IF YOU fancy a break from reality for a few days, why not book a trip to the magical Disneyland Paris? The resort actually consists of two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. The Disneyland section is based on the Magic Kingdom in California. The other park, Walt Disney Studios, is based on Disney MGM in Florida.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking the park in Paris is a pale imitation of the US originals – Paris is physically larger, and has more charm and sophistication than the American parks. The rides in Paris – there are a total of 42, which aficionados claim are among the finest in the world – are technologically more advanced and, best of all, if you hate long journeys in economy class, it’s only a short flight, or drive, away! To make things more manageable, the theme park’s 138 acres are divided into five lands: Main Street USA, Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland.
Main Street USA
Fancy stepping back in time and strolling down a lively American street of the early 20th century? Main Street is Walt Disney’s idealised version of small-town, Victorian America. The Main Street traffic includes horse-drawn rail cars, old double-decker buses, an antique fire engine and even a Keystone-cop style paddy wagon, which, together, tell the story of the evolution of transport. These form part of a working transport system, which takes visitors between the town square and the park’s centre – Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Fantasyland, where the fearsome dragon lurks.
A musical, visual and live action recreation of America’s Wild West, Frontierland is accessed through Fort Comstock’s imposing wooden gate and fort grounds. This land is designed to bring back to life the legendary era of the conquest of the Wild West, and nostalgia, excitement and strong sensations are all on the menu. Rides include Big Thunder Mountain and Phantom Manor, plus there are regular shows in the Chaparall Theatre.
Inspired by tales of swashbuckling pirates and daring adventurers in exotic places, Adventureland offers the opportunity to experience wild rides and amazing animatronic productions. Explore the mysteries of Adventure Island, wander through the oriental bazaar from the world of Aladdin and follow the rhythm of the bongos to the heart of the Caribbean – but watch out for the wobbly barrel, the rope suspension bridge and the maze of dimly lit caves! Rides in this land include Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and Adventure Isle.
Once upon a time there was Fantasyland, the happiest of Kingdoms, where fairy tales and fables became great Disney classics .… With their usual impeccable sense of design, the Disney imagineers have recreated all of the classic animated features in the Disney stable. Rides in this section include It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, the Adventures of Pinnochio, and many more.
If time and space is your thing, you’ll love Discoveryland, where you can experience an intergalactic adventure in a futuristic universe and enter Space Mountain with its unique sensations. Discoveryland is dedicated to man’s technological achievements and dreams. The dreams, ideas and works of Jules Verne are celebrated, as are those of Leonardo da Vinci and HG Wells. Rides in this section include Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, Autopia, Orbitron, Honey I Shrunk the Audience and many more.
Overall, the shows and parades in Disneyland Paris are little short of stunning. Don’t miss Videopolis, in Discoveryland, which hosts the best shows. Legend of the Lion, in Café Hyperion, is unmissable by any standards. The Chapparal Theatre in Frontierland also stages some great productions. The best spectaculars, however, have to be the three parades, of which the world-renowned Main Street Electrical Parade and the more recent but equally astonishing Fantillusion are the crowning glories.
To really enjoy the whole Disney experience, it is recommended that you stay on site. Disney hotels take some beating, especially if you’re a child aged between seven and 92. There are six hotels on the site and one camping ground, three miles away. Staying at any of the hotels is quite an experience because of the attention to detail Disney lavishes on everything – just pick your price band and enjoy. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy frequent all of the hotels at certain times. Meeting the characters in your hotel has a big advantage – you don’t waste valuable riding time in the park standing in a queue with your children hoping to have their autograph books signed.
When to visit
Disneyland Paris is busiest at Christmas and New Year, mid-February to early April and July to early September, with the middle of October usually busy also. The busiest days are Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and the quietest Tuesday and Wednesday. Different times of the year and week have different charges.
How long should I stay?
To experience everything Disneyland Paris has to offer, you really need to spend three or four days at the resort, although it is just about possible to tour the parks in one day each.
PDM verdict: When you enter Disneyland Paris, you enter a world of fantasy where billions of pounds have been spent in order to place you at the centre of a dream. Who could say no to that?