Chateaus, Champagne & Mickey Mouse: Disneyland Paris

If you know us, you know we are Disney fanatics—and it was just a matter of time before we hit Disneyland Paris (again). It’s been 4 years since our last visit, we went about 6 weeks before we moved out of the UK back to the US.

So what’s changed at DLP? Not too much actually! Well, ok they added an amazing night time show and a little land at the Studios focused on Toy Story, but other than that-it’s basically the same park. Nonetheless, we were really excited about going there (I said we’re fanatics, right?!).

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After 5 days of traveling around France and multiple massive meltdowns (ours, Nathan was an angel..ha!), we were looking forward to the normalcy and familiarity Disneyland would provide for Nathan. It was exactly what we needed to end this trip-we had a blast!

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When we go to Disneyland or Disney World, we always focus on how to get all the food we love in a short period of time-we need to get in popcorn, Mickey bars, Dole whips, churros, and ice cream on Main Street…I could go on and on….

However, at DLP, it’s the opposite problem, how to find food that you actually want to eat. I’m constantly amazed that I’m in France and cannot find a decent meal or snack at this park. In my opinion, DLP is in France, trying to be American, with French products and can’t pull it off. Be French! The French have amazing pastries and decadent meals—good food should not be a challenge in France!! So I go in with really low expectations on food, and even then, I’m pretty disappointed.

I’m pretty sure from now on we might grab food at the grocery store and bring it in-the food at the parks is ridiculously expensive for being so bad. But they have added two amazing places in Downtown Disney-Starbucks and Earl of Sandwich. We ate at Earl’s daily and made many Starbucks runs this trip!

Food highlights: popcorn, Starbucks, Earl of Sandwich, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on Main Street, hot dog with melted cheese and crunchy onion topping at Casey’s. Annette’s (a 50’s diner in DTD) is pretty good but is so expensive for burger and fries that it isn’t exactly a highlight-but not bad.

Hot dog from Casey's
Hot dog from Casey’s

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Lowlight: Honestly, too many to point out. Bad ribs, pasta, French fries, sandwiches….it was a disaster! So, when we go to DLP we do not focus on food.

Nathan was super excited to go to DLP and we weren’t sure if he would realize or understand the differences between the parks. As far as I could tell, he had no idea we were at a different park. The only difference for him-he kept calling it Paris and asking for our friends that we usually travel to Disneyland with, otherwise, to Nathan, he was just at Disneyland!

ARGH!
ARGH!

In the height of the summer season, we assumed it would be fairly crowded and we were surprised when the crowds felt low the first night. It was the middle of the week, so I think that helped. Last time we were there DLP was celebrating its 15th Anniversary (they celebrated for 18 months), and four years later they are in the middle of celebrating their 20th Anniversary. It was fun to see the different decorations for the anniversary and check out the merchandise (sad to say but a lot of the merchandise is the same from 4 years ago and identical to the parks Stateside), but we managed to find a few gems.

Well, this is different
Well, this is different

Our only real goal that first day was to see the new nighttime show Disney Dream, and it was worth the wait!! We headed over to the hub about 30 minutes before the show started and sat down fairly close to the castle. We were worried Nathan would run off and not be able to wait, but he actually sat with us and never once attempted an escape. The show was a mix of World of Color, Fantasmic and Magic Memories & You (Minus guest’s pictures). There was water elements, fireworks, a storyline about Peter Pan, loads of Disney soundtracks and awesome use of the castle as the background. It really is a spectacular show. Summer in Paris means it doesn’t get dark until 11PM, so the show doesn’t start until the park closes at 11, so we weren’t sure how many times we would be able to get Nathan to stay up for it-he was a real trooper though!!

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Staying out late means sleeping in and that means you kind of miss the best park hours, so the next morning we had it rough. I never want to wake a sleeping baby, so we just let him sleep…and he didn’t wake up until 9:30! By the time we made it to our terrible breakfast (see hotel review post), Nathan had already had a massive meltdown (he didn’t want to eat that nasty breakfast either I guess?), and we were off to a rough start-we didn’t make it into the parks until after 11 I think. So we decided to go to the Studios first, since that used to be the slower park. The park is so small that t was super crowded already and we knew we wouldn’t accomplish too much. Crush’s Coaster was 90 minutes so we skipped it (I get motion sick on it anyway so I wasn’t that upset!), and we headed for Carsland!

Carsland? Oh wait, I mean Carsland lite. This little land (it’s just a ride with some theming around it), came before Carsland at Disneyland but Dan and I never went on it because it was a kiddie ride and we weren’t crazy about the movie anyway. Nathan has changed all of that. Cars is a HUGE part of our daily lives now (and we love the movie now) and we love Carsland at Disneyland…so off we went! Nathan was so excited to see all his old friends-even if it was just in one little area!

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Then we headed over to Toy Story land and this was another huge hit for Nathan. There are three rides, we actually only went on one (Slinky Dog), it is a roller coaster that goes in a circle and you are riding in Slinky dog. Nathan wasn’t tall enough for the half coaster-the ride vehicle (the hot wheel car) but it looked fun (and sickening). The last ride is the Parachute Drop-which we skipped because it was a 90 minute wait-but it looked fun and the whole little land is really themed well. (Including the HUGE Buzz Lightyear that greets you as you enter the area). Nathan spent time running around the giant Rex that’s hanging out in between the rides as well.

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Ratatouille Ride being built
Ratatouille Ride being built

After that we headed over to Disney Junior which is still running the original show with Handy Manny, Winnie the Pooh and Little Einsteins. This show is always a hit with Nathan, regardless of the version, but I prefer the newer one with Doc McStuffins and Sophia the First and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. But we enjoyed watching Nathan dance and jump around to the show. (I still don’t understand how those little stories help the Fab 5 plan Minnie’s birthday party….but I digress).

It was getting really warm out and it was well past lunch so we headed to Earl’s for lunch (yum!). After lunch we headed into DLP but it was hot and crowded and we couldn’t decide if we should stick it out and leave early or take a break and stay late. Ultimately, we decided we wanted to get a good start in the morning so we skipped the break and hung in there (at certain points this felt stupid as we were all hot and cranky!!). We didn’t get a ton of rides in but there is a HUGE playground themed to Pocahantas and we used this as a tool to calm Nathan down after he lost it sometime in the early evening. I’m still scarred by this meltdown (LOL) but I was totally that parent…kid screaming and crying barefoot in the park. Dan and I took him to the playground and he eventually warmed up to it (after throwing his shoes at us and running from it). He realized weren’t out to get him! Ha!

I can’t remember what we rode that afternoon (Small World, Pirates and Phantom Manor definitely) but it was 4th of July and we were determined to get BBQ for dinner! The place we wanted to eat was closed (DLP is so strange-there restaurants are never all open and it’s hard to tell what will and won’t be on any given time of any given day). Example-the Mexican place across from Big Thunder was closed that night but open the next night. There is no rhyme or reason to their restaurant hours. So we ended up at the Lucky Nugget Saloon. This used to be a character buffet with a Western themed Goofy and I remember it being pretty decent. Now you walk in and order at one cashier, only three menu items, then they seat you and bring you’re your food. This was by far the worst meal. Dan ate gristle. Nathan just drank yogurt. I didn’t even like my ice cream. Everything was just foul. We ended up riding Pirates one more time and then heading back to the room for an early night so we could make rope drop the next day and really get in some rides.

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Happy Boy on Small Boatie!
Happy Boy on Small Boatie!

I haven’t mentioned this but DLP has some of the most beautiful rides-Phantom Manor is a different take on Haunted Mansion and is actually a little more creepy and a little less silly (Nathan wasn’t scared but there are a lot of skeletons and he really liked this). Pirates has no Captain Jack Sparrow at all, but it’s a much better ride than WDW but not quite as good as Disneyland. Big Thunder here is by far their best ride-and the best Big Thunder-it goes underground under the Rivers of America because the ride is in the middle of the river. It’s longer and faster as well. Space Mountain goes upside down and corkscrews but it makes me a little dizzy, really cool on the inside but I still prefer Disneyland. It’s a Small World is Nathan’s favorite so we went on this multiple times and it is about half as long as Disneyland-but just as good (and at half the time you don’t get as annoyed with the music!) The Castle is stunning and has a badass dragon beneath it. Main Street is massive-the whole park actually has massive walkways, so different from Disneyland. DLP has a small Fantasyland with only Peter Pan, Snow White and Pinocchio dark rides but it’s a beautiful area.

Carousel
Carousel

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Big Thunder
Big Thunder
Space Mountain
Space Mountain
Dumbo
Dumbo
Phantom Manor
Phantom Manor

So the next morning as I contemplate waking my sleeping baby at 8AM to make rope drop I keep thinking what a dumb parent I am….and at first it seemed like we made a huge mistake. He was grumpy and annoyed and wouldn’t get in the car. But once we got there-he was a different kid! The park was empty (we didn’t get there until 9) and we rode everything in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (only two lands open for extra magic hours). Dan and I took turns riding Buzz Lightyear with Nathan so we could ride Space Mountain.

Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear

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Dumbo selfie
Dumbo selfie

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We had a really great morning-I can’t emphasize enough how much better your day will be if you get to the parks in the morning. (We had access to Extra Magic Hours because we bought annual passes).

The rest of the day is a blur and I can’t really remember everything we did, but we had extra special magical moments when Nathan met Pinocchio and Captain Hook and Smee! He was wearing a Pinocchio shirt and loved showing it off to Pinocchio!

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Toys!
Toys!
Small Boatie!
Small Boatie!

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Eventually we took a break and came back to watch Disney Dreams.

Break time!
Break time!

It was much more crowded and we didn’t get the best spot but we were further back and we were able to enjoy the fireworks and castle effects a little better from a distance. This was by far my favorite day (and minus the morning car fight, Nathan had an awesome day). (Side note: dinner still sucked and we had Starbucks and Earls for lunch).

The next day was our last full day before heading home so we decided to train it to Paris. We didn’t wake Nathan and just decided the day would be what it would be. Dan and I have been to Paris many times (and were engaged there), so we just wanted to have a nostalgic afternoon and let Nathan run around somewhere.

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After taking the train in, we decided we would go to Luxembourg Gardens for Nathan to run around. He fell asleep on the walk there, so we ended up walking for an hour (past Notre Dame) and then he woke up and we ate crepes and went to the Gardens. We missed the puppet show by 15 minutes that we had promised him (oops) but he got over it and ran around in the dirt instead. Luxembourg is gorgeous and there was a band playing a Disney medley (HA!). At the end of Luxembourg we found a huge playground! It was a great find but came with a pricetag. It was 2 euros to go in, so Dan stood outside while Nathan and I chased each other around the various slides and swings (ok I did all the chasing).

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Our only other goal was to see the Eiffel Tower, and we thought a boat ride on the Seine would be perfect.A little side note story: We lost Nathan’s diaper bag for ten minutes….which was carrying our ipad inside. We had put down the bag to fold the stroller to take onto the boat and Dan grabbed the stroller and I grabbed Nathan…and neither one of us grabbed the bag. So in a completely visible open area, with a million tourists walking by, our bag sat for ten minutes while we stood in line to get on the boat. We realized it before the boat left and Dan raced to find it. It was a MIRACLE no one had taken it and we really lucked out.
The boat ride was awesome and Nathan made some friends-a charming older married couple who were completely entertained by Nathan for the whole boat ride. We got to see all the highlights including the Eiffel Tower where Dan asked me to marry him 9 years ago-it felt good to show Nathan a little piece of his history.

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Afterwards, we grabbed a quick quiche and headed out of town. The train ride back was horrific!!!! Someone pulled the emergency lever and we were stopped twice for a VERY long time in a very hot and very crowded train. There was another small baby and the adults around us were literally fanning Nathan and the other baby-I thought we would all pass out and die. The announcements were in frnech but some nice people translated for us-the train conductor threatened if anyone else falsely pulled the emergency lever again he would kick everyone off the train!

We made it back to DLP and went in for a quick ride on Pirates and then headed back to the room to sleep. The next morning we packed up and went it to the parks for one last ride on Small World (we promised Nathan!) and then headed home.

Nathan’s eyes light up at any mention of Disney and he asks daily to go back to Disneyland. “We have to go to Disneyland Momma.” It’s hard to resist his constant requests. I think we’re raising him right. Just sayin. This is definitely our kid. I’m certain there is a trip in our future…we never let too much time go by in between Disney trips.

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Stay tuned for my blog on our trip to Poland!

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