Bunny’s Day at Disneyland Paris
There is one Star Wars fan in the Bunny family and it is not Bunny. In fact, she is not a fan of any Disney movies or characters. Sure, she read some Disney books as a kid, but she has not had much exposure to Disney since then.
So when Mr. Bunny declared that he wanted to celebrate his special birthday in Disneyland Paris, Bunny nodded enthusiastically (faking it quite well, she thinks) and started planning a visit fit for two weary adults - one of whom is known to get quite giddy with all things Star Wars.
How to Get There?
Disneyland Paris (formerly known as Euro Disney) is located about 30km east of Paris. It is easy to visit as a day trip from Paris. For example, the regional rail line (RER) from Paris to Marne-la-Valee station is right next to the front gates of Disneyland.
However, when planning the visit, Bunny dismissed the thought of staying in Paris proper and only doing Disneyland as a day trip. It seemed too cumbersome somehow. Sure, it is only a 40-minute journey on the above-mentioned RER, but the day spent at the park is likely to be very long as it is. Adding a lengthy commute to the day at Disney is no fun.
So Bunny planned a trip where the Bunnies first stayed close to the park and then moved on to Paris for some more sophisticated fun afterwards.
Where to Stay?
Special birthday or not, the Disney hotels inside the park were too expensive for the Bunnies. They are not worth the money, unless you really really really love your Mickey and need extra time in the park before and after other visitors. The biggest value of staying in a Disney hotel is the “magic hour” during which you are allowed to spend time in the park outside opening hours.
Bunny’s hotel choice for the Disneyland part of their trip was Hôtel l'Elysée Val d’Europe. She was very pleased with it. The room was beautiful, recently renovated, spacious and functional. The bathroom was nice, the bed comfortable and the service friendly.
Most importantly, there was a frequent free-of-charge shuttle bus from the hotel to the gates of Disneyland. The comfortable ride took about 10 minutes, and was always on time. The shuttle starts well before the parks open (if you want a good head start) and ends after the parks close (for those that stay for the closing fireworks and a little bit of souvenir shopping even after that).
As an added bonus, the hotel is located right next to the fancy Val D’Europe shopping centre, with 160 shops.
Bunny’s hotel booking did not include breakfast, but breakfasts in France are not that appealing to her anyway. She was just as happy to make a quick getaway early in the morning and grab yummy breakfast bites to go at any number of places next to the hotel or at the Starbucks in the Disney Village, steps away from the shuttle’s drop-off point at the park.
Two Different Parks
Bunny was somewhat surprised to learn that Disneyland Paris actually comprises two different theme parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. In addition, there is a Disney Village with lots of shops and restaurants accessible to the general public just outside the parks.
There is an airport-style security check before entering the grounds, but the queues were surprisingly light (at least from the shuttle bus entrance).
It is best to buy your tickets online in advance. Bunny was able to secure a 25% discount off a walk-in price online, despite visiting at one of the most popular times of the year (end of July). There are frequent deals on the Disney website.
By having your ticket ready, you also avoid queues on arrival. After the security check, you simply scan the barcode on your ticket at the park gates and you’re in. You do have to print your ticket at home (or at your hotel) in advance, but otherwise it is minimal hassle.
The Bunnies originally planned to visit only the Disneyland Park, as there were no Star Wars -specific attractions in the Walt Disney Studios Park. However, after checking prices online, the Bunnies changed their mind. Doing two parks in a single day, instead of one park only, added only 20 euros to the price. Bunny thought that was a good deal.
The Disney website and literature will all lobby you to download the Disneyland Paris app. It’s pretty useless, Bunny thinks.
Bunny found the free, paper maps widely available in the park much more useful and practical than the app as its search feature is terrible.
The only advantage of the app is that it shows the waiting times of rides in real-time (if only the search feature would turn them up). That sounds great, but if you employ Bunny’s tips below for FastPasses and rides in general, you won’t often be checking the waiting times.
The app came in best handy for some advance planning. In the days leading up to the trip, Mr. Bunny downloaded the app and noted which rides had the longest waiting times. This helped the Bunnies to come up with a general plan for which order to take rides and apply FastPasses.
The Bunnies arrived in their hotel in early evening and decided to take advantage of the hotel shuttle bus to go check out the Disney Village on their first night, especially seeing as the village was open until very late that day.
The Disney Village is a concentration of Disney-related shops and restaurants. It is free to enter the village as it is located just outside the two theme parks. The Village is not as big and entertaining as the one in Orlando, but there were a number of attractions that kept the Bunnies busy for the evening.
It was a good decision to visit the village the night before as this saved the Bunnies time on the following day so that they could concentrate on the two paid parks instead.
Disneyland Park (10am-11pm)
The Bunnies started their day at Disney by heading to the main park at opening time. They were prepared for excessive queueing but it was surprisingly quiet. They practically walked in with their tickets and had the whole park at their disposal, with little to no crowds to fight.
As per plan, they headed straight to the Star Wars attractions…
Star Wars Rides
Disneyland Park has three Star Wars -related pulls: Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues and Encounter with Darth Vader.
The Bunnies had no trouble accessing any of these attractions right after opening time, between 10-11am. There were practically no queues.
The Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain rollercoaster ride was a hair-raising (for Bunny, anyway) experience with little to no Star Wars relevance. It was basically a rollercoaster ride with some Star Wars music and visuals thrown into mix. Entertaining enough, but nothing earth-shattering, Bunny thinks. Bunny later learned that the ride was formerly ‘Space Mountain’ based on an earlier Disney film, so the lack of Star Warsness made sense. Also worth mentioning: the narration, including audio clips of Star Wars characters, was all in French.
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues was a different story! Here you board a Starspeeder 1000 with some golden robot, or C-3PO to those in the know, and take off on a 3D voyage which has more than 70 different variations, making sure you are very unlikely to do the same ride twice. Bunny enjoyed all the rides (three, 2 in French and only 1 in English) they did and Mr. Bunny was positively glowing - quelle surprise! There are also some pretty cool displays to look at – for die-hard fans anyway - as you make your way from the entrance to the ride itself.
Meeting the Black Thing
Yes, Bunny now knows he is called Darth Vader, but she fondly remembers a time when she was just getting to know Mr. Bunny and carelessly called Darth Vader “the black thing in Star Wars”. Poor Mr. Bunny nearly fainted from the shock of such ignorance.
In Disneyland Park, Darth Vader is available for one-on-one, up close and personal meetings. Based on the earlier research (see ‘App’ heading above), the Bunnies headed straight for their anticipated encounter upon entering the park as the line for the audience was short (less than 10 minutes) and inviting. Soon afterwards, Bunny would smugly notice that waiting times were rarely under 30 to 45 minutes.
Mr. Bunny was pleased with his short encounter with the dark side. Disney staff were at hand to photograph the fun but, as expected, their pictures cost an arm and leg afterwards. Plus, the quality of the Disney-taken photos was surprisingly poor. This was another general contrast Bunny noticed with the Orlando parks.
Luckily, Bunny managed to snap a photo of Mr. Bunny and Darth Vader herself and didn’t have to pay the exorbitant prices for the official photo.
Then it was time for Bunny to cozy up to the black thing for her own picture. Bunny thinks Darth Vader had not come face-to-face with a formidable Bunny before. The poor chap seemed positively paralysed in the situation. Luckily, Bunny is not known for her chattiness either and was happy to pass the mighty encounter in silence.
Having gotten the compulsory Star War rides under their belts, the Bunnies felt free to explore the rest of the Disneyland Park. It is divided into five different sections: Adventureland, Frontierland, Main Street USA, Fantasyland and Discoveryland.
The Bunnies divided their time pretty evenly between the different sections - even exploring Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and trying some of the kiddie rides in Fantasyland!
The Bunnies used the FastPass system to avoid queueing for the most popular rides and wandered around without too specific a plan.
Big Thunder Mountain seemed to be the most popular ride, and the Bunnies had to wait until the late evening to score a FastPass for it. It ended up being one of Bunny’s favourites: an old-fashioned, fun rollercoaster where you don’t have to worry about 360 degree turns or hair-raising corkscrew spins.
While wandering the park, the Bunnies mostly avoided the fast food restaurants, where the service was awfully slow and the food average at best. Instead, they snacked on (overpriced) popcorn. Bunny would have loved a couple of cocktails too, but alcohol was quite difficult to come by. Perhaps best that way.
Bunny’s favourite rides in Disneyland Park were Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland and Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland. Both were very enjoyable, old-fashioned, feel-good amusement park rides fit for all ages.
Disney Stars on Parade
Every day at 5.30pm, Disney characters stroll through the streets of Disneyland Park in the spectacular daytime parade. Crowds will start gathering along the route an hour before.
Bunny recommends watching the parade as close to its starting place (next to Small World in Fantasyland) as possible. As soon as you see the banner indicating the end of the parade, you can bail out to a ride of your choice as the lines will be practically empty during the parade.
Very handy tip, Bunny says, tooting her own horn.
Disney’s sparkling night-time show is organised every evening at closing time (11pm when Bunny was there). The illuminations, laser projections and fireworks happen above and around the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
It is an amazing show, but it is also incredibly crowded. People start reserving good spots more than an hour in advance. Bunny just doesn’t have the patience for such insanity. She and Mr. Bunny preferred to enjoy rides right up until closing time, missing the good spots for the night-time show in the process.
The Bunnies ended up catching the show from close to the park entrance which meant that the view wasn’t great but at least it was relatively uncrowded. The spot also provided them a quick getaway once the show was over. In fact, the Bunnies timed their exit with the shuttle bus so that they didn’t have to wait at all. Their exit from Disneyland Paris was just as quick and painless as their entrance had been.
Walt Disney Studios Park (10am-8pm)
The Bunnies had visited the Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed their day there. Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris seemed to offer many similar rides and attractions, despite being smaller than its American cousin.
As the Bunnies had tickets to both Paris parks in one day, they visited Walt Disney Studios Park around midday, before returning again to Disneyland Park. It was very easy to walk from one park to another and use the same ticket to re-enter afterwards.
Signs at the exit said that a hand stamp was also needed for re-entry but attendants clarified that this was not needed. You should double-check in case this policy changes.
Although the Bunnies had limited time in Walt Disney Studios Park, it was still worth the effort and extra money to include that park in the ticket.
The Bunnies were familiar with some of the rides in Walt Disney Studios Park and headed straight to their favourites: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. The Bunnies used the handy FastPass system for both rides and spent minimal time queueing.
The Bunnies also checked out Armageddon: Special Effects and the Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic. You can skip the former while the latter was pleasant, if not a spectacular attraction. Bunny was also looking forward to experiencing Ratatouille, despite knowing nothing about it, but unfortunately the ride was broken at the time the Bunnies wanted to visit. Drat.
Otherwise the Bunnies enjoyed strolling around the park and soaking up the atmosphere.
Nice Surprise: Delicious Vegan Food
One of the best bits about going to Walt Disney Studios Park for Bunny was the food! The Bunnies’ visit coincided with Le Rendez-Vous Gourmand, a gastronomical event showcasing products and specialties from all around Europe. This provided a welcome break to the monotonous Disney food otherwise available in the parks and in the Disney Village.
To Bunny’s surprise, there was even a vegan kiosk offering delicious and spicy lentil soup, falafels and other goodies she had not expected to find in Disneyland. If only this was made a permanent food stand, all the vegetarians and vegans in Disneyland would finally have something decent to eat! It wasn’t even outrageously expensive.
Bunny’s favourite rides in Walt Disney Studios Park were The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Both were delightfully horrific.
Bunny’s Tips for Disneyland
Can you enjoy Disneyland Paris if you’re not a kid or a Disney fan, don’t know most of the characters, haven’t seen any of the movies and if you yawn at all things Star Wars? Absolutely, Bunny says! She may not tick any of the boxes Disney expects of its visitors yet ended up having a super fun day at Disneyland.