Two weeks ago we went away for our secret getaway in celebration of our first wedding anniversary. We took the kids – after all what fun is a trip to Disneyland Paris without the kids.
Woohoo – we went to Disneyland. It was fabulous – magical, brilliant, fun, entertaining, exciting.
We didn’t tell the kids we were going. On the Saturday we packed up the car while they were distracted, told them we were off to McDonald’s for lunch and loaded them into the car. After an hour or so we actually did give them a McDonald’s, since they asked so nicely. And often.
We were just driving around London when MM1, being 6, began to notice that we were not heading home. We told her we would find a hotel for the night, prompting her to worry about having clean pants. Yep, my daughter has her priorities on straight.
We got through the Channel Tunnel and onto the French motorways the next morning before the kids really started to question where we were going. When we told them, MM1 was pure excitement, tempered somewhat by the long ride ahead. MM2, however, was much more blasé. Three years old may be a little young to really understand without seeing it.
We stayed in the New York Hotel, placed about 5 minutes walk from the park and very convenient after a long day of walking around. Very handy for small children. However, although clean I did think it looked a little rundown.
The park itself is amazing. We have been to various theme parks in the UK and we love them. However Disneyland just blows them out of the water. The attention to detail on every ride, every attraction, every statue and flower bed is amazing. I’m serious about the flower beds. Look at these –
Walking in to Disneyland and seeing the magical castle – an iconic picture that every child recognises on sight – was just amazing. No matter how hardened the grownup, it must make you draw a breath, just for a second.
One of the things I liked best about Disneyland is not only have they spent time putting in the details, we can actually climb on them, play with them, get involved in the displays. We climbed inside Skull Rock, explored Pirate Cove, walked around the balcony on Sleeping Beauty’s castle. After all, one of the most depressing things about other theme parks is seeing something that looks like amazing fun to play with and not being allowed to touch it.
The rides were fabulous. Disney do not do things on the small scale, that’s for sure. They built an entire island to house a roller coaster!
As for the night show, now that was beautiful. Projected lights and images flickered across the castle. Tinkerbell flew around the spires and Peter Pan chased his shadow across the night sky.
The queues however, not so great. Even in off peak season there were a lot of people there. I’m not saying it was unexpected, but goodness! We queued for over an hour for some rides.
Small mummy moment – my kids were fabulous. No whinging, no whining. They queued, they walked and they did so without complaining. Now that really is Disney magic!
On the other hand, the prices are not quite so magic. WOW.
Realistically, the prices for the memorabilia, toys, key rings etc are no more than you would pay at any other theme park or in a Disney store elsewhere. The difference really is that in any other theme park you just wouldn’t buy much, but you can’t take your kids all the way to Disneyland and refuse to buy them a single present.
That aside though, what was extortionate was the cost of the food. On the one hand, the fast food did taste good – much less cardboard and rubber involved than the usual park fare. But boy, did they charge for it. In one restaurant we paid twenty six EUROs for a burger. Yes, it was a themed restaurant where we got to meet the characters – the kids were ecstatic at personally getting to hug Mickey, Goofy, Pluto, Tigger and Eeyore. But the minimum fee for a child’s meal was around twelve EUROs. Two over excited children who were not going to sit and eat anyway – that’s a lot. It adds up – lunch and dinner for four, over 5 days.
The best value meal we had was at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. I recommend it completely. Not only is food included in the ticket price but the show was brilliant. Mr G was, I think, most excited. The kids got involved in cheering for their team. As usual, Disney do not do things by half. Real buffalo – need I say more.
MM1 had a wonderful time searching the parks for the various characters, getting hugs, photos and signatures to show her friends. MM2 is now a Mouse devotee, Goofy coming a close second as his hero. Even Mr G got a hug with Minnie and was quietly smug. Of course, my favourite had to be the roaring dragon who lived under the castle.
Over all – it was a wonderful holiday. What can I say, I am a sucker for the magic.
Top tips for Disneyland Paris adventurers –
1. Book dinner in advance. At least for the first night you are there. If you don’t book your table in a restaurant or your hotel, you could face a very long wait. Not great with two small, hungry and tired children. We ended up at McDonalds the first night – although I have to say, even McD’s in Disney is huge – the biggest I have ever seen.
2. There are long queue’s for all the major attractions, food stalls and just about everything really. Take snacks and drinks for the kids. Oh – and get those elbows out. The queue hoppers are blatant and prolific.
3. Plan your day. If your kids want to meet the characters, then you need to be hanging out in the right place at the right time. They have set places where they will sign autographs for the crowds for a limited amount of time. Then they are off. If you want to have a good view for the parade – get there in time to line the walk.
4. Go to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The ticket price is worth it. But don’t pay the extra for the front row seats, we were second from the back and had a perfect view and plenty of space.
5. You get one free fast track (to jump the queue to a ride) with your entry ticket, which is fine if you are there for a few days. If you had to do the whole park in one day it would be worth paying the extra for a full days fast track, or you will miss 3/4’s of the park due to the queues.
6. The hotels on site might be closer and more convenient, but the off site ones are newer and fresher. For those with young children, I do think on site is better. Getting them home to bed is easier. Had mine been a little older, a short bus ride each night would have been doable.
Having said that, I did go for a sneaky peak around the main Disney hotel, which is right at the gates to the park. Inside it looks like a castle fit for a princess, with sparkling everything, a fantastic staircase perfect for sweeping down in a ball gown and light, airy foyer. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to sneak into any bedrooms to check them out but I would expect similar high standards.