Carping aside, at just 25km distance east of the capital, it's easy to visit in a day-trip from Paris, and since the opening of Space Mountain and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Disneyland Paris has a variety of good fear-and-thrill rides. There are a much wider variety of things to do than at a funfair or ordinary theme park too, and many of the sets are incredibly detailed. The complex is divided into three areas: Disneyland Park, the original Magic Kingdom, with most of the big rides; Walt Disney Studios Park, a more technology-based attempt to recreate the world of cartoon film-making, along with a few rides; and Disney Village and the hotels, where you can eat and sleep if you're determined to see both the other attractions. For all the omnipresent Americana, occasional French elements do creep through: science-fiction writer Jules Verne appears in a couple of Discoveryland rides; Sleeping Beauty's Castle is based on an illustration in the medieval manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry; and there's a faintly discernible French slant to some of the cinema-themed attractions in Walt Disney Studios. Otherwise, that's about it and the food throughout the resort is almost all Stateside fare. That said, the commentaries or scripts in the more theatrical attractions are almost always in French, though there are sometimes disappointing translated summaries displayed on a caption board, and, in the most audience-focused attractions, you'll always find an English-language headset to don.
The best time to go is on an off-season weekday (Mon & Thurs are the best), when you'll probably get round every ride you want, though queuing for and walking between rides can be purgatorial in wet or very cold weather. At other times, longish waits for the popular rides are common in the middle of the day, though the most popular attractions use the "Fastpass" booking scheme.
The introduction to Disneyland Paris is the same as in Florida, LA and Tokyo. Main Street USA is a mythical vision of a 1900s American town, and it leads up to Central Plaza, the hub of the park. Clockwise from Main Street are Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland. The castle, directly opposite Main Street across Central Plaza, belongs to Fantasyland. A steam train Railroad runs round the park with stations at each "land" and at the main entrance.
We have listed a selection of the best and worst rides, with some warnings about suitability. Apart from some height restrictions, Disney offers little guidance about suitability, and indeed it's surprisingly difficult to tell what one child will find exhilarating and another upsetting. For the youngest kids, Fantasyland is likely to hold the most thrills. There are no height restrictions here, and rides are mostly gentle. Each of the other three themed areas offers a landmark rollercoaster and a theme: Adventureland has the most outlandish, jungly sets, Frontierland is set in the Wild West, while Discoveryland emphasizes technology and the space age.
Though there are a few green patches, there is no lawn to loll on, a design flaw in a park designed for families. Opportunities for afternoon naps are limited, which shows by late afternoon in the general frayed tempers: renting a pushchair for even an older child might be a good idea.
Pages in section ‘Disneyland’: Getting there, Arrival, orientation and access, Admission fees and opening hours, Eating and drinking, Information and practicalities, Queues and Fastpass, Main Street USA, The parades, Discoveryland, Rollercoasters, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Walt Disney Studios Park, Disney Village and the hotels.
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