So after reading Part One of my Ultimate Guide to fitting your Disneyland Paris holiday into a weekend, are you ready for Part Two? You’ve already booked your travel right so grab yourself a cup of tea and some popcorn, your favourite biscuit or a Mickey-shaped pretzel and settle in to read Part Two to find out all about where to stay, what to see and tips on eating in the Parks.
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ACCOMMODATION FOR YOUR DISNEYLAND PARIS HOLIDAY
Staying in a hotel in Disneyland Paris obviously has its perks, aside from being a lot closer to the Parks themselves (all of them are walk-able and some have shuttle buses except Davy Crockett Ranch, where you will need a car as you cannot walk it and there is no shuttle) you can sometimes meet characters in the hotel itself. You are also able to do Disney Express (as I mentioned in Part One of this Guide), so you don’t have to take your bag to the hotel when you arrive. Of course, having all these perks comes with a price tag and as it’s Disney, it’s not cheap. You need to work out if you want to pay more to save time. I have an Infinity Annual Pass, it’s the most expensive one so it means I get 50% discount on Disney hotels – even then it was more than I would normally pay for one night but I wanted a hotel that was a pretty quick walk to the parks. I booked us into Sequoia Lodge and also upgraded our room to a Golden Forest room. I had a few reasons for doing this:
- Hot breakfast – breakfast is not included and if you add it into a ‘normal’ room, you get a continental breakfast. I figured as a vegan there would probably be a few more options for breakfast, namely beans on toast! There is also a separate Golden Forest Lounge where breakfast is served for anyone in an upgraded room – it means breakfast is quieter and therefore quicker, which is exactly what you want if you only have a weekend.
- A fridge – ‘normal’ rooms don’t have a fridge and I had lots of snacks as well as a couple of bagels with vegan cheese in them and a small container of vegan butter (to spread on toast at breakfast) that needed refrigerating. The weekend we went temperatures hit 28 degrees celcius so a fridge was needed for my somewhat melted items.
- Fastpasses – with an upgraded room you get a fastpass for each day (one per day, per person) to use in the Parks at any time except between 1-4pm. If you check in too late on the first day to use it, they will amend the date so you can use that one the following day as well as the one you would have had anyway – so on Sunday we had two fastpasses to use each.
- They serve drinks and snacks in the Golden Forest Lounge every afternoon. We didn’t have time for this but it’s a good break from the Parks if you need it and you can also grab some (free) drinks to take back with you.
- Separate check in – the queues for check in can be incredibly long, depending when you arrive. With a Golden Forest upgrade, there is a separate check in desk, clearly marked, to save you joining the main queue. As we did Disney Express, we didn’t get back to our hotel until after the fireworks, around 11:45pm so the main desk was the only one open but we were third in the queue so it wasn’t too big a deal at that time of night. The queue did build up after we joined it though.
The perks to a Golden Forest room were worth the upgrade for me personally, even if we didn’t make use of them all. Some of the more expensive Disneyland Paris hotels have upgrade options so it’s worth looking into to see if the extra perks are worth it for you and your budget.
If staying in a Disneyland Paris hotel is out of your budget range, look into a Disney Partner hotel, like Vienna House Dream Castle Hotel or Radisson Blu Hotel. These usually work out cheaper as they are outside Disneyland Paris itself and have free shuttle buses that run to the Parks and back too.
Val D’Europe is the area near Disneyland Paris where there are lots more hotels, apartments and a big shopping centre including a supermarket. Staying here is a lot cheaper than staying in Disneyland Paris itself and if you stay in the apartments, you can stock up on food from the nearby supermarkets. As with all travelling, there is a risk of pickpockets around this area as they know tourists are around for their Disneyland Paris holiday. The same goes for the shuttle buses and any buses between here and Disneyland Paris hotels or the park, just keep an eye on your belongings like I know you all do anyway. Val D’Europe has train links to Disneyland Paris and some hotels may have a shuttle. Staying anywhere within Val D’Europe is obviously cheaper but will take more time to get to the Parks and back so once again, have a think if you’d rather pay less and be further away with potentially less time in the Parks.
You can find the Disneyland Paris hotels, Partner hotels and Val D’Europe hotels all on Booking.com so you can see which is better suited to your budget. The official Disneyland Paris website covers Disneyland Paris and its Partner hotels only.
Sidenote: you can find a calendar of busy periods in the Parks from a quick Google search so if you don’t have a specific date in mind to go, use this as it takes into account French holidays and things like Halloween.
SHOWS AND PARADES
The fun stuff. There are quite a few shows across both Parks as well as the current (AMAZING!!) 25th Anniversary Parade. At time of writing the Parade is at 5:30pm and if you want the best view, I would suggest finding a space an hour early, maybe even more if you want to watch it on Main Street or the Park is particularly busy. We found a spot and sat down an hour and ten minutes before the parade started – partly because my feet were absolutely aching and partly because the main reason for my Disneyland Paris holiday this time was to see THE PETER PAN FLOAT. Ok and the fire breathing dragon but mostly the Peter Pan float and there was no way I wasn’t going to be right up against the ropes for it.
We chose to sit up near the start by It’s A Small World and even then it filled up quickly but I was rewarded for my staying power by seeing ALL the Princesses and their Princes walk past after their show on the Castle Stage. Anna missed this because she went to the toilet – choose your toilet breaks wisely, kids! You can find out the Parade route easily so you can plan where you want to stand to watch it. On the second day we had to leave the Park as soon as the Parade finished so we ended up at the bottom of Main Street near the entrance about five minutes before the Parade appeared. I could still see but had to look in between people’s heads so wasn’t as good a view as the first time but I was happy to be able to see it again. The floats are big so you will be able to see them over or between other people’s heads but you might miss stuff that is happening on the ground. Sidenote: If you only want to see the Parade on one day, utilise time on the day you aren’t watching the Parade by going on rides as they usually have shorter wait times.
The Castle Stage is, as the name suggests, in front of the castle. There are currently two shows on there – The Starlight Princess Waltz and Mickey Mouse Presents: Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris. They run regularly (weather dependent) but not throughout the day, by that I mean there are a few showings of Mickey Mouse Presents and then it makes way for Starlight Princess Waltz so if you don’t check times you could miss out. This is an outside stage so you can go watch any show even if you miss the start and sit wherever you can find a space. There is also a raised bit in front of the stage you can watch it from. I would love to be able to say this is an amazing show but there was a technical issue when we watched it, the sound cut out so they ended it early and I never got to watch the whole show as we didn’t have time to watch it again. I love the Disney Princesses so was gutted but I will definitely be checking this show out in September. We also didn’t have time to watch Mickey Mouse Presents: Happy Birthday Disneyland Paris, which was a mistake. I wish we had made time to see this show and I recommend you do – I will definitely be seeing it in September. The show goes through the different lands in Disneyland Paris, which means you get to see a lot of characters on stage throughout the show. Both these shows are in the main Disneyland Park by the castle.
Mickey and The Magician takes place in a theatre in Walt Disney Studios Park. This show is incredible! I’d heard great things about it since they brought it in for the 25th Anniversary but it surpassed expectations. I’d heard you need to get there early, maybe an hour before too. We were doing other things so joined the queue fifteen minutes before the start time but somehow managed to get seats in the third row! When you are allowed in, you can sit anywhere so it’s a bit of a free for all, be prepared. I’m not sure if people thought the reserved signs in the back row of the stall seats were for the whole section or they just wanted to take their kids further back but we just walked over to the row we wanted and sat down. I suspect it is rather more manic on busier park days. As it’s a theatre though, I’m sure you can see from anywhere so I wouldn’t stress about it too much. In Disneyland Resort, California we saw the Frozen show from the front row of the top balcony and could see fine. This theatre isn’t even that big so don’t worry. I don’t really want to tell you too much about the show because I went in not really knowing anything about it and it made it infinitely better. Honestly, if you only watch one show when you go, make it this one. Also, the theatre is air conditioned! A godsend when we went as it was 28 degrees celsius when we went.
Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular was on my list of shows but we didn’t have time to go see it. It is an awesome stunt show in the Backlot of Walt Disney Studios Park and even features Lightning McQueen. It’s in a theatre of sorts in that there is seating so get there a little earlier so you get a good seat. I’m definitely going to try and check this out next time I go.
Illuminations is the brand new fireworks, projection and water show for the 25th Anniversary and it is truly spectacular. Think Disney scenes projected onto the castle, fireworks lighting up the night sky, lasers, fountains and music. This one you really are going to want to get a spot an hour early. It starts at park closing so the time varies throughout the year – in the Summer months it’s an 11pm start so a long day if you’ve been in the parks since they opened! It gets crazy busy because everything in the park is closed so there is nothing else for anyone to do except leave the Park or watch Illuminations! As we had waited an hour to watch the Parade earlier that day, we didn’t want to wait an hour for Illuminations so used a bit of that time to go on rides as they had shorter wait times due to everyone waiting for the show. Afterwards, trying to find a spot was a bit of a nightmare if I’m honest as it was just so busy and trying to get through the crowds was a bit stressful. A lot of the projections happen lower down the castle so if you are quite far down Main Street and can’t see over people’s heads, you miss some of this. The show is still amazing but I’m sure it’s EVEN better if you can see everything. I couldn’t see bits of it or much of the fountains so next time I will be getting there early. Sidenote: if you have an Infinity Annual Pass, you get access to an exclusive area to watch the Parade. You have to call to reserve a space and only people who hold the Infinity Pass are allowed into it so if you have one but your friends don’t, they won’t be allowed in the space.
CHARACTERS AT DISNEYLAND PARIS
Depending on when you visit the Parks you may end up waiting up to two hours or more to meet a character. It eats into your time so be prepared! Remember that plan we talked about in Part One? If all your absolute must do things involve meeting characters, then great, but if they are a spattering of different things, you may need to plan your day around character queues.
Due to timings I didn’t get to meet Peter Pan, which was gutting but I had to give it up to do other things that made more sense logistically. (I am going back later in the year so I’ll prioritise it then.) I also hadn’t checked the timings for his meet and greet until it was too late. This is where the App comes in super useful! It tells you where Character Meets are located and their timings. Check them. Also bear in mind characters can’t be in two places at once so if they are in the Parade, you won’t see them in another part of the Parks at the same time. You can meet characters in both Parks so work out what you have time for and who you want to meet. I queued for just over an hour to meet Belle in the Art of Animation Studio because it was one of my priorities but it was air conditioned so I sat on the carpet and I made friends in the queue whilst Anna went off to ride Ratatouille.
After that we queued to meet Captain Jack because both Anna and I love Pirates. Characters have to have breaks too so that might add to your queue time but the interaction and meet should always be worth the queue time and the memories you take home. You can also meet Princesses in the PRINCESS PAVILLION near It’s A Small World throughout the day. There is a board outside with which Princesses will be there and when, which changes daily. The queues for this are always humongous so bear in mind that you might spend at least two hours in this queue. As much as I absolutely love Princesses, I skipped this because we just didn’t have time – also I was crazy lucky to pretty much meet every Disney Princess in Disneyland Resort, California last year.
So you’ve queued for ages to meet your favourite character…what do you say to them? I’m including this because Anna asked it and I think it’s relevant. If you only have a weekend for your Disneyland Paris holiday, you don’t want to queue for an hour to meet a character and then not enjoy it because it didn’t go the way you wanted it to unfold. You know the character well right, because you are queuing to meet them? So think of something you want to ask, maybe a burning question you’ve always wanted to know, or even something silly like asking Aladdin where Abu is. When I met Belle, my main thing was to show her my dress, which had all the Beauty and the Beast characters except Belle and the Beast himself. Most characters have things to ask you if you really have nothing to say, like how are you enjoying the Parks, what have you been up to? Fairly generic questions – though apparently Captain Jack’s is to ask if you are a Princess (why yes, yes I am, thanks for noticing). I usually just come up with silly things to ask and sometimes it results in a fun conversation, like for instance, I asked Captain Jack if he’d got any rum. This ended up being a five minute conversation that included him telling me I should have brought him rum, that Anna looked like she’d drunk the rum and me telling him I don’t trust pirates. If you can’t think of anything you want to ask or say, maybe come up with a fun photo pose, that way you have that as a thing to talk about.
FOOD IN DISNEYLAND PARIS
You gotta eat sometime, right? Disneyland Paris has lots of places to eat, from snack kiosks to fast food joints to sit down restaurants. There are places to eat all over both Parks as well as Disney Village, if you fancy a break from the Parks. You can book table and buffet service dining up to two months in advance. I didn’t book anything in advance because it felt too restricting in terms of time but if you want character dining or to be guaranteed a space, then book in advance. Character dining happens at Plaza Gardens and Auberge de Cendrillon if you want to make your Disneyland Paris holiday extra special, consider booking to eat there. We did fast food because it worked better for time and our schedule but make sure you eat! I was too caught up in Disney magic and excitement the second day and came back to London with an awful headache. Also, take snacks. I took lots of food and snacks because I’m vegan and there isn’t a lot of choice for vegans at Disneyland Paris (I will be writing a Vegan Guide at some point). Taking snacks will save you money but also you won’t waste valuable time queuing for snacks if the Park is busy and you are peckish. Of course, if you want to try every single Disney themed snack you can get your hands on then be my guest. The Parks also have water fountains so take a water bottle and fill up when you need – if it’s a particularly hot day, you may have a short queue for these too! They are usually near toilets or sometimes in restaurants, like Hakuna Matata.
And thus concludes Part 2 of this ultimate guide to visiting Disneyland Paris in a weekend. If you have any questions or you think I’ve missed something, leave me a comment below. I hope you’ve found this Guide useful, I’ve loved writing it and can’t wait to go back to the Happiest Place on Earth in September!
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