Depending on the hotel you stay at, you have different options for getting to the parks. If you pony up the dough to stay at the Disneyland Hotel, your life is easy, given that the hotel is directly opposite the Main Street Railway Station. Sequoia Lodge, Hotel New York, and Disney's Newport Bay Club are all located within walking distance, around Lake Disney.
Because it was dark, cold, and rainy the first night I went to the park, I took the bus. Although the pickup for the bus is pretty convenient--right in front of the hotel--the drop-off is less so. The buses all drop off along the side of the railway station/garage, with the stop for Sequoia being pretty far back.
From that point, there is literally nothing within eyeshot of the parks, and if there were any signs indicating which way to go, I didn't see them. After watching me standing around for awhile wondering if I had gotten off at the wrong stop, the bus driver finally broke down and high-beamed me, to give me directions.
There is also, again, absolutely no one around the bus area to answer questions, so you need to get all the information from the bus driver that you want before leaving. Subsequently, I realized I didn't know when the buses stopped running and asked a number of security personnel (the only ones still around after the parks closed,) all of which gave me different times, none of which ended up being correct.
Here's the map I wish I had had--I ended up taking the bus every day because it was pretty freezing and wet most mornings, and as a result never realized until my last night there, how close the hotel was to the Disney Village. Some nights, after the parks had closed, I actually walked the length of the Village to pick up food (at that point probably less than a 10 minute walk from the hotel,) then walked all the way back out of the Village, down the length of the train station, and waited around for the bus. The More You Know.
Anyway, assuming you finally meander your way around the train station, you then get to go through the usual security check. In an interesting twist, there are several lines, one of which has an x-ray machine for your bags instead of a person doing a manual check. The line may be shorter for the machine, and it may seem compelling to just be able to throw your bag down without having to open it up and expose all the contents to a stranger, but don't do it--it inevitably takes longer for some reason. The security is also a little more cavalier than at home, as a couple of times I just walked through with my bag uninvestigated, when none of the security guys seemed interested in looking at it.
On passing through security, you then find yourself contemplating the beautiful Disneyland Hotel.
Tony Baxter later spoke to us about how on creating the park, the Imagineers felt that European towns usually had an inn by the train station, and wanted to emulate that by designing the hotel to be directly abutting the park. At the time, they were beset by a lot of naysayers who said that no one would want to stay there from the noise of the parades or fireworks, etc...and subsequently the design was so successful, it was replicated with the Miracosta at Tokyo DisneySea, and the Grand Californian at California Adventure.
Travel Tip #2: Consider the Annual Pass.
Here are the prices for day tickets to Disneyland Paris:
...And here are the prices for Annual Passes.
As you can see, assuming your visit isn't going to coincide with the AP's blackout dates, if you are even going for three days, you're better off with the Fantasy pass (the one I got.) The one under that is worth it if you're even going for more than one day, however that might be limited to purchase by locals. The other advantage to the Fantasy AP is that it gave around a 10% discount at pretty much all the stores and restaurants on property which is less than the 20% that the Dream pass got, but better than a poke in the eye.
Activating the AP can be a bit of a challenge--I entered in the evening of my first day there, and found that the AP center (on the Discoveryland side of the hub,) was already closed. The next day I had to go around to guest services because my AP voucher no longer let me in, since I had already used it for an entry the day before. After a number of phone calls, the CM had to walk over and manually let me in, admonishing me that I had to activate the AP as soon as possible. I went over to the AP center...and of course, it wasn't open yet.
Anyway, you enter by passing under the hotel, at which time you get your first glimpses of the park.
...and it's gorgeous. I mean it--everything I've said up to this point has probably made it seem like a big ol' hassle to get over here and get in, but at the point where you walk in and see all the detailing and the beautiful castle...it's all worth it.
Next time: Disney Dreams.
The previous post in this blog was Disneyland Paris: It Begins.
The next post in this blog is Disneyland Update - 4/29/12.