When it comes to all things Disney, we know that we are incredibly lucky. We are annual pass holders, which means that we may well have been to Disneyland Paris more times this year than some people get to go in a lifetime. In reality, we’ve found that having an annual pass is the cheapest way to do Disney. And until earlier on this year, having an annual pass didn’t diminish the Disney magic.
Yes you read that correctly: until earlier on this year, when we didn’t have such a great experience.
But when you’ve renewed our annual pass, what’s a Disney loving family to do? Furthermore, Baby Lighty had loved his first visit, and we were determined to go back and make better memories than we had at Christmas. That was always going to be our plan; we weren’t quite ready to hang up our Mickey ears just yet!
So go back we did. With the discount from our annual passes, we managed to get a really good deal on Disney’s Santa Fe Hotel, which not only meant that the weekend wouldn’t cost us very much, but we’d also get to stay in the next best thing to the Cozy Cone Motel, something Mrs Lighty in particular had wanted to do since Mr Lighty and I went to Disneyland in California pre-Baby Lighty. So once again, we packed up the car and drove off into the night, on our way to Disneyland Paris.
And – dare I say it – but I think the magic started almost before we even got there. It was sooooo coooollld during our journey, but Nanny and Grandad Hatchy, who were already at Disneyland, having arrived the day before, told us just how magical the park looked covered in snow. And they weren’t wrong. There really is something special about a snowy Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
What’s more, as soon as we walked through the park gates on this occasion, we were also really pleased to see one of Baby Lighty’s favourite characters almost immediately: Stitch! Of course, we had to queue up for our first character meet and greet upon seeing Stitch, especially as he is one of Baby Lighty’s favourites!
After meeting him, Baby Lighty told us, “Stitch told me to stroke his hair and I said “you’re beautiful!”” And let’s face it, he’s right, Stitch is beautiful!
The great thing about going off-season is that the parks aren’t quite as busy. We managed a fair few rides on that first Sunday afternoon, including Pirates of the Carribbean, where Baby Lighty insisted on holding my hand and that of his Uncle Hatchy, because we might be scared during the ride. His little compassionate personality shining through, he tried to persuade us that the pirates are friendly, not scary, and comforting us with “Come here, [Baby Lighty’s] here!” and a cuddle!
We also managed a great spot right at the start of the parade route on our first day. Baby Lighty has talked about seeing the parade constantly since his first visit, and as the parade finished we dived onto the Snow White ride, which had no queue whatsoever. We also managed to get a table easily at the Rainforest Cafe that night for Grandad Hatchy’s birthday celebrations, with the littlest Lighty falling asleep during his mains and remained that way until after Happy Birthday had been sung!
Something that Baby Lighty has been keen to do since his first visit is see lots of characters and have them ‘write in his book’. I think we managed that pretty well on this visit! As well as Stitch, we met Mickey (again!), Captain Hook and Smee, Mr Incredible, Baloo, Timon, Woody, Princess Merida and Aladdin, Jasmin and the Genie. And I have to say that it was little things that really restored our faith in the Disney magic. Like the kindly cast member, who, when he saw that Baby Lighty was a tad scared of Captain Hook, said that we could “make Captain Hook more afraid of you than you are of him” by showing him how to make a ‘tick tock’ sound like the clock in the crocodile. Similarly, when we saw Merida, the snow was coming down thick and fast, and yet the cast member let us quickly jump in for a photo before she was taken indoors to the warm simply because it was Baby Lighty’s first time meeting a princess; little things like that go a long way in creating a magical time.
On the Monday night, after Nanny and Grandad Hatchy had left, Baby Lighty said that he wanted to see the fireworks. We therefore wrapped up warm (for Mrs Lighty this meant a pair of tights, a pair of socks, leggings, two vests, a dress and a sweatshirt; it was that cold!), headed to the Lucky Nugget (where the service was excellent) and headed into the night. The fireworks and show were the same as the one that we saw at Christmas – the peril of having an annual pass! – but as we walked out of the park, there was more magic to come: Mickey Mouse himself was stood high up on Main Street station, bidding his guests a goodnight! It’s something that we’ve never seen in any of the three Disney parks we’ve visited the world over, and it was something which even Mr and Mrs Lighty stood and watched in awe.
And it’s these little things that Mrs Lighty has always said will go a long way in making the park up to the American standards. I’m not saying it’s easy to create that Disney magic that we all know and love – I’m the first to always shake my head and marvel at how much work must go into choreographing the parades, for example – but there are certainly little things that can be done to inject a bit more magic where magic is lacking.
I’m pleased therefore to report that Tinkerbell’s magic wand seemed to have been waved over the park on this occasion. As we walked away at the end of the trip, I was desperately hoping that I wasn’t experiencing that heart sinking feeling I always get the last time we walk out of the gates of the park, when we know that it’ll be our last visit for a while. I’m really hoping that we’ll be lucky enough to experience the Disney magic one more time. Because, on this occasion, our faith and trust in the Disney magic really has been restored.