There are now five Disney resorts around the world – the iconic parks in California and Florida, Europe’s Disneyland in Paris, and Hong Kong Disney and Tokyo Disney Resort in Asia. And for those who just can’t get enough of the Disney experience, there is also a cruise line where you can sail the seas with your favourite Disney characters.
Ask any child what their dream is, and most will, at some stage in the endless wish list, mention “going to Disneyland”. Every child longs to go there; and every parent wants to take their child, to share in that special magic that only Disney can conjure. There’s just something incredibly special about the experience – from the amazing fun rides, to the joy of meeting a beloved storybook character.
Watch your child’s eyes open with delight as they run to hug Minnie Mouse; hear them laugh like never before at the antics of furry monsters; and witness yourself screaming with joy and terror as you hurtle down a death-defying slope on a rollercoaster.
It’s the attention to detail that makes Disney Parks stand apart. From the entertainment during queues, to the impeccably spotless streets, to the magic of the evening parade – no one does it quite like Disney.
Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California:
The original Disneyland Park may be over 50 years old, but this grand old dame is aging very gracefully indeed. There are now two parks at the resort; Disneyland Park, with all the old favourites and some fabulous newcomers; and Disney’s California Adventure Park, which celebrates stories from California’s past and future, from the Gold Rush and the golden age of Hollywood, to days relaxing on the beach.
First time visitors new to Disney magic usually make a beeline for the original park, adding the new high-octane Disney’s California Adventure Park once they’ve absorbed the iconic Disney imagery. Allow at least three days for the complete experience, perhaps combining it with a stay at one of the three adjoining Disney hotels.
The most recent celebration at Disneyland is the Year of a Million Dreams, a 15-month promotion that will extend into 2008. ‘Dream come true’ experiences during this special time include the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire, where guests can join their favourite princesses for a royal gathering at Fantasyland Theatre; the Jedi Training Academy at Tomorrowland; or search for treasure on Tom Sawyer Island as you encounter Jack Sparrow and his rollicking band of buccaneers, or learn some of the moves from High School Musical at the pep rally in Disney’s California Adventure Park.
Now you can also enjoy a little bit of Australia at Disneyland Park, with our favourite clown fish Nemo taking up residence in the lagoon at Tomorrowland. Inspired by the original submarine attraction, the brand new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage combines the classic underwater journey in bright yellow submarines with new special effect technologies, bringing the wonders of Nemo’s Great Barrier Reef home to life. Ancient ruins, underwater volcanoes and sunken ships add a spirit of adventure as you join Marlin and Dory on their quest to find Nemo. Colourful, enchanting and loads of fun for young and old.
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida:
This is not an experience to be rushed – you’ll need at least a week to fully explore and appreciate everything this self-contained destination has to offer. Put simply, Walt Disney World is enormous, with four Theme Parks and two water Parks guaranteed to keep the whole family entertained for days.
The Resort consists of the Magic Kingdom, featuring all the old Disney storybook favourites, from Sleeping Beauty’s castle to the spinning tea cups; the high-tech Epcot, a vision of the future; showbiz magic at Disney-MGM Studios; and the wild delights of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. If that’s not enough, cool off during both the steamy Florida summer and the balmy winter at Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon; and make the experience complete by staying at one of the many resort hotels, such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, where you can watch giraffes, zebras and wildebeest grazing from your own balcony!
Walt Disney World Resort also continues to make dreams come true with a host of new attractions and activities for all ages during the Year of a Million Dreams. New to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is the new Broadway-style musical “seastravaganza” starring the beloved characters from Finding Nemo; or keep the underwater theme going by riding the ‘clamobiles’ at Epcot’s computer-animated ‘The Seas with Nemo and Friends’.
Budding pirates can join Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial, learning all the pirate ‘tricks of the trade’ such as how to swing a sword and how to spot a cursed treasure. Toy Story’s Woody leads a cowboy camp in Frontierland; while Magic Kingdom presents the Happily Ever After Party, where guests can participate in royalty training and meet Princess Aurora and Prince Philip.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort:
The closest Disneyland to home continues to delight visitors with all the iconic Disney characters, favourites like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, heart-thumping attractions like the zooped-up Space Mountain rollercoaster, and unique attractions like Fantasy Gardens and entertainment celebrating Chinese culture, all set in a picturesque park environment on Lantau Island.
There’s something for everyone at this intimate Disney Park. Visit Tarzan’s Treehouse, covered in vines and moss; blast away your enemies at Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, or enjoy the stunning Festival of the Lion King performance. During the steamy summer months you can cool off during Mickey’s Waterworks Parade; or learn to draw Mickey at the brand new Animation Academy.
If you’re visiting Hong Kong Disneyland, there’s no more convenient and fun place to stay than at the adjoining Disneyland Hotel, which recently won awards for Best Themed Hotel and Most Stylish Hotel at the prestigious China Starlight Awards, or the art deco Disney's Hollywood Hotel.
Tokyo Disney Resort, Japan:
Part of the fun of Tokyo Disney Resort is experiencing the Disney magic, Japanese style! This was the first Disneyland to open outside the US, and is in fact the most visited theme park in the world, beloved by the Japanese people and overseas visitors alike.
The resort consists of two Parks, the dreams and magic of Tokyo Disneyland, and the adventure and romance of the nautical-themed Tokyo DisneySea Park, which opened in 2001. Mickey and his cohorts entertain crowds just the way they do in the US Parks, and with seven themed areas to explore, the whole family will be entertained for at least a full weekend.
The latest attractions to open at Tokyo Disney Resort include a revamped Space Mountain and the terrifying Tower of Terror. Plus Tokyo Disneyland celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2008, with the promise of year-long celebrations and special events.
Disney Cruise Line:
Disney has two ships, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. The company traditionally offers three, four and seven night cruises in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, however over recent years has been offering cruises to Mexico from Los Angeles. In an exciting move, in May this year the company cruised in the Mediterranean for the first time.
The cruises combine the best of luxury cruising with the Disney branding, with special features including a pirate-themed kids’ club, Mickey’s pool just for littlies and teen-only spaces. There are also fantastic themed restaurants, such as the clever and entertaining Animator’s Palate, an ever-changing environment where the brilliance of Disney animation comes to life on the walls!
In 2008, the Disney Magic returns to the west coast with its highly popular seven-night Mexican Riviera sailings. Departing from Los Angeles during the summer season (May through August), the cruise will visit the picturesque ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
New features include an expanded spa and fitness centre for adults, and a brand new youth activities space for young teens, while the whole family will love the poolside movies on the gigantic LED screen. Add to that the legendary Disney entertainment and your favourite Disney characters, and you have a fabulous cruising experience for the whole family, with memories to last a lifetime.
Disneyland Resort Paris, France:
Disneyland Paris has just turned 15 years old, and the celebrations continue throughout the year with exciting new attractions, a makeover of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and a brand new parade to enthrall all ages.
The ‘Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade’ features dozens of Disney characters drawn from the most beloved Disney stories, enchanting not just with dreamy images, but also with fragrances that fill the air as the floats go by. Each float has two themes, one at the front and one at the back, ensuring that guests see more of their favourite characters coming to life.
As a dazzling backdrop for the year-long party, Disneyland Park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is adorned with sculptures of Disney characters, as well as 15 birthday candles which sparkle to life every night. And thrillseekers are not forgotten, with new rides including Crush’s Coaster, which plunges guests into the underwater world of Nemo and Crush, and the Cars Rally Race, a crazy spinning ride on the famous Route 66 based on Disney/Pixar’s movie, Cars.
And the great news is, during the celebrations (up to 30th March 2008), kids under seven years stay and play free, with free Disney hotel accommodation and entrance to both Disney Parks.
To avoid waiting in queues for entry to Disneyland and California Adventure Theme Parks purchase the new ‘Disney’s eTicket’ online and print it out before you go.