For years I went to Disneyland Paris as part of a couple, 8 years in fact. Then in 2008 my son Lucas was born and our lives changed forever. For the first time since 2002 we didn’t visit our favourite place that year, nor did we in 2009. Almost every night we’d have conversations about when to take Lucas for the first time, when was he old enough – trying to persuade ourselves that he’d be fine and we should go at the next possible opportunity. We finally succumbed when Lucas was 2, and took him in September 2010 for his first visit, when he was 2 years and 4 months to be precise.
Lucas – 2 Years and 4 Months
It wasn’t plain sailing, and for the first day he was somewhat of a grump – maybe the travel was too much for him. The next day the same, and at this point I was thinking it was a mistake to bring him, and for the first time ever being in Disneyland Paris, wished I wasn’t. Then we took him to Disney Juinor Live on Stage and the whole holiday changed. His eyes lit up at the characters on stage, he joined in and more than anything reveled in collecting the streamers and leaves that fall from the ceiling.
It was on that second day that Lucas saw someone with a Mickey balloon and asked if he could have one. Being the type of Dad I am, and given that we’d just had 24 hours of Grumpy Lucas, I told him he could have one if he was a good boy for the rest of the day. Hey, even in Disneyland Paris I’m not the type of Dad who just buys things for their kid every time they ask – treats have to be earned 😉 He was a good boy and he got his balloon, and the photo that I took is one of my favourites to this day, and makes my heart melt every time I look at it.
It was in Annette’s Diner that he first decided that he liked eating or at least sucking lemons. And when I say liked, it’s more that he likes the bitterness hitting his taste buds and the contorted face that follows. As Dad, it was my job to take Lucas on Cars Race Rally 10 times in 2 days, whilst Mum looked on, drinking coffee and making some excuse about not liking spinning rides. Lucas did Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time that trip, shied away when Stitch came over to say hello, spent a good few hours on my shoulders and oh, did I mention we rode Cars Race Rally?
It was wonderful to at last share something that was so dear to my heart, with the one person who had come into our lives and turned it upside down, in a good way. I’d never realised that so much joy could come from eating a croissant whilst walking in circles around a tree in Walt Disney Studios, or how much Disneyland Paris did, and still does need a proper Lightning McQueen photo location. I still remember the tears rolling down his face in the Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy train station when we left. We went to the shop in the station, I bought him a Lightning McQueen money box and told him I’d bring him back. He looked into my eyes, smiled, and off we went to catch the train.
Lucas – 4 Years, Exactly
We waited almost 2 years to go back as a family for various reasons, but when we did we did it style, and arrived on Lucas’ 4th birthday. They didn’t have the celebration badges that they do now, but we went to City hall where Lucas got a call from Mickey Mouse and a birthday sticker to wear. Within minutes however we faced the first bit of heartache, as Lucas was now a fully fledged member of the Star Wars Fan club, wanted more than anything to ride Star Tours. It was as the Cast Member measured him, that I realised he was way too small and readied myself to scoop him into my arms to console him. It seemed I had under-estimated my 4 year old Jedi wannabee, as he took the news in his stride and carried on his happy little way.
One thing that struck me on this trip was how independent he was, no longer needing to be pushed in a buggy or carried on my shoulders. It also meant he was more prone to running around, and as Dad, it was my job to run around with him, or after him in some cases. Mum was carrying the drinks, cameras and snacks, so it was only fair that I do my part too. It was being there with Lucas that gave me my appreciation for Adventure Isle and Fort Comstock, and I was quietly pleased when he didn’t want his candy floss after that first bite. The Scrooge in me lamented that wasted money, but more so I was just glad not have to deal with Lucas after a bucket load of sugar – we’ve already established it was me that did the running around with him.
My shoulders did come in handy at a few points though, mainly to watch parades but most importantly for Dreams! This was our first experience of the 20th Anniversary and with that came that landmark nighttime spectacular. Don’t worry, I wasn’t one of the people who hoisted their child up last minute – he was there for 30 minutes before it started, much to the delight of my back. Though I couldn’t see his face, I could feel him sway with the music, hear him gasp in wonderment, and recoil at the fireballs, which he swore burned his eyebrows. It was on the way back to the hotel that I feel I got played, as he seemed on the verge of sleep when it had finished, so I carried him back with help from Mum, only for him to be wide awake once we were back in the hotel. He walked back to the hotel the second time we watched Dreams! that trip.
It was on this trip that Lucas discovered a love for Phantom Manor and Pirates of the Caribbean, but still didn’t want to approach characters, preferring to be stood away from them, preferably on my shoulders. Speaking of Phantom Manor, as I was, I remember Lucas being sure that he could handle the stretching room on his own, but as soon as the door closed he jumped up into my arms, and when the lights went out he buried his head in my shoulders. We Dads have our uses when ghouls are out to play.
Lucas – 5 Years and A Few Weeks
For the first time since taking Lucas to Disneyland Paris in 2010 we went 2 years in a row, and with Lucas having grown in those 12 months, we once again headed for Star Tours. This time we’d measured him at home, and knew that he just about reached the height requirement, and on agreement from the Cast Member we entered the world of Star Wars. Sharing my passion of Star Ware had been a delight for the past couple of years, taking it one step further and sharing it in Disneyland Paris was fantastic. He marveled at all the characters he recognised in the queuing area, and after quizzing me repeatedly on what the ride entailed, sat in his seat rather nervously. Thankfully he loved it, and we went on many times more that trip, and spent hours browsing all the merchandise in the Star Tarders shop. Being a fan of both Star Wars and Disney, Lucas bought some of the crossover action figures, a collection he got me to add to on each of my subsequent trips.
It was on this trip that Lucas got brave, and after conquering Toy Soldier Parachute Drop insisted that he wanted to try Tower of Terror. Being the big chicken that I am, I asked him if he was sure many many times, and each time he said he was. The reason I asked him so many times is because in my naivety, I’d said I’d go with him, thinking he’d never go through with it – eek! We even took him on Stitch Live first, my plan being that given enough time he’d change his mind. That didn’t work either, so on we went. The theming inside kept us busy but once strapped into our seat, the nerves kicked in and he spent the duration of the ride clinging onto my arm with his head tucked into my armpit. In fact of the three of us, I was the most at ease with Tower of Terror, not that I’ve been back on again since.
One thing that did change this trip was characters, and we’d booked Cafe Mickey as a tester, thinking that if he still wasn’t keen we’d just ask them not to come to our table. Well, before we even got there, we were walking towards Adventureland when Captain Jack Sparrow walked past. For what reason I don’t know, the Cast Member with Jack told Lucas to follow them, and he did! At one point she grabbed Lucas’ hand and they all ran off to the photo location, with us in tow. Even though there was a queue waiting she insisted Lucas got his photo first, and from that point on he was fine meeting characters and we had a great time in Cafe Mickey, where Lucas met, danced and had fun with a whole bunch of them.
That was our last family trip for a while, and I’m very lucky that I have a fantastic wife and son that have allowed me to run off to Disneyland Paris on solo press invite trips from time to time since. The time had come to come go back though, and so we booked to stay at Hotel Santa Fe for 4 nights and 5 days. That visit starts in 5 days, and so what will that trip bring?
Lucas – 8 Years and 3 Months
On the one hand Lucas won’t be able to experience his beloved Star Tours as it’s closed, but on the other hand it’s going to be my job to queue up early one morning and get his name put down for the Jedi Training Academy. As much as I want to have a go at this myself, watching with pride as Lucas takes part will be even better. Not having any Star Wars in Disneyland Paris would have been a travesty, but having something he can actually participate in is a decent replacement for not going on his favourite ride. Next year when we have the new Star Tours AND the Jedi Training Academy, well we’ll be utterly spoiled
We’ve also gone from casually meeting characters when there’s the opportunity to going head first in and intending to get into the parks early to queue for meets during Extra Magic Hours. Lucas will be going one step further though as he has a Mad Hatter costume that he’ll be wearing on Tuesday morning when we hope to meet some characters from Alice in Wonderland, his favoruite Disney film, the Johnny Depp version that is – though he likes both. He’s even agreed to queue up for the Princess Pavilion, though I fully expect that to turn into Dad queuing while Lucas and Mum go off and do so some rides.
Dreams! will be a different experience, because as much as he’s still little, the smallest in his class in fact, he’s now too big and heavy to go on my shoulders for any length of time. That means either finding a place he can watch from without too many people in the way, me holding him in my arms (not something I’d relish), or dare I say it, waiting at the front of the Dreams! viewing area for quite some time before its starts, so we are front row. We’ll play that one by ear, but as long as have Heads Up loaded onto our phones there’s a chance, just a small one, that we may try this waiting 2 hours before Dreams! starts business, but secretly I’m hoping it won’t come to that.
What I am going to experience is Disneyland Paris through the eyes of my now 8 year old son, which may be very different than the last 3 times we’ve been. While he may not depend on me for support as much, we can now share things on a higher intellectual level. The loves of that little boy we took at the age of 2 in 2010 haven’t all gone, as he still wants to see Disney Junior Live on Stage and also wants to bring back to our room all the shiny loot that falls from the ceiling. I’ve been told that I must buy him a balloon if he wants one too, and struggle with it on the train back home. In 5 days all this will become a clearer, and in 5 days I get to be a Dad in Disneyland Paris again – there are few greater pleasures in this world.
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