Howdy folks! After a LONG 12 hours in a train yesterday, I’m now back in Vienna after several days in Paris. (Separate blog coming for all my Paris highlights, but the main point of the trip was to visit Miloš, as the ship he works on was docked in Paris.)
While I was over there, I got to visit Disneyland Paris for a day. I was excited to have an experience at a different Disney park, having visited Disney World in Florida SO many times. I was eager to see the similarities and differences. Since I’ve been going to Disney World in Florida my whole life, I know it inside and out. So I could easily notice the differences between the two locations.
This blog entry is mostly about my observations comparing the two locations, while giving information on the attractions at Disneyland Paris. Just see me as a Disney World veteran making her first trip to another Disney park.
Here’s a little bit of info for those who have never been to one or either of these special parks – just to give you a set up for the comparison.
Walt Disney World (WDW) in Florida basically has four full sized theme parks, two large water parks, and an incredibly large entertainment district as well. (There’s much more, but those are the highlights. WDW is approximately the size of Manhattan.)
Disneyland Paris is made up of two small theme parks, and has a small shopping area right outside the parks. It is located outside of Paris, and it took me about an hour to get there via train.
The total train ride cost €7.20 each way. (Or really close to that – seven and change.) That included the portion riding on the Metro AND the RER train.
When you get out at the stop for Disney (last stop on the line), the parks are right there. You walk out and you are immediately near the security bag check line.
The two parks there are Disneyland and Disney Studios. Disneyland is similar to Magic Kingdom in WDW, and Disney Studios is similar to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in WDW.
First impression? These parks were so small! (Especially Disney Studios.) Everything was done on a much tinier scale. Main Street was really short – maybe by half the length of the Magic Kingdom’s equivalent. (But they played the same music through the air as WDW’s Main Street!) The various lands inside each park were also much smaller.
Other initial impressions? (my summary…)
-Disney is Disney – the park was exceptionally clean everywhere, and the employees were very friendly – even the French ones!
-Many similar rides to WDW. But some were the same in name only. (Can we say Space Mountain??? Holy cow! NOT the same!)
-Less details in comparison to WDW. As a result, it just wasn’t as magical. Don’t get me wrong, there were still some lovely wonderful touches, but not to the degree of what WDW has to offer.
-Not really many places to sit down and relax or people watch. Seriously, no benches?
-You enter Disney Studios through a big warehouse sized building with lots of stores and counter service dining – I thought it was a clever idea.
-Hardly any dining options. Dining is HUGE in WDW, whereas here it seemed to be a bit of an after thought. The counter service selection was woefully lacking – not many restaurants, and no food variety. It was more like amusement park food, sadly. (Whereas in WDW, you never have to eat a single bite of “amusement park food” if you don’t want to.)
-Umm…. do Europeans not hold their arms up EVER on roller coasters? They all sat so seriously in their seats, holding tightly to the bars. Loosen up people! Throw your arms in the air and scream! (Although being a singer, I yell in a healthy, supported singer way. 😉 )
Now for some more in-depth info….
The castle here is Sleeping Beauty Castle. (WDW has Cinderella Castle.) This particular castle was (shocker!) much smaller, BUT I did like the set up inside. You could go upstairs and look around – inside AND on the balcony overlooking Fantasyland. There were two shops inside – one had various hand crafted souvenirs (kind of like the old, long-gone shop in Cinderella Castle at WDW), while the other was a Christmas store. And under the castle? Even cooler. There are tunnels that lead to the dragon’s lair, where you will find the dragon resting in its dark cave. THAT to me is what I call a “Disney detail” – something really special and thoughtfully executed. I loved that!
Since I only had a day, my goal was to try out new-to-me attractions that don’t exist in WDW and also ride some of my favorites from WDW to see if they were the same.
My first destination was the Indiana Jones ride – it was a roller coaster that is very similar to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and it does not exist in WDW. There were lots of short drops, with turns and twists, and one very tight loop. It was fun!
Since I was in Adventureland now already, I decided to head on over to Pirates! (I even rode this one twice to better scrutinize the detail, get out of the rain, and just enjoy too!) In WDW, Pirates of the Caribbean is just about my all time favorite ride. I’ll ride it over and over again. This particular Pirates had a similar set up to the queue – a long dark tunnel with little tableaus set along the way. The queue music was also the same. Only this one was kind of on the warm side temperature-wise. (The one in WDW is always nice and cool.) And there was only one route to take as opposed to two. The actual ride here is a bit longer I think than the one in WDW, and the scenes are in a different order than WDW’s Pirates. You start out by gliding past a real restaurant – the Blue Lagoon restaurant. It sort of reminded me of the San Angel Inn in Epcot – you’re dining by the river’s edge seeing the boats go by. But this one was really done up all the way – like being in a jungle somewhere. It was SO cool! I would totally eat there if I go back! (It is a sit down restaurant, and my current funds would not allow such an extra expense.)
You don’t start out with the “Dead Men Tell No Tales…” section – that comes at the end here. And the guys in the burning jail trying to get the keys from the dog? It’s near the beginning. You do get to see some of the famous tableaus so iconic to this ride, but Jack Sparrow has NOT been incorporated into them like in WDW. You still have the wench auction with the men gawking the redhead… and you have the burning village as well. (Although it’s slightly different.) You also don’t have the song playing quite as much as the version in WDW. I love that song! I wanted to hear it more!
Next, let’s talk Space Mountain. Holy mother of God! This is not the WDW Space Mountain! This Space Mountain was a serious intense coaster with loops and corkscrews and all kinds of craziness! It starts off with a full speed blast up into the ride – similar to how Rockin’ Roller Coaster shoots you out. I DID like it, but my head got hit quite a bit in the headrest, leaving me with a bit of a headache. It was truly dark inside and you couldn’t see ANY thing except some planets and stars flying around. Just be warned – this ride is crazy intense! Not for the faint of heart.
After that, I decided to head to Frontierland. When you enter, the whole area looks like the fort at WDW’s Tom Sawyer’s Island. My first stop was a ghost ride…
Here, it’s not called Haunted Mansion – it’s called Phantom Manor. It has a southern kind of theme going on. (With hints of old west in certain parts.) So in the stretching room at the beginning, the paintings are of various Southern Belles. The overall storyline of the ride is also different and the ride is shorter. Also – no Ghost Host!!! 😦 I love the Ghost Host in Haunted Mansion! There ARE a few nods to the original ride – a few similar tableaus, plus the Grim Grinning Ghost singers make a cameo appearance. And overall, the imagery in this ride is a bit scarier. I would think that some kids could get seriously scared.
Next up, the Voyage of Pinocchio. This ride was similar to ones like Snow White or Mr. Toad. Simple dark ride past scenes from the movie. Fun for kids of all ages.
I DID really like Disneyland Paris’ version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It’s on an island, so on your way there and back, you go through a dark high speed tunnel – very fun. Otherwise, the ride is very similar to the one at WDW. Although the voice-over announcing “The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness” is different – slightly more reserved I would say. Why didn’t they just use the original one?
Disneyland Paris also has the Swiss Family Treehouse, but like so many other things, it’s a bit smaller. But they DO have the Swisskapolka music playing from the organ, which is one of the Disney songs that just immediately makes me smile from ear to ear and dance around. Love it! I did also like that under the tree, there were tunnels you could explore – sort of like the ones on Tom Sawyer Island back in Florida.
I also rode Snow White, which was cool, since the WDW version closed a bit ago to make way for the Princess meet and greet. Essentially, this ride was the same as the original, with only the most minor differences.
Peter Pan’s Flight was also really close to the original, and just like the one in WDW, it had one of the longest lines. (Seriously, why?) I got a Fast Pass for it.
Over in Disney Studios, I went immediately to Rockin’ Roller Coaster. It has similar elements, but the big differences were such: longer blast off to the roller coaster (which was awesome), NO Steven Tyler countdown, and no super loud Aerosmith music playing in your ears the whole time. It’s supposed to be loud, and it wasn’t even Aerosmith playing. So that was a bit of a let down. But it’s still a great coaster! I also snapped some pics of the rock memorabilia from the queue.
Then, next up was Tower of Terror. I LOVE this ride at WDW. The one here was really similar, with just a FEW minor changes near the drop. But the little movie is even almost entirely the same – only it’s been overdubbed in French. The hotel part when you enter the building is also a bit different – the decoration scheme is not the same, and this one was smaller.
I didn’t stay much in Disney Studios, and lingered on the Disneyland side much more. The parks are right next to each other, which made walking between the two very simple and easy. And outside – between the two parks where the extra shops and restaurants are – there is a World of Disney store which I decided to check out. But it’s SO tiny compared to the one at Downtown Disney in WDW! I also learned the hard way that even snacks were in shorter variety and harder to come by. I waited in line to treat myself to some popcorn, only to find out that the popcorn was flavored with coconut. Ummm… no thanks. You could not get fresh salty popcorn anywhere. And my salt fix was not serious enough to warrant getting a bag of chips – especially ones labeled as Cheeseburger flavored. Ew.
Overall, I had a great day at Disneyland Paris and would totally go again. Even though it lacked some of the special details of WDW, it was still a Disney park and was above and beyond any other kind of normal amusement park. But when it comes down to it, nothing beats Walt Disney World in Florida for the ultimate magical experience!
Here are a few more pics….