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Fodor's France 2014
Disneyland Paris Review
Disneyland Paris, a slightly downsized version of its United States counterpart, is nevertheless a spectacular sight, created with an acute attention to detail. Disney never had quite the following here as it did Stateside, so when it opened, few turned up. Today, however, the place is jammed with crowds with families from around the world reveling in the many splendors of the Disney universe.
Some of the rides can be a bit scary for little kids, but tots adore Alice's Maze, Peter Pan's Flight, and especially the whirling Mad Hatter's Teacups. Also getting high marks are the afternoon parades, which feature music and introductions in five languages and huge floats swarming with all of Disney's most beloved characters—just make sure to stake your place along Main Street in advance for a good spot (check for posted times). There's a lot here, so pace yourself: kids can easily feel overwhelmed with the barrage of stimuli or frustrated by extra-long waits at the rides. (Also be aware that there are size restrictions for some rides.) The older the child, the more they will enjoy Walt Disney Studios, a cinematically driven area, where many of the newer Disney character-themed rides can be found.
Disneyland Park, as the original theme park is styled, consists of five "lands": Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland. The central theme of each land is relentlessly echoed in every detail, from attractions to restaurant menus to souvenirs. The park is circled by a railroad, which stops three times along the perimeter. Main Street U.S.A. goes under the railroad and past shops and restaurants toward the main plaza; Disney parades are held here every afternoon and, during holiday periods, every evening.
Top attractions at Frontierland are the chilling Phantom Manor, haunted by holographic spooks, and the thrilling runaway mine train of Big Thunder Mountain, a roller coaster that plunges wildly through floods and avalanches in a setting meant to evoke Utah's Monument Valley. Whiffs of Arabia, Africa, and the Caribbean give Adventureland its exotic cachet; the spicy meals and snacks served here rank among the best food in the park. Don't miss the Pirates of the Caribbean, an exciting mise-en-scène populated by eerily humanlike, computer-driven figures, or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a breathtaking ride that re-creates some of this luckless hero's most exciting moments.
Fantasyland charms the youngest parkgoers with familiar cartoon characters from such classic Disney films as Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Peter Pan. The focal point of Fantasyland, and indeed Disneyland Paris, is Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty's Castle), a 140-foot, bubblegum-pink structure topped with 16 blue- and gold-tipped turrets. Its design was allegedly inspired by illustrations from a medieval Book of Hours—if so, it was by way of Beverly Hills. The castle's dungeon conceals a 2-ton scaly green dragon that rumbles in its sleep and occasionally rouses to roar—an impressive feat of engineering, producing an answering chorus of shrieks from younger children. Discoveryland is a futuristic eye-knocker for high-tech Disney entertainment. Robots on roller skates welcome you on your way to Star Tours, a pitching, plunging, sense-confounding ride based on the Star Wars films. In Le Visionarium, a simulated space journey is presented by 9-Eye, a staggeringly realistic robot. One of the park's newest attractions, the Jules Verne–inspired Space Mountain Mission 2, pretends to catapult exploronauts on a rocket-boosted, comet-battered journey through the Milky Way.
Disneyland Paris is peppered with places to eat, ranging from snack bars and fast-food joints to five full-service restaurants—all with a distinguishing theme. If your child has his or her heart set on a specifically themed restaurant, say, Pirates of the Caribbean—a dark corsair's lair that looks over the ride itself—or the Auberge de Cendrillon (Cinderella's Inn), where the nasty stepmother and sisters themselves bustle through the aisles, make sure to make reservations in advance (which can be done online). In addition, Walt Disney Studios, Disney Village, and Disney Hotels have restaurants open to the public. But since these are outside the park, it's not recommended that you waste time traveling to them for lunch. Disneyland Paris has relaxed its no-alcohol policy and now serves wine and beer in the park's sit-down restaurants, as well as in the hotels and restaurants outside the park.
Walt Disney Studios opened next to the Disneyland Park in 2002. The theme park is divided into four "production zones." Beneath imposing entrance gates and a 100-foot water tower inspired by the one erected in 1939 at Disney Studios in Burbank, California, Front Lot contains shops, a restaurant, and a studio re-creating the atmosphere of Sunset Boulevard. In Animation Courtyard, Disney artists demonstrate the various phases of character animation; Animagique brings to life scenes from Pinocchio and The Lion King, while the Genie from Aladdin pilots Flying Carpets over Agrabah. Production Courtyard hosts the Walt Disney Television Studios; Cinémagique, a special-effects tribute to U.S. and European cinema; and a behind-the-scenes Studio Tram tour of location sites, movie props, studio interiors, and costuming, ending with a visit to Catastrophe Canyon in the heart of a film shoot. Back Lot majors in stunts. At Armageddon Special Effects you can confront a flaming meteor shower aboard the Mir space station, then complete your visit at the giant outdoor arena with a Stunt Show Spectacular involving cars, motorbikes, and Jet Skis.
- Address: Marne-la-Vallée, 77777
- Phone: 01–60–30–60–90
- Cost: €81, or €169 for 3-day Passport; includes admission to all individual attractions within Disneyland or Walt Disney Studios; tickets for Walt Disney Studios are also valid for admission to Disneyland during last 3 opening hrs of same day
- Hours: Disneyland mid-June–mid-Sept., daily 9 am–10 pm; mid-Sept.–Dec. 19 and Jan. 5–mid-June, weekdays 10–8, weekends 9–8; Dec. 20–Jan. 4, daily 9–8. Walt Disney Studios daily 10–6
- Website: www.disneylandparis.com
- Location: Disneyland Paris
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