Disneyland Paris

Bonjour, Disneyland!

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After opening in 1992, some questioned if Disneyland Paris would hold the same appeal as its American cousins in Florida and California. The answer lies in the recent celebration welcoming the park's 100 millionth visitor. The Imagineers who create the rides and visual attractions are doing something right, as Disneyland Paris has become a noteworthy stop during visits to France. Advances in technology have also helped. Rides are more daring, and easier to enjoy -- thanks to such features as the new FASTPASS, which cuts down on your time spent in line by distributing special tickets at entrances of popular attractions.

As with any theme park, there are must-see attractions at Disneyland Paris to consider while preparing to say bonjour to Monsieur Mickey. Each visitor has his or her favorites, but there are some standards that shouldn't be missed. Right through the entrance is Main Street, where the traditional charm of small-town America is brought to life. Hop aboard the Disneyland Railroad for a tour of the park, but feel free to get off at stops in Frontierland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland. While Main Street certainly warrants a stroll, you can also hire an old-fashioned car to cruise the street. 

Start the adventure in dreamy Fantasyland at Sleeping Beauty's Castle. This part of the park is a perfect marriage of American Disney and European style, with thatched cottages, gabled windows and cobblestone paths. After visiting with the famed beauty, follow the stories of childhood favorites Peter Pan, Snow White and Pinocchio while gliding from ride to ride. Lines are rarely long at the classic It's a Small World, and you should save the carousel for the evening when it's illuminated.

Not far from Fantasyland, Discoveryland puts a new twist on America's Tomorrowland, paying homage to heroic visionaries of yesterday, including H.G. Wells. Upon entering this area of the park, make your first stop Space Mountain. The name -- de la Terre a la Lune -- may sound peaceful, but with 3 inversions this is by far the most thrilling Space Mountain of any of the Disney parks. Other excellent discoveries include the Visionarium and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience -- a 3-D interactive adventure. This attraction is offered in both French and English, so check the schedule ahead of time.

Next stop, Adventureland, where the Indiana Jones backward roller coaster cannot be missed. For the more weak of heart (or stomach), there is the classic Pirates of the Caribbean, where visitors ride through caves and tunnels amid pirate fights and swashbuckling victory parties. An even calmer experience can be found at the Le Passage Enchanté d'Aladdin, which re-creates the story of Aladdin's journey with animated scenes. The technicolor sets and detail make this attraction appealing for visitors of all ages.

Even if you are staying in one of the park's Western-themed hotels, Frontierland is as close to the old Wild West as it gets in Paris -- due in part to one of the park's main attractions, Big Thunder Mountain (a FASTPASS ride.) This Western-themed roller coaster winds through mining tunnels until reaching the final destination -- a dynamite-packed mine shaft. Wait until the bewitching hour to visit the haunted mansion, as the spooky ambiance escalates after sun down.