Quick Reference Chart for Parisien Theme Parks
Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
14Trip End Sep 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
Disneyland Park Asterix Mer de Sable Jardin D'Acclimetation
Transport X X
Well Suited for
Children Under 7 X X X
Well Suited for
Children 7 & Up X X
Less Likely to
be Crowded on
and Holidays X X
Rainy Days X
Best for Children
Who are Easily
Frightened X X
Family Picnics X X
Best for an
Date Night X
Easily Accessible via Public Transport: Let's face it, some things are easier to get to than others via public transport. Disney, for example, is a straight shot on RER A. Jardin D'Acclimatation is within fairly easy walking distance of the Metro Line 1 at Les Sablons. On the other hand, Parc Asterix is roughly a 30 to 45 minute drive from Paris. While they claim to have a bus, it is one that leaves first thing in the morning and comes back in the evening. If you have kids, you don't want to be dependent on a once a day bus in case there is some emergency...or Mommy and Daddy hit the tolerance threshold. To my knowledge, Mer de Sable doesn't even suggest that you can get there without a car.
Well Suited for Children Under 7: I have assessed this based on the number of rides that each park has for children between 90 cm and 1 meter. Age wise this usually means kids between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5. I will say that temperament does play a big part in this. Seb and Lucas are both fairly fearless when it comes to rides, so the major issue is one of height rather than one of tolerance. I do have friends and family members who have children who are more easily frightened, in which case look at the chart for "best for children who are easily frightened".
Well Suited for Children 7 and up. I based this on the availability of rides for kids between 1 meter and 1.20 meters in height. While Lucas, my 5 year old, is already 1.25 meters, this is really unusual here. Most kids of that height are around 7 or 8. In most amusement parks, passing the height of 1.2 meters allows you on 95% of the rides . Have two kids and one is over 7? I would still avoid this category because nothing is more hellish than having to continually tell a younger sibling that he simply "can't" go on the ride that older sibling is trotting off toward (and possibly gloating in the process). The amount of crying, screaming or whining that you will have to endure far outweigh the benefits for the older sibling. My advice? Occasionally take the older sibling to places like this as a special Mommy or Daddy "date" with just them. It saves your nerves and wins you big points with older child.
Less Likely to be Crowded on Sunny Days, Weekends and Holidays: I have said this many times but DO NOT go to Disneyland Paris on these days. Or if you do, then don't complain about the lines. By now you should know that you are going to have to wait 30 to 45 minutes per ride if you go on a sunny weekend or a sunny day during the holidays. This is why Disney is best during the spring or fall and on a weekday. The same reasoning holds true from Jardin D'Acclimatation, because it is easily accessible via the metro and has an amusement park with rides as well as a mini zoo and a park. The last two things means that this is probably a better choice than Disney given these circumstances . However, it holds true that you will do better in a place that is harder to get to and less known by tourists.
Best Equipped for Rainy Days: This is basically asking if there are 1) places to take shelter from the rain and 2) these places come with some form of entertainment. In this case, Disneyland Paris is really the only good option. There is an entire Walt Disney Studios side that has multiple "shows" which provide shelter and entertainment. Even in the "Magic Kingdom" most of the rides are covered. For that matter, many of the waiting areas are covered.
Best for Children who are easily frightened: Mer de Sable and Jardin D'Acclimatation are clear winners on this. Neither has rides or themes that are inherently frightening. Mer de Sable is a fairly gentle theme park that seems a bit more focused on the outdoor experience, while Jardin D'Acclimatation is a bit more like a carnival than a theme park, in that it has carnival type rides and a mini zoo. Disneyland Paris, despite having an entire "land" with no height restrictions, can still be darn scary for a kid who is skittish. Quite frankly , the Snow White and Pinocchio rides are dark in more than a physical sense. I find them disturbing and I am an adult. Park Asterix , in addition to having really tall and fast rides, also has some fairly scary concepts, including a ride called "Transdemonium" which provides the opportunity to interact with spooks, specters and demons. So not a great idea if your child gets scared by Tom and Jerry.
Best for Family Picnics: Jardin D'Acclimatation is a real park, with lots of grass and opportunities for family bonding through play. They also have several on site eateries if you are lazy. This is a great way to spend a family afternoon, if you don't mind a bit of a crowd in some spots. Mer de Sable is also great for a lazy family afternoon...even on the weekend. It is far enough away from the center of Paris that there are usually far fewer people, and they have some designated picnic areas. Disneyland is simply not designed for this, nor do they encourage it. They suggest that there is a good picnic area "right outside the park". The truth is that it is simply too busy to have people plopping down in random places and eating. You can do a bit of this in Walt Disney Studios but it is not optimal if your purpose is a nice outdoor picnic. The same holds true for Parc Asterix. The few grassy areas they have are way too close to a lake which has a "drop off" edge. This means that you will spend much of your time chasing your younger ones to make sure that they don't indulge in drowning as a fun afternoon activity.
Best for an Adult Date Night: Disney gets the nod here for several reasons. First, it is open year round. Second, it is open 7 days a week. Third, it stays open later (and starts staying open later) earlier than the other parks. Fourth, there are quite a few "adult" rides and restaurants. Fifth, there is something magical about seeing the evening fireworks over the castle with your mate. It's cheesy but true.
I am sure that there are other categories that I could use for the chart, so please feel free to comment or make suggestions!