This is part of a series of posts on our summer 2016 trip to Europe, marking our first family vacation outside of the U.S. With passports in hand, we spent nearly three weeks between London, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
Making the trek to Disneyland Paris was a bigger decision than it should have been. We love Disneyland and pretty much all things Disney, so of course we were drawn to the Paris park. At the same time, was it worth taking a day away from the City of Lights to go to Disneyland? We went back and forth for weeks, and by we, I mean me and the voices in my head.
Some of the discussion I had with myself:
This is so touristy, but then, we’re tourists.
Shouldn’t we be going to something historical?
Disneyland is fun and the kids deserve a break from museums and tours.
This is America seen through a French filter. Doesn’t that make this cultural?
Would our time be better spent at Versailles?
In the end, about two days before we left, I bought our tickets online, making the decision final because I am too cheap to walk away from purchased tickets.
In the end, we’re glad we went. It was fun and no longer a mystery to us, but the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim remains our Disneyland. Not to mention, Disneyland Paris does not sell cake pops. What?
Here’s what we learned:
Getting to Disneyland Paris is quite easy. It’s about 40 minutes by train from Paris. We took an Uber from our apartment to get the RER at Charles de Gaulle Etoile (across from the Arc de Triomphe). We could have taken the Metro, but this was quick and easy, and it was early in the morning.
Get off at the Marne-la-Vallee-Chessy stop. This is the end of the line and the few people remaining on the train are pretty much all going to Disneyland Paris, too. Follow the people or the signs, but getting into the park from the train is very clear. Also, it’s very close.
Tip: bring cash to cover the train ticket. We had some problems with our credit/debit card pins and cash was the only way for us to buy our tickets. There may have been a moment of panic during all of this.
Park tickets cost less if purchased in advance. I don’t know if this is all the time, but it’s been true every time I’ve checked. We bought the park hopper, allowing us to go into Disneyland Paris and the Walt Disney Studios Park.
The Disney magic is here. We walked down Main Street, which felt much like the American versions, but slightly different. Everything about the park was that way – similar, but different. There weren’t as many rides and the lines were long (this was July, after all). It’s a Small World was extra special because it was the world from a different perspective. We made sure to do Dumbo, too.
Lunch was fish and chips at the adorably English-themed Toad Hall restaurant in Fantasyland. We took our standard Disneyland advice and went to lunch a little before noon to beat the crowds and get a table.
The bigger surprise came later when we were ready for a treat. The American parks are full of variety with cake pops, caramel apples, Mickey-shaped cookies, popcorn, and of course, Dole Whips. It’s not that Disneyland Paris didn’t have dessert – it did and in many locations – but it was all standard, pre-packaged ice cream treats that you’d see in a convenience store. It’s the stuff we would typically ignore at home – and we did in Paris, too.
Disneyland Paris had one thing I’ve not seen in the American parks: a year-round Christmas store, La Boutique du Château. Tucked under Sleeping Beauty Castle, it has ornaments and other decor. Other parks sell ornaments all year, too, but devoting the entire space to Christmas was awesome. We bought an ornament and regret not getting the Stitch stuffy dressed for the holidays that my son had his eye on. Also, why didn’t I buy the Adoryable hat at a park kiosk?
The Possibly TMI Thing to Bring to the Park
Somethings at the park were a surprise, including a surprise early period. Not a big deal because they have feminine hygiene dispensers in the bathroom, right? No, they don’t. Okay, but they have a help desk to get them, right? Nope. I had to ask multiple people, all while we Googled what to do. I ended up at City Hall asking for help there, and after a crew member at City Hall asked around for some time, we were directed to the store at the end of Main Street, almost hidden, near the stroller rental. And that is where I bought the most expensive box of Tampax tampons ever.
I was lucky, the cast member told me, as they has just been restocked the night before after they’d been out for a few days. Do French women not run into this issue? Luckily, it was the first time it had happened to me and it turned into a funny story making me feel like I was 13 again, but for a minute there, I thought it was going to get ugly.
We left the park before dinner, took the reverse of our morning RER trip, visited the Arc de Triumphe on our return, then walked to a brasserie we found on Yelp (one that turned out to be a longer walk than we expected). After an amazing dinner, we took an Uber back to our apartment and fell into bed exhausted.