective trees around it which definitely helps it appear larger. It made the California castle look like a fancy dog house.
Also, getting some serious Sagrada Familia vibes from the interior architecture.
We spent the day checking out every single attraction that was open (half of them were closed) and marveling at all the little differences between Disneyland Paris and Disneyland in California.
Disneyland Paris is fancy. $5.5 billion dollars fancy. Disney poured a ton of money into Disneyland Paris and it shows. The attention to every single ornate detail is mind boggling. For example, Disneyland Paris has two enormous Arcades (Liberty Arcade and Discovery Arcade), chock full of delightful surprises.
They are completely unnecessary, and completely stunning.
They also have this totally incredible and gigantic zeppelin, just hangin out, for no reason other than it looks AWESOME.
The cast members are not jazzed. Disneyland in California is staffed by some of the most lovely people I’ve ever met. They truly care about Disneyland and your experience. In Paris, not so much. 99% of our interactions with cast members felt like talking to the ultra-bored teens who usually staff the state fair. Most of the cast members gave us the impression they were just waiting for their shift to end. I went to First Aid to ask for an antihistamine (I was having an allergy attack – fun!) and the nurses were straight up rude.
They have a real dragon. Yeah, watch out Daenerys, you’re not the only one with dragons.
Ok so it’s not actually alive, but the animatronics/lighting/effects are SO GOOD and you can get SO CLOSE to it, it feels like it’s real. It was one of my favorite attractions in the whole park.
Space Mountain hurts. Like actually hurts. The cars/safety harnesses aren’t designed properly so your head involuntarily bangs from side to side in a violent way. After our third time on that ride my body’s instinct was to cry because it had been hurt so suddenly and quickly. Veryyyyyy weird feeling to experience after coming off of a ride in The Happiest Place On Earth, no? The theming is also confusing.
You’re being shot out of a steampunk cannon into… space? The interior line experience mixes astronomy, an old-timey ammunition company, and outer space?
Pirates of the Caribbean is backwards. Like the boat goes backwards? No. The order of the ride is backwards. The first time it feels trippy, but by the second time you’re totally into it.
The line area was masterfully themed as well, as opposed to the sad chain-rope-line-maze outside Pirates in California.
One of the times we rode it we accidentally got a boat all to ourselves which was fantastic. The ride is so much more spooky when you’re not surrounded by chatty randos. I joked with Patrick that we could do anything we wanted (hand stuff) but instead we quietly sang a little song we made up called “Own Boat”. Definitely a dream come true.
In lieu of the Blue Bayou, the themed restaurant inside Pirates is called the Blue Lagoon and it is AWESOME. It’s a bit like Trader Sams and serves tiki drinks.
Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril is le horrible. Indiana Jones is one my favorite rides in Disneyland, and this one was one of the bummeriest bummers in bummertown. It’s a crappy Wild Mouse style outdoor roller coaster that is loosely camping themed. It was total garbage. It’s hidden in the outskirts of the park and has a 0 minute line all the time. It was like going to see the the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, but when you got there it was just some old dude doing hand puppets. Yeah NO THANKS.
Dapper Dan’s is an actual barber shop. Patrick purposely put off getting a haircut so he could get one at Dapper Dan’s Hair Cuts – an actual barber shop in Disneyland. So all excited, we walked over to Dapper Dan’s and it was closed. Nooooooooo. We asked a cast member working in the adjacent store and she said “It iz closed today. He iz sick.” So we asked, “Who is sick? Dan?”, and she said “hmeh” (some kind of passive French sound). So we’re super bummed, but luckily we’re in Disneyland and there’s a million other things to do. At the end of the day we go to City Hall and Patrick asks, “Dapper Dan’s was closed today. Will it be open tomorrow?” And the City Hall cast member says, “It waz open today. 10:30-7:00”. And we’re like, ”Did the shop girl lie to us?!” So we explain our story, while another guy goes into a back room to “check”. He comes back to confirm Dapper Dan’s WAS closed today and the guy WAS home sick but he said he’ll be in tomorrow. “There iz just one guy who doez it, so if he iz not here, it doez not happen.” We asked, “Is his name Dan?”, and the City Hall cast member says “I do not know hiz name.” It was bizarre.
Haunted Mansion is called Phantom Manor. It’s located in Frontierland, looks like Bates Manor from Psycho, and tells the story of a Miss Havisham-style killer bride (Melanie Ravenswood) seeking revenge on her groom who stood her up on her wedding day. It’s designed to be scarier and more derelict than the Haunted Mansion. Alarmingly, two months before we went, the body of a cast member was found inside the attraction. Disney reported, “He had been working on lighting backstage and his death is understood to have been accidental and due to electrocution,” but maybe Melanie Ravenswood finally got her revenge.
There’s a non-exclusive Club 33. It’s not actually Club 33, it’s called Walt’s, but it looks like pre-reno Club 33. It feels super special, the food is fancy and expensive, the service is wonderfully overdone, and the views over Main Street are awesome.
I actually liked it better than Club 33, because when I’m at Club 33 I feel like I’m trespassing. I feel like the cast members are bummed that a non-member-bozo such as myself is there, and they hope I’ll hurry up and leave already. I know that’s probably just mostly my insecurities, but I felt more relaxed at Walt’s. Oh, they also have a DOPE old-timey glass elevator.
They have an amazing “under-water” Nautilus walk-through. Instead of that dumb Nemo Submarine sadventure, you can walk through Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The attention to detail is INCREDIBLE (again with the huge budget).
We spent like 30 minutes in there just looking at everything.
They don’t have Dole Whip or churros. I know, like what’s even the point of going. I don’t understand this at all. You can buy churros at the Eiffel Tower, but not in Disneyland? Blasphemy.
Mostly everything else from Disneyland is the same. City Hall, the Railroad,
“it’s a small world”, Jedi Training Academy,
the Carrousel, the Tea Cups,
Buzz Lightyear’s zip zap ride, etc.
The fireworks show was stunning, as always,
and the projection mapping on the castle was really well done.
Unfortunately due to all the closures there was a ton of stuff we didn’t get to check out, but that just gives us an even better excuse to go back!
Walt Disney Studios
Instead of California Adventure, Disneyland Paris has Walt Disney Studios, a Hollywood-themed park featuring behind-the-scenes looks at “how movies are made” and also all the Pixar rides. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to us either. But at any rate, this is where all the good thrill rides are secretly kept.
Crush’s Coaster is incredible. It’s a spinning roller coaster that is both indoors and outdoors, and features dark ride special effects.
It was wonderful. One of my favorite rides ever. I wish they would put this in California Adventure.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is almost exactly the same. It’s roughly 25’ shorter than the Tower in California, but still has an 130 foot drop at 39 mph. Same story, same aesthetic treatment. The only difference is everyone screams in French. Fun fact: due to French construction codes the Tower was built using concrete instead of steel like in California and Florida. This ended up costing over €180 million and delayed construction. Oops.
Ratatouille shows off the tech. The new Ratatouille attraction is an immersive trackless 3D dark ride, where you sit in a “Ratmobile” and shrink down to the size of a rat and run though Gusteau’s restaurant. It opened in 2014, cost an estimated €270 million (deep breaths), and really showcases Disney’s latest imagineering magic. The Fast Passes disappear immediately, and the line hovers around 50-70 minutes, but we went through the single-rider line, walked right on to the ride and sat together. We did this three times. Hacks!
They nailed Gusteau’s Restaurant. Bistrot Chez Remy is the Rattatouille-themed restaurant in La Place de Rémy, the Ratatouille-themed area in Walt Disney Studios. Upon entering the restaurant you walk down a hallway where you “shrink down to the size of a rat” so upon entering the dining room you’re seeing the world from a rat’s perspective.
Champagne cages serve as chairs, jam lids are tables, plates are booth dividers, forks are coat racks, drink parasols are table umbrellas, and Christmas twinkle lights are the primary overhead light fixtures.
The imagination behind the decor is really well done. I spent a lot of time away from our table checking out all the details. The French food (foie gras, steak frites, red wine, etc) is authentic, (“after all Miss, this is France!”), expensive, and pretty good for Disney parks food.
We really enjoyed our time here – the whole experience felt really special. I do think it’s funny that Disneyland Paris has a Paris-themed area of the park (recursion!) but I guess it’s the same as a California-themed park in California (California Adventure).
RC Racer was surprisingly awesome. It’s a giant U shaped rollercoaster where you’re swinging 180 degrees back and forth at a fairly high speed. I loved it. Unfortunately the line was SUPER LONG, and it didn’t have a fast pass, so we only got to ride it once.
Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic aka How Is This Still A Thing. You sit in a little tram and go for a “behind the scenes tour of a Hollywood movie set”. It’s SOOOO dated, and just seems like an excuse for tired parents to sit down for 15 minutes. Hopefully they take this thing down soon and put in something better, because it takes up a LOT of space.
Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Yeah, Aerosmith. This is another ride clearly showing it’s age. Fortunately it was closed so we didn’t have to ride it. Our friend Dan said it was super loud and you just get a bunch of dust blown in your eyes. Woof.
Armageddon – Les Effects Spéciaux. Again, Armageddon? Come on guys. Refresh time!
Moteurs…Action! Stunt Show Spectacular was impressive but long. If you like watching impossibly cool French stunt drivers do highly synchronized car and bike tricks, then this is the show for you.
The driving was entertaining and impressive, but the show was was only 15 minutes of tricks spread out through a 45 minute show.
If they could edit this down to a tight 20 minutes it would be awesome.
All in all, we had a wonderful two days. It was really cool to see another Disney park and take a short break from reality.