It might not be the warmest time of the year to visit, but there’s nothing quite like Disneyland Paris at Christmas. The whole park is decorated in elaborate Christmas decorations, the classic Characters are dressed in Christmas-themed costumes, and the parades include rarer characters that you’re unlikely to see at other times of the year too.
We last visited Disneyland Paris on the 27th December 2019: our 2020 trip was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This was our third Christmas season trip. But we loved it so much that we can’t wait until we can visit for Christmas season again:
One of the biggest factors to consider when planning a winter trip to Disneyland Paris is the weather. If you’re used to winters in the UK then the weather is very similar, but it feels much colder because you’re spending long periods of time outside, with limited opportunities to warm up. It often rains in Paris during November and December, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the fake snow that Disney liberally sprinkles down Main Street was interspersed with real snow at this time of year.
If you’re travelling with kids then layers are key if you want them to stay in the park all day without complaining that they’re cold! Remember that it’s easier to remove layers than it is to add them. We always start with a base layer of thermal leggings and a long sleeves thermal top, then add a sweater, cotton-based trousers (avoid jeans if you can, as they’re a nightmare to dry if they get wet), and a thick, waterproof ski coat. Add hats, scarves, and gloves (bonus points if you can find Disney-themed options) and pop a blanket in your rucksack to drape over laps and shoulders when waiting for parades and shows, particularly the evening firework illuminations, as the temperatures really drop at night.
Travelling with kids that are keen to wear costumes? There’s no reason not to, and the character interaction always seems must better when the kids are dressed up! Just buy the costumes a size bigger than you need so that they will fit over thermal layers underneath, or look for ‘costume-inspired’ warmer jumpers and hooded tops.
The Christmas version of the famous Disney parade is probably my favourite seasonal version. This is thanks to the huge number of rare characters it features, the cosy Christmas theming and costumes, and (spoiler alert) Santa himself even makes an appearance on the final float! Unlike during other seasons where you will only see the parade once a day, the parade runs twice a day during the Christmas season and it really isn’t to be missed.
As you enter the Disneyland Park (just underneath the train station) you can collect park maps and park planners. These are available in a variety of languages, including in English, so be sure to pick one up on your first day in the park: this will outline the times of the parade, shows, character meet and greets and any other key information, so you won’t miss a thing.
If you’re in the Disney Studios park then these maps and planners can be found just inside the entrance to Studio 1.
Meeting the Characters
There are character meet and greets dotted all over both of the Disney Parks: you’ll find the locations of these meet and greet sites on the park programme, as mentioned above! Queues for these can get long, particularly during peak times, and each character is only at their meet point for an hour or two: but the queue is likely to close long before this to ensure everyone is seen before the character leaves. Therefore if there’s a character you’re really keen to see, my top tip would be to get in the queue for the meet 15-20 minutes before the line officially opens. Because there won’t be a character there, you’ll find there are less ‘opportunistic’ people just hopping into the queue because they saw a character, and you’ll get through the queue much faster.
Mickey Mouse is much easier to meet: he has his own indoor meet location in Fantasy land, and this is open from 10am everyday. Because it’s indoors, this is a great place to warm up, and the queue area is dominated by a huge cinema screen showing old-fashioned Mickey Mouse shorts. During the Christmas season (up until 24th December) you can also meet Santa at the same location.
How We Got There and Where We Stayed
We are big fans of driving to the Disneyland Paris Parks from the UK: the crossing via Eurotunnel only takes around 30 minutes, and you don’t even have to get out of the car! This is ideal if you’re travelling with kids: to maximise the amount of time we get in the parks, we lift the kids into the car asleep and the drive through the night to Disneyland. We were booked on to the Eurotunnel at just after 5am, and arrived at the park before Park opening at 10am. The kids were refreshed and ready for a full Disney day (and the parents were ready for a cup of coffee!)
Obviously, prices vary depending on the time you book, how long you stay in France, and how far in advance you book. But as a rule of thumb, we always aim to get our Eurotunnel trips to around £100 each way. (Check prices here).
For this trip, we stayed in one of the Disney partner hotels, The Explorers. Having stayed in all of the hotels, we chose this one for our winter trip because it has a brilliant swimming pool (with slides and water features), a three-storey soft play structure for guests to use, and breakfast is included. Because the weather was so cold, having great indoor facilities at the hotel meant that when we’d had enough of the park and headed back to the hotel, we still had plenty to do! This isn’t the cheapest partner hotel, but it is around the same price as the ‘standard’ Disney onsite hotels, which don’t offer swimming pools.
Even if you don’t stay there, it is well worth walking through the Disneyland Hotel (which sits at the entrance to the Disneyland Park) to see their Christmas decorations, which include a life size gingerbread house in the middle of the hotel lobby. There is also a huge, but tasteful Christmas tree which is the perfect spot for an impromptu photo shoot.
We didn’t have to buy park tickets, because we are Disneyland Paris annual pass holders. You can read more about the benefits of having a Disneyland Paris annual pass here.