If you have read my previous posts about Disneyland Paris, you know I am a big fan, especially for families based in Europe. It makes for a magical long weekend or quick break. This is the first of a 3-part series on my tips for Disneyland Paris.
-Part 1: The Basics
-Part 2: Planning Ahead – COMING SOON
-Part 3: During your visit – COMING SOON
Be sure also to check out my other posts on Disneyland Paris including Disneyland Paris: A Different Side of Disney for Families, 6 Top Tips for Visiting ANY Disney Park, and my Disneyland Paris Photo Gallery.
When to go?
Disneyland Paris was one of Disney’s first four-season park. There are a number of elements incorporated into the park design to enable guests to enjoy it even in rainy or cold weather (although moderate temperatures and sunshine are, of course, preferable.)
For example, there are covered arcades behind the stores of Main Street which are great not only for a quick escape after fireworks, but also allow you to move around the park protected from the weather. In fact, you can walk all the way from the main entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean in the back of Disneyland Park going from covered walkway to covered walkway. Most of the ride queues are covered or indoors. The castle at Disneyland Paris was even painted pink to contrast better with the often gray skies around Paris.
Disneyland Paris can get very hot in the peak of summer, although usually not nearly as hot as Disney World. And in the winter it can get very cold and snow is not uncommon. And of course, rain is possible most of the year. While I have never visited when it is hot, I have experienced both winter and rain, and still have had a great time.
Throughout the year Disneyland Paris has a number of seasonal festivals. Disneyland Park, especially, is adorned with lots of seasonal decorations, which I love. There are often several additional shows and/or parades.
European school holidays, especially bank holidays, will be much busier than other times of the year.
How long to go?
A long weekend of 3 or 4 days is more than enough time to enjoy and thoroughly explore Disneyland Paris. Your family could arrive on Friday afternoon and leave Sunday afternoon and check off all of the highlights. If you wanted to extend your trip to Monday, you would have a more relaxed experience, but I would not recommend a visit longer than four days. (And that is coming from someone who thinks two weeks at Disney World in Florida would be great!)
That said, if you are primarily visiting Paris and have only one day, by all means, don’t skip Disneyland Paris. Just realize that you will probably only be able to hit some of the highlights and will need to make choices in advance about what is most important to do and to see.
Where to stay at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is located in Marne-la-Vallee, about 35 miles from central Paris. If you are doing Disneyland Paris as a one- day side trip as part of a longer Paris trip, then it may make sense to stay in Paris proper. But for any other type of trip I would stay near Disneyland Paris.
In planning your accommodations, your first decision is whether to stay “on property” or “off property”. The official Disney hotels (on property) are more expensive, but also provide you with additional benefits, convenience, and keep you in the Disney bubble. The nearby partner hotels are less expensive, and some are more luxurious than any of the Disney options.
There are two primary reasons to stay at one of the Disney hotels. The first reason is the proximity to the parks. The flagship Disneyland Hotel sits over the main entrance to Disneyland Park and is only about 100m from the entrance to Walt Disney Studios. Disney’s Hotel New York and Newport Bay Club are each about a 10-15 minute walk to the parks, and the Sequoia Lodge is not much further. While Hotel Cheyenne and the Santa Fe Hotel are within walking distance, it is more likely that you would want to take a shuttle. Being close enough to walk quickly back to your hotel is a great benefit, especially if you have smaller children or seniors who may need a mid-day break.
The second big benefit to staying at the Disney hotels is having access to Extra Magic Hours. On most days Disneyland Park opens two hours early for Disney hotel guests, giving you access to many of the big attractions in Fantasyland and Discoveryland, plus a number of character meet-and-greets around Main Street. Occasionally Extra Magic Hours are held at Walt Disney Studios, which is an even better benefit.
There are also some additional advantages to staying at a Disney hotel. If you are in certain room classes at Disneyland Hotel, Hotel New York, or Newport Bay Club, each person in your party gets an extra FastPass to use each day. If you stay in a club-level room or suite at the Disneyland Hotel, you get the VIP FastPass service. You are able to book a dining package that is good throughout the Disneyland Paris Resort if you are staying on property. Finally, there are occasional character meet-and-greets at the Disney hotels.
My personal preference is to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. I really enjoy the ease of being just steps from the theme parks. The Disneyland Hotel is also the only hotel within the Disneyland security bubble. So if you are a guest of this hotel, you only have to go through the metal detectors/bag check once during your stay, which is really nice.
How to get to Disneyland Paris
My favorite way to get to Disneyland Paris is by train. Eurostar even offers a direct train station from London to Disneyland Paris. The Marne-la-Vallee train station is literally just steps from the entrance to Disneyland. You really do not need to have a car, but there is ample parking, which is free if you are staying at one of the Disney Hotels.
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