Wednesday 11 December 2019

Fairytale snow and Frozen princesses as Christmas comes to Disneyland Paris

It's got the stars of Frozen, Mickey Mouse and, of course, Santa. It's a winter wonderland at the theme park, says Mark Evans

Mid-afternoon on a crisp Parisian day. Bustling crowds of adults and children, young lovers and excitable teenagers throng the streets.

Then something magical happens.

It snows.

Not your unwelcome stop-the-trains and clear-your-driveway storm; merely a gentle flurry accompanied by Christmas music.

Yes, this is no ordinary Paris suburb: this is Disneyland Paris, where the snow appears by magic, delighting even the hardest of French hearts.

It's a wonderful moment: like a flash mob of happiness, and while Disneyland Paris is an amazing attraction at any time of year, there's something extra special about Christmas.

It's exciting, no matter what your age.

The first time I visited, on a detour from a French camping holiday, my son was a mere toddler and gurgled out "Nickey Nouse" every time he caught a glimpse of his favourite Disney character.

He wasn't so pushed about Pluto, and the sight of a giant dog walking on two legs around the park freaked him out. Whisper it quietly, but now, even as a teenager, he still gives Pluto a wide berth.

Now, at 14, it was interesting to see how he'd fare at Disney's Enchanted Christmas - which is running until January.

I needn't have worried. With characters out of Frozen and Toy Story, Mickey and Minnie, of course, and Santa himself in the Christmas parade, even the cold heart of a teenager was melted.

And if you've got young girls in tow, they'll be in royal heaven. They can meet Frozen's Elsa and Anna at the Princess Pavilion, while Olaf the snowman is one of the star attractions at the nighttime Disneyland Dreams of Christmas lights and musical spectacular in front of the world-famous castle.

And princesses are everywhere in Disneyland, with countless young girls dressing up while the boys, well, they're dragging their folks off to the army-themed parachute jump in the Toy Story area of the park. The newest attraction is the Ratatouillle section, with a great new restaurant, Bistrot Chez Remy, in a Parisian-themed area, complete with exciting new Ratatouille ride.

All the Disney favourites are still around - from the tea cups and Dumbo rides of the cute Fantasyland to the cutting-edge animation studios of the adjacent Walt Disney Studios.

What's great is the jump within a few hours from tarmac at Dublin Airport to first rollercoaster - and with a teen in tow it's great to sample the big thrills.

If you think Disney is just for small kids, the shrieks from the French woman beside me would quickly dispel that notion.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror isn't for the fainthearted. The staff member who guides us through the creepy 1930s hotel loves his job - spooking the customers.

After watching the grisly fate suffered by a family in a lift in the Twilight Zone, you soar up to the top of the hotel ride - and then dropped. Elsewhere in the Studios area is the Rock N Rollercoaster, featuring a nerve-jangling instant acceleration before you're catapulted around an indoor track.

And even my son, Stephen, who's 14, revelled in the nostalgia of the Toy Story area, enjoying fab views from the top of the RC racer track and the parachute drop.

The main park has its thrill rides too, with Space Mountain: Mission 2 always a favourite. With a nervy take-off you're brought on a rollercoaster ride through the heavens at breathless speeds.

Fancy upside down loops: look no further than the Indian Jones ride, based on the rickey-looking mining trains from the Temple of Doom.

And thrills are on offer too for younger children, with one of the favourite park rides - the runaway train on Big Thunder Mountain.

There's enough food and drinks options to keep the whole family going for days, but one of my favourites is the Middle Eastern-themed Agrabah in Adventureland (he loved the help-yourself mini Smarties and chocolate desserts), while The Steakhouse in the Disney Village is a great place to unwind from the madness and the magic.

Enchanting young kids is tough - but entertaining smartphone-obsessed teens is a big ask. Job done, Disney.


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