Think of France, and Mickey Mouse and American culture may not immediately spring to mind; but that hasn’t stopped Disneyland Paris becoming one of the country’s most visited attractions since it opened in 1992.
The theme park now attracts more than one million visitors a year to the small town of Marne-la-Vallee on the outskirts of Paris, and Disneyland Paris even has its own hotels and restaurants, and families need never leave the resort area – although with Paris just a short train ride away, it would be a shame not to at least take a day trip into the French capital.
It was decided in the late 1980s that Europe needed its own Disneyland park, to build on the success of the two US attractions in Florida and California, as well as the Disneyland which had been opened in Tokyo in 1983. Countries and cities fought fiercely for the right to host the lucrative development, with over 1,000 sites being considered by the Walt Disney Corporation. Eventually, Marne-la-Vallee was chosen, and work began on the project in 1988, taking over four years to complete.
The park itself consists of three main attractions; the rides, hotels and extra attractions such as live shows, shopping and even golf courses. The hotels are all within a short distance of the park itself, with free shuttle buses available to guests and even special early passes to get into Disneyland Paris before the crowds. Hotel accommodation ranges from five-star luxury to family lodges, but all have excellent amenities and plenty to keep the kids amused when the park has shut for the day.
Disneyland Paris itself is divided into different themed “lands”, with the attractions in each area matching the theme; for example, the roller coaster Big Thunder Mountain can be found in Frontierland, while Space Mountain is located in futuristic Discoveryland. Entry to the park is through Main Street USA, where you can pick up a souvenir and meet your favourite Disney characters, as well as watching the daily parade and the nightly fireworks display.
Finally, the extra attractions include live shows based on Disney films and a huge range of family-friendly restaurants. Even Dad can enjoy himself with a round on one of the resort’s two championship golf courses.