“Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting tingle-ing, too, come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you…” Walking into Disneyland Paris at Christmas time, the first thing we noticed was Christmas songs bellowing from overhead…
We were mesmerised by the enormous Christmas tree and fairy lights as far as the eye could see. The attention to detail was incredible, even the Christmas wreaths were in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Looking down at my kids faces, I knew this was going to be a weekend to remember. Getting the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris at Christmas time was a bit like sensory overload for me. Christmas time is one of my favourite times of the year. Even before I had kids, I loved everything about it, the lights, carols, fun times and even the crisp cold air. I contemplated bringing the kids before Christmas to meet Santa, but time was against me. I settled for the next best thing and went for New Year.
Walking down Main Street set the tone. Christmas songs playing, Christmas decorations everywhere and Disney characters were all around. We quickly spotted Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the distance and went straight there. My six year old daughter, Alex, was hyper. She couldn’t believe she as actually going to go inside the castle that was at the start of every Disney movie she had seen. The look on her face as we walked towards it was priceless. I could have gone home right there and it would have been worth the trip! The Disneyland Park was easy to navigate, we ticked off ‘must see’ places on our maps and set off exploring. Alex, like most 6 year old girls loves Frozen so to see the interactive sing-a-long Frozen show was at the top of our priority list. We planned our day around it only to discover when we got there that it was in French. TOP TIP: It is stated on the map but not very clearly so make sure if you are planning to visit a show, you pick the English version. Luckily for us we were able to come back the following day and catch it in English. We were glad we did. We were all singing-a-long happily and in typical Disney style, they even made it snow in the auditorium!
Speaking of snow, it was freezing and it did actually snow on a few occasions. While this added to the winter wonderland atmosphere, it wasn’t helpful when we were queuing for rides. TOP TIP: When checking weather forecast check Marne la Vallee and not Paris – you probably find it is a few degrees colder. I noticed many French people were dressed in ski gear. They were obviously regular visitors to the Park. We, on the other hand, were Frozen (excuse the pun) the entire time.
The Disneyland Park is perfect for young children, there are plenty of rides suitable for children of all ages but especially for younger kids. The Mad Hatter’s tea cups, Buzz Lightyear’s laser blast and Peter Pan’s Flight are all excellent. My 9 year old Luke, loved Thunder Mountain, we went on it three times – it’s a roller coaster but thankfully doesn’t go upside down! There are ample rides for older kids and daredevils too, Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, to name but a few.
The Walt Disney Studios park is situated beside the Disneyland Park and park passes usually cover both. I would recommend a hopper pass so you can go in and out of either park at any time. There may be times when you miss a show, parade or there is a large queue so it is handy to be able to go in and out of both. We went for two nights / three days and spent one day in the Disneyland Park and another in Walt Disney Studios and then used our last day to go back to rides we loved or ones we missed the first time around. Our favourites in Walt Disney Studios were Ratatouille, a great simulator ride for all the family and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which was terrifying, but thankfully over very fast! A ride in the Disney cars is a must and the Disney Junior live show is excellent for small children but remember to check the times for English shows. We loved the stunt show, even Lightening Mc Queen made an entrance! It lasts about 45 minutes so make sure you are well wrapped up.
As good as the rides were, they were not the highlight of our visit. The parades and shows were fantastic. On our first day we watched the Royal Christmas Wishes show . This is an outdoor show on the stage beside Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The setting was perfect. Twice daily Disney’s Christmas Parade comes through the park, which is an incredible spectacle. Alex and Luke were constantly shouting out when they saw their favourite characters. It was definitely one off the bucket list and something I am sure we will all remember for many years to come.
We also saw Mickey’s magical Christmas lights show, where the giant Christmas tree’s lights get switched on – and I thought Grafton Street was good! The icing on the cake however was the New Year’s Eve fireworks and laser display – ‘Disney Dreams of Christmas’. The music and laser show reflected Disney characters on to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, followed by a fireworks display that I had never seen anything like before. Lasers beamed to Disney songs like ‘ let it go’ but the strange thing was, all the kids were silent. We were all silent. For thirty minutes our eyes were transfixed on to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, with each rendition of lasers and fireworks better than the last.
It is hard to express how incredible the fireworks display really was or how magical the weekend was overall, suffice to say Disneyland Paris at Christmas time is sensational. Go see it.
Time saving and queuing tips!
1. Measure your children’s height before you go and check online beforehand which rides your children are able to go on. This will save you time and allow you to prepare your kids for unsuitable rides.
2. Download the Disneyland Paris app so you can see the waiting times for all rides instantly.
3. Most people tend to go right when entering a theme park, go left and you may find shorter queues.
4. There is a Disneyland Railroad train which circulates the park. Don’t get on at the Main Street USA station, go to one of the other stations where queues are a lot shorter.
5. Use the baby switch facility. If one parent needs to stay with a toddler, they can swap places with the other parent and go on the ride without having to queue again.
6. Use the fast pass system. Collect a ticket at the entrance to the ride and come back later that day and go straight to the fast pass queue. We had fast pass tickets and never spent longer than 30 minutes queuing for any ride, without them you could be queuing for 90 minutes for the most popular ones. These are valid at the Indiana Jones, Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain Rollercoasters, Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast and Peter Pan’s Flight. They are also available at some of the rides in Walt Disney Studios Park too.
Where to stay:
We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, and while it was great being so close to the Park (literally at the entrance) there are many hotels which are less expensive that I would be as happy to stay in. I particularly like the 4* New York Hotel, it is only a few minutes walk to the Disney Village and a ten minute walk to the park, although they do have a free shuttle bus if you don’t fancy walking. It has a great atmosphere, a massive indoor pool and the Manhattan restaurant serves a great evening meal, albeit buffet style. The great thing about staying in one of the Disney hotels (there are several) is you have access to the park before they open and after they close, times vary but it can be one to two hours additional to the general opening hours. This can be handy in peak season, although if I’m honest, we didn’t use it, we were never up that early! You can also enjoy character breakfasts, where you children can meet the characters and get pictures without having to queue in the parks.
Where to eat:
This is something that I am asked regularly about. The general perception is that food is not good in Disneyland Paris. Yes there are tons of fast food joints and many of the restaurants inside the parks have the same food but if you look a little closer there are some good finds. Inside the Walt Disney Studios Park, Bistro Chez Remy is a must for lunch. Based on the movie Ratatouille, the setting and food are great. You can even see the Ratatouille ride from the back of the restaurant. Disney Village has a wide selection. Kids will love the Rainforest café, complete with fish tanks and stuffed animals as well as an indoor shop. You can not book this in advance so leave the park early if you want to get a table. If you fancy a good steak, the Steakhouse in Disney Village is excellent and you can pre book. It’s a little pricey but worth it, especially if you have had your fill of fast food. No matter where you want to dine, try to pre book restaurants in advance. Many can get booked out quickly or have long queues.
How to get there:
Aer Lingus and Air France fly daily to Charles de Gaulle and there is a ten minute train service from Terminal 2, which brings you straight to the park. You will need to change terminals if flying Aer Lingus. Check the times beforehand as you could have a long wait. If taking the train back to the airport, book your tickets in advance as they can be sold out, something we found out about the hard way. Shuttle bus transfers are an easy option and will go directly from all terminals which takes approximately 45minutes. Price is €20 per adult and €16 per child, one way. Alternatively a taxi costs approx €90 one way and takes about 30 minutes.