The original plan was to come back and take a nap after the 5K, but with plenty of caffeine on hand, that idea was nixed. We quickly got ready and headed to the parks instead. We decided to hit Walt Disney Studios Park first, hoping to be able to grab a table at Bistrot Chez Remy right when the restaurant opened.
I know I give Walt Disney Studios Park a lot of guff, but this Ratatouille mini-land (La Place de Rémy) is really well done. Not good enough to forgive the horrific design of the rest of the park, but if Disney added a few lands like the Ratatouille one and totally redid the front of the park, WDSP could be a decent park.
A lot of people who have never been might underestimate just how poorly and cheaply designed Walt Disney Studios Park is. Surely it couldn’t be worse than the Disney California Adventure 1.0, right? It is, and by a fairly significant margin. Elements of DCA 1.0 worked, and remain in that park today. When I look at the opening day themed design of WDSP, I see literally nothing that is worth salvaging.
The thing is, most of the overhaul needed at WDSP is in terms of design. If you look at our Walt Disney Studios Park Attraction Guide, you’ll notice several attractions scoring 8/10 or better. When viewed in isolation, the attraction roster at WDSP is pretty solid. Rather, this park is a case study in how the details and quality design really matter.
In any case, the Streets of Paris Ratatouille area is now the first land in Walt Disney Studios Park that feels like it’s of “Disney” quality. I remain hopeful that the 25th Anniversary gives Disneyland Paris a big shot in the arm, and proves enough to justify an extreme makeover of the rest of WDSP. Having 2 high-caliber parks would be huge for Disneyland Paris as a vacation destination.
In the meantime, La Place de Rémy is an oasis in a blighted desert, and is a lovely place to spend time. While waiting for lunch, I wandered the area, capturing a few photos of the details.
For my first meal, I ordered from the highest tier on the prix fixe menu. This time, there were 2 of us, so that expense would sting a bit too much, so we ordered from the middle tier.
Even though we each enjoyed our meal, the differences in quality were clear. If you’re thinking of dining here, I’d highly recommend splurging on the meal–it’s worth it.
After lunch, we did Cinemagique, which neither Sarah nor Mark had seen before. I hyped it up pretty hard, and I don’t think it lived up to the expectations I created for them.
My opinion of it didn’t change at all, and I still think it’s the best or second-best attraction at Walt Disney Studios Park.
Cinemagique’s competition is not Crush’s Coaster or Ratatouille: The Adventure, it’s Mickey and the Magician. We saw this show again after Cinemagique.
I know it might not seem like much to do an attraction twice in one trip, but we seldom repeat shows so quickly. I haven’t seen any of the DHS shows in years (despite enjoying them) and it took us 2 years before watching Mickey and the Magical Map a second time. So twice in 3 days really speaks to how much we loved Mickey and the Magician. I cannot wait to see it again.
My favorite urban legend about the “meaning” of the Partners statue is that Walt is directing guests who are entering WDSP back towards the exit.
After taking Walt’s advice, we headed back to Parc Disneyland, where we started with the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walk-through. Disneyland Paris excels at walk-through attractions, and this is the best of the best there. Such a cool way to “reimagine” this classic attraction.
I’ll be the first to admit that this site skews towards being pro-Disneyland Paris, and is probably more forgivable of that resort’s faults than those in the U.S. parks. Part of that is probably an over-correction to what I deem unfair criticism of Disneyland Paris elsewhere. Another part is . The final (and biggest) part is genuine, as I think Disneyland Paris oozes charm and detail, and does not receive nearly enough credit from the fan community for its brilliant design.
With that said, Disneyland Paris still has plenty to fix. Routine maintenance still ranks #1 on that list, with dining being a close second. The mess that is Disneyland Paris dining reared its ugly head this day of the trip.
On what was easily the busiest day we’ve ever visited Disneyland Paris–a weekend with local, tourist, and race crowds colliding for heavy crowds–there was a wholly insufficient number of restaurants open. To compound that problem, more than half of those restaurants closed at or around 5 p.m.
This is a theme park in Europe (where people routinely eat dinner after 9 p.m.), not a Bob Evans next door to Del Boca Vista. How on earth do they justify closing the majority of restaurants before the dinner rush?!
Suffice to say, this really put a damper on our afternoon. We wandered around the park (Main Street, Adventureland, and Frontierland) before finally finding somewhere that was open. If this were a lightly-crowded day in January, this restaurant situation would have been utterly unacceptable. We, as reasonably savvy Disney guests (even in a foreign country), had no means of determining the hours of each restaurant short of actually walking to them, and this was really frustrating.
I can appreciate the fact that Disneyland Paris needs to implement certain cost-cutting measures due to its financial circumstances, but this is counter-productive. Crowds on that particular day dictated significantly more restaurants being open.
Even if the crowds hadn’t, it’s incredibly poor guest service to not clearly communicate which restaurants are open and when. The lost goodwill from irritated guests far outweighs any operational savings; there should not be this much friction for guests who want to spend money on food.
Suffice to say, even as food quality improves, Disneyland Paris needs to make tremendous strides with regard to the whole dining experience. It’s a mess, and needs to be rethought from the top down. But enough ranting about that…
On the plus side, this did lead us to Cowboy Cookout BBQ. This is a restaurant that made our 10 Best-Themed Restaurants at Disneyland Paris list despite us never having dined there, and we decided (or rather, it was decided for us) that we’d remedy that this trip. It was one of the best decisions (made for us) of the trip.
Cowboy Cookout BBQ is a real gem, with wonderful ambiance that reminds me of equal parts Fort Wilderness and Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland. While it was a bit odd that a Frozen background loop was playing (Frozen Summer Fun had just finished a few weeks earlier), the ambiance was still perfect and we sat around the fire for over an hour. It was the perfect respite from the crowds.
Speaking of which, since Cowboy Cookout BBQ is way out of the way, it was pretty quiet despite being one of the few restaurants in Disneyland Paris that was open. (Shortly after this, I passed by the notorious Cafe Hyperion–possibly the worst Disney restaurant in the world–and it was bonkers. I feel for those pour souls who ate there.) It ended up being the ultimate ‘lemonade out of lemons’ experience, and we will definitely revisit Cowboy Cookout BBQ on our next trip.
After this, we decided to do the Disneyland Railroad, figuring there would be no line back at the Cottonwood Creek depot since this corner of the park was dead. To our surprise, the line was really long. After waiting for about 20 minutes and not moving much, an announcement was made that the next train would skip our station, so we decided to bail.
We decided to reconvene in Fantasyland a short while later, with my goal of getting some sunset shots before then. Pretty quickly, I realized the sky was a bust, so I decided to go buy a Scrooge hat I had seen the day before.
Kickstarter Scrooge McDuck hat. Backers receive satisfaction of knowing I look like (more of) an idiot in France. 100 likes & I buy. 😬 pic.twitter.com/x8R2dfbsFJ
My reason for buying this hat was because social media dictated it. Well, that was my excuse. My real reason is because I have a weakness for absurd hats, and I needed to be able to justify such a frivolous purchase. (Thanks, Twitter. You always indulge/enable my foolishness. 🙂 )
In any case, I was shocked to find that the shop that was selling the Scrooge hat the previous day no longer had it, and had instead switched over to Christmas souvenirs.
Then I checked the hat shop. Nope. Then the Emporium. Nothing. I then became obsessed, rushing from shop to shop, looking for this hat. To be honest, I didn’t even really want it that badly, but once I realized I might not be able to get it, I couldn’t think about anything else. (Isn’t it funny how that works?)
I paused my epic McDuck quest as it was time for us to meet back up and ride the railroad. This time, we headed to the Fantasyland station, and there was almost no one in line. The park was pretty busy at this point, so we spent a good amount of time on the train, just soaking up the ambiance, circling the park.
After that, it was time for one last ride on Phantom Manor. We ended up doing this attraction more than any other at Disneyland Paris on that trip, and for good reason.
By the time we were done at Phantom Manor, the park was closed. I slowly made my way towards Main Street, stopping to take photos of the fun Thunder Mesa Halloween decorations. After finishing with that, I rushed for the Liberty Arcade, wanting to make it to the front before the end of Disney Dreams.
Those arcades are a godsend for quickly cutting through crowds, and I was able to get my tripod set up at the end of Main Street before the finale of Disney Dreams. Here are some photos I captured from the tail-end of the show:
In hindsight, I sort of wish I put down the camera and just watched, since I now realize that was my last time to ever see Disney Dreams, a show that I really enjoy. Here’s hoping that the next version of this, for the 25th Anniversary, is just as good!
After Disney Dreams, we took our time grabbing some photos before making our way towards the exit…
I’ve heard rumors that this gazebo is going to be replaced (and I assume them to be true, since that’s an odd thing for someone to make up), so I guess it was our last chance to get a photo here, too.
This would be our last night in Disneyland Paris, and despite some hiccups, it was a fun day and a really satisfying trip. I’m really looking forward to the full slate of entertainment Disneyland Paris unveils for its 25th Anniversary, but from my perspective, the biggest achievement has been (and will be) restoring so much of this park to its original grandeur. While restoring this ‘sparkle’ to the park is not quite yet complete, it’s already pretty clear that things are going to be looking great by next April. I’m loving the current trajectory of Disneyland Paris, and can’t wait to see it next year. We’ll be back tomorrow for the final installment, which will cover my quest to finish the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon…and also the McDuck Hat Quest!