As a family we've been to Disneyland near Paris a few times, so on a recent trip to the US, I took the chance to check out the original Disney theme park near Los Angeles, California.
What's the difference between the two parks? Is it worth going all that way or can you get the same experience close to home?
Here's what we found out:
From the UK, if you get on the Eurostar, you can be walking around DLP by lunchtime.
Travelling to California, on the other hand, is much more epic: I stayed overnight at an airport before my early morning flight, then took a ten hour flight to Los Angeles, then the journey to Disneyland is another 27 mile car ride. Then once you get there, there's an enormous boulevard of (admittedly nice) shops to navigate before you get to the actual park. A day trip it ain't.
Of course a shorter trip isn't necessarily better - a longer journey makes it more of an adventure.
If you've been to DLP, it's surprising how familiar the layout of DLA is. This is because the California branch is the original park, opened in 1955, and the French site was based on its layout. So in both parks you walk down Main Street USA to the pink castle, with Adventure Land, Fantasy Land etc fanning out from there.
Both sites contain additional parks as well as the main Disneyland site - at DLP you can also visit Walt Disney Studios Park, and fittingly DLA offers the California Adventure Park attraction. Allow at least a day for each of these parks.
Many of the same rides operate at both parks: Pirates of the Caribbean; Haunted Mansion; Dumbo the Flying Elephant etc. So if you've already been to Paris and you want to see something new, the smart thing to do in LA is to stick to the California Adventure section.
In California Land, if you're brave enough, you can ride on the California Screamin' rollercoaster ride. I preferred the gentler Mickey's Fun Wheel which gives a fabulous view for miles. I also enjoyed the Muppet 3D show and jungle cruise ship.
Surprisingly, on a sunny Saturday in June, the queues for rides were much less than the ones I've experienced in Paris, meaning that you get to do more with your day.
This summer, DLA has just launched a spectacular night-time show called World of Color (pictured below). This brings together lasers, lights, fire, music and around 1200 fountains shooting over 200 feet in the air. The fountains form a sort of water screen for projections to come alive on. I've never seen anything like this before, it's a truly magical experience and well worth the entrance fee alone.
One thing you are guaranteed in California is sunshine all year round. People in Los Angeles talk about "June gloom", but all this means is that it's slightly foggy. Pack sunscreen and a hat.
Paris, on the other hand, can get bitterly cold and wet in the winter - it's very similar to UK weather. Thermal undies and a raincoat may be required.
A day out at a Disney theme park is always going to be fun. But because of the travel involved, I think Paris is a better option for younger children. If you wait until they can cope with the journey, you'll get more out of your trip to America. Plus if your children are old enough to be aware of movies, they'll appreciate a trip to the heart of film land much more.
Disneyland California website here
Disneyland Paris website here
ParentDish travelled to California courtesy of Disney Interactive Studios and stayed at the Ramada Heathrow courtesy of APH, the site that lets you book your hotel and parking at the same time.
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