France: Bonjour, Mickey

By Mike Yardley

Here's a trivia question to float at your next dinner party. What is the most visited attraction in Europe? No, it's not the Coliseum, Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower, but Disneyland Paris.

Disneyland Paris has just celebrated its 20th anniversary and recently welcomed its 250 millionth visitor. If you're heading to the Continent, channel your inner child and prepare to be enthralled.

Just like its older Californian and Floridian brothers, the Paris theme park is divided into Disney's "lands", including Discoveryland, Frontierland and Fantasyland.

After greeting Monsieur Mickey, I surrendered to Fantasyland's dreamy world of childhood memories - reliving the tales of Peter Pan, Snow White and Pinocchio.

Fantasyland's showpiece ride is It's a Small World. The honeyed melody that floats you around the multi-national costumed characters will linger in your head for weeks.

But giving it a ride for its money is the uber-catchy tune that was written to celebrate 20 years of Disneyland Paris, Magic Everywhere. You'll hear the song as the Disney Magic on Parade swans down Main Street, jam-packed with twinkling floats and a giddy cast of characters, at 5pm daily.

There are some extra-special rides you should not miss. In Discoveryland, Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast is exactly that - a blast. In Adventureland, don't skip the Disney classic, Pirates of the Caribbean, a riotous swashbuckling spectacle.

Aladdin's Journey is a charming encounter to calm the pulse, after the adrenalin rush of the Pirates.

If you need a another heart-racing surge, Frontierland's Thunder Mountain, a Wild West-themed coaster that rockets through mining shafts, will hit the mark.

Alongside Disneyland Park, the Walt Disney Studios is packed with movie magic, interspersed with some ingenious rides. Top billing must go to the Crush's Coaster, where you are hurtled around a roller coaster in pitch blackness, in an upside down turtle shell. The ride was inspired by Finding Nemo.

Send your adrenalin to warp level in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which dramatically plunges down 13 floors.

Regather your senses in the enchanting Toy Story Playland. The top drawer, for kids of all ages, is the Slinky Dod Zigzag Spin, which is hilariously entertaining.

Every day in the Magic Kingdom is brought to a close with the unmissable night-time show, the spectacular Disney Dreams. Premiered in Paris, and centred around Sleeping Beauty's Castle, this spectacle features frothing fountains, super-charged lasers, pyrotechnics and all your cherished characters.

- Hamilton News

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