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Top 5 Disneyland Paris Experiences

Note this does not say attractions. It’s not the top 5 attractions. It’s the top 5 experiences I had on my May 2017 trip. An experience can be almost anything. It may be an attraction or it may be something as nebulous as a moment that made the Disneyland Paris park memorable.

I’ve also excluded the Star Wars Soiree, as while it was totally awesome and would undoubtedly be top of the experiences, it was a special event so can’t be experienced by a park visitor on a regular basis.

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5# Big Thunder Mountain

This was a surprise. As I tend to think a lot of the older, traditional rides in the Magic Kingdom survive exactly off that…tradition. The memory of riding them in the past, possibly across generations. In my head it was a basic runaway mine train sort of ride which you see as a staple in a lot of theme parks.

It is just a runaway mine train ride, but it’s awesome nevertheless.

It took us a while to get on Big Thunder Mountain. It was busy on the day we arrived. We mistakenly thought it would be open during Early Magic Hours, but alas not. I’m not the only one thinking Early Magic Hours in Disneyland Paris are a bit lame?

It seemed to be broke a lot, there was numerous times it wasn’t running. We did catch it on the second day with a queue that wasn’t too bad, thought in typical Disneyland Paris style it was always about 25% longer than the stated time.

It was awesome.

Yes, it is just a runaway mine train ride, but this doesn’t matter. As it’s a very good one. The first thing is it’s very long. It’s not a quick ride and has a number of restarts. The section where the dynamite goes off is particularly cool. I don’t remember that at all so either my memory is wonky, not unusual, or they’ve added stuff to it since I last went on it.

It was an amazing experience and the only bad thing about it is how difficult it is to ride it multiple times and this was during a very quiet period.

4# The Tower of Terror

It was inevitable that The Tower of Terror would be on this list as it is just a classic attraction. It’s one of those relatively modern attractions that has somehow gained actual classic, old school status even though it was added much later than the attractions usually bunched into that category.

If there is one ride that a tradition and history value for me associated with previous visits to Disney, specifically Disney World, it is the Tower of Terror.

The Disneyland Paris version of the ride is smaller. It’s pretty much the same for the pivotal drops but the build to the drops is a shorter journey. The Tower of Terror in Disney World has  section in which you seem to move through the hotel, this isn’t the case in Disneyland Paris. The drops take place in the same section as meeting of the ghosts, etc.

It is a beautiful attraction though, especially at night.  I’d even risk saying that it’s more beautiful than the version in Disney World. I can’t compare it with any other version. It helps that it dominates the park so much. Since it sits in the centre and everything else ‘sort of surrounds it’ it’s something you can see from pretty much all directions. It’s hard to remember what the Disney Studios park was like without it.

I would even dare to say, if there is one attraction in the whole of Disney World that I have some tradition-based allure to it is Tower of Terror.

3# Illuminations Fireworks

If someone had asked my what I expect to be the thing to blow me away and be top of this list before I went it would have been the Magic Kingdom fireworks. While I’ve learned not to always expect the awesome due to the weakness of Wishes, I still have high hopes for the castle projection originators: Disneyland Paris.

It’s an impressive show. It again focuses a lot on the 90’s films along with The Little Mermaid and Frozen. It’s a great mixture of fireworks, music and castle projections and it gets the mix right. The projects on the castle are particularly impressive being very vibrant in colour, crips and delivered with amazing clarity. I really like the opening bit with Mickey opening the door and letting The Lion King music out repeatedly, closing it each time.

The only regret I have is I wish we’d seen it again. I filmed it the first time and I don’t necessarily see it through the camera, as I can point it and then look directly at the show, but having watched it on the footage there was stuff I missed first time. So I do wish I’d saw it again, free of any obligations and just soaked it up.

I prefer this type of show. One that just relies on the power of the music and the films themselves rather than trying to summon up all sorts of emotion of Disney himself and the tradition around what he created. That works on me less.

2# The Parks At Night

What can I say? Wondering around the Disneyland Paris parks at night was the point at which the magic truly hit. I wasn’t expecting to feel that sort of elusive magic associated with Disney parks in Disneyland Paris, but I must admit the parks once the sun went down totally nailed it.

Main street. Yes. Strangely, the ‘Toy Story’ area in Studios. Certainly the Tower of Terror lit up. The part of the park that totally blew me away was Discovery land. I’m not sure why it was a surprise as I must have seen it at night on previous visits? Possibly time has just eroded the memories and experience.

The whole Jules Verne area looks absolutely glorious at night. So glorious you wish the token Star Wars but not Star Wars bit could be scrubbed out as the eyesore it is compared to the rest of this area.

Space Mountain and the Nautilus are just beyond romantic when lit up. While I don’t see much point of the walkthrough Nautilus attraction, it should be kept for all time on the basis of how glorious it looks lit up in the lake on an evening.

The sad thing is I’m not sure anyone was looking at it or noticing as we seemed to be the only ones in the immediate area soaking up the atmosphere of the place. I’ll admit it was a bit emotional. Not crying emotional, but the beauty of it was on a level that something swept over you beyond just an abstract appreciation.

1# Mickey And The Magician

With Disney and the Magician Disneyland Paris has defined what future Disney show based attractions should be measured by. It is that good. It’s that good it’s difficult to see. Even on the relatively light days we were in the park the show times were completely shot. Queue up half an hour before they’d say? No. The  should would start shortly after that point because the allotment was already full and the auditorium loaded.

Basically if you want to see this, just start queuing no matter if the next show seems to be an hour away. Don’t trust the schedule.

The brilliance of Mickey and the Magician is it combines a show that is part stage show magician and part reprise of hit songs from the 90’s period of Disney films all wrapped up an effective narrative with cool special effects. You key musical numbers from: Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin and Frozen. Okay, Frozen isn’t a 90’s Disney film but it’s based on exactly that model.

It’s a glorious show and I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are inspired by the Broadway shows that now exist for these films (except for Frozen, but that’s happening). This is certainly true of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast (though it’s a long time ago since I went to that stage musical). The Lion King segment even has all the arty puppets they use for the animals.

It’s a glorious show. If you can manage it, but it’s difficult because of the rule to not leave spare seats, sit at the edge of the row as that way you might get to interact with the ‘animals’ during The Lion King number.

And, Finally

It was an amazing experience at Disneyland Paris. I wasn’t expecting not to enjoy my trip but I wasn’t convinced there would be truly magical moments. I’d been there so many times. It’s primarily a Magic Kingdom park. The usual stuff.

In truth though there was some truly magical moments that beat my Disney World trip by a significant margin. Mickey and the Magician is just an amazing attraction that has no parallel. The Illuminations show was far superior that Wishes. Even the park at night was amazing, offering some visuals that stick in my mind over and above what I saw in Florida, Space Mountain and the Nautilis being a case in point.

It truly did offer some great experiences I’ll remember for a long time.

About Ian O'Rourke

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