In November 2012 (during a particularly rough time for us as a family) we took a magical trip to Disneyland Paris for 4 nights. We all know Disneyland Paris isn't going to compare to Disney World in Orlando, Florida (what I grew up with) but it captures just as much magic.
We had been debating on whether or not we wanted to spend the time/money to go to Disney Paris since we had heard it "wasn't worth it. But went anyways and we all came away refreshed, more full of wonder, happier and more bonded together as a family. Maybe it had something to do with being in a fantasy land full of smiling cheerful characters for a few days and forgetting about the troubles of "real life" that helped, but we really enjoyed it.
And it came at the perfect time. Not only a rough time personal time for us, but Ariana's 4th birthday! It was important and special for us to just spend an entire vacation just focused on Ariana and having kid friendly fun.
We drove the 4.5 hours from our home in Germany to the Disneyland Paris Resorts in France. We stayed in Disneyland Paris Sequoia Lodge. We had a spacious room with 2 large beds decorated in a woodland Bambi theme. They had 2 restaurants in the hotel, but with both of them it was recommended that you make a time slot reservation to save yourself from waiting. There were several characters that made apparences throughout the day to the hotel. We saw Goofy, Pluto and Mickey on the days we were there. There was usually only a handful of kids waiting to see the characters and it was a lot less hectic than seeing them in the park itself. You could also pose for pictures but take your own because the professional photos cost 15 Euro each!
The first day we went and enjoyed spending the day playing in Disneyland Park that includes, Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Discoveryland, and Adventureland.
We met Minnie Mouse as soon as we walked in the gates and she was all dressed in a fancy Halloween costume. Since it was only a few days after Halloween the whole park was still decorated with big pumpkins and ghosts and other spooky things. While we were there some of the decorations changed overnight to Christmas. Of course we all joined in the fun and got Minnie and Mickey ear headbands. Why not, right?
Ariana loved riding all the rides in Fantasyland. The Mad Hatter Tea Cups, Dumbo, and Snow White were some of her favorites.
After some snacks of yummy warm waffles (because it was November and it was cold) we explored under the castle and found a chained dragon who breathed smoke. We visited him many times throughout our stay and he always fascinated Ariana.
There were a few characters in the Disneyland Park but we somehow kept missing a lot of them. We did see Alice and the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum. The Queen of Hearts was the best character. She was making everyone bow and kiss her ring before she would pose for pictures.
Of course we had to see the parade that went down the main street of the park.
Adventureland and Discoveryland were fun too! She loved the Buzz Lightyear ride the best in those parts of the park. She met Captain Jack Sparrow but she wasn't so sure about him.
We met Mickey in the "Meet Mickey Pavillion" and then we stayed until dusk and then caught the shuttle back to our hotel for the night. It was a busy and fun filled first day.
The second day we went to Walt Disney Studios. We saw an incredible amount of characters there walking around and stopping for autographs and photos including Chip and Dale, Donald and Daisy, Eeyore and Rabbit (from Chistopher Robbin), Ariel, Rattitioule, Jasmine and Alladin,
Meeting Ariel made her day and even though she had a British accent Ariana didn't seem to mind much.
We went to see a couple of shows including Stitch Live which was fun and interactive with real time animation with Stitch on screen. We also saw Playhouse Disney Live (Handy Mandy, Little Einsteins, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse come alive on stage), and Animagique. Ariana picked out a plush Stitch doll at one of the gift shops.
We also saw the parade there which had different characters and lots of villains too!
There wasn't as many rides (for her age) in Walt Disney Studios but she loved the Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin which was kind of a little roller coaster and she was even brave enough to ride the parachute drop ride.
On her birthday morning we woke up and opened presents in the room first thing. She got a new toy kitty, a Merida (Brave) dress, a jewelry box and some other goodies. We let her wear her Merida dress over her regular clothes for the day. She was truly a little princess! Then it was off to explore Disneyland Park again and ride some of our favorite rides and see anything we missed the first day.
For a special birthday lunch we went to Auberge de Cendrillon to dine with Cinderella's mice friends and some of the princesses. Sleeping Beauty and Prince Philip entertained us with a ballroom dance and we got to have special one on one time with each princess when they came around to our table.
Snow White is her official favorite princess, Ariana even had her toenails painted ruby red "just like Snow White's lipstick". But, she loved meeting and chatting with Cinderella. The first things she asked her was "Can I see your glass slippers?" Cinderella explained that she kept her glass slippers in a special wooden box in her castle since they were so special to her.
At the end of lunch they brought out a special chocolate cake alight with candles and sang Happy Birthday to her. It was a magical birthday!
After her birthday lunch the sun came out and warmed us all up a little bit. We took the opportunity to have a little photo shoot by the castle. Ariana danced and twirled and then smiled her best 4 year old smile.
It's hard to believe it's already been 4 years since we first were blessed with this sweet little girl. We are so lucky to be her parents!
For anyone who is questioning whether or not to make a trip to Disneyland Paris, I say, GO FOR IT!! To our family it was well worth it and we came away with lots of awesome memories. Four years old was a pretty perfect age to enjoy the magic that the park has to offer. We are even debating going back again before we leave Europe next year, but we'll see.
To see more of our trip, you can watch our Disneyland Paris Video here. Simple but it captured some of the magic.
Totally perfect family vacation in Europe!