Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris (formerly Euro Disneyland and Disneyland Resort Paris), located in the Paris suburb of Marne-la-Vallée, is the Disney Empire's European variant of their archetypal "Magic Kingdom" theme park. It was the second Disney theme park resort to open outside the United States, after Tokyo Disney Resort.

Disneyland Paris consists of two parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, and a shopping district, Disney Village.

Disneyland Park is the park everybody has heard of and expects, and Walt Disney Studios Park has a more general movie making theme - but it's still very Disney. The Village is comprised of stores and restaurants.

Disney's theme parks are famous for their "Audio-Animatronics," attention to detail, service mentality, crowds,and high prices. The intention is to completely recreate the "magic" of the Disney franchise; employees are not "staff" but "cast members"; the park is kept insanely clean; and everywhere you will find a perfectly running machine. For example, you won't find the same Disney character twice within sight - there are no duplicates. Children are clearly the focus of Disneyland, but older visitors are not neglected either.

All the theme parks follow basically the same setup, but of course there are many regional differences. The total commercialism is something you have to either accept, ignore or enjoy. Besides the merchandise stores at every corner, many rides are "sponsored" by various large corporations.

To make the experience even more magical and enjoyable, the City of Light is just a half-hour train ride away.

With 15 million visits in 2010, Disneyland Paris has overtaken the Eiffel Tower as the most popular tourist destination of the Paris region, and is the fourth most visited theme park in the world, behind Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland. Likewise, it is infamous for its crowds. At all attractions all over the park you will see "barricades" and signs along the lines of "Waiting time at this point - 45 minutes". It is essential for an enjoyable visit to Disneyland to plan for a good time. Ideally, you want good weather and as few people as possible, but off peak times may have more limited entertainment show, parade and fireworks offerings.

The best times to visit Disneyland Paris is on weekdays outside public holidays and school vacations. The least-visited times seem to be September-October and May-June. Considering the French weather, June is likely the safest bet. You'll probably be able to get some very good deals during these times. (Example in June 2003: 3 days for the price of 2 days, including hotel, about €200/person.) If you are lucky, you won't have to wait at all except at very popular rides, and even then the waiting time can be as low as a few minutes. Note that even when the park is not very crowded you will have trouble seeing all of the attractions. For a more or less complete tour, you will need at least two days.

It should be said quite clearly that Disneyland Paris is a lot of fun when you do not have to wait a lot - but waiting for a ride for 45 minutes or more can be stressing. However, see below for the free "FastPass" ticket service.

Once you are in the park, your main mode of transportation will be walking. Disneyland is divided into four themed sections (Discoveryland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Fantasyland) and the central shopping and information area Main Street USA. If you need to get from one side of the park to another, you can take the train which circles the Park and has a stop in each of the major sections. (Apart from Adventureland) If you find yourself at the back of the park during heavy rain, there is an undercover walkway that will take you all the way from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride to the front of the park. Bus services exist which can take you from Disney Village and the central entrance to the hotels. These buses are free of charge.

Wheelchair accessibility is very good, and there are very few areas that have the usual obstacles, such as confined stairs, that make access impossible. A very good system of disabled access for most rides is in place, but for safety and evacuation reasons, some rides still require that the rider be able to walk or climb a ladder. It is a good idea to get a disability pass from the Information Center on arrival at the park; doing so makes it easier for staff to identify and assist disabled visitors. The pass will not grant a disabled person the right to jump the queue, but it does allow assisted access to rides via the exit gates rather then the more restrictive entrance gates.