Disneyland Paris is a very popular destination — the most visited paid tourist attraction in Europe — but it doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation: too crowded, too expensive, with poor quality food… Beyond clichés, it is however possible to make your visit more pleasant by following a few principles. To help you in your organization, Business Insider France interviewed two regulars of Disney parks, who know all the workings and their every nook and cranny.
Chloé has been visiting Disneyland Paris about thirty times a year, and has been for about ten years. She runs the @dreamwithchloe Instagram page, which has over 6,000 followers. Maureen, for her part, created the HelloDisneyland site in 2014 and visits the parks at least once a month. She also maintains an Instagram account and a YouTube channel dedicated to Disney.
Here are the 9 tips you need to know for a successful day at Disneyland Paris:
1. Start your day at Walt Disney Studios Park
The second Disneyland Paris park, inaugurated in 2002, has long suffered from a lack of notoriety. This is not really the case since several new very popular attractions have been inaugurated there. They show long waiting times all day long. That’s why Chloé recommends going there as soon as it opens in the morning: “You always have to start with Crush’s Coaster [la montagne russe sur le thème de “Nemo”]because there is always between 45 and 80 minutes of waiting”.
The gates of the park actually open before the official opening time, so it is possible to enter early and wait for the attraction to open in front of it. A line of visitors often forms in front of the entrance to Crush’s Coaster, but it moves fairly quickly once the attraction opens.
Once you’ve enjoyed Crush’s Coaster, you can move on to other attractions in the Worlds of Pixar area, including the popular Toy Story rides, or Ratatouille, before the crowds arrive.
Chloé also advises enjoying the Walt Disney Studios in the morning because the park closes earlier in the evening. “Then you can come back to Disneyland Park to eat because there are more choices, more food outlets and therefore less waiting,” she adds.
With the Disneyland Paris smartphone app, you can see the different waiting times for attractions in real time.
2. Eat out of the way to avoid the crowds
“I advise people to try to get away from the classic Disney daytime rhythm,” says Maureen. The main tip: eat before noon or after 2 p.m. This allows both to avoid the crowds in the restaurants, but also to enjoy the attractions and the characters between noon and two, when most visitors are eating.
Similarly, Maureen suggests shopping in the early afternoon or morning to avoid the rush at the shops when the parks close.
3. Remember to book if you want to sit down at a restaurant
Restaurants with table service and all-you-can-eat buffets are popular addresses with visitors. Reserving a table is not necessarily the first thing you think of when visiting an amusement park, but it is possible and even encouraged at Disneyland Paris. “You absolutely have to book on the app or on the site,” says Chloé, who specifies that reservations open 60 days in advance.
4. Compare the offers of different restaurants to eat to your liking
The two parks of Disneyland Paris have many catering outlets and there is something for all budgets. “Catering is a big topic,” notes Maureen. “We tend to think there are only burgers but it’s not just that.”
If indeed the fast-foods are quite numerous, not all of them offer only sandwiches. For example, the Hakuna Matata restaurant in Adventureland offers an original menu, which Chloé recommends. In particular, you will find a kebab meat patty or meatballs with rice, for the same prices as in the more traditional fast-food restaurants in the park.
Maureen advises the Cowboy Cookout, in Frontierland, which offers a Tex-Mex menu (ribs, chicken, etc.) which “allows you to lighten the caloric note” compared to burgers, she believes.
Another option: the Bella Notte pizzeria, on the theme of “Lady and the Tramp”, which offers, in addition to pizzas, the traditional dish of spaghetti with meatballs eaten by the characters of the film in the most famous scene.
Whether for lunch, dinner or a snack, restaurant and snack menus are all available on the Disneyland Paris website and app, with prices. It is therefore useful to scout ahead of your visit.
5. Be on the lookout for characters
The traditional parade is no longer marching due to health restrictions linked to Covid, and almost no show is currently taking place (the show “The Lion King and the Rhythms of the Earth” will however be scheduled again from October 23 ).
To cross characters, you will have to turn to the “selfie spots”, locations where you can take a photo while staying at a distance from the characters. Unfortunately, it is no longer really possible to come across characters walking freely in the park. The Covid is one of the reasons, but not only. “Crowd management has become complicated in recent years,” says Maureen. “Everyone wants their picture with the characters to post on social media.”
You meet the characters more easily in the morning or at the beginning of the afternoon. “There are hardly any characters after 4 p.m.,” says Chloé.
If there is no parade, the park teams still circulate certain floats during the day, but without communicating the schedules, to avoid crowds. They march along the usual Disneyland Park parade route, between Town Square at the entrance to the park and the It’s a Small World attraction. If you’re passing by and you hear loud music playing through the speakers, look around, it means a tank is about to arrive, or has just passed.
6. Take advantage of the end of the day to chain the attractions
“At the end of the day, families with children go back to the hotel,” Maureen explains. There are fewer and fewer visitors to the parks as we get closer to closure. The end of the day is therefore a good time to chain the attractions.
“Attractions close when the park closes,” adds Chloé. It is therefore possible to take advantage of it until the last minute. Especially since the decor changes at the end of the day. “Doing Big Thunder Mountain [le train de la mine] at sunset, it’s a superb experience”, says Chloé.
And if you want to save time for shopping at the end of the day, do not panic: the shops of Main Street remain open after the closing time of the park.
7. Take the time to explore the lesser-known corners of the park
If you only spend one day at Disneyland Paris, you may be tempted to go from attraction to attraction without taking the time to breathe. But immersion in the sets is just as much a part of the Disney experience. Everyone has their favorite spots.
“Main Street Station, to catch the train, is a great experience,” says Maureen. “From this station, you have access to a terrace which will give a view of all Main Street, from above. It’s a great place to take pictures.”
Before adding that the part of Adventureland around the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is also a must. “All this super lush greenery, the rock in the shape of a skull, Captain Hook’s boat, it’s super pleasant to walk around, whether it’s after dark when it’s a little mystical, or during the day with the sun. ”
For Chloe, there is the log fort at the entrance to Frontierland, “with its scenery and the view from above” of the lake and the mountain of the mine train. “At the bottom of Frontierland you also have a children’s play area with slides to allow the little ones to let off steam”.
In general, the Disneyland park has several small attractions to do on foot with pretty scenery, which deserve to be known: the enchanted passage of Aladdin, at the entrance to Adventureland, is one of them. You can also discover the covered arcades which are on both sides of Main Street and which make it possible to avoid the rain as well as the crowd.
8. Study the calendar to avoid busy days
Although Disneyland Paris is open every day of the year, attendance varies enormously depending on the period and the day of the week. “The quietest days are Tuesday and Thursday,” according to Chloe. “On Mondays and Fridays, there are a few more people because people come to stay for the weekend.”
Of course, weekends and school holidays are busier times. Conversely, “September and the months of January and February are off-peak periods,” says Maureen. “But we also know that it is synonymous with a degraded experience, with restaurants and attractions closed.” Indeed, Disneyland Paris takes advantage of the low season to renovate its facilities.
The periods to avoid are the All Saints holidays, in the middle of Halloween season, and the Christmas holidays, explains Chloé.
“Over the summer period, the big rush starts with the school holidays and will go until August 15,” says Maureen. “After August 15, it drops a little bit.”
We must not forget that Disneyland Paris is visited by many foreign tourists, who do not have the same school holidays as the French. “You have to look at the holiday calendars of foreigners,” suggests Chloé. “The Spaniards start school later than us in September, in particular.”
9. Compare offers before booking your hotel night
If you want to visit Disneyland Paris for several days, accommodation on site is often a significant cost. To hope to reduce the bill, you can try to book well in advance. “To pay less for your Disney hotel, it is better to book as soon as possible. The prices are only going up,” says Maureen.
Depending on your situation, you can also compare offers. Thus, if you have children, at certain times the stay can be offered for children under 7 or 12 years old.
If you are going with adults or if you benefit from cheaper tickets, thanks to a works council in particular, it may be advantageous to book your hotel separately. “Sometimes it’s better to take a ‘dry’ night on platforms like Booking or Expedia,” explains Chloé.
A cheaper option, but with fewer advantages, is to book at a partner hotel: these establishments outside the destination are connected to the parks by a free shuttle.
On the other hand, going through a reseller is not necessarily interesting, believes Maureen: “They sometimes don’t have the same flexibility and the same cancellation conditions. We realize that Disneyland has locked all its offers. You don’t really find private sales or promotions anymore. This is something quite recent.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider France
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