Hi I’m Guy Selga, the Disneyland writer for TouringPlans. I spend multiple days a week in the Anaheim Disney parks, along with visits to Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland every year, but I never made it out to Disneyland Paris. That changed last week when I made my first visit. In this post I’ll share some tips and observations from the point of view as a first time visitor to Disney’s Parisian paradise. Also included in this post is what it’s like staying on site (I stayed in Disney Sequoia Lodge), food recommendations, and some loose touring strategies.
#1. My first tip is for when you are in the planning phase of your trip. Disneyland Paris doesn’t offer an option to only book a hotel stay on their website. You can only book a hotel plus theme park tickets package. This is obviously a problem if you’ve obtained your tickets some other way, or have an annual pass (more on annual passes later). This means you’ll need to call Disneyland Paris to check prices and make a hotel reservation over the phone. Save yourself a long distance international call and call the Walt Disney World phone number, (407) 939-3476. An automated system will answer. When it askes what you’re calling about, say “Disneyland Paris hotel reservations” or simply “Disneyland Paris” and Disney’s phone system will automatically connect you.
Another option to save yourself some time is to book through a travel agent. Our TouringPlans travel agents are ready and waiting to help you book your trip to Disneyland Paris, or anywhere else you may want to go in France and beyond. Click the link to get a quote.
#2. Be ready to explore everything. Especially the Main Street, U.S.A. arcades, any walkthrough attractions, and especially in, around, and under Sleeping Beauty Castle. Set aside more time than you expect to explore this beautiful park. My girlfriend and I spent hours on Main Street, U.S.A. alone. There is so much to see and it’s all a treat for the eyes. You will with out a doubt be visually rewarded for your efforts. The most famous example of this is the dragon underneath Sleeping Beauty Castle. It moves around, blinks, and you can even see it breathing.
Be sure to look up as well, this gorgeous ceiling is located in Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A.
Fun nods the Emporium shops in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.
I mentioned the Main Street, U.S.A. arcades. If you’re not familiar these are indoor walkways that go along the rear of each side of Main Street. They are fantastic and beautiful in every way. Real gas lamps, gorgeous tilework, interesting art and props, ornate ironwork, and alternate entrances in to the various shops and restaurants. Each arcade is unique so be sure to visit both.
On one side you have the Discovery Arcade, which showcases actual patent models from the United States Patent Office in the 19th Century. In order to obtain a patent back then you had to create a scale model of your device. Disneyland Paris is home to one of the world’s largest collections of these authentic patent models. How cool is that?
Along the other side of Main Street, U.S.A. there’s the Liberty Arcade, which honors the Statue of Liberty and its creation. The highlight is a diorama showing the view of the Statue of Liberty from a passing ship. None of this needs to exist, it simply does because it’s awesome and interesting to look at. I love that. Main Street is also home to a actual barber shop where you can get a haircut or men can get a shave.
#3. Now is a good time to talk about Sleeping Beauty Castle, or Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant as it’s known in French. Is there ever enough superlatives to describe Disneyland Paris’ icon? It’s stunning, elegant, picturesque, charming, and any other word for beautiful you can think of. I’m a huge fan of that hillside and trees along the left. The interior is just as gorgeous as the outside and the best thing is you can explore all of it. Inside you’ll find these stunning stained-glass windows depicting the story of Sleeping Beauty. These aren’t cheap printed materials, they’re actual hand made works of art designed by Paul Chapman, the former stained-glass artisan to the Queen of England.
You can also exit out on to the balcony on the back of the castle and get a great birds eye view of Fantasyland.
4. Speaking of Fantasyland, you’ll find the typical assortment of Disneyland-style castle park attractions here, such as classic dark rides (Peter Pan’s Flight, “it’s a small world,” and Snow White’s Scary Adventures, to name a few), and flat rides, such as Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups. But in Disneyland Paris the rides exterior décor is rendered in the expected level quality and beauty as seen in the rest of the park.
5. A quick note about shopping. Disneyland Paris merchandise is awful, with the same generic 20 or so items in every store. But I highly recommend you still go in every single shop in the park and soak it in. They’re all beautiful and have tons of details. For example, we wondered in to an unassuming shop in Fantasyland only to find a fill size recreation of the dwarves cottage from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
6. Eat at Walt’s – An American Restaurant! The restaurant is a love letter to Walt Disney and contains a trove pictures and artifacts chronicling Walt’s life and legacy. The food is also fantastic. It was without a doubt the best food we had during our multiday visit to Disneyland Paris.
Pictures of Walt Disney in the lobby.
To start I had the chicken pot pie and crunchy vegetable salad, which was very tasty.
My main course was the Cajun-spiced arctic char. It was perfectly cooked and so satisfying.
It’s also really fun to watch the people and parade go by from the second level of Main Street, U.S.A. The restaurant’s lobby is on the first floor but the rest of the restaurant is located on the second floor.7. I have to bring up the rest of the park’s food, which is either bad, or oddly hard to obtain, or both. Many of the quick service menus in the parks feature the most bland and uninteresting items you can imagine; the most basic hamburgers, chicken fingers, and pizza to name a few. Many restaurants close early in the day (before dinner even), or simply never open at all. I read many blogs and planning guides that mention Village Disney dining options (that’s their version of Downtown Disney/Disney Springs) such as Earl of Sandwich or McDonalds. These obviously would never be your most people’s first choice when dining in France, but at least they are open and serving food for dinner. We did have a fantastic meal at Restaurant Agrabah Café in Adventureland, which is a buffet featuring Middle Eastern meats, couscous, salads, kebabs, and deserts. We had heard good things about Agrabah and it definitely lived up to expectations. We’ve also heard good things about Captain Jack’s Restaurant des Pirates (which is located inside of Pirates of the Caribbean, like Disneyland’s Blue Bayou), and Cowboy Cookout Barbecue. No matter which table service restaurant you decide to dine at we highly recommend making a dining reservation ahead of time. This can be made on the Disneyland Paris website or their official app, both of which are available in English. For snacks, we got some good baked goods at Cable Car Bake Shop on Main Street.
8. I do not drink alcohol but there is occasionally a cart on Main Street, U.S.A. that sells champagne. This is obviously unusual for a Disneyland-style castle park, yet it’s culturally appropriate.
My girlfriend, @JLap64, was really REALLY in to it.
They pour the champagne right in front of you and you get to keep the glass. This was around $15.
9. Real quick, lets hop over to Disneyland Paris’ other theme park. Walt Disney Studios park is as bad as anything you’ve ever heard about it. We thought the Mickey and the Magician stage show was really good. The less time spent in and thinking about the Studios park the better.
Avengers Flight Force (a re-themed Rock ‘n Roller Coaster) is also fun. But wow what a depressing park!
10. Now let’s talk about Disneyland Paris’ unique headliner attractions. Hyperspace Mountain, previously known as Space Mountain, features a uphill launch that takes you from outside the mountain to inside, loops, and a very eye-catching design that is different than the other iterations of the ride. It’s thrilling and a lot of fun. If you’re unaware, Tomorrowland is known as Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris. The land uses a retro futuristic aesthetic instead of the spacesport theme the other Tomorrowlands have. Unfortunately Space Mountain received a permanent Star Wars retheme a few years back that deleted the previous Jules Verne. This new theme clashes horribly with the land and the ride’s own exterior, but it’s still a fantastic ride overall.
Next is Phantom Manor, which is the park’s equivalent to Haunted Mansion. You can tell the Imagineers wanted to make something different yet familiar with this one. As you can see, the exterior is run down, unlike the other Mansions in the US and Japan. This matches the surrounding storyline and aesthetic of Thunder Mesa (the town depicted in the park’s Frontierland).
The storyline stars a bride that is constantly stalked by a menacing phantom. I don’t want to spoil much here but I’ll just say that it’s a fantastic ride that is worthy of its Haunted Mansion heritage.
Disneyland Paris Barbosa animatronic appreciation tweet 😍 pic.twitter.com/WOEZ41G3Jm
— Guy Selga (@guyselga) August 17, 2022
Pirates of the Caribbean is another fantastic rendition of a classic ride with many elements that you’ll recognize from the American parks, but also several new ones, such as sword fighting pirates, another pirate swinging from a rope, and an encounter with Barbosa. Check out the video I posted on Twitter which is embedded above.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is something special at Disneyland Paris. It’s located in the middle of Rivers of the Far Rest (called Rivers of America in the US parks). This makes for a stunning set piece in Frontierland. The ride itself is thrilling and one of the highlights of the park. Big Thunder seems to be the most popular ride in Disneyland Paris with high waits throughout the day. Ride it first thing during early entry, or during the park’s fireworks show at the end of the night to avoid the long wait time.
11. As I mentioned earlier, this is my first visit to Disneyland Paris so I don’t have any experience staying on site at Disneyland Paris beyond this one visit. But I will try to touch on some of the advantages and disadvantages of staying in one of Disney’s official hotels. We stayed at Disney Sequoia Lodge, which is thematically equivalent to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in Walt Disney World. We would have splurged on Disneyland Hotel, which is at the entrance to the park, and has rooms that look out in to Disneyland Paris, but this hotel is closed for a multi-year refurbishment.
Sequoia Lodge’s exterior. It’s not as rustic or natural looking as Wilderness Lodge, but it’s still nice.
Here’s our room, which was a standard room with a king bed. It’s very barebones and basic. Nothing was worn down to the point of looking in shambles, but it definitely felt tired and out of date. We did find the bed to be comfortable but it’s on the firm side, which I like.
The dresser and TV area. On the right side under the TV you may notice the rooms single outlet. Yes that’s right, the room only has a single outlet to charge your phone or any other devices you may need to charge. We had to unplug one of the lamps to get an extra outlet. Also, there are no outlets next to the bed.
The bathroom is again, totally fine but basic. My girlfriend said the hairdryer was comically bad. The shower was nice and had good water pressure. I personally had no problem with the size of the tub, but some people may find it too small.
We did like the view from the room, which was nice and woodsy.
The pass with no blockout dates during our visit was the Magic Plus pass so we went with that. With the pass 10% off every dining and merchandise purchase, and saved hundreds of dollars on our hotel room. This made the pass a no brainer. Also, annual passholders get in to the park 30 minutes early every day!
If you do decide to get an annual pass make sure you make you purchase with plenty of time in advance of your trip. Disney sends the annual passes in the mail, and there is no option to pick them up when you get to the park.
Whether you’re buying a ticket or annual pass, purchase it as soon as your travel dates are locked in so you can make park reservations.
13. Disneyland Paris has an odd amount of merch with the American flag+Disneyland Paris logo.
14. Disneyland Paris currently has two nighttime spectaculars. Disney D-Light is a special show for the park’s 30th anniversary and features an impressive drone display along with a catchy theme song.
The Disneyland Paris drone show thing is very cool. Throw drones in every Disney nighttime show. It’ll never get old. pic.twitter.com/KSUJJOMrp8
— Guy Selga (@guyselga) August 17, 2022
The drones form the parks 30th anniversary mouse ear logo and it’s even more impressive in real life. I can’t wait for this technology to be used in other Disney nighttime spectaculars. Disney Illuminations is Disneyland Paris’ end of the day fireworks show that takes place at park closing (which was 11 pm during our visit). It contains the usual collection of songs from Disney animated and live action classics.
We had a fantastic time visiting Disneyland Paris before heading in to the city. I can’t recommend this glorious park enough. Hopefully this post will help you plan your visit or at least inspire you to take a trip there someday. Let’s continue this post in the comments and make it a collaborative effort. Leave any questions you may have or better yet, your own Disneyland Paris trip planning tips.
Follow me on Twitter: @GuySelga
Again I wanted to link to our fabulous TouringPlans travel agents who can help you book your trip to Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line or almost anywhere else in the world. Click the link to get a quote.