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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
Before we begin today's column, let me clarify that I am Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix from MouseShoppe (and All About Merchandise columnist), not Adrienne Krock, who is the regular Parenting in the Park columnist here. I realize this may cause some confusion, as some of our readers may not be aware that there are two Adriennes at MousePlanet.
When I visited Disneyland Paris in May with Tony, my husband, we conducted some research for Adrienne Krock on the various amenities available for children. What would a parent of young kids need to know before taking them to visit Disneyland Paris (DLP)? We did our best to view the park from the perspective of a child, and to bring back tips for parents.
Disneyland Paris is very family-friendly, as you would expect from any Disney park. We were particularly impressed to learn that DLP offers family pricing on their annual passes, unlike its American counterparts. Depending on the season and length of your stay, these annual pass packages may be a better value than multiday passes. In addition to a savings of 10% or more, you also get complimentary consignee service, as well as free stroller rental. Because DLP no longer uses lockers for security reasons, it instead offers a coat/package check-in consignee service for a few dollars per item. When you add in discount companion tickets, and food and merchandise discounts, you can see how family annual passes provide a great deal. For more information on ticket options and prices, visit the Disneyland Paris tickets page.
Strollers (or "pushchairs") can be rented at the stand immediately on your right after you pass under the Disneyland Railroad train station. Strollers rent for about $5.50 at current exchange rates. Keep in mind that these strollers are not nice and new like those at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. They look rather stiff and uncomfortable, and the storage basket is a joke. Read Adrienne Krock's two articles on the pros and cons of renting versus bringing your own strollers to Disneyland, then remember to add the complexity of a trans-Atlantic flight before you decide whether to take your own stroller or not.
Be sure to stop by City Hall at the start your day so your children can get their very own name badge. This nice touch really gives children a sense of being special. If you wish not to have your children wear the badge for safety reasons, obtain one anyway. On the back of the badge, write your own name, hotel name, room number, and local contact phone number. Have your children carry the badge (or wear it on the inside) to provides much-needed information in case they become separated from you.
In addition to badges, you can pick up the Guide Enfant/Kid's Guide to the park. The Guide Enfant/Kid's Guide is a mini park map, clearly labeled with the names of attractions that children would most likely enjoy. Map labels indicate height requirements, suggested age ranges, any additional charges, as well as if attractions are scary, fast, or include playgrounds. Armed with this map, your can plot out your entire day, choosing rides and adventures that are age-appropriate and best suited to everyone. For convenience, the same symbols are printed on the regular park map, which you can obtain at the main entrance, and information kiosks at the Central Plaza and in Disney Village.
The Kid's Guide does not label the location of the Lost Children Center, which is adjacent to the Baby Care Center and First Aid. The center is in the same comparable location as its Anaheim counterpart (or from an Orlando perspective, on the opposite side of the street). Jot down this location on your Kid's Guide, along with meeting times and places you have established for your family. Additional tips are available in Adrienne Krock's column, "Lost in Disney". Most cast members (CMs) at Disneyland Paris have a basic knowledge of English, so your child should not experience a major language barrier when asking for help.
The DLP Baby Care Center provides the same amenities you would find in all Disney parks, including diaper-changing facilities, a place to warm baby food, and nurse infants, and some basic necessities for purchase, including baby food. For details, see Adrienne Krock's column.
Women's restrooms throughout the resort are equipped with changing tables, although we don't recall if the men's rooms had them as well. "Family" restrooms throughout the park also eliminate the debate of taking a boy into a women's restroom, and vice-versa.
What would a day at Disneyland be without some quality time with characters? DLP has wonderful opportunities to meet, and even to dine with characters. Schedules for each day are in the park map.
Pluto is top dog at DLP, and usually hangs out by his house in Town Square. Mickey passes the time at Casey's Corner at the castle end of Main Street. You never know who you might find in the morning at Central Plaza, but there are lots of walk-around characters in the park. I've even heard that the Country Bears can be occasionally spotted there.
Catch up with the Toy Story gang at Buzz Lightyear's Pizza Planet Restaurant in Discoveryland before or after lunch. For a true character dining experience, head over to the Lucky Nugget Saloon in Frontierland, where you can enjoy an "eat as you please" Tex-Mex lunch buffet with Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto. Lunch, served from noon to 3:30, is about $26.50 for adults, $13.00 for kids. For a lighter snack, come between 4:30 and 5:30 for tea time. Tea is a much more reasonable $10.00 per person, and includes one hot and one cold beverage per person, along with a dessert and sweets buffet. Children under 3 are free at both meals. Reservations are suggested, and can be made at City Hall. The Disneyland Hotel offers a daily character breakfast as well.
Are your kids picky eaters? You're fine as long as your child's favorite foods list includes chicken nuggets and french fries. If your child is more adventurous, explore the variety of walk-up and table service eateries, as well as outdoor vending carts. Vegetarian parents should be thrilled to learn that "legume nuggets" are as prevalent as hot dogs, which are quite different in France from the American version. Part of the fun of an international trip is learning about new cultures and new foods. Keep an open mind, and be willing to discard an item after a few bites. If you have a real food crisis, go to McDonald's in Disney Village.
Condiments are also a tad different. The French have a well-earned reputation for great mustard, but it is much spicier and hotter than in the States. Catsup is considered a child's condiment, and is sweeter than we are used to. Mayonnaise is either egg- or vegetable-based, the latter of which, in my opinion, is gross.
If you want to experience culture shock, head over to Val d'Europe, the big shopping mall owned in part by Disney. Only two minutes away on the train, it's worth a visit. At this mall is a Auchon store, a combination of Wal-Mart and the largest grocery store you've ever seen. It's a great place to buy fresh fruit, beverages and snacks for your trip, as well as pick up any sundries you may have forgotten. We were really amused to find the Tex-Mex food items in the "foreign foods" aisle, and really appreciated those jumbo-sized bags of Tostitos we have here, after seeing the tiny of tortilla chips being sold for $5.00 a bag.
Visiting Disneyland Paris also means finding a place to stay. Off-property hotels are generally less expensive that the resort hotels, and provide you with a base of operations to visit both DLP and the cultural centers of Paris. In our experience, hotel rooms throughout Europe tend to be smaller that those of comparable hotels in the States. Be sure to ask detailed questions about hotel restaurants, the number of beds, availability of cribs, and pools and other kid's activities.
You have many choices if you plan to stay on property, but be prepared to trade convenience for price. The Disneyland Hotel is the closest option if hiking a mile with your toddler is not your idea of fun, but of course, your room rate reflects this convenience. Hotel New York is the next closest, and only about a 10 or 15 minute walk through Disney Village. This hotel has an ice rink in the winter, and a character show for the kids in the lobby each morning. This hotel also offers a babysitting service, so parents can enjoy a night at Disney Village.
Hotel Cheyenne offers bunk beds for kids, and is themed like a Western town. About a 15-minute drive from the park is Davy Crockett Ranch, which is similar to Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World. Log cabins for 4 or 6 persons have all the luxuries of home, while campsite facilities are available if you wish to take your own tents. Davy Crockett Ranch provides great activities for the kids, but is too far away from the park to consider if you don't have your own transport. The least expensive hotel is the Hotel Santa Fe, which has a children's play area and a game room, but no pool and few amenities.
One note of caution about Lake Disney. The lake has a series of steps right down to the water line, with no lifeguard on duty. Swimming is not allowed in the lake, but that may not stop a curious toddler from running right down the steps. Be sure to watch your kids as you walk to your hotel.
Smoking, drinking, and children -- the section you never thought you'd see in a parenting guide about Disney parks: Although you must be 16 to purchase cigarettes, the French smoke as soon as they can hold cigarettes. Tony and I joked that French kids just trade in their pacifiers for cigarettes. It's not uncommon to see entire families smoking, from grandpa right down to the 12-year-old.
Children as young as 14 can drink beer and wine at restaurants, while 16-year-olds can buy these same beverages at any walk-up counter or cart. If you have older children, it is imperative that you have a serious discussion with them should they plan on spending time alone or with other teens their age.
Traveling to France (and other European places) is not the same as flying from Denver to Orlando. There are many differences -- cultural and otherwise -- that you should know before you go. We have compiled even more valuable tips about what to expect when you visit France. You'll find them in the "An American in Paris" article.
For a great column about taking kids cross country, read Mary Kraemer's column. Her suggestions work well for a trip to Paris as well. I also found a great resource for traveling internationally with your kids at TravelWithYourKids.com. In fact, Yahoo offers an entire section about family travel. MousePlanet's resident travel writer, Lani Teshima, has an article called "Traveling With Babies" at her Travelite FAQ Web site as well, which discusses taking babies and toddlers to Europe specifically. Armed with a little advance research, you can have the time of your lives.
Kids from 0-3 years old will enjoy:
Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois
Kids from 4-7 years old can also experience:
Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains
These attractions are suggested only for kids over 8 years old:
Les Pirouettes du Vieux Moulin
Height Conversions. Disneyland Paris uses three base heights:
1.02 meters = 40 inches
Pirate's Beach: 40" max.
Pirates of the Carribean
Big Thunder Mountain
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