A run-away mine train, towering gold-plated spires, and a rollercoaster to a galaxy far, far away - it’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and the reason that 15million tourists pass through Disneyland Paris’s turnstiles every single year. Stephen Davy-Osborne explores why 2017 is the year to relive your childhood in a magic kingdom not so far, far away.

It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago British tourists wanting to experience the Disney magic had an eight hour flight to the States to contend with in order to escape the mundanity of everyday life, when today all it takes is a two hour train journey from central London to the heart of the magic. And this year Disneyland Paris is throwing quite the birthday party to mark the silver anniversary of their very first rope-drop in 1992.

As a child of the nineties I remember vividly the park opening. Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California seemed a million miles away and the sort of places that only other people went to. To have our own slice of the magic near enough on home soil was something really quite special.

There’s a common misconception among Brits who have set their heart on long summer holidays in Florida or California that Disneyland Paris is simply Walt Disney World’s poorer younger sibling. Far from it. If anything, Parc Disneyland on the outskirts of Paris is quite possibly the most beautiful of all of Disney’s worldwide parks. Based in the heart of Europe - no more than a four-hour drive for 68 million people and no more than a two-hour flight for a further 300 million – it had to be, as there are countless other inspiring tourist destinations with far more history to contend with. Although the parks today attract more visitors each year than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Sacre mouse.

Disneyland Paris is very much Disney, but on France’s terms.

And it’s as though the Disney Imagineers were given a blank cheque and told to let their imagination run wild. True, it doesn’t have as many attractions or parks as its Floridian counterpart, but the two themeparks that make up the resort at present have a firm roster of rollercoasters and thrill rides to suit all ages.

Parc Disneyland is home to the iconic Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (or Sleeping Beauty castle to you and I) with its beautiful stained glass windows and tapestries telling the storyline of the favourite fairytale, which serves as a point of orientation when exploring the parc.

Fanning out around the castle are the five lands that make up the parc, each with its own expertly-crafted theme. Here you can find the Wild West-themed Forntierland, home to Big Thunder Mountain and Phantom Manor, along with Mississippi steam boat Molly Brown, and some of the best steak this side of cowboy country.

Captain Jack Sparrow, the Swiss Family Robinson, Indiana Jones and Captain Hook can all be found in Adventureland, while storybook favourites such as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Snow White can all be found in the Alpine village-esque Fantasyland directly behind the castle’s soaring towers.

Neighbouring Fantasyland is the futuristic Tomorrowland, home to many a treat for Star Wars fans, and one of the parc’s most popular attractions, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. Leading to each of these magical lands is the expertly themed Main Street USA, a typical Mid-Western town at the turn of the century, where the imagineers’ talents really come to life. A ride along the length of the street to the chateau in an ornate 19th century-style horse-drawn streetcar really is the only way to travel.

But after dark is when the parc truly comes alive. Disney has clearly invested a significant amount of time and money in their night-time spectacular, Disney illuminations, which sees the chateau become the canvas for a dazzling night-time show, complete with fire, water fountains and of course – fireworks. It has to be seen to be believed, and is the ultimate 25th birthday celebration.

The resort’s ‘second gate’ is the Walt Disney Hollywood Studios, celebrating the glory days of Hollywood – and Walt Disney’s own artistic vision, which joined Parc Disneyland in 2002 to mark the tenth anniversary. Here you can ‘enjoy’ being dropped 13 storeys at the Hollywood Tower Hotel as you step over into the Twilight Zone, and experience life on the ground as a rat in the park’s latest addition – Ratatouille: The Adventure, a unique attraction to the Parisian park.

Smaller than Parc Disneyland, the Studios are definitely worth your time exploring, and they have a really strong line-up of thrill-ride attractions that will appeal to slightly older guests.

Then there is the Disney Village, home to the biggest shop on the entire site – World of Disney, as well as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and a host of top-notch dining options, including the Rainforest Café and Billy Bob’s Country Saloon. PanoraMagique is also not to be missed – this tethered hot air balloon takes guests soaring above Lake Disney for unrivalled views out across the parks – and even beyond to Paris itself.

A key part of the Parisian parks’ success has been the six on-site hotels, created to allow guests to stay as close to the magic as their credit cards will allow them. The five-start Disneyland Hotel also serves as a striking entrance gate to Parc Disneyland, with the turnstiles beneath, while Hotel New York and Newport Bay (complete with its very own lighthouse) face each other across Lake Disney, with the premium Sequoia Lodge nearby. The resort’s two ‘budget’ hotels are a very pleasant five minute walk alongside the River Rio Grande. Both are beautifully themed, with the Hotel Cheyenne taking on the format of a Wild West village – complete with horses – and Hotel Santa Fe drawing its inspiration from the runaway success of Cars, making it a popular choice among younger families. For those wanting a more rustic stay, there is the Davy Crockett ranch a short drive away.

Perhaps one of the nicest aspects of the whole resort is that it has been built from scratch to be exactly that – a place where you can become completely immersed in the magic. Unlike the original Disneyland in California - which is suffocated on all sides by cheap hotels, cheaper burger joints and even cheaper knock-off souvenir stores - Disneyland Paris was built from the ground up to be its very own magic kingdom. Once you step off the Eurostar within the park perimeter all connection with the outside world can be severed. There isn’t even WiFi in the parks (yet).

Both Parc Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios have undergone one of the biggest renovation projects to date over the last year, and it really shows. Disney is billing 2017 as their time to sparkle, and they certainly know how to light up the skies, as well as their guests’ eyes.


Disneyland Paris is currently offering 20% off bookings with free half board dining plan for bookings before October 31. www.disneylandparis.co.uk