Properly named "Disneyland Resort Paris" and often simply called "EuroDisney", this is the Disney Empire's European variant of their archetypical theme park.
Disney's theme parks are (in)famous for their animatronic puppets, the attention to detail, their service mentality, their crowds - and their high prices. The intention is to completely recreate the "magic" of the Disney franchise; employees are not "staff" but "cast members"; the park is kept insanely clean; and everywhere you will find a perfectly running machine. For example, you won't find the same Disney character twice within sight - there are no duplicates. Children are clearly the focus of Disneyland, but older visitors are not neglected either.
All the theme parks follow basically the same setup, but of course there are many regional differences.
Disneyland Paris basically consists of three parks; the Disney village; Disneyland Paris itself, and the Disney Studio park. The Village is comprised of stores and restaurants; the Disneyland is the park everybody has heard of and expects; and Disney Studio Park has a more general moviemaking theme - but it's still very Disney.
The saddest thing about Disneyland is the total commercialism. It's something you have to either accept, ignore or enjoy. Besides the merchandise stores at every corner, many rides are "sponsored" by various large corporations.
When to visit
Disneyland is infamous for its crowds. At all attractions all over the park you will see "barricades" and signs along the lines of "Waiting time at this point - 45 minutes".
It is essential for an enjoyable visit to Disneyland to plan for a good time. Ideally, you want good weather and as few people as possible.
The best times to visit Disneyland Europe is on weekdays outside public holidays and school vacations. The least-visited times seem to be September-October and May-June. Considering the French weather, June is likely the safest bet. You'll probably be able to get some very good deals during these times. (Example in June 2003: 3 days for the price of 2 days, including hotel, about 200 Euros per person.) If you are lucky, you won't have to wait at all except at very popular rides, and even then the waiting time can be as low as a few minutes.
Note that even when the park is not very crowded you will have trouble to "see it all". For a more or less complete tour, you will need at least two days.
It should be said quite clearly that Disneyland Paris is a lot of fun when you don't have to wait a lot - but almost no ride is worth waiting 45 minutes or more. However, see below for "Fast Pass" tickets.
After you arrive, first get to your hotel if you have booked one. You will get your tickets here, as well as information material (maps) and breakfast vouchers.
The obvious choice if you live in France or in a nearby region (Central Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) is to take a car. The highway system of France is decent enough and Disneyland Europe is easy to find. You should keep a supply of cash and/or credit cards ready, however, as the French charge for the use of the highways. A trip from Frankfurt/Germany to Disneyland Paris can cost approximately 30 Euros in fees.
Disneyland Paris has its own train station that connects the theme park to Paris.
Eurostar run a daily service from Waterloo and Ashford direct to the Disney Land Paris station. You can then leave your luggage at the station and it will be moved to your hotel whilst you enjoy the parks.
Once you are in the park, your main mode of transportation will be walking. Disneyland is divided into four themed sections (Discoveryland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Fantasyland) and the central shopping and infromation area Mainstreet USA.
If you need to get from one side of the park to another, you can take the train which circles the Park and has a stop in each of the major sections.
Bus services exist which can take you from Disney Village and the central entrance to the hotels. These buses are free of charge.
Disneyland Paris is mainly a place for doing, not for seeing. But this doesn't mean there are no places with a good view.
There are many shows available throughout Disneyland Paris.
Most "activities" in Disneyland Paris consist of various rides. However, there are discos and bars in the village where people meet and dance.
Easily the primary attraction of Disneyland, rides can be quite crowded depending on popularity - even on otherwise empty days at the park. If you can plan your timing somewhat, you may wish to take advantage of the Fast Pass system. When you get to a ride, you can get a so-called fast pass that allows you to bypass the queue at a set, later time. Even when the park is only moderately crowded, it's a good idea to get fast passes for popular rides early (Big Thunder Mountain and Indiana Jones for example).
Some notable rides are:
If there is one thing you will never have a problem finding in Disneyland Europe, it's stores. Various themed and general stores are spread liberally throughout the park, selling Disney merchandise and general memorabilia. They carry everything from pencils to books, from Indiana Jones Fedora hats to Cinderella costumes. The sky is basically the limit on the money you can spend at Disneyland Europe - you can buy glass/crystal trinkets and sword replicas in the central castle. If you come to Disneyland Paris with children, be prepared to reach deep into your pockets; cowboy hats and pistols or knights' swords seem to be essentials for boys; cinderella costumes for girls. Either way, a set of goodies for a child will probably set you back approximately €50. Add to this plush dolls, t-shirts and aciton figures ... it's easy to spend 50-100 Euros a head on "souvenirs" - or more.
The main shopping areas are located at Mainstreet USA and in Disney Village.
Eat and Drink
Disneyland Paris sports many restaurants and bars that have mostly one thing in common: They're expensive. Some are simple fast-food joints, others are quite fancy.
Disney offers various hotels in and around the park. They vary in quality and style. All should offer a free safe to store your valuables during the day, including notebook computers. Inquire at the reception.
Disneyland Paris is mainly French, but all menus and signs are also available in English and some in other languages. All cast members speak English; and as they are recruited from all over Europe, you probably won't have a problem finding someone who speaks your language. If all else fails, the visitors are from all over Europe and the world, and a bystander might be able to translate.
Communication shouldn't be an issue.
You can buy postcards and stamps at most shops in the park. Mailboxes exist in some central locations. Ask the shopkeepers about the postage required to your destination.
The park doesn't offer Internet access to its visitors. Some of the more expensive hotels may offer an Internet Cafe though. Inquire before booking.