April is a busy month for Disneyland Paris, but it’s also outside of the main summer high season. For years that has meant, no matter how busy the parks, you’d see no fireworks and certainly stay no later than 10pm — 8 or 9pm on weekdays. The Extended Hours announced for the 20th Anniversary — primarily to make sure Disney Dreams! can be performed under darkness — promised to change that and revolutionise the annual calendar of the resort. Well, here we go.

Park opening hours for the first half of April 2012 have now been published (check them here), giving us our first look at exactly what “Extended Hours” mean. The first two weekends of April now see Disneyland Park open until 10.30pm, giving up to an hour and a half more time than the same period last year (check our archived hours here). On the weekend of the 14th and 15th, that extends further to the magical 11pm; the first 11pm closing time in April for almost two decades. Meanwhile weekdays see a solid 9.30pm closing time, again an increase of up to an hour and a half on last year.

It’s important to note that these Extended Hours are really just regular park opening hours… extended. Merely a way to promote the longer hours required to see darkness fall over Sleeping Beauty Castle — and all those Disney Dreams! effects come to life. The unconnected Extra Magic Hours, which are available in the morning, continue for Disney Hotel guests and Annual Passport Dream holders.

These new hours not only add a great deal more value to park tickets (and particularly resort hotel stays), they herald the moment where Disneyland Paris is ready to grow up, to start acting like a real Disney park. Previously weighted far too heavily towards the two summer months of July and August, the resort’s old calendar saw pretty much the entire rest of the year besides Christmas relegated to “off season”. If you wanted the “full Disney experience” of later hours, darkness falling over Main Street and nighttime entertainment, you had to wait until summer — and stump up the prices to match. Now, that full Disney experience will be available every day and every night of the year.

• Flashback: See the very first Euro Disneyland opening times from 1992 here!

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