Here is the story of my first time at Disneyland, which was in Anaheim, California. You would have thought that for an 8 year old at the time, it was every kid’s dream to head to the land of Mickey. It was my nightmare.
When I was little, I was afraid of people dressed in costumes with big heads. Masks didn’t bother me as much. Chucky Cheese was the worst place my friends could celebrate their birthday parties, and my sister loved having hers there as well. When I would see Chucky come out in costume, I would run up the slides because I knew he wouldn’t be able to get me. I would watch him high above in the jungle gym until I was sure he was gone.
So you can imagine my parents when they tried planning our first trip to Disneyland. Anytime the conversation came up at dinner, I would start crying and yelling that I didn’t want to go. One day, my dad was invited to Anaheim for work, and they thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take my sister and I. They didn’t tell me anything, just that we were going to California. I was excited since I was missing a few days of the third grade. I kept a little diary, and I remember noting down the time that our flight left and everything (my love for travel was already instilled within me). When we landed and got in a taxi to the hotel, the driver looked at me and asked if I was excited to be in the land of Disney. The look of abhorrence I had on my face is one I wish had been photographed.
I wasn’t happy. It took me two days to get used to seeing Mickey everywhere and having the courage to take a pic near him. The fear of people dressed in big heads still followed afterwards for a few years, but I still have fond memories of that trip.
Fast forward to today and I LOVE theme parks. Before moving to Paris, I had only been to Disneyland that one time, so a few of my memories may be outdated. I recently went to Disneyland Paris with my friend Sabina, who I had not seen in a few years. We had a blast and got to relive a few of our childhood memories.
Things to know beforehand
I was surprised at how much our tickets cost. They were each around 50€ for both parks, but here are some tips for when buying tickets and getting to Disney:
- Look at their calendar online: Certain days are more expensive than others, ESPECIALLY during high tourist season. There are especially a few weekends marked higher due to summer holidays and festivities (like the 14th of July, which is France’s Bastille Day).
- Compare prices between the British website and the French website: For some reason, the French website’s price was more expensive than the British one when we looked.
- Metro – RER A: The stop on the line is Marne la Vallée – Chessy
- Be a morning person just for this day (if you aren’t already): If you decide to go to Disney during the week, you have to get up early to beat the traffic going to work, it gets crowded. The RER A is one of the worst lines, since it hits so many business areas in Paris. If not, also getting to Disney early is nice, that way you have more time!
- Pack a lunch if you have a spending limit: Food in general at any theme park is way too expensive and not good quality. But sometimes it’s part of the experience.
When you ~finally~ get to Disneyland Paris
In general, I felt like Disneyland Paris was smaller than Anaheim, but of course it was still fun! They recently celebrated their 25th anniversary (the Frenchman remembers when they opened it), so a lot of their banners and flags mentioned that and some characters were dressed in special outfits (like when I quickly saw Minnie, but I wasn’t able to take a photo).
They had some renovation on their Star Wars ride (finally – last time I went the ride was probably the original one from the 90’s), and Space Mountain became Hyperspace Mountain (Star Wars themed). I was really surprised at how good those rides were, and Hyperspace Mountain was one of my favorites. So much so, that we waited in line for 45 minutes to ride a second time. The Indiana Jones ride in Paris is not like the one in Anaheim. It’s just a short roller coaster ride, and even though it is fun, my memories from the Anaheim ride are super cool. I remember in California you were riding in a jeep and there was a moment were a large boulder was coming at you. I remember that one being one of my favorites from that trip. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride was closed for renovations, but should be opening later this summer (maybe it already has).
I recommend doing the small rides as well just for the fun and memories. My favorite small ride is Peter Pan, just because I think they did a cool job in making you feel like you are flying over Neverland and London.
Here is a BIG TIP I wish someone would have shared with me before going. Start your day off in Hollywood Studios instead of the main Disneyland park. Why? Because the Hollywood Studios park closes at 7 o’clock p.m. Disneyland Park closes at 11 p.m. (in the summer). Due to us not knowing, we didn’t get to ride the Finding Nemo rollercoaster (which was disappointing). Aerosmith teamed up with Disney to make a rollercoaster with their music playing in the background. It is called Rock ‘n Roller Coaster. The first time we rode it, it was awkward because there were some technical difficulties and their song was not playing. The second time around, the music made it ten times better.
Recently, Disneyland in Anaheim closed down their Tower of Terror, which is still open in Paris. Sabina got super excited about it, and I was nervous because I thought the ride was free falling with your legs sticking out (like the frog rides in the malls back in the day). But this also ended up being one of my favorite rides of the day.
The only real disappointment I had was that I felt like characters were not out and about. I remember in California, it felt like they were everywhere. This might be untrue though, since I wasn’t too nervous about seeing Mickey this time around and wasn’t specifically looking for characters to take pictures with.
All in all, Disneyland Paris is fun and something I recommend if you are a big Disney fan, love theme parks or if you have kids. It makes for some fun memories to look back on in the future.
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