Here’s everything you need to know about where to eat, shop, stay, and play at Disneyland Paris.
If you’re headed to Paris with kids—or you’re just an unrepentant Mickey fanatic—Disneyland Paris is a quick and easy train ride away. The Paris RER (express metro) sets you down at the park gates in under an hour, or the Disney Shuttle, with several pick-up points in Paris, in an hour. Recently spruced up for its 25th Anniversary celebration, the park features new rides, spectacles, and innovations.
Here’s your no-nonsense, all-inclusive guide to Disneyland Paris for kids of all ages, with everything you’ll need to get the most out of a day, or weekend, at the Happiest Place on Earth.
The Lay of the Land
Divided into three sections, Disneyland Paris resort is more compact than its American counterparts and is widely considered more attractive. Disneyland Park, with Main Street and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, is the largest, containing all of Disney’s fabled “lands”—Fantasyland, Discoveryland, Adventureland, and Frontierland, plus live shows, parades, and encounters.
Cinema-themed Walt Disney Studios features a behind-the-scenes look at animations, special effects, and recent movie-themed attractions in rides like Ratatouille and Toy Playland, plus live music and dance shows, animation workshops, and activities for all ages.
At Disney Village, you can catch a dinner show, see a movie, shop, or grab a coffee or cocktail at one of at least a dozen themed bars. You’ll also find the World of Disney mega-boutique and the much-loved Lego store.
INSIDER TIPDisney can be hell for health nuts. At Disney Village, you’ll find the one and only juice cart serving juices made from fresh and frozen fruit.
For Disneyland Paris’s 25th Anniversary celebration, there’s a new Pirates and Princesses parade (four times a day), a meeting that climaxes at the Central Plaza in front of the castle when the pirates and princesses clash to do battle. Every day at 5 pm, Stars on Parade features all your favorite Disney characters from Mickey, Minnie, and Donald to the heroines of Frozen singing, dancing, and greeting the kids.
Disney has added a bunch of new one-on-one encounters in both amusement parks, including Princesses and Pirates at the Princess Pavilion and Plage de Pirates (Pirate Beach).
INSIDER TIP Disneyland Paris hotel’s California Grill features a special 25th Anniversary weekend brunch for the kids featuring a cast of Disney characters meeting and greeting kids at their table.
Chills and Thrills
Just because it’s Disney doesn’t mean thrill-seekers won’t find some hard-core rides. In fact, Disneyland Paris’s Space Mountain is the fastest of Disney’s five Space Mountain roller-coasters around the world. It takes just two seconds for riders to be thrust from one to 46 mph, thanks to some pretty advanced engineering. In fact, the ride uses the same technology found in aircraft carriers. Ditto for the high-intensity power-launch Rock ‘n’ Roller-coaster with Aerosmith, but get there soon, after this summer it will close to be transformed into a high-speed Iron Man-Avengers adventure, featuring a life-size Iron Man. But you’ll still have the Indiana Jones and Big Thunder Mountain roller-coasters!
INSIDER TIPShould you find yourself unprepared for upset tummies, allergies, headache or any other pesky ailment there is no drugstore at Disneyland Paris, but the Disneyland Paris hotel boutique does have a small pharmacy for basic necessities.
Between the new Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain roller-coaster and the sensational Star Tours 3-D simulation, fans can spend the day with the Force in a high-speed intergalactic battle with the evil Empire.
Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain has added a totally unique Star Wars voyage through the universe in 3-D through one of 70 different scenes from the movies—a total immersion in the Star Wars episodes I to VII. Afterward, if you dare, the new Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain roller-coaster straps you in for a hyper-speed adventure with special effects and a themed soundtrack.
INSIDER TIPLittle kids may not be tall enough for these sophisticated rides, but they can meet, greet, and have their picture taken with Darth Vader, a new character added for the 25th Anniversary celebrations.
Treats for Tots
For Disney’s 25th Anniversary, the park has added a dedicated salon and boutique at Disneyland Paris hotel. Set in the park, kids of any age can become a princess or a pirate for the day for €55, including makeup, hairstyle, and photo op, and up to €350 for a complete costume, including shoes and tiara or sword, makeup, hairstyle, and a professional digital photo.
Once the kids are in costume, It’s a Small World is a perennial favorite, with sing-along music and a gentle motion. Peter Pan’s Flight takes you through the city at night under the watchful eye of Captain Hook, and Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast gives kids their own laser gun to earn points while shooting targets.
INSIDER TIPDisney’s Baby Switch service allows a family member (minimum 14 years old) to stay with kids too small to take the ride, and then ride themselves without having to go through the line twice. There’s also a free stroller-loan service in case you don’t feel like hauling your own.
Haunted Happenings & Charming Rats
Disney’s formidable roller-coasters aside, thrill-seekers will love The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Look for the haunted-looking Hollywood Hotel at Walt Disney studios, where even the attendants play the part. Strap yourself in and head to the top floor for a great view of the park—before the freefall! Ratatouille’s serious charm is amped up a few notches in 3-D, as rider’s get a rat’s-eye-view plunging under an oven (including heat!), scampering between feet and menacing brooms, and even sprayed by a bottle of champagne, while the ghost of Gusteau hovers. Though the loud pop can startle the littlest kids and some downward drops feel precipitous, courageous youngsters will love it.
INSIDER TIPThe Ratatouille café and gift shop, reached only after experiencing the ride, are a nice way to round out the experience.
An aspect of the park that’s often overlooked, Disney’s live shows, performed up to four times a day in a comfortable, well-ventilated theater, provide a nice break from being on your feet. Be sure to get there a half-hour early, especially if you’re a party of more than two, or you may be scrambling for a seat together.
Mickey and the Magician is a highly entertaining music and dance show for all ages, featuring our favorite mouse dancing and singing with characters from Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Lion King (with life-size puppets).
Three times a day, Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular, set in a Mediterranean fishing village, enchants kids with motorcycle and car stunts from Disney’s Cars, plus shootouts and lots of fire. Peppered with plenty of screeches, loud pops, and bangs, the show may be a bit much for the smallest kids.
INSIDER TIPShows are a great way for kids to jumpstart their French language skills since much of the dialogue is in English sprinkled with French or vice versa.
There’s nothing more thrilling for kids then to meet their favorite Disney stars up-close-and-personal. And one of the park’s main selling points is the opportunity for interaction with a cast of beloved characters. Meet ‘n’ Greets with the characters are scheduled at least twice a day, sometimes more for popular characters like Woody, Peter Pan, Aladdin, and others—which you’ll find on a dedicated program upon entry into the park.
Immortalize your Disney encounters with the PhotoPass service, offering high-quality professional digital photos of you or your kids with their favorite characters. Be sure to show your pass before the encounter, then photos are uploaded onto your account.
Disney on Parade
Parades are the meat and potatoes at Disney, when kids get a chance to live the magic. Youngsters can see the 25th Anniversary Pirates and Princesses (till September 2018) and the Princess Promenade sing and dance their way down Main Street USA four times a day. At Adventureland, the Pirates strut their stuff six times a day for Hissez Pavillon, Moussaillons! (Hoist the flag, Mateys), and Disney Stars on Parade is an all-time classic.
INSIDER TIPWhen you see Mickey, don’t let him get away, there’s only one Mickey Mouse making the rounds at Disney at any one time. It’s an ongoing tradition since the founding of the Disney parks.
Disney Illuminations is definitely the high point of the day, when the excitement culminates in a dazzling lights and fireworks spectacle—complete with music, narration, and sound effects—that highlights all your favorite Disney songs and characters. The 25th Anniversary show is a special extravaganza, featuring Star Wars, Frozen, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
INSIDER TIPIt’s well worth it to get to the park early to stake out your place for the Illuminations show. Or, if you’re up for a splurge, reserve a table at Disneyland Paris’s California Grill restaurant with huge picture windows facing the castle. Though you can’t reserve a specific spot, you can request a table with a view upon arrival.
Let’s face it, no one goes to Disney without coming home with something to commemorate a good time. Though blatant in-your-face merchandising gets old quickly, there are enough one-offs and unique stuff to interest even the most jaded visitor. Though high spirits might distract from sticker shock, there is a memento in pretty much every price range.
Lego lovers will go wild at the Lego shop in Disney Village, complete with life-sized Disney characters and a mind-boggling selection of kits, games, and other Lego paraphernalia. At Sleeping Beauty’s Castle boutique you can watch glass fairy wands being hand-blown and even request your own design. Or you can lay out a cool €12,000 on an ethereal crystal model of the iconic castle, complete with fairy lights (smaller versions range from about €55-€250).
INSIDER TIPEvery Disney lodging has its own boutique. If you’re too busy or don’t feel like facing the crowds, you can enjoy a less frenetic moment in the relative peace of your hotel accommodations.
Diverse Dining Options
In the park, there’s a choice of often over-crowded, always overpriced options that range from counter service to “gastronomic” dining. While sweets and snack carts abound, for a sit-down meal you have three choices: fast-food-style counters, buffets, or a sit-down meal, which will set you back a bit.
The best option, if you can afford it, is to reserve at one of Disney’s dozens of sit-down restaurants in the park or in a hotel. Places like the Auberge de Cendrillon and Inventions restaurant in the Disneyland Hotel have the added attraction of Disney characters circulating table to table.
Check online and see what appeals to you. Menus are included for the more expensive options. But the crucial factor is to reserve well in advance—and by that we mean at least a month or two.
If you’re big eaters, Disney offers several prepaid meal plans that could save you money. Disney hotels also offer some meal plans and package deals that cover all meals in your room price.
At a certain point in the day, hopefully not breakfast, adults may feel strongly in need of an alcoholic beverage. This being France, you will find plenty of options for uncrowded atmospheric drinking, with snacks on the menu, in a comfy setting—but these are mostly at the Disney hotels. Along with a long drinks menus that includes everything from wine and champagne, you’ll find premium spirits, American, Irish, Scotch, and even Japanese whiskeys, and a huge range of cocktails for adults and non-alcoholic versions for kids.
First prize goes to Disneyland Paris Hotel’s Café Fantasia, which seems to be an opinion shared by many, as it gets crowded at drinking hours. A close second, the Newport Bay Hotel’s Captain’s Quarters bar is a spacious option with a view over the lake.
INSIDER TIPSome Disney hotels sell wine and champagne at the in-hotel boutique for the slightly less pricey option of imbibing in your room.
Relaxation and Disney may seem paradoxical, but there is really no good reason why the two can’t comingle—especially when you book a hotel. Every Disney hotel has a pool, and with the focus on the rides in the Disney parks, you can find yourself paddling away in a blessedly uncrowded atmosphere. Though you can get a pretty good idea of the various hotel pools online, our favorites are Disneyland Paris for its spacious garden terrace, the Newport Bay Club and the Sequoia Lodge for their indoor-outdoor pools, plus whirlpool (Disneyland Paris, Sequoia Lodge), sauna, and steam room.
At Disneyland Paris, you don’t have to be a guest to indulge in the Celestia Spa. Set your adult partner loose with the kids while you choose from an ample menu of spa treatments that range from a detox mineral salt scrub to a radiance facial. Best of all, prices are commensurate with other spas (massages of 25 to 75 minutes cost €60-€160).
INSIDER TIPTreat a birthday girl or boy to a parent-child treatment with the French children’s skincare brand Nougatine (€110 for a 25-minute massage for two).
A Glorious Five-Star Hotel
The only hotel set right in the park, and the largest five-star hotel in Europe, the perks of an overnight stay at Disneyland Paris are many—at a hefty price. Among comfortable standard rooms with marble baths, the hotel offers rooms and suites with spacious ground-floor terraces and your own lawn or garden, a great choice for families with small kids. Disney-themed rooms feel like ersatz versions of a standard luxury hotel, and don’t even approach the quality of a hotel in Paris for the same price or less. But you will have the convenience of a children’s Mini Club with an attendant, so the kids can play while you’re in the spa, a game room, and access to the gym, pool, whirlpool, sauna, and steam room. Disney Club category rooms get VIP passes to skip the lines at most rides as well as breakfast, complimentary drinks all day, and teatime in the private club dining room included in the price.
INSIDER TIPFor a king’s ransom, you can have premium seats to the nightly Illuminations from one of four suites facing the park.
Set at the far end of Disneyland Paris’s lake, a 15-minute walk from Disney Village and the parks, the newly renovated, nautical-themed Newport Bay Club is accessible to the park via a shuttle (every 10-15 minutes) or a 15-minute walk by the lake. Since it’s the biggest 4-star hotel in France—with the largest capacity in Europe—don’t expect intimacy. That said, hallways are bright and spacious and rooms are quiet and light-filled (especially those with lake views) and some offer balconies.
The hotel has an indoor-outdoor pool and plenty of dining options, including the Cape Cod buffet, the higher-end Yacht Club, and the very pleasant Captain’s Quarters bar. Compass Club rooms get VIP passes to skip the lines at most rides, as well as breakfast, complimentary drinks all day, and teatime in the private club dining room included in the price
INSIDER TIPGuests in all Disney hotels get Extra Magic Time in the park between 8:30 and 10 am, when non-hotel visitors are admitted.
Set on the lake, Sequoia Lodge’ pleasant Bambi-themed arts and crafts decor extends to the dark-wood furniture, lighting, and soaring lodge-like bar and restaurant. The pool and whirlpool, sauna, and a spacious gym are set in their own building a pleasant stroll through the surrounding pine trees and gardens, which feel fresh even in the height of summer. Guests can book a room or suite in the main hotel or one of three lodges. Though a three-star hotel, you get pretty much the same perks as Newport Bay. Golden Forest club rooms include all the usual club member perks, plus a VIP Fastpass.
INSIDER TIPIf you can avoid check-in before noon, do. You’ll avoid the crowds and pass straight through. This goes for all the Disney hotels.
A Route 66-Inspired Stay
Overlooking a “river” tributary from the lake, the American Southwest-themed Hotel Santa Fe takes its decor from Disney’s Cars (get it, Highway 66) and is a more basic option. The hotel is in blocks, so you’ll need to walk outside to get to reception and other amenities. It’s also a 20-minute walk from the main parks, though there is a shuttle service every 10-15 minutes. The hotel has not been updated in recent years and shows some wear and tear. If you plan to spend much time at the hotel, be sure to compare prices with Newport Bay or Sequoia Lodge.
INSIDER TIPRiverside rooms are quieter (away from parking) and have better views.
Wild West Bungalows
A nice getaway set in a wooded area about seven miles from the Disney parks, the rustic family bungalows at Davy Crockett Ranch come complete with your own front porch and a fairly bare-bones kitchen to prepare your own snacks. Because there is no shuttle service to the Disney parks, a stay here is like a vacation in the woods (with a bunch of neighbors) with Disneyland Paris thrown in.
All guests get passes to the Villages Nature Paris, a nature park 30 minutes from Paris, with hiking and biking trails, animals, and France’s largest aquatic park.
INSIDER TIPBe aware: there is no shuttle service to and from the park. You will have your own private parking space and free parking at Disney, but if you don’t want the hassle of a rental car, this is not the place for you.
Making It a Reality
Disneyland Paris is a destination unto itself, best reached via Paris’s RER A (tickets are about €7.60 each way), which takes about 40-50 minutes depending on your starting point. You can also take the RER directly to Disney from both Paris Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports.
Disneyland Paris has its own shuttle buses, which cost around €24 and depart from several locations in Paris. You can purchase tickets in advance online.
The best time to go is in the off-season, away from the four yearly two-week school vacations, at the end of October, December, February and April. Early April, May, and June, as well as September and the first three weeks of October are the very best times to go.
If you go in summer, be sure to pack sunscreen and plenty of water (though you can purchase water everywhere in the park). We highly recommend a Fast Pass or, better yet, a VIP Fast Pass for those staying at a Disney hotel. You will save yourself and your kids hours of frustrating lines.
In February 2018, President Macron and Disneyland CEO Robert Iger announced a multi-billion euro expansion of the park, to begin in 2021 for completion before the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The park will include a whole new Marvel area and tons of new attractions.