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Travel Guest Post: Euro Disney Hits 20

Summary: It has 20 years since Euro Disney – or Disneyland Paris as it’s now known –opened, and the park has seen many exciting changes over the years, not least the introduction of Eurostar services.

This is the kind of news that makes me feel old – Disneyland Paris is 20 years of age in 2012. I remember when the theme park first opened, when I was a young child. It was known as the Euro Disney Resort then and my parents arranged a special trip in honour of my tenth birthday. It was definitely one of our best holidays. But the resort’s changed a lot since then, so I’m starting to think it might be time to take another trip.

A potted history of Disneyland Paris: The United States has had its own Disney resort since 1955, when Disneyland opened in California. In 1971, Disneyworld opened in Florida and in 1983, Tokyo Disneyland was launched. So finally in 1983, the bosses at Disney decided it was time for Europe to have some fun with Mickey Mouse too.

So why exactly did it take 10 years for this dream to come to life? Well, the planning process reportedly started with a list of over 1000 sites across the continent, before finally being whittled down to four – two in France and two in Spain. Although officials were said to prefer the climate in Spain, Paris eventually won them over thanks to its accessible location.

It certainly turned out to be a good decision. As well as short drive or plane ride away from several European hubs, travellers in the UK can now take advantage of Eurostar breaks too, as there’s a direct train from St Pancras station in London to Disneyland Paris.

Construction began on the theme park in 1988, before being opened as the Euro Disney Resort in 1992 and renamed as Disneyland Paris in 1994. It was initially hit by some controversy from French cultural commentators, who denounced the encroachment of what they felt was brash American consumerism in France. Even today, I’ve met some French people who lament the presence of Disneyland Paris in their country. But I think there’s a lot less opposition now than there once was, especially since the resort is the most visited attraction in Europe – even more than the Eiffel Tower.

Visiting in 2012: Since 1992, there have been a lot of changes, including the introduction of the Space Mountain Ride and, of course, the extension of Eurostar services to the resort. There are more all-inclusive Eurodisney holiday packages too, which is great – I think my parents only had a few to choose from when we visited all those years ago. Some of them may be running special offers for the 20th anniversary year, for instance, free accommodation for children, so I’d advise you to check the website before you book anything.

For anyone interested in the history of Disneyland Paris, I’d really recommend this book: Once Upon an American Dream: The Story of Euro Disneyland (2000) by Andrew Lainsbury. It’s got loads of information that’s interesting and insightful, but it’s published in the US, so might be a bit pricey.

Author: Jamie Monteath

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