Disneyland Paris is one of Disney's most visually stunning theme parks, combining the company's classic fairytale storytelling with pretty European-style architecture. The park is home to some real "hidden gem" attractions, such as the walkthrough Les Mystères du Nautilus and easy-to-miss La Taniere Du Dragon. However, most of its biggest draws are versions of attractions seen at other Disney parks around the world.
Since we launched our theme park guides last year, we've been keeping a close eye on our readers' ratings and reviews of attractions at Disneyland Paris (as well as those at 90+ other theme parks). As we're focusing on the French park as our "Park of the Month", we thought it was time to run-down its top 5 rides and attractions, as rated by Theme Park Tourist readers.
Note: this article covers rides at Disneyland Park only, and doesn't include those at neighbouring Walt Disney Studios. We'll cover those in a future article.
5. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast
Located in the building that once housed the Visionarium 360-degree movie, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast is a clone of the near-identical attractions at Disneyland and Disney's Magic Kingdom. It sees guests joining the popular Space Ranger from Pixar's Toy Story movies, and taking on the evil Emperor Zurg and his minions.
The ride uses the Omnimover system that was made famous by Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, and riders are equipped with laser guns. The aim of the game is to score as many points as possible by shooting targets that are located on the walls and, in some cases, attached to characters. Various different types of target are on offer, with some being worth more points than others (triangles deliver the biggest boost to your score, so keep your eyes peeled). Riders can even spin their vehicles using control sticks located on the vehicles’ dashboards.
While it’s based on a simple concept, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast is so well executed that it has deservedly become one of the most popular rides at Disneyland Paris. Even if laser guns aren’t your thing, there’s plenty to enjoy about the ride. The well-designed queue (complete with a talking Buzz, who delivers the mission briefing) and outstanding theming are well worth seeing, even if your aim is terrible. The temptation to have “just one more ride” to try and beat your top score can be overwhelming. Just keep aiming for those triangles.
Full details: Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast guide
4. Disney Dreams
Disneyland Paris debuted its spectacular night-time show, Disney Dreams, in time for park's 20th anniversary celebrations in 2012. The show is centered on Sleeping Beauty Castle, which is lit up in a variety of colours during performances.
Disney Dreams borrows a number of elements from the popular Fantasmic! and World of Color shows at Disney's US theme parks. A combination of projections, laser effects and powerful water fountains are used to create the visual effects in the show, which runs for more than 20 minutes. The show features scenes and music from classic Disney movies including Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, Ratatouille, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Tangled and The Princess and the Frog.
The park had long been lacking an evening spectacle to match those found at Disney's US parks. In Disney Dreams, it now has one. Sleeping Beauty Castle provides the perfect backdrop for a visual feast.
Full details: Disney Dreams guide
3. Phantom Manor
Disneyland Paris' take on the Haunted Mansion concept is unique, being located in the Frontierland section of the park. The ride's backstory is based around the tale of a bride who was left waiting indefinitely for her groom after he was lured into the attic of the Manor and hung by a mysterious phantom. The bride is seen on a number of occasions throughout the ride, along with a number of the phantom’s ghostly friends.
Several of Phantom Manor’s most recognisable scenes are based on those seen in the Haunted Mansion. The most famous of these is the ballroom scene, which uses the "Pepper’s Ghost" effect to create the illusion of a room full of dancing ghouls. However, the ride’s end scenes are entirely unique to the Disneyland Paris attraction. They are set in Phantom Canyon, a supernatural version of the Thunder Mesa town that provides the setting for Frontierland.
Most riders who experience the Phantom Manor will not understand its backstory, which is almost impossible to derive without prior knowledge. While the ride’s scenes are still a lot of fun to look at, the confusing jumble of events does little to build the atmosphere. That said, many of the elements that made the Haunted Mansion of Disney’s most renowned dark rides are present here.
Full details: Phantom Manor guide
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
Located right at the back of Adventureland, Pirates of the Caribbean is closely based on the original dark ride of the same name at California’s Disneyland. After a long, winding queue through the dungeons of a “fortress”, riders board boats and head off on a lengthy 15-minute adventure.
The bulk of the ride sees the boats floating past various scenes of carnage in which audio-animatronic pirates fight the forces housed in the fortress and pillage the attached town. Finally, they head down the second drop into the eerie final section, which is home to a variety of doomed, skeletal pirates.
The original Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland is one of the best dark rides ever created, and the Disneyland Paris version is equally compelling. Disney’s audio-animatronic creations remain as full-of-character as ever, and combine with the spectacular scenery to create a very convincing and absorbing journey. Best of all, this is the only version of the ride that is yet to be updated to feature characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies - meaning you can experience it just as it was originally designed.
Full details: Pirates of the Caribbean guide
1. Big Thunder Mountain
The Frontierland area is dominated by Big Thunder Mountain, which sits on an island in the centre of the Rivers of the Far West. While similar in style to the Big Thunder Mountain attractions at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, the Disneyland Paris version has several unique features – including its water-bound location.
Riders board a “mine train”, and are immediately plunged into darkness as they race at high speed through a tunnel under the Rivers of the Far West. They are then carried to the top of the first of three lift hills, before soaring around the mountain's exterior.
All of Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain roller coasters offer a stunning combination of thrills and immersive theming, but Disneyland Paris’ version stands out as being the very best of all. This is largely due to its island location, which serves to make it the clear centrepiece of Frontierland and also creates a sense of being isolated on the mountain while riding.
It's possible to ride Big Thunder Mountain dozens of times in a single day and still discover something new each time. The attention to detail in the theming of the queue and the ride itself is staggering, and it’s hard to believe that the mountain itself was not transplanted directly from Monument Valley. More so than any other ride at Disneyland Paris, Big Thunder Mountain is utterly transformed when it gets dark outside. Aim to ride at least once before sunset, and at least once after.
Full details: Big Thunder Mountain guide
What are your favourites?
Disagree with the rankings above? Let us know what your favourite rides at Disneyland Paris are by adding your own ratings and reviews.