Young or old, we all love a theme park and Paris has two on its outskirts. Disneyland Paris may be known all over the world – but how does it hold up against the lesser known Parc Astérix? We road tested these theme parks in France to help you choose the one for you.
Located east of the capital, Disneyland and has more than 50 rides, plus a fair smattering of Disney-inspired magic. There are two parks side by side – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. Most tickets give you access to both although you’d be hard pressed doing them in one day.
Situared north east of Paris and just 20 miles away from Disneyland, Parc Astérix is themed around ancient cultures, headed up by comic characters Astérix and Obelix. There are over 30 rides – including the brand new Discobélix, which promises to let you experience discus-throwing first hand – plus live shows.
The best bits
According to my adrenaline junkie sons Harvey, 15, and 13-year-old Max, the best ride for teens at Disneyland Paris is the pitch dark Space Mountain rocket ride in Disneyland Park. Both came off as white as sheets. Over in the Walt Disney Studios teenagers will lap up the Tower of Terror, a stomach-churning elevator ride which plummets you faster than gravity.
At Parc Astérix, thrill-seeking teens will love the 60mph Oziris rollercoaster, the archetypal theme park ride with terrifying twists, turns and somersaults. Goudurix is another multi-looping, adrenaline-fuelled winner for older children.
For under 12s
Disneyland’s Peter Pan’s Flight is a beautiful pirate ship ride through Neverland. My 10-year-old daughter Rosie and her seven-year-old brother Freddie also loved shooting aliens on the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. Over in the Walt Disney Studios take them on Ratatouille, a 3D journey through Rémy’s world.
At Parc Astérix, under 12s should head to the mini rollercoaster SOS Numerobis – fun for parents too – then let them loose on the chair drop ride Enigmatix. I found it terrifying to look at but all my kids enjoyed Les Chaises Volantes, which is like a carousel of flying chairs.
For the whole family
Disneyland offers big thrills on Big Thunder Mountain, a roller coaster crazy enough for the teens yet not too terrifying for their siblings. It’s also great just to walk down the main avenue with the famous Disney castle looming ahead of you. Don’t miss the parade – you might get a hug from Winnie the Pooh – or the amazing nightly fireworks.
Our family favourite at Parc Astérix was the mega fun Romus et Rapidus. You’ll find yourselves tossed along a river and through rapids in a giant rubber ring – but prepare to get wet. We also liked Le Grand Splatch – another wet and wild experience, this time in a flume and culminating in an 11-metre drop.
Give it a miss
Unless your little ones have their heart set on meeting their favourite characters, avoid the meet and greet at Disneyland. We waited for two hours for a handshake and photograph with Mickey Mouse. Even the kids didn’t think it worthwhile.
If you’re short of time at Parc Astérix, avoid the dolphin show – I’ve seen better. There are plenty of other shows, from stunt-filled crime capers to battles between Gauls and Romans but they’re all in French.
You expect queues on the bigger rides – and they can certainly top an hour-and-a-half – but there are huge waits on smaller rides too, like the rather uninspiring Orbitron mini space ship ride for younger children. Download the Disneyland Paris app for current waiting times.
Similarly, a handy Parc Astérix app lets you check how long current queues are. Generally, you’re in for an hour’s wait for the main attractions but for smaller rides such as La Galère swinging boat there’s a much quicker turnaround.
Ugh! This was a real disappointment at Disneyland Paris. You’re not allowed to take in picnics and your bags are searched on entry. There are no kiosks where you can grab a quick sandwich, just actual restaurants. The park map indicates the price range of each but frankly they’re all expensive. We paid about €35 for two mediocre hot dogs and fries.
You’re allowed to take picnics and drinks into Parc Astérix, which saves on cost. There are a range of restaurants with menus for kids from €5.60 and for adults from €8.70, plus kiosks selling hot dogs and chips, ice creams, sandwiches and drinks.
Planning your visit
Advance tickets are available from Disneyland Paris online, but shop around for better deals. La Croix du Vieux Pont makes an excellent base – it’s just over an hour’s drive away, and the parc runs a shuttle bus to get you there.
Parc Astérix opens from April to November, but check beforehand if you’re planning to go outside of July and August because it’s not open every day. You can get tickets online, and La Croix du Vieux Pont is within an hour’s drive.
In Disneyland Paris, crowds filtered out early in the evening as day trippers left and the evening posse were still engrossed at the start. It’s a great time to go on popular rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones.
Look out for ‘single rider’ queues on the bigger rides; these are for people on their own who don’t mind being put next to strangers. They cut down the waiting times dramatically.
There’s no doubt that Disneyland is an enchanting experience with some cool rides and definitely one to strike off your bucket list – if you can afford it. But it could be made so much more customer friendly. Is Disney resting on its reputation?
Parc Astérix is lively, fun and busy without being claustrophobic. We could get round most of the rides we wanted to in a day. There are enough high-adrenaline ones to satisfy older kids and adults but plenty for younger children as well. A great day out for everyone.
Now it’s over to you – do you agree or disagree with our battle of theme parks in France? We’d love to hear your experiences, so leave us a comment or get in touch over social!