The first thing you need to know about this destination is what the heck it’s called! Older folks might remember that when it opened in 1992 it was called Euro Disneyland, or Euro Disney for short. In 1995 it changed its name to Disneyland Paris, which is still widely used today. But since 2002 it has been called Disneyland Park (English)/Parc Disneyland (French), and that’s what you’ll see on signs leaving from Paris and closer to the park as well.
Speaking of the French version, it should be noted that everyone at Disneyland Park speaks English, and signs and menus are in English, French and German. But you will see and hear French as well; almost all attraction names are French first, and things like exit signs are usually in French only (“Sortie”).
The last major thing you need to know is that Disneyland Paris is not actually in the city of Paris. It’s in Marne-la-Vallée, about 20 miles away. But Disney being the well-organized machine that it is, there are many ways to get there—shuttle buses and trains from both Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY) airports as well as from Paris city center, in addition to good old-fashioned driving. (Note, however, that if you’re buying a train ticket from a machine and not an attendant, you’ll want to look for the Marne-la-Vallée Chessy stop among your options; it won’t recognize “Disney.”)
In terms of what’s available to see and do at Disneyland Paris, here’s an overall outline of the parks and attractions. The first two are traditional theme parks that require a pass for entrance:
- Disneyland Park is the French equivalent of the Magic Kingdom. This is where you’ll find Main Street, USA and the four “lands” and their attractions: Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland.
- Walt Disney Studios Park is organized into “studio lots”—Front Lot, Toon Studio, Production Courtyard, and Backlot. They offer lots of movie-themed rides, interactive attractions, live shows, and of course shopping and dining.
And these are not considered theme parks but are a part of the Disneyland Paris brand:
- Disney Village doesn’t have any rides per se, but has shows, games, movie theaters, shopping, and restaurants.
- Golf Disneyland is just what it sounds like! It has things for kids to do, but the main attraction is the 18-hole golf course.
How to plan a trip
Although Disneyland Park was originally slated to be located in the South of France to more closely match the subtropical of the two American Disney theme parks, it was eventually decided to move the location to just outside of Paris. Its location now offers many benefits for the visitor, and a few challenges as well.
The challenge is that Paris’s weather is closest to that of the American Northeast. There are four distinct seasons, and bitterly cold weather is not unheard of in the winter months. Also, the park closes early in the spring, autumn, and winter. So if you’re looking for the biggest bang for your theme park buck, summer is going to be your window of opportunity, although understandably, it will be more crowded.
Next, figure out how long you want to spend at Disney. It is conceivable to do at least some of the main theme park as a day trip from Paris, but attraction wait times could mean doing even less than you had planned. Many people take advantage of the 3-Day Park Hopper ticket, which offers good savings, and spend a few days there on either side of a trip to Paris. And of course, there are those for whom Disneyland is in and of itself a destination, and will want to have the full Disney experience over the course of a week or even more.
And finally, you’re going to need to figure out your budget beforehand, and stick to it. If there’s one thing Disney does better than almost anyone, it’s parting you from your money! And it can be hard to say “no” when you’re in the throes of Disney magic. Do your research, find out how much you can spend, and then book your trip, from start to finish. Otherwise, the costs can add up.
Where to stay
The Disneyland complex has several options for accommodations, each with its own “theme” and with a broad range of price points.
- The most expensive is the Disneyland Hotel, located at the main entrance to the main park and a few minutes’ walk from the other parks. Perks include a FASTPASS for all guests, and Disney characters at breakfast.
- The New York Hotel is usually favored by companies that hold conferences at Disney. They have a few things for kids to do on the premises, but it’s mostly for adults. They offer shuttle rides to all the parks, or you can walk—it’s about 10 minutes.
- The Newport Bay Club has a New England theme, and is located on Lake Disney. It’s a 15-minute walk from the parks, and there is shuttle service. There are indoor activities for kids during inclement weather.
- The Sequoia Lodge is also on Lake Disney, and the parks are all within walking distance. There’s also an indoor/outdoor pool and water slide.
- The Hotel Cheyenne is very basic and the most economical of the Disney hotels. It’s a 20-minute walk to the parks and there is shuttle service. There are also lots of Wild West themed activities for kids, including pony rides.
- The Hotel Santa Fe is similar to Cheyenne in both distance and price point, but with a Southwestern/Route 66 theme.
- The Davy Crockett Ranch has a rustic outdoorsy feel, and cabins with full amenities. However, there is NO shuttle service; you’ll need a car to get to and from the parks.
If you’d rather de-Disney at the end of the day, there are several hotels in the area that are not associated with Disney, such as the Holiday Inn (budget) and Radisson Blu (high end), but offer free shuttle service to the parks.
How to save money
Disney theme parks are many things, but cheap is not one of them. American visitors also need to take into account the fact that the dollar/euro conversion adds as much as 30 percent to already high prices.
That being said, there are several ways to save money and still have a great Disneyland Paris vacation.
- Different language versions of the official Disneyland Paris website have different deals; the French version, for example, sometimes has additional discounts, probably hoping to lure more in-country visitors. Check a few of them and see if you can find a good offer.
- Registering with the website can also yield a few deals and special email-only offer codes.
- You are not allowed to bring meals into the park, but a few snacks and definitely some water or other drinks in your bag can cut down on food costs a lot – or at least help you to splurge on a sit-down meal later on.
- Set aside a specific amount you will allow each family member to spend on toys and trinkets, and stick to it. There are stores everywhere, they’re all tempting, and they can get very, very expensive if you don’t watch your spending.
- Invest the time in reading Disney visitor and vacation forums, concentrating on the Paris threads. You’ll find lots of insider information and tricks and tips for saving money on tickets and other things during your Disney experience.
- Have a game plan for each day’s activities. You’ll feel like you’ve spent your money more wisely if you’re not wasting time doubling back or waiting in long lines if you didn’t have to.
While most people take day or weekend trips out of Paris to Disneyland, or simply stay at the park the entire time, there are those who don’t want to miss an opportunity to see a bit of France while they’re in country. If you’d like to spend a couple of days exploring France without going too far, here are some great day trip options from Disneyland Park:
Hopefully, you don’t need too much convincing that Paris is a worthwhile day trip! There are organized tours from Disneyland into and around the city, or you can take the train and have a DIY day trip.
The Reims Cathedral, made famous by Monet, is stunning, and the town of Reims itself is adorable. It’s a lovely day trip that can give you an idea of the “real France.”
Whether through a tour or on your own you can visit the vineyards of the Champagne Region, attend Champagne tastings, and see the glorious French countryside.