It’s ironic that my daughter has been to every Disney resort in the world because we’re half-day tourists. While we love the park rides and cheerful ambiance, we prefer to spend late afternoons resting our feet in a luxury hotel. The good news is that it’s so easy to get to Disneyland Paris from central Paris that you can visit without spending a full day there which works especially for those who are short on time.
There are actually two parks at Disneyland Paris (formerly known as Euro Disney): Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. Older kids prefer the latter park as it is home to more thrill rides like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. But, we chose Disneyland Park since my daughter loves the usual rides.
How to Get From Paris to Disneyland Paris
First, whatever you do, buy Disneyland Paris tickets in advance. With 24 hours of notice, our concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris secured tickets that we picked up at their desk on the way out the door. Easy.
Because our hotel’s location was epically convenient to everything we needed to do, a 5-minute walk down the Champs Elysees landed us at the Charles de Gaulle – Etoile train station. Clear signage enabled a non-French-speaking tourist like me to purchase tickets to Disneyland Paris via the automated machine without complications.
The train you’re looking for is RER A and the stop for Disneyland Paris is Marne la Vallee-Chessy. The trains run every 6-10 minutes depending on the time of day and once onboard it will take about 45 minutes to reach Disneyland Paris. I thought the double-decker trains were clean and very easy to use. So, if navigating the train from Paris is holding you back from visiting the park, don’t let it. Hiring a car takes the same amount of time and risks traffic.
Once at Marne la Vallee-Chessy, you simply follow the signs to the park entrance. You’ll have to pass through park security first which is kind of an unpleasant scrum but. Hopefully, you’ll have tickets in-hand so all you’ll need to do next (after walking a few more minutes toward the park) is have them scanned at the turnstiles to enter.
Inside Disneyland Park in Paris
Disneyland Park is laid out in a similar manner to other Disneyland parks but is slightly downsized. The five lands are Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland (the equivalent of Disneyland Resort’s Tomorrowland).
There are 43 rides and attractions and from everything I read, not-to-be-missed is Pirates of the Caribbean. And, if you like noting subtle differences in rides between parks I would suggest checking out it’s a small world (you’ll see a difference in how the countries are featured) and Phantom Manor, their equivalent of the Haunted House. Of course, most of the narrative is in French but it doesn’t really matter. The afternoon parades feature introductions in five different languages, which is cool.
FastPass is available for several rides but since the French kids weren’t out of school yet and we visited on a weekday, lines weren’t particularly long. In fact, we waited no longer than 10 minutes with most rides a straight walk on. We arrived at 10:30 a.m., left around 2:30 p.m. and rode:
- Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
- it’s a small world
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Phantom Manor
In between we explored Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Toy Storyland playground, walked pretty much the entire park, ate lunch, saw a few characters, shopped and left.Unfortunately, the carousel and Space Mountain were walled up for renovation. It honestly felt like a pretty full itinerary. I have read that people with long layovers in Paris take the train over from the airport just to walk the park.
I do believe we were lucky that we didn’t wait in many or any lines. If visiting during peak times like holidays and weekends, you may want to consider booking a VIP tour. At the time of this writing, a VIP tour is €900 for up to 10 people for 4 hours and allows you to cut some of the queue (or all of it, depending on the ride). I was so fearful of waiting in line that I actually almost booked this and am so glad that I didn’t because our waits were not long.
But, if my only chance to experience Disneyland Paris was a Saturday in July, I’d probably do it.
Dining at Disneyland Paris
The bottom line is that if time is of the essence, you’ll want to eat quickly during your visit unless a dining experience at Disneyland Paris is important to you.
My husband did some financing work for Disneyland Paris back when we lived in London and has been following park news more closely than I have. He said that one of the unexpected revenue disappointments is that guests of Disneyland Paris are not purchasing as much food within the park as originally forecasted. They bring their own and as we were passing through the security line, I saw many people with huge backpacks full of chips, sodas, sandwiches and other sustenance.
However, unlike Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the food here isn’t notable and I’m not the only one to say that. With this in mind and knowing we were going to need to eat quickly in order to keep our park visit short, I didn’t make reservations anywhere. So, we walked into Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Planet in Discoveryland since my daughter got hungry when we happened to be nearby.
The food was just O.K. (but was the bathroom was unacceptably gross). It was a not-great-quality buffet of salad, pizza, pasta and dessert that you’d serve yourself on paper plates and dine with using plastic cutlery. I can’t imagine how much waste this place generates. Also, the soda fountain did not have ice available which was odd. They did not sell booze (sad panda). I think it was about €18 for adults and €11 for kids.
That being said, I have heard and read great reviews of Walt’s on Main Street should you want a sit-down American meal with French flair and French wine! This is definitely where I would eat next time. Or, I would opt for character dining at Auberge de Cendrillon in Fantasyland.
Why We Didn’t Stay at a Disneyland Paris Hotel
I thought long and hard about staying in an official Disneyland Paris Hotel because I am a fan of Extra Magic Hours (early entrance to the parks). But, we were visiting in June and the options even with a euro-dollar exchange rate in our favor were quite expensive. And, the rooms in all of the hotels, frankly, looked dated.
Based on our family’s preferences, I choose the iconic Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris which at peak summer rates does cost quite a bit, but it was only incrementally more expensive than the Disneyland Hotel. For us, the choice was a no-brainer.
I can’t say that I’d never stay at a Disneyland Paris hotel, but it’s so easy to train in from Paris that it’s not absolutely necessary to stay on the resort. However, Extra Magic Hours are between 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., which is very generous especially on a weekend.
Here’s another tip. When researching Disneyland Paris hotels, check several sites as it is my theory (and I’ve spoken to others who have had similar experiences) that availability is often based on where you live. I was able to find availability via the UK site, but not on the US one, for example.
The Bottom Line
For us, a half-day visit to Disneyland Paris was very well worth the time, effort and expense.
What are your tips for visiting Disneyland Paris? Have you ever done it in half of a day?
See also our experiences at:
(Sightseeing in Paris? Use Paris Pass promo code AUT17 for up to 10% off the Paris Pass: 6% off 3- & 4-day passes and 10% off 6-day passes through October 31, 2017)