When I said I was going to Paris primarily to visit Disney, I got all sorts of weird looks. The looks weren’t quite as weird as when I ride a kiddie coaster all by my lonesome, but they were judgmental nonetheless. But did I care? Nope. Disneyland Paris is stunning.
Disneyland Paris may have the weakest ride selection of the castle parks I’ve visited. I mean, no Splash Mountain
But it compensates by being the most beautiful and ornate of the castle parks. And that’s no small feat. Plus it’s not like the ride selection is horrible. In fact, they have some of the best versions of classics like Big Thunder.
My first day was overcast and rainy. But in typical European fashion, crowds didn’t care one bit. Since I got a beautiful $350 roundtrip flight from Norwegian, I decided to use the money I saved to splurge on the Ultimate Fastpass for my first day. Yes it was pricey, but I was able to marathon the E-tickets nonstop.
And the E-ticket I used that perk most was Big Thunder Mountain. At the US parks, Big Thunder is popular. Calling the one at Paris popular is an understatement. This is easily the resort’s most popular ride. 90 minute queues and completely depleted Fastpasses were the norm.
Most of the ride is similar to the US counterparts. If you ride in the back, you’re treated to some sustained laterals and quick pops of air. There was one drop in particular that gave some uncharacteristic standing airtime. But what differentiates this one is the setting.
This one in Paris is located on an island. Since the station is on the mainland, this means that the ride starts and ends with two long, pitch black tunnels. The sense of speed in the last tunnel in particular rivals that of a hyper-coaster. Pretty much everyone who rides the Paris Big Thunder claims it’s the best, and I agree 100% with that notion. 7.5 out of 10
I was also really looking forward to Phantom Manor. When I booked the trip, it was supposed to be open. But the ride’s rehab dragged out longer than expected. I think the ride just reopened this week after a 1.5 year (!!) rehab. Seeing the familiar mansion in Frontierland was bizarre, but I’ve heard the ride has a really unique story. I guess that’s something to look forward to on a return trip.
Adventureland is usually one of the most compact lands. That’s not the case in Paris. This one is spreadout and has three distinct subareas- the Indiana Jones section, Adventure Isle, and the Swiss Family Treehouse.
Starting with the latter, the Swiss Family Treehouse isn’t exactly one of my favorite Disney attractions, but I love what Paris did with the attraction. I didn’t ride it, but the placement is perfect. It gives Adventureland a central icon that’s almost as striking as Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life.
Adventure Isle replaces the familiar Tom Sawyer Island. It’s a daunting series of bridges and caves. If you successfully navigate your way through this area, you’re rewarded with the best version of Pirates of the Caribbean…that I’ve ridden.
Pirates typically follows the following formula- caves, drop, battle, town scene, jail scene, lift. Paris had one too many sips of rum and decided to do it in reverse. The new take on a familiar ride kept me on my toes. But what really made the Paris Pirates the best was the pacing.
This probably is blasphemous, but the one at Disneyland has some slower sections. In Paris, every scene is a 360 degree spectacle of sights. And this one ends with a bang, both literally and figuratively. You get the ride’s second drop and it’s accentuated by a neat explosion effect. Until I ride the one in Shanghai, I can say this one is my favorite. 10 out of 10
Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie, so it’s a dream come true to go on an adventure with Dr. Jones at a Disney park. Usually that attraction takes the form of the Indiana Jones Adventure, which is the world’s greatest dark ride if you ask me.
Paris went a different route. They went with a roller coaster themed to the iconic mine chase scene of Temple of Doom. Aesthetically the attraction is incredible. It’s very similar to Tokyo’s Raging Spirtis. But no one ever talks about that. Instead they fixate on the skull-crushing ride. Is it really that bad?
Not quite, but it’s way rougher than I’d ever expect a Disney ride to be. After the first turnaround taken at like 5 mph gave me some headbanging, I rode defensively and leaned forwards. While this saved me from CTE, I was too busy in self-preservation mode to appreciate the theming.
From a coaster standpoint, it’s ok. The second drop provided a quick pop of air and the compact vertical loop is very forceful. While I didn’t hate Indiana Jones, it’s hard to favorably review something that needs to be ridden defensively. I hope this ride gets a Raging Spirits retrack someday. 5 out of 10
Fantasyland is probably the park’s largest land. For that reason, it’s sort of a bummer that it closes early. Several rides start to close at 8 pm and all of them are closed by 9 pm. However, I understand why it’s done for the fireworks.
Most of the attractions were familiar classics. Take Peter Pan’s Flight for example. The one in Paris has the same putrid capacity we all know and hate. I thought the ride was identical to the US ones too- some neat scenes but way too short to be worth an hour-plus wait. 6 out of 10
Voyages de Pinocchio and Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (aka Snow White) were also identical to the versions at Disneyland from a ride perspective and that’s not a bad thing. The only difference was the vehicles. The ones in Paris bumped the capacity up 50%. 7 out of 10
It’s a Small World is so easy to make fun of. Heck even Disney makes fun of it in the Lion King
But deep down inside I’ve grown to enjoy the versions that mix in the classic Disney characters. I think the one at Disneyland does this the best, but the one in Paris had one distinct advantage. They added in Slinky Dog. That gets brownie points from me! 9 out of 10
Credit whores will pitch a tent since this park’s Casey Jr. is a roller coaster. The layout is far more expansive than your usual powered coaster and it gives a neat, high-speed overview of the Storybook Cruise down below. Kids ate this attraction up, but it was a one-and-done for me. 4 out of 10
Last but not least, there’s Tomorrowland
Discoveryland. The ride selection and architecture feels identical to your typical Tomorrowland, but the color pallet gave it a unique twist. And undoubtedly the centerpiece of the land is Hyperspace Mountain.
Space Mountain is one of the most iconic coasters anywhere, but the one in Paris blows the other ones out of the water in the looks department. The oversized cannon appended to the dome is awe-inspiring. The uphill launch into the mountain is one of the most photogenic coaster moments I’ve ever seen.
Now how does it ride? This Space Mountain long had a reputation as one of the worst coasters on the planet. With the original trains, I can see why that would be the case. Jerky Vekoma transitions in complete darkness just sounds like a bad idea. But the vests eliminated all headbanging. This allowed me to appreciate Space Mountain for what it is- a coaster far more intense than any other Disney coaster.
The uphill launch is very reminiscent of Lightning Rod. The top speed is modest, but it pulls some sneaky Gs. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The first section has some abrupt turns and that sidewinder has a mean streak. Having an inversion that forceful in complete darkness is incredible. I’d be hard pressed to name a more forceful non-Schwarzkopf inversion.
The other notable parts of the coaster include two double downs that give hints of airtime, an awesome corkscrew over a tie-fighter battle, and a mind-warping is-it-an-inversion element. RCDB classifies that element as a tongue. Ultimately it was something between a cutback and an overbanked turn.
Hyperspace Mountain was my favorite ride at the resort outside of Tower of Terror. It was an original take on a classic Disney attraction. I still can’t believe a ride this intense exists at a Disney park, but I’m certainly not complaining. 8 out of 10
Next door is Star Tours. Outside of being in French, the ride was identical to the US counterparts. However, I felt like I hit the lottery since I avoided the dreaded Jar Jar Binks sequence. I can’t remember the last time I rode Star Tours without that scene. 7 out of 10
Another direct port from Disneyland was Buzz Lightyear Astro Blast. I only rode it once for this reason, but it was as fun as ever. The set-pieces are far more expansive than most shooters and I love how the different shaped targets are worth varying point values. 8 out of 10
One of the most unique aspects about Disneyland Paris is the sheer number of walkthroughs. While I prefer traditional rides, these walkthroughs gave a unique flavor to the Paris park. Plus it cannot be overstated how nice it is to have attractions with absolutely no wait at a Disney park.
I think the most well-known walkthrough is Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. Hedge mazes were a staple of mine in Roller Coaster Tycoon, but I hadn’t experienced one until now. Here in New England, we believe in corn mazes.
I was stunned just how much land this attraction occupied and it was a neat diversion.
But I think my favorite walkthrough was the Taniere du Dragon, aka the Dragon Lair. Sleeping Beauty’s castle is a beacon of hope, but the basement houses one of Disney’s most impressive animatronics ever. There you’ll find a colossal dragon with a far wider range of motion than anticipated.
If you want something more cheery, the attic of the castle houses the Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, aka the Sleeping Beauty Gallery. The room was filled with lavish tapestries and stained glass portraits more fit for a church. But I think my favorite part was the overlook of Fantasyland.
I also tried the Mysteres du Nautilus, which turned out to be the weakest. The one noteworthy part was the Kraken attack in the final room, but the animation was quite blurry.
Ultimately I had 1.5 days at Disney plus a third day’s Extra Magic Hours. This allowed me to get multiple rerides on E-tickets, experience the other key attractions once, and appreciate the beauty of the park. That being said, I easily could have spent more time.