It might seem like a slightly unfair contest, with Disneyland® Resort Paris competing against around 30 UK theme parks, but the question is – do any of them come close?
Disneyland Resort Paris is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, with many of people on the internet touting it as ‘the number one’ (although how you arrive at such a conclusion is quite mind boggling to me – I don’t think it can really be compared to Ancient ruins in Athens or Rome for example). It consistently has over 12 million visitors a year, from many European countries, and its close proximity to Britain means British people make up a decent proportion of these. Meanwhile, if you think that Britain’s top theme park, Alton Towers , handles 2.5 million visitors per year, it is clear that Disneyland Resort Paris is quite a behemoth, and one that is very close to home. It’s not difficult to see how Disneyland Resort Paris can attract so many British people if we consider the travel options: the resort is only a 3 hour train journey from London, and it can often take a similar amount of time to reach British theme parks. For me, it would take around 5 hours by train to reach Alton Towers!
Marketing, and worldwide fame, obviously account for much of Disneyland Resort Paris’ popularity. The opportunity for families to take their children to a theme park where they can meet some of the world’s most famous cartoon characters, and visit scenes from their favourite films, puts the magic in the Disneyland experience. The scenery is truly fantastic, and an obvious reason why the park was given an initial budget of $2.6 billion. Creating a whole ‘mountain’ for the course of one ride, in the case of Big thunder Mountain , or building a huge Cinderella’s Castle as a centre piece for the park (which actually doesn’t have all that much in it), is the clear evidence of the immensity of the Disney project, and something to which few British theme parks can compete.
Disneyland and Thrill Rides
It has often been noted that Disneyland Resort Paris has little for thrill seekers. This was true at its opening back in 1992 (when I was fortunate to be amongst the park’s first guests at seven years old), and Big thunder Mountain was subject to massive queues. Now though there are two further roller coasters at the Disneyland Park with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril and Space Mountain: Mission 2. Both of these feature inversions, although the verdict seems to be out on them on most internet forums. Other than these two there has also been the addition of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Walt Disney Studios Park, bringing the resort’s repertoire of thrilling roller coasters up to four – not bad, especially as the number of roller coasters with inversions matches ‘Britain’s most thrilling park’, Thorpe Park.
Other than that collection of roller coasters, however, Disneyland Resort Paris has little else in the way of thrills. Star Tours is a fun and family orientated flight simulator, again with brilliant theming. But what else is there to satisfy adrenalin junkies? Not a lot, as I’m sure you’ll discover if you go.
The British Competition
Alton Towers, Thorpe park and Drayton Manor all have a repertoire of intense thrill rides that easily surpass Disneyland Resort Paris. Not only that, but some of them are also placed within excellent scenery. Nemesis has to be one of the most impressive looking roller coasters in the world, with the track running around an alien creature that has come from underground, surrounded by rivers of blood. Even the sparse settings of Oblivion, fitting in with other ‘futuristic’ rides within the X-Sector area, seem to feel right.
Chessington World of Adventures has often won fans through the fine surroundings of the Vampire or the ancient buildings within the Forbidden Kingdom, and such an approach is very favourable with younger visitors, as Disneyland Resort Paris so well knows. However, it is difficult for all British theme parks to follow this route. Restrictions of budget and space make it difficult for anything but flagship rides to be placed in a fitting setting that is very good on the eye. Disney, in this respect is the magnum opus of European, and indeed worldwide, theme parks.
What are the conclusion to this blog then? Simply, Disneyland Resort Paris has a great diversity of rides, with decent roller coasters and family rides, but its theming is an incredibly important factor of the rides. For a young child, the imagination really can run free at this massive theme park, and this explains why it is such a popular family small break destination. Certain British theme parks do have good ride theming, but it can’t really been compared to Disneyland; have a look at Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, then see which British rides come close (Valhalla at Pleasure Beach is pretty good, but it doesn’t feature animatronics). Disneyland does falter when it comes up against the best thrill rides in the the UK, and it has nothing like a Rameses Revenge or a Samurai. I’m not saying you should choose one theme park over the other, because they all have their benefits, and budget and traveling distance are two of the most important factors in selecting a theme park break. But if you ever want to make the trip onto the continent to Disneyland Resort Paris then don’t go specifically for thrills (you’ll find much better at home) but go for the reason that children will truly be amazed by the scenery and that it’s an almost perfect place for family magic.