I had long joked that for my impending 30th birthday, I wanted to gather a bunch of my friends and go to Disneyland. I thought, what’s more ridiculous and silly than for a bunch of adults to go to Disney? And while it did start as a joke, over time, I really came to love the idea 1) because it is silly to celebrate your 30th birthday in a children’s theme park, and 2) because I love Disney and why the hell not.
So when my 30th actually rolled around, Frenchman and I thought… let’s do it!
A day at Disneyland Paris
I didn’t have a pack of friends along with me, but Frenchman and I snagged a good deal on 1-day passes to both Disney parks (normally 89€ or $101) and picked a sunny Saturday.
Euro-Disney, or Disneyland Paris, is located in Marne-la-Vallée wayy to the east of Paris, but conveniently on the RER A, which happens to be the line that goes to our place in Saint Germain en Laye as well. It is made up of 2 parks: Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios.
- Disneyland Park: This is the original park, equivalent to the Magic Kingdom in Florida, featuring Main Street U.S.A., classic rides like the Haunted Mansion, and the princess castle – this one is Sleeping Beauty’s castle (each Disney park’s castle belongs to a different princess)
- Walt Disney Studios: This park is the equivalent of MGM in Florida. It contains some of my favorite rides, including the Tower of Terror and the Rockin’ Roller Coaster.
Both parks are very small, by American/Disney standards.
We started by going straight for Walt Disney Studios, because I wanted to make sure I hit my favorite rides before it got too busy. Frenchman heard about the new(er) Ratatouille ride, so we found that first. The line was super long, but it gave me time to reflect on how weird it was to be in Disney’s very well-constructed “France”… while in France. It all looked like a real Parisian street.. but in the Disneyverse… while also actually being in France. I think this might have more of an effect in California. While the ride was wildly disappointing, the area was super cute.
Next, we booked it to the Tower of Terror to grab a Fast Pass before hitting the Rockin’ Rollercoaster, the Aerosmith-themed indoor, upside-down, 0-60 in 2.8 seconds ride that I loved in Florida. As we were waiting in line, I explained to Frenchman how the ride goes, namely that you go from stopped to veryfast and then zoom upside down in the dark. I checked multiple times that he was ok with that, and he assured me yes, that’s fine.
It was not fine.
The Rockin’ Rollercoaster did not rock his world, and we wound up with this absolutely hilarious ride photo as a result:
When we finished, I was bouncing and ready to book it to the Tower of Terror for our Fast Pass time. Frenchman was… not. He decided to sit that one out, and left me to enter the ~Twilight Zone~ all by myself.
When I finished falling to my death – and climbing – and falling – and falling again, I rejoined Frenchman in the sunshine and we made our way over to Disneyland Park to get some lunch on Main Street U.S.A.
We snagged a couple of hot dogs, then hit up Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones. By this time, the lines for all rides were getting insanely long and even the fast passes weren’t worth it. We tried to get a pass for Thunder Mountain around 2pm and the next earliest time was 6pm (or a 90+ minute line). We got bored long before then, and never got to try the ride.
We wrapped up the day with an ice cream off Main Street, enjoying the sun and the various piped-in sounds of old timey shops and open windows, before leaving the magical world of Disney for the RER home.
Disneyland Paris Tips
Now, I’m no Disney-going expert, but I think we made some critical mistakes.
- We didn’t get in on the Fast Pass game until after we’d already waited in a 45-minute line for a very disappointing ride, and we definitely could have saved some time if we had planned that better.
- We should have gone to Disneyland Park first, straight for Thunder Mountain. Apparently this ride is the most in-demand of the whole park. Lesson learned.
- The parks are small, and many of the classics are missing. There is no Splash Mountain (sad) but partly because Paris is just not warm enough for a year-round water ride.
- Many of the classics are also being re-branded. Space Mountain no longer exists, for example, and is being remade as a Star Wars ride.
- There is a Disneyland Paris app, which is vaguely helpful. It lists wait times for all the rides to help strategize what to do and when.
Overall, I’d say that while we had a fun day, I just didn’t get a very Disney vibe. I was surprised, since as a company they are notoriously strict and intense about ensuring the perfect Disney experience no matter where you are. There were no characters walking around, staff seemed normal and French (i.e. not bubbly and welcoming) and the park seemed… just like any other big amusement park.
But we had a sunshiney, fun day and I got to celebrate turning 30 in the Happiest Place on Earth.