September 23, 2011

Disneyland Paris

If planning a visit to Disneyland Paris, one might expect it to be a similar experience to visiting the original Disneyland. And while there are lots of similarities between the parks, with a few changes in layout and ride styles, Disneyland Paris is a very different cultural experience from that which I am accustomed.

Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Disneyland Paris.

Growing up in Southern California, about a 40-minute drive from Disneyland, I have had an annual passport for more of my life than I haven’t had one, and I know the park comme ma poche (like the back of my hand). I have never needed a map.

The layout of the two parks is basically the same. You start off on Main Street, which leads you to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, beyond which lies Fantasyland. If you veer off to the right you find yourself in Discoveryland/Tomorrowland (Paris/Anaheim). On the left you can enter either Fronteirland or Adventureland.

Le plan (the map) of Disneyland Paris.

The first and most obvious difference between the parks is that there is no Toon Town in Disneyland Paris. The next one is that the Matterhorn is conspicuously absent. The last major landscape difference is that there is no Critter Country in Paris, either.

Then there are all the small differences that make each park unique, such as different tracks for Space Mountain, the placement of rides (for example, Star Tours is in the back of Discoveryland, but in the front of Tomorrowland), different restaurants, and of course different weather. Despite going in the middle of July, it rained during FBF and my visit. This explains why more of the lines are found under a roof in Paris.

The physical differences aren’t the only things distinguishing the two parks, however.

I was surprised by how much French was spoken. Instead of being in English and then Spanish, the announcements of how to behave properly before and after a ride start with French, are followed with English, and then continue in other languages I don’t speak.

Even the animatronics speak French! Imagine my surprise to find C3P0 speaking in French with R2D2 (who speaks in beeps, even in French).

C3PO talking in French to his buddy, R2D2 at Star Tours, Paris.

I realize it was silly to think that Disneyland Paris would be in English, but finding myself in a Disneyland remarkably similar to that which I came to know as a child, I kept forgetting I was in France.

But language wasn’t the only reminder that I was in France. Even if the buildings and attractions look similar, the people do not act the same.

When at Disneyland at home, I know which hours to avoid going to the restaurants if I don’t want to wait in lines, as most Americans eat meals around the same time. This is not possible at Disneyland Paris. People come from all over Europe and have such different cultural norms for when to eat that there are always people at the restaurants.

When meeting a character, instead of people forming a line based on who got there first, it's a mad dash to greet, take pictures with, and receive autographs from Disneyland Paris’s various inhabitants.

Although it happened less often in my experience, people even try to cut in the lines for attractions. An Italian family just up and walked past at least 7 people before deciding that was where they would be waiting for the ride.

Despite linguistic and cultural differences, I had a great time visiting Disneyland Paris. The most important thing stayed the same. It still felt like the Happiest Place on Earth.


  1. Do they have the new Toy Story shoot bad guys with laser guns ride?

  2. My problem with Disneyland Paris is that it makes me want to live in Lalaland. It's so hard to come down to earth after that! :-)

  3. chickster: They have Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters. That's the one that's found in Tomorrowland in Disneyland. They do not have the new (relatively.. I rode it when I went home for summer 2010) 3D Toy Story ride that's now in California Adventure, which is AWESOME. I took FBF when he came out to visit me and beat him at both rides, AND I beat him when we visited Disneyland Paris. Mwahaha.

  4. Emilie: I know! I would LOVE to live in Disneyland (either!). The good thing about Disneyland Paris is that annual passports are less expensive than back home.... if only the autoroutes were free!

  5. They don't have the Toon Town at DisneyWorld in Florida right now either. They're redoing the whole kids area and expanding Fantasyland to incorporate Beast's castle and some new rides. I kind of can't wait for it to be done so I can take the kids back again. It's a 9 hour drive, but so much fun.

  6. We've taken the kids a couple times to disneyland paris since it's not too far away. (We're living in the 94th) and after going to Orlando a few times, disney paris just seemed the same but on a smaller scale. I love their restaurants though- especially disney village. Whenever i'm feeling homesick the hubs and I go there for dinner and a movie and I suddenly feel like I'm right back in the ol' US of A. It helps that most of the tourists around me are also speaking english.

  7. I've never been to Disneyland but always wanted to take my grandkids. It sounds like a great place to visit.


  8. Joshua: Does that mean there would be TWO castles at Disneyworld? I've never been. I think it'd be cool to experience it, but my heart will always belong to the one I grew up with. Plus, Florida is pretty far away from CA. But now that there is Disneyworld AND Harry Potter land I don't know if I'll be able to resist for much longer.

    Creepy Query Girl: Disneyland Paris is very much the same as Disneyland, but even so a bit smaller. But Disneyland is a lot smaller than Disneyworld so that makes sense! I was actually disappointed by Disney Village to be honest. They have Downtown Disney in Anaheim and it is much better done. But I agree, it does feel like being back in the good ol' US of A!

    Kris: You must! It's amazing :)

  9. I wouldn't get too excited. It sounds like just something you'll see, and not something you can actually walk around and interact with for fun. But it will probably look good, if nothing else.

  10. Great blog. It makes me miss my Disneyland buddy! Disneyland was a great Father Daughter date. Maybe sometime we will do Disneyland in France. Dad

  11. Thinks of an excuse to go to Paris with the kids...

    And hey! My fam is in So-cal, too! (I love Universal, probably because it's closer to where they live...)

  12. Mike: Thanks! I miss father daughter dates there too.

    Samantha: Small world! I've actually never been to Universal... I would either go to Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm (but mostly just Disney, haha).


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