Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary Trip Report – Part 1
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed by the 25th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris. If you read our France trip report from last fall, you know I was pretty excited about this. I even dubbed Disneyland Paris my top Disney destination for 2017. In this trip report, I’ll share photos and thoughts from our Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary trip, albeit in a more truncated trip ‘recap’ format.
Perhaps my expectations for the 25th Anniversary were too high. Though I didn’t want to say as much to potentially overhype this for readers, I was partially expecting this to be a quasi-relaunch of Disneyland Paris. The foundation was set for it, with most large scale refurbishments being complete, and new entertainment slated to debut.
Obviously, that’s nothing on par with what Disney California Adventure did for its billion dollar-plus overhaul or what Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now doing, but for Disneyland Paris, a park that has worn the albatross of financial woes since its opening, it was a huge step in the right direction. So, why the disappointment?
It boils down mostly to the new entertainment and other missed opportunities. On the plus side, when looking at the 25th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris solely from the perspective of “Project Sparkle,” the Experience Enhancement Plan that would overhaul 10 classic attractions, it is a rousing success.
To that end, I still think it’s an excellent time to visit Disneyland Paris, and it was an incredibly satisfying trip.
Disneyland Paris is looking better than we’ve ever seen it before. Some 25 years later, much of the park looks brand new. Disneyland Paris has always been Disney’s most charming and beautifully-designed castle park. Now, it’s the best-designed castle park and in a condition befitting one of Disney’s flagship parks.
As with on our last trip, we were taken aback by just how nice the lands of Disneyland Paris looked. More work had been finished since our last trip, and the amount of fresh paint, renewed emphasis on upkeep, and restored details, Disneyland Paris truly is ‘sparkling’ for its 25th Anniversary.
The most notable changes since our last trip were the Fantasia Gardens around Disneyland Hotel, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Star Tours, and Main Street, U.S.A.
This was on top of pretty significant improvements that had just finished prior to our trip last fall to Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Adventure Isle, and it’s a small world.
The unequivocal highlight of all this was the return of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The lengthy refurbishment to this had encompassed our last two trips to Disneyland Paris, but was finally finished. If downtimes during our trip are any indication, there are still some hiccups that need to be ironed out, but when it’s running, wow, what an attraction!
This has always been the definitive version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it’s even better than before. The queue details, the sounds, sights, and even smells are all fantastic. The track is smooth (except when it’s intentionally not), the vehicles are fast, and the new effects were added delicately so they don’t stick out from the rest of the attraction.
On our last night in Disneyland Paris, I had to choose between continuing to photograph Thunder Mesa or rushing over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before it closed to get in one last night time ride, and I chose the latter. That I’d choose it over photography should speak volumes about this attraction. (No regrets, either. The nighttime experience with Disney Illuminations exploding in the distance is splendid.)
For a more leisurely experience to see everything improved upon around the Rivers of the Far West, we finally had the chance to experience the Molly Brown again. This whole river loop looked incredible. Most notably, the “Old Unfaithful” geysers were looking spectacular. (Check out the before and after in this DLPToday post, photos towards the top.)
I was perhaps more excited about seeing these geysers than any adult should be, but it’s the details like this are the highlight of Disneyland Paris for me. It’s such a divisive park–a topic I plan on covering in the near future–and I think the big reason this is the case is because it does not appeal as much to fans who are primarily ride junkies.
However, if you are into Disney for the amazing attention to detail and design, there’s a good case for Disneyland Paris being the crown jewel of all castle parks.
While we were on our circle tour, we noticed work being done to one of the River Rogue Keelboats. This led me to wonder if maybe one would be out (not for guests) for the day of the 25th Anniversary. That turned out to not be the case, but I later heard there are rumblings that the River Rogue Keelboats might return this summer. That’d be a huge win.
As a whole, Frontierland looked incredible. This is my favorite land at Disneyland Paris (which is tough because there are so many good lands), and I love the Thunder Mesa backstory. With that said, I did have two minor disappointments: Cowboy Cookout BBQ and Lucky Nugget Saloon did not have live entertainment during our visit (at least none that I saw), and there was no tasteful Phantom Manor merchandise for men.
The live entertainment is the bigger deal of the two, and it’s possible we just missed this (but we checked multiple times). There was musical equipment out in the little stage area there.
Still, fairly minor complaints given how perfect the land otherwise looked.
Pirates of the Caribbean was down, as expected, and will remain down until July. It was a bit surprising to see the entire exterior basically with a big tent around it (it looked almost like a house being bug-bombed!), but this attraction was in desperate need of an overhaul. It’s a given that Jack Sparrow is going to be added, but I hope at least it’s done tastefully and with other non-IP upgrades to other scenes.
There were rumors that Hyperspace Mountain might soft open during our visit, but that did not occur. Honestly, I did not really care. I haven’t really gotten caught up in the controversy surrounding this change. I feel the ship sailed on Discoveryland’s brilliant theme when Buzz Lightyear was added and the original Space Mountain: De la Terre Á la Lune was changed to the painful Space Mountain: Mission 2.
It’d be great to see Discoveryland’s original grandeur restored, but realistically, I know that isn’t happening. I’m honestly surprised they aren’t doubling down on Star Wars and changing the Nautilus walk-through to a crashed Millennium Falcon…perhaps looking out onto Otoh Gunga and being attacked (with painful dialogue) by Jar Jar Binks. Oh shoot, I probably shouldn’t give them any ideas!
It is downright refreshing that Disneyland Paris has given attention to many of these areas. Now, if you’ve never visited Disneyland Paris, you might expect regular maintenance as a normal thing. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with the historically troubled park in France. Not only has it had financial woes, but weather (both rain and snow) plays its role, and this is compounded by the fact that the park has so many details that need regular upkeep.
I’m not making excuses for maintenance shortcomings at Disneyland Paris over the years, but I think the point stands that seeing the park in such great condition is a big deal if you’ve seen the park during its darker years. I will say that I think kudos is in order for fixing so many small details and refurbishing areas of the park that aren’t marketable draws.
For the amount spent on fixing the fundamentals, Disneyland Paris probably could’ve added a flashy E-Ticket that would’ve had a greater impact on attendance, but instead park management opted to get back to the basics. While this may not be something that Disneyland Paris can tout in commercials, paying attention to these little details is what will make—and keep—lifelong fans.
Right now, Disneyland Paris is right up there with the best-maintained Disney parks. I’d put it ahead of both Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom, actually. When you couple this exceptional maintenance with the exquisite design throughout the park, a visit to Disneyland Paris does not disappoint, even if the 25th Anniversary entertainment is a letdown. On Page 2, we’ll offer even more complaints about dining at Disneyland Paris, merchandise for the 25th, Cast Member morale, guests behaving badly, and more…
I went to DLP last year for my 25th birthday and am still feeling bitter about the experience. It really soured my feelings on Disney, but I’m staying positive and am planning a trip to Disney World which will hopefully be much better.
The morning we arrived at the Cheyenne Lodge, there was no hot water and we wasted 3 hours waiting for a repairman who was to arrive in ’10 minutes’. We eventually gave up and went to the park. The hot water didn’t come back on until nighttime. A day without hot water and we didn’t even get an apology from the cast members.
At one point I asked a cast member where the nearest toilet was. They shrugged their shoulders, said ‘I don’t know’ and walked away….
The rudeness from the guests was ridiculous. At one point I lost it and had to slam my arm in front of a man who tried to shove in front of me to stop him from pushing me into a pond.
People actually climbed up the lamp posts during the night show!
I’m vegetarian and pretty much couldn’t eat for the whole trip. One waiter offered me fish…
Someone got the sword out of the stone in Fantasy Land on our 1st day and it was never replaced the whole time we were there.
I was informed that pin trading was a thing in DLP and was so excited to take part but almost every cast member I asked had never heard of it and the few that were wearing lanyards refused to trade with me.
Everything closes so early and not much is open during magic hours.
Oh boy, this turned into more of a rant than I planned. Sorry about that.
I’m glad I found your site as it’s so positive and is making me excited to plan my Disney World trip and stay optimistic about the future <3
The steampunk aesthetic for the anniversary was A+++ though and the souvenirs I got were gorgeous!
I’M CONFUSED?!!!! in this post https://www.disneytouristblog.com/disneyland-paris-trip-planning/ you RAVE about the 25th anniversary of Disney Land Paris…..and in this one it’s full of complaints?
My English hubby & and I, his American wife are researching just such a trip for this fall, being priced out of my home state, Fla, and Cali since we live in the UK. We greatly appreciate all of your informative articles, particularly this one that addresses our thoughts on cultural differences and our tolerances of them. It and your other DLP articles are great in providing practical information such as sights/entertainment, accommodations, food, transportation. We are still debating on how to get there from Cheshire area, and traveling in Paris for a side trip. Any thoughts from you and your readers on whether to fly, drive, or rail, and is it financially and practically sound to visit the city while staying in DLP? Thanks for your hard work!
We always visit Paris when traveling to Disneyland Paris, but transfer hotels first. The parks are pretty far outside of the city. I’m not sure the best way to get there from the UK, sorry!
Tom, I too just came back from Disneyland Paris just this last week (trip dates:04/22-04/25) and you are 100% correct about state of the business there. So much money left on the table and cast members are severely outnumbered by unruly guests. The park is truly picturesque but as my wife and I agreed: it is all Disney but lacks a lot of the magic. From the dining options (or lack thereof) to the many bottleneck unsupervised queues, especially to enter big thunder mountain or the fast pass issue line it felt like Black Friday moreso than a controlled Disney scenario. The park may have my favorite castle and the new illuminations was fantastic but when we saw people take chairs from gibsons to stand on in Main Street or full size adults standing on trash cans as well (I took a ton of pictures of the audacity as I have several cast member friends in the states) I knew that management could not have spent much time in the park during operating hours as the liability from safety issues alone would make ones knees buckle.
Great report though and honest as always, I met you at Hollywood studios in September last year as my wife and I were on our honeymoon and thanked you then for the blog (just prior to the Star Wars fireworks) and continue to use the blog as we go to the parks every couple months or so, thanks again for all the useful info.
Also I know EXACTLY the phantom manor shirt you wanted as I did too (US haunted mansion logo but with the manor themeing) and was disappointed to finding it a girls exclusive.
Good review! I was there for the 25th birthday party, i even think i saw you walking. And again i was super disappointed about the castmembers. I asked them about the non smoking and non selfiestick policy and they never understood me or they were like…nooooo you can’t smoke here or no no no selfiesticks….so i said what about all those people here around you who are smoking and using selfiesticks…isn’t it your job to say something about it!? it looks like the castmembers are scared of the guests.( and sometimes they must…we have super rude people over here in europe….but hey not everyone is like that! 🙂 but i hate that too) I was told 3 tines i couldn’t use my mini tripod of 10 cm!!! Oh no i said that’s allowed it’s non extendable and it fits easily in my bagback…..at that point they were….oh….now i’m just saying…. and they became suoer quiet….i think they don’t know their own rules and dare to say something to someone tiny and not to a tall guy. 24 days till my wdw vidit and can’t wait too ezperience another disney adventure!
What you said about early closing of the restaurants or that several restaurants are closed the whole day it’s normal in Europe the other amusement parks has the same policy, get your park packed with a minimal of cast members, what they also do is to have a minimal set of trains in the track of an rollercoaster, so they don’t spent a lot of money, the amusement parks closes always early and the most of all are closed in wintertime.
The European people are used to that so why change.
It’s a shame.
“The European people are used to that so why change.”
Because there’s a better way to do business that would be more profitable and increase guest satisfaction. I can see having limited dining or scaled back services on slow, off-season days, but during the heart of tourist season, Disneyland Paris (and these other parks, apparently) are shooting themselves in the foot by not having more dining options open.
That’s exactly what I mean, last week I was in an amusement park and there was only 1 restaurant open wich was closed at 4 pm.
I am so pleased this is finally up, I have been waiting for your review since we got home! Me and my sister went for the 25th anniversary and you are spot on about everything. I became an annual pass holder after our trip last summer so that I could come back for the anniversary and i can honestly say that the park looked the best that i have ever seen it. The grumbles with regards to the restaurants are the same that I have been having for years. In the U.K. We are happy to eat tea at 5/6pm but half the restaurants are still shut early so it makes the choices very limited. It is the same early in the day too- I once waited inside the bakery for 10 mins before being told it didn’t open for another hour despite all the doors being open. Not good when you have to get to the parks early and there are limited breakfast choices etc. And it was even worse in the winter when the parks shut earlier. We did go to cowboy cookout on the 13th and there was some live music playing about 12 ish, so I think you just missed it unfortunately.
The merchandise was piss poor as usual from Disneyland Paris. They seem to have a problem with actually restocking the shelves overnight and the shops look messy. As a 27 year old, none of the merchandise appealed to me, except that phantom manor t-shirt you mentioned. Having been to wdw 2 years ago, I find they have a much better selection of homewares (mugs, plates, magnets, salt and pepper shakers) that I would actually want in my home, compared to the badly designed tat in Paris. They had even sold out of the gold anniversary ears before the day of the anniversary!?
Entertainment wise, we loved being on Main Street for the anniversary celebration, it was a magical morning and the new songs and shows were super catchy and we found ourselves dancing across the hub on many occasions. My sister(19) loved the dragon in the parade as it was her fav from wdw. We were also super pleased that BTM was finally open again as we hadn’t been on it for 2 years.
However, the day before the anniversary, we thought we’d get the studios out of the way, so my sister joined the queue for nemo at 9:30 (I was feeling sick so sat it out) but because the ride broke twice she didn’t come off it until 11:30 and she was near the front inside the building whilst I was outside waiting for her, thank god for mobile phones! We then decided to go for a rest and watch mickey and the magician- she hadn’t seen it before. 5 mins in, music stopped, everyone kicked out. No explanation as to why!! We said “stuff this” and didn’t go back in the studios again
We as brits have always found the other Europeans to be rude and over the last 25 years have just got used to it. They jump queues, push you around, smoke anywhere, shout at you etc and it can be very frustrating at times, but there’s not a lot anyone can do about it!
Overall, we had a lovely trip and the weather was nice for once, but you are very right, the rides all need to be opening and working as do the restaurants. Can’t wait for part 2…
This is a fantastic post, but hold up — where’s Part 5 of the Bricker Family WDW trip report? 🙂 Part 4 mentioned that there would be a Part 5 to stay tuned for!
WOW! I’m glad I found your homepage and this blog – Really good writing in an interesting way! But I’m sorry, you said DLRP Merch is still better than Tokyo Disneyland Merch..?! REALLY?!! Tokyo Disney, just saying, has the BEST DISNEY MERCH ever! I had to buy even more stuff there last february than in Dlrp or in Anaheim last year!
Wow so many thoughts. We leave in less than two months and it’s our first non American Disney! we make our dining reservations this weekend! This post is great timing because I was truly on the fence about walt’s and leaning towards a no but we are gonna give it a go. Buffalo bills, agrabah cafe, Chez de remy, inventions themed brunch , walt’s, and 1 plaza gardens breakfast is our lineup. We are avoiding almost all counter service, but cowboy cookout is on my radar if we do decide to do one.
I’m also glad they choose to refresh the park over an E ticket. Better long term choice and the next investment can be an e ticket. I think the resort needs a water ride even if it’d be closed in the winter. A splash mountain or moana flume ride would be excellent.
Hoping to snag at least a couple decent looking Disneyland Paris shirts.
REALLY looking forward to part 2 of this
Going to DLP this year for the first time and while I’ve read a lot of negative comments about DLP, I’ll really try to go in open-minded! Tom, you’ve definitely convinced me that if I go only once in my life, this is the best time! Every park has its plusses and minuses (I’ve felt on the verge of a nervous breakdown during crowded days at WDW, let’s not pretend it’s perfect ), but a ‘bad day’ at a Disney park is still a great day for me! Can’t wait for the 25th Experience at DLP!
We has a horrible stay at the dlh in dlp for the 25th birthday !
I m glad I found your blog as I totally lost faith with Disney .
I m know planning a trip to disney world 🙂
I’d deliberately stayed away since our last trip was so poor. Ironically, when it opened the food at DLP was stellar. Lack of profit has led them to cut corners everywhere especially on food, live shows and parades. Staffing too, of course. Sounds like they are making an effort at last! Off to WDW in August so may try 2018. It’s only 500 miles from home. Yacht Club (Newport Bay) and the restaurant in Pirates (I forget its name) were always the best places to eat.
Yacht Club has a new menu, and is supposedly really good now (I’ve heard that from a couple of people). Blue Lagoon was not so good our last time there, but that was a few years ago. It’s currently closed for the Pirates of the Caribbean refurbishment, but I’m hopeful that it’ll reopen with a new menu, too!
Glad to see my home park is looking better. When we last visited in 2014, I noticed to many things (especially Big Thunder) which were in need of repair.
Sadly I don’t know when I’ll return to DLP, as a Brit it’s significantly better bang for your buck to save up and go for a longer stretch in Florida plus the dining quality is miles apart. As a veggie the food offerings are diabolical as well, and French service is pretty diabolical even when it’s on point. It’s such a shame as its a beautiful park and having been 10+ times and stayed in every hotel it holds so many memories; Space Mountain was the best version out there and Phantom Manor is in a league of its own. When I rode the Haunted Mansion I was a bit shocked haha.
We’re trying out Tokyo this year and while it cost about the same as 2 weeks in Florida for 5 nights, I still chose it over Paris purely on the basis of your reviews.
I just wish Paris would bring their A game as it’s such a wasted opportunity.
I’m curious: what would it take for you to be more interested in Disneyland Paris? Would a stellar dining scene do the trick?
I’m guessing it would for a lot of UK Disney fans (and other local-ish people). It actually surprises me more of an effort isn’t made with dining at Disneyland Paris. While it’s likely a cost-cutting measure, I think it’s really hurting them in the grand scheme of things, and in terms of indirect revenue.
I thought about this quite a bit (I’ve further skewed my Disney visits in favour of Florida instead of Paris), and agree entirely on dining. But I think the truth is that arriving at DLP is actually quite depressing.
It doesn’t matter how wonderful things are inside the parks (and I entirely agree they are spectacular), DLP must have the worst arrival/entrance experience of any of the parks, period. Firstly it is hampered by weather for many months of the year, but also the logical way to arrive is by RER train, and MLV Station is frankly an utter dump. The bit of Disney Village immediately outside it is also unattractive, with the Wild West Show being the first thing you see. And leaving is no better – the station is crowded by people selling rubbish to tourists.
I guess arriving by train is a necessary evil and it can’t be 100% on Disney’s A-Game – but when you look at Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, there’s no comparison.
There are other reasons Disney doesn’t really have the ability to change – like the fact you get more bang for your buck in Florida due to exchange rates, and the fact that Brits hate the French (and I’m only half joking – I think this is part of it, despite DLP’s great cast members) – but I think the entrance is the most major thing for me. Actually, I think the better DLP looks inside, the more it stands out.
Being from Germany I actually have to say that DLP has the best food of any Theme/Attraction park that I’ve aber been to in Europe and we were really impressed just because there was something to eat that was actually edible (and most of the times quite delicious). Most other parks offer food only in the form of burgers and cheap rip-off Chinese food that is so bad that normally we wait to grab a bite at McDonald’s on the way home.
We visited Disneyland Paris 2 years ago. It sounds like, from your write up, that they are conducting business as usual. However, it seems like they, at least, cleaned the place up a bit for the 25th.
With the exception of an American, a Brit, and an Italian cast member, we found most of the staff quite surly.
The custodial staff was useless. The floor was littered with trash and cigarette butts. Trash bins were left open, and half attended to, as if the staff started to empty it t, then left.
Then there is the matter of visitors using areas they are not supposed to. During the fireworks, many wandered onto the fenced off grassy knolls for a better vantage. Worse than that, one guest pushed us aside, lifted their kid over and had her urinate on the grass.
While you have valid points concerning service and guest behavior, I think “it seems like they, at least, cleaned the place up a bit for the 25th” is a massive understatement. This is a night and day difference as compared to 2 years ago.
There are still plenty of improvements to be made, and many of those involve soft services, which is where I hope DLP management focuses its attention next.
I enjoy the pictures of Frontierland and Big Thunder – pretty much that whole side of the park was under construction when we were there last summer.
The food situation is indeed perplexing. We didn’t have quite the same restaurant problems, but did encounter some of it. 30-45 mines before dreams I thought “I’d like some ice cream”. (A common thought for me inside a Disney park.) Lo and behold, there was not a single place in the park selling ice cream! As you say, that’s detrimental to my guest satisfaction score and it leaves money on the table as well.
I’m pretty much always thinking “I’d like some ice cream.” If Fantasia Gelati kept regular hours and had a <10 minute line each time we passed it, I guarantee I would've spent 20 euro more over the course of our trip--and would've been happier in doing so.
Thanks for another great and insightful report, Tom! We are going to Disneyland Paris for the first time this Christmas, and are eager to finally see this beautiful park for ourselves 😀 Can’t wait to read the next installment of your report – and are hoping for more info and pictures from Disneyland Paris from you in the near future!
Did you see there’s a buy 2, get 2 promo for this Christmas season? I priced out some packages on the UK site, and it’s actually a pretty good deal if you want a 4-night hotel stay!
I’m very pleased to see my home Park looking so good, and showing off it’s wonderful detailed design.
The guest behaviour issues are widespread and I agree with the cast members who largely put it down to cultural attitudes. It’s sad to see areas of the park being damaged (nevermind the impact on other people’s views of parades etc who are where they should be). I truely believe the cast members on the ground do what they can, and agree that change needs to come from senior management regarding changing attitudes of guests.
Looking forward to my own trip in September (if not before!). Thanks for the report, and, as always, the fabulous pictures.
I’ve been very interested to read about your trip and this definitely didn’t disappoint. I’m just a couple months away from my first trip ever there and I’m looking forward to it about as much as possible. I’m bummed about missing out on Cinemagic and Pirates of the Caribbean, but compared to the past few years, I can’t complain at all. I’m very sensitive to being around cigarette smoke, so I’m really dreading that aspect of the trip. I get the feeling I’ll have my shirt covering my nose a lot while I’m there. Can’t wait for Part 2
The smoking situation has actually greatly improved, my trip in March this year was actually the first time I saw people in the smoking areas. It’s still an issue occasionally but no where near where it is, vaping also contributes towards that
That’s the first bit of a good news I’ve heard about that situation in a long time. Thanks Rob.
We were also there during the 25th celebration (our first trip) and 100% agree with you regarding lack of functional operations and guest control. One example — for the character cavalcade, I asked two different cast members if the place we were sitting was allowed. Both cast members (who spoke excellent english) said yes. After an hour of waiting, we (as well as the other guests around us) were later told that we would have to move. My husband and I were the only ones that moved. Every other person did not budge and remained there throughout the cavalcade. I could give lots of other examples — from allowing dozens of people to jump line to meet Duffy and Shellie May to pushing and shoving during the parade and fire works — but I’m preaching to the choir.
All that being said, it was wonderful to see Disneyland Paris. It truly is the most beautiful magic kingdom style park in the world.
Wow. I don’t know what to say beyond wow. Hindsight is 20/20, but I can understand why other guests didn’t move in that case and I’m not sure I would’ve (at first), either.
These shouldn’t be things that need to be “learned” 25 years after a park’s opening, but hopefully something changes…
We waited in line for about 40 minutes at park opening for a FP for Ratatouille (that had just opened) and asked the CM several times if this was the right line. I noticed that another line was forming in the other direction and people shouting “Ratatouille”, so I went up to the other line and asked and they replied that this was the right line. When I confronted “our” CM she bursted into tears and said that she doesn’t understand English. Apparently she only nodded because she wanted to be nice. Although I felt terribly sorry and the same time I was a bit angry (especially because I told several people that asked us that they could get in line behind us for Ratatouille).
Why would they put that poor girl in front of everyone where, of course, she would be asked questions when she obviously wasn’t able to?