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American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

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Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

Book NOW for September 5-6
The American Church of Paris is hosting A Prarie Home Companion radion show with Garrison Keillor for two dates, September 5th at 8pm and September 6th at 4pm. Tickets are €31, book as soon as possible, space is limited.

Through August 24
The Paris Fun Fair (Fête Foraine) is open in the Tuileries (Louvre Gardens), daily 11am-11:45pm (until 12:45am on Friday and Saturday). Free entrance, but you’ll need to buy tickets for each ride on the usual carnival attractions, or have cash for cotton candy and the games where you can win prizes. The Ferris Wheel has excellent views over Paris! 

Through August 24
The annual Open-Air Cinema Festival takes place Wed-Sun nights at the Parc de la Villette's Triangle Prairie (M° Porte de Pantin), starting at sunset (around 10pm), free entry. This year's theme is Adolescence, including films such as Moonrise Kingdom, Scream 4, and American Graffiti.

Through August 31
Between the Lines and the Trenches, a very intimate collection of personal letters, notebooks and photos from the trenches, many never published before. At the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts (222 Boulevard Saint-Germain), through August 31st, entry €7.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL CALENDAR

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees
to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

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Tuesday
Aug242010

How to Survive Disneyland Paris, Part 1

In front of the Disneyland Hotel, at the park entrance. Wearing my pins.

I should begin by stating the obvious: I love Disneyland. A lot. My parents never took the family (of six) to Europe, but we never skipped annual trips to Disneyworld in Florida or Disneyland in California. When the rest of my family outgrew it, I continued to go on my own. First with my middle school marching band (cue “Eye of the Tiger” on clarinet and a dorky band uniform, which thankfully we didn’t have to wear all day), with friends in high school (only a bunch of teenagers with new drivers licenses can make a 7-hour road trip from Scottsdale to Anaheim seems like fun), and then again in college (we also went to Las Vegas on that trip…and wished we’d stayed at Disney longer).

I love the landscaping at Disneyland.

I’ve been in France 15 years now, and I think I’ve been to Disneyland Paris at least a dozen times, and I even got to cover the opening of Disney Studios in 2002 for work. I’d go more often but it’s a tad harder to convince Parisians to come with me, especially if it’s cold or wet. I have a few souvenirs, a stuffed Steiff ‘Steamboat Willie’, a Jack Skellington mug, and some cool collector pins (still looking for a good Haunted Mansion or Nightmare Before Christmas pin). And how did I celebrate the 100th edition of the Secrets of Paris Newsletter last week? I went to Disneyland, of course!

Victoria, a fellow Disney fan, with Jack Sparrow in the background.

Anyway, this is just to warn you in advance that I like Disneyland so much that I am willing to put up with four things I don’t like very much:

- going to the suburbs

- standing in long lines

- other people’s kids (and the strollers they ride in on)

- and worst of all…crowds

And judging by the looks on the faces of pretty much everyone else at Disneyland, I don’t think I’m the only one. So here are just a few tips on making your trip to the Magic Kingdom just a little bit less stressful.

The little mice are adorable!

Disclaimer: I’m writing for the large majority of the Secrets of Paris audience, namely English-speaking people living in Paris. The tips don’t address people coming to Disneyland with kids, because I honestly have no idea how parents survive Disneyland…hats off to them.

GETTING TICKETS

I got myself a basic Annual Passport (€99), which essentially pays for itself after two or three visits. There are some restricted dates (like Halloween, Christmas), but you can upgrade to two other passes (up to €199) that allow full access, parking, and big discounts at Disney shops and restaurants. A regular ticket purchased from the USA is $74 for just Disneyland (not the Disney Studios next door). If you are a resident of the Ile-de-Frace, you get a special rate of €29, which is pretty darned cheap (you do have to purchase it at least five days in advance, only good weekdays). It’s not easy finding this rate, you have to first of all make sure you’re in the “French language, Ile-de-France” country, which you can change at the bottom of the screen on the Disneyland Paris site if for some reason it defaults you to the UK or US site. This will still usually take you to the “Billet” page for the regular ticket of €53. Just look at the menu on the left and click on “Billet Francilien” and you’ll see the €29 rate for weekdays, and €40 for weekends. Make sure it works for the date you want to go, et voila, buy your ticket. If you want to be sneaky and try to buy a Francilien ticket when you don’t have an Ile-de-France address, don’t come crying to me when you don’t get in. Cheating Disneyland is just bad karma (even if they are a global empire). There are about a billion other “special rates” on the Disney site, so if you can stand it, have a scroll around. Getting on their mailing list will alert you to specials.

The Mark Twain Riverboat ride.

PREPPING FOR THE BIG DAY

What to wear? It’s Disneyland Paris, after all, so no jeans or sneakers. Just kidding. Style still counts in Paris, especially if you’re hoping to get cute pics of you and Jack Sparrow. But do wear comfy shoes, and layer in case it’s too hot or too cold (or too wet, as in the Thunder Mountain Railroad). Pockets, especially ones that zip, are brilliant for holding tickets, FastPasses, and anything loose that you need to secure on the rollercoasters (sunglasses, park map, camera). A small backpack or purse that zips closed is recommended for holding your water bottle, wallet, sunblock, spare sweater, small umbrella or poncho, some granola bars or other snacks that won’t get squashed or attract too much attention (technically, picnics are only allowed outside the park, so you could leave a cooler of food in your car). A hat may be good for sun and light rain, but be sure it’s one you can easily stuff in your bag for rollercoasters. Bring cash in case the cash machine has a line, and make sure your batteries are charged. Finally, don’t wear dangling jewelry, new shoes (unless you also pack band-aids for blisters) or carry a heavy bag that will hurt after a few hours. You can put items in lockers or at the coat check kiosk if you don’t need to carry them around all day (ie a rain coat, change of shoes).

A glass-blower in Merlin the Enchanter boutique (in Sleeping Beauty's Castle).

GETTING THERE

I own a car, which tends to only come out of storage for trips to Disneyland. Considering the price of RER train tickets (€6.70 each way), if there at least two of you it’s worth paying the fee to park your car at Disneyland (€15). There’s nothing like being sick of crowds after a long day at Disneyland to make that ride back to Paris on public transportation feel like torture. Yes, you may get stuck in traffic like we did last week, but at least no one is bumping into you, taking your seat, playing annoying music too loud, or subjecting you to their personal body odeur. If you had a pile of friends (okay, or a family), you could even rent a car and it would be worth it. Viatours also offers bus and ticket packages for €81 (although you have to go at dawn and leave Disneyland at 7pm, and you still have to get home from the drop-off point in Paris). If you’ve got money to burn, you could always hire a taxi or shuttle service to drop you off and pick you up. Then you can at least sleep in the car. If you absolutely must take the RER A, then be sure to get a round-trip ticket from Paris so you don’t have to stand in line to get back. If there are a bunch of you, get a discount on the price of the tickets by buying a “carnet” of ten for €53.60.

Take the only highway out of east Paris and follow the signs...

DISNEYLAND WITH PETS

I know some of you have dogs. And if you plan on being at Disneyland Paris all day and all night until they close, you may not want to leave them at home on their own. Pedro and Lena can tell when I’m going somewhere fun, and for some reason they always assume they get to come, too. And since they’ve been home alone a lot this summer (it’s been a busy tour season), I thought they’d enjoy a day at Disneyland, too. Of course, they don’t actually get to come into the park, but they don’t know that. The Animal Care Center (or Accueil Animaux) is right at the entrance to the park, and if you come with pets in your car, you get to park in the area closest to the park as well. Bonus! Even better, the rate for dog-sitting and feeding for the day is just €10/dog, a steal compared to Parisian kennels (which were all full, anyway). They can stay overnight for €20/each. The caveat is that hey don’t get walked, so they stay in their cages all day (they get cleaned, and pets are provided with food and water). If you want you can come out and walk them yourself in the grassy area by the parking lot. I left Pedro & Lena with their doggy bed and their own food in a large cage for the two of them. They started howling as I left, just like all the other dogs there. At least they weren’t doing it in my apartment all day! Randomly, you don’t pay at the Care Center; they give you a ticket and you pay at the Coat Check kiosk just before the park entrance, keeping the receipt for when you pick them up. They slept well on the car ride home, completely barked out for the night.

It actually looks totally cute on the outside. Inside? Well, there aren't any rides...

Ready to attack those rides now?
Read How to Survive Disneyland Paris 2.

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Reader Comments (7)

"four things I don’t like very much:

- going to the suburbs

- standing in long lines

- other people’s kids (and the strollers they ride in on)

- and worst of all…crowds

And judging by the looks on the faces of pretty much everyone else at Disneyland, I don’t think I’m the only one. "

I suppose you missed the irony of this....
August 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie M.
Charlie M:
Not at all, lol! Just like all of my cients don't think *they* are tourists, I never think *I'm* part of the crowd. ;-)
August 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
He, he, he, he - you're smarter than the av-er-ej bear!
August 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie M.
I love Paris and France though I only have spent a couple of months there with my girlfriend Louise who uses a wheelchair to get around. We traveled throughout the country from Mont St Michele to Marseille and well as a lot of time in Paris. Now if I ever get another chance I'm going back again and I may spend much longer the next time, but I live in Long Beach near Disneyland in Anaheim California and I can't see going to Disneyland Paris when there is so much more in Paris to see than can be seen in a lifetime. Last year a good friend of mine had a week to visit Paris for the first time and before he went he told me that he had planned one day to see Disneyland Paris, now that just seems like such a waste to me with so much real history everywhere.
September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteven Stein
I love Disney too: but don't be so quick to discount "the suburbs"! Your lovely blog would be full of interesting sites to see in St Germain en laye's beautiful cobblestone streets with a chateau at your RER exit , charming shops and restaurants....including the Claude Debussy museum and birthplace......not to mention the weekend "walking clubs" that pass by my front door on the impressionist walking tour through Bougival, Louvciennes and Marly le Roi where the greatest painters of all time kept homes with the art in museums world wide to prove it !! Camille Pissarro's home is just down the block!! Come visit us too!!
September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn B
Hi

I will be traveling with my 2 yr old son from Paris to Disneyland. We are considering renting a car. Is it easy to drive from Champ Élysées to Marne La Vallee or is the traffic so horrendous it would be better to book a shuttle as tourists?
June 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLyndy
Hi Lyndy, I wouldn't rent a car; you're all the way on the other side of Paris from the highway to Disneyland, and yes, traffic will be a nightmare. Just get a taxi to the RER station at Auber (Opera). It goes directly to Disneyland quickly (the shuttle really limits when you can come and go, and will also get stuck in traffic).
June 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall

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