I’m pretty lucky- I’ve got to visit both the original Disneyland and Disneyland Paris on multiple occasions and I really enjoy both parks. Something I think that’s great about them is the fact that although they follow pretty much the same layout both parks have a lot of differences. People have often asked me what the differences are between the two, and I thought I’d jot down a few of the main ones I’ve found on my visits to the parks. So onwards to the first in a series of differences between Disneyland and Disneyland Paris!
1. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
The pride and joy of every Disney theme park is the castle that sits in the heart of it all. Each park’s castle is slightly different, and some are more different than others. Disneyland and Disneyland Paris are both home to Sleeping Beauty’s castle, but both parks have very different castles to one another. The original Disneyland has the classic castle, built for the park’s opening in 1955. There’s a sense of magic about that, it’s the original castle, and all others that follow are built to top it, but time and again I return to that original castle and am reminded of it’s simple, elegant beauty. The castle contains a walk through of the Sleeping Beauty story, and it’s parapets and towers are often adorned in various celebratory livery. The snow at Christmas is my favourite, especially in the warm Californian weather.
Whilst the Paris park may use the same source material for it’s castle, this palace is a towering, more fantastical version, combining various European castles as whimsical inspiration. It glows a brighter shade of pink, and sits hewn from the mountain rock it stands on. The Imagineers have had a field day with this castle. As you walk in part of the castle still looks like the rocks it was built upon, and deep down below is cave with a giant sleeping dragon! The surrounding trees have been pruned to appear like in the film, and when the sky is blue the whole sight is purely spectacular! Sleeping Beauty’s story is once again told, this time through tapestries and stained glass windows in the upper hall of the castle. You can even walk out onto the castle walls for incredible views of Fantasyland beyond, and get a closer look at some of the details of the castle itself.
Both castles are stand out for different reasons, and I definitely can’t pick a favourite of the two. My suggestion is visit both!
5. Tomorrowland and Discoveryland
Tomorrowland in Disneyland California pays tribute to the future- or at least the future back in 1955, and whilst it’s filled with some fantastic attractions (Space Mountain still fills me with such incredible joy) I think design wise this section of the park can look a little dreary and ironically dated! Of course there are bits that are still pushing us towards the future, such as the spiralling orbs of the Orbitron, and the fancy satellite dishes that top a couple of the buildings, but the closer you get to the home of Space Mountain, the more I feel like you’re going ‘Back To The Future’ and arriving in the 70s. Tomorrowland celebrates the American Space Race. It’s imagery evokes the Saturn Rockets, man’s first steps on the moon, and that fantastic sci-fi vision that inspired the likes of Star Wars, which now also takes up residence here. Walt’s futurist vision in this section of the park is incredibly different to that of it’s counterpart in Paris though which relies on totally different theme material.
Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris draws on France’s own Jules Verne and his almost ‘steam punk’ version of the future to inspire this part of the park. The bright, colourful and brassy structures of the rides and Cafe Hyperion bring this part of the park to life, and exploring Captain Nemo’s submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is lots of fun. Space Mountain had an upgrade too- here you go upside down and corkscrew through space, based around the Jules Verne novel ‘From The Earth To The Moon’ in which he envisioned a giant cannon ‘The Columbiad’ launching people into space. The storytelling in this part of the park is so well done that you have to go home and research more into the world of Jules Verne to fully appreciate every detail, and honouring a French literary great makes this a perfect difference to experience.
3. Disney Food
Whilst I may prefer Discoveryland to Tomorrowland, one aspect where Disneyland really has Disneyland Paris beat is on the food front. One thing I remember very clearly about my time in Disneyland is the variety of food on offer, for every taste and budget, from tacos to fine dining, DL had it all! Disneyland Paris is more of a let down on that front. Not only will you find significantly less Mickey Shaped goodies, there’s no candy apples, and churros only seem to be available from a couple of the restaurants- and not like the classic Disneyland ones! Plus- there’s no Mickey Ice Cream Bars!!! All these classic treats missing from the park make it all feel a little less Disney. And how about Dole Whip? Well recently Disneyland Paris has introduced ‘Pineapple Whip’ the difference? There’s no pineapple soft serve on top of the pineapple juice, it’s just vanilla. Will it be as good? We’ll try it next week and find out! #WhipGate
4. Where be Pirates?
‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ is a classic Disney attraction, you may have heard of it, you may have also seen one or two of the 800 spinoff movies they’ve released since it’s creation. This animatronic fun fest takes passengers on a journey through the world of the Pirates, it’s one of the best themed rides in the park that’s stood the test of time, and it really makes you feel transported away.
In Disneyland the ride forms part of New Orleans Square, and you enter through one of the jazzy, old, buildings. Inside suddenly you’re in the heart of the Bijou, as you board your boat and are transported away. You’ll also find Jack Sparrow popping up in a few places- an addition that was made after the success of the numerous films. The entry to this ride feels very unsuspecting, especially considering how large the world of the ride feels. Is it all really hidden inside that small building? That is part of the magic I love in the Disneyland park, you get transported to far away worlds, from seemingly insignificant doorways.
There’s no New Orleans Square in Disneyland Paris (again on the food front you won’t find a Monte Christo here) so Pirates takes place, very fittingly, in Adventure Isle. The ride theming is fantastic. It sits inside an old coastal fortress, with a shop and the entry to the Blue Lagoon restaurant look like houses inside the protective walls. Across the road is Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock, which really adds to the location. Here Pirates also has one of the best queues in the park. Much like Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye in California, this is an incredibly themed section of the ride, that feels almost as fun as the ride itself. You enter the fortress and navigate it’s tunnels until you board the boats. Jack Sparrow hasn’t made the transition to Paris yet, though I believe he’s on the way, and the storyline has been a little re-jigged, skeletons at the end, rather than the start, but otherwise it’s much of the same ride.
Yet again, I think Pirates is worth experiencing in both parks, though I think the location and theming of Paris slightly wins out for me.
So that begins our look into the differences between these two great parks. There’s definitely lots of magic and fun to be had at both, and we can’t wait to share more of that with you over coming posts. All photos were taken by us and come from our various trips to Disneyland and Disneyland Paris from 2011 to 2015.
What are some of the differences you’ve noticed between the parks? Is there something you prefer from one to the other? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or Tweet Us!