After the Grand Californian, the next most convenient is the sprawling Disneyland hotel, the oldest, but most recently renovated, of the three. Comprising three guest-room towers, the hotel is lushly landscaped with a new vintage Disneyana theme and offers large, luxurious guest rooms. Walking time to the monorail station, with transportation to Disneyland Park, is about 3–6 minutes.
Walt Disney barely managed to finance the construction of the Disneyland theme park. He certainly didn't have the funds to purchase adjacent property or build hotels, though on-site hotels were central to his overall concept. So he cut a deal with petroleum engineer and TV producer Jack Wrather to build and operate the Disneyland Hotel. The deal not only gave Wrather the rights to the Disneyland Hotel but also allowed him to build other Disneyland Hotels within the state of California until 2054. It always irked Walt that he didn't own the hotel that bore his name, but Wrather steadfastly refused to renegotiate the rights. After Jack Wrather died in 1984, the Walt Disney Company bought the entire Wrather Corporation, which among other things held the rights to the Lone Ranger and Lassie TV series and, improbably, the RMS Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach. By acquiring the whole corporation, the Walt Disney Company brought the Disneyland Hotel under Disney ownership in 1988.
The Disneyland hotel consists of three towers facing each other across a verdant landscaped plaza, a swimming complex, restaurants, shops, and gardens. The hotel was originally connected to Disneyland Park by monorail, but a portion of the hotel was demolished during the construction of DCA and Downtown Disney, and the station was rebuilt on its original location. Guest registration for all three towers is situated in the Fantasy Tower (previously called the Magic Tower, and the Marina Tower before that), which is connected to the Disneyland Convention Center and Disneyland hotel’s self-parking garage. Though all three towers share restaurants, shopping, and recreational amenities, the Fantasy Tower is most conveniently located. It and the Adventure Tower (formerly Dreams, née Sierra) are closest to Downtown Disney and the theme parks. The Frontier Tower (formerly Wonder, formerly Bonita) is the farthest from the action.
Rack rates for the Disneyland hotel range from around $410 for a city view in the off-season to more than $720 for a theme park view during holiday periods. The best views can be had from the east/ west-facing Adventure Tower, which overlooks the hotel’s inner plaza and pool area on the west and Downtown Disney and the theme parks to the east. The most lackluster views are the north-facing vistas of the Fantasy Tower.
In August 2009 the Disneyland hotel embarked on an ambitious and long-overdue renovation that included major improvements to the guest rooms, as well as a modernization of the hotel’s exterior. While the hotel was formerly essentially themeless, the renovation has embraced the retro-nostalgia of baby boomer Disneyland devotees and added decorative elements evoking the park’s early years; look for 1950s-style signage outside each tower and a tribute to Frontierland’s long-gone Old Unfaithful geysers. The redesigned main lobby evokes Mary Blair’s It’s a Small World designs, and features a blown-up fun map of the original park. The check-in area sports early attraction concept artwork and seating styled after the spinning teacups, whimsical touches that stand in stark contrast with the ultramodern sculpted steel behind the front desk. Peek inside the Frontier Tower lobby to see an amazingly detailed model of Big Thunder Mountain.
The refurbished rooms abandon the heavy blond traditional guest room furnishings and decor in favor of a sleek monochromatic contemporary look. Each room has one king-size or two queen-size beds, along with a pullout couch; one-bedroom suites with a wet bar and living room are also available. Features include a headboard with a carving of Sleeping Beauty Castle; fiber optics in the headboard create a skyline with fireworks (accompanied by a tinny rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star”) at the flick of a switch. Other decorative touches include black-and-white photography depicting the history of Disneyland and hidden Mickey designs in the carpet, though the overall feel is more business modern than Disney whimsy. Each room has a flat-panel hDTV, perfect for connecting a laptop or video game console. Other room amenities include mini-refrigerators, coffeemakers, safes large enough for laptops, and high-tech phone, cable, and wireless Internet connections. Plumbing, electrical, heating, and air- conditioning systems upgrades also were included in the project.
As part of the exterior modernization, large windows were added, giving the facade a glistening sky-blue tint. The windows, which are specially designed to filter outside noise, replaced the original 8-foot sliding doors and small balconies on all rooms (except for a handful of corner suites and penthouses in the Frontier Tower). On the upside, you get a few extra square feet of living space; on the downside, you can’t enjoy outside fresh air (or smog) anymore.
The bathrooms (with newly upgraded tubs) are still small for an upscale hotel, but there is a sink and vanity outside the bathrooms. As in most family hotels built in the 1950s and ’60s, a connecting door, situated by the closet and the aforementioned single sink, leads to an adjoining room. Soundproofing around the connecting doors is nonexistent, so be prepared to revel in the sounds of your neighbors brushing their teeth, coping with indigestion, and arguing over what to wear. Fortunately, these sounds don’t carry into the sleeping area.
The original pool has been greatly expanded into an “immersive water play area.” The new complex’s centerpiece is a pair of waterslides (187 feet and 112 feet long, respectively) themed to resemble vintage monorail trains, topped by the classic Disneyland block-letter logo. There’s also a 19-foot kiddie slide and bubble jets for the little ones. While the footprint of the 4,800-square-foot E-Ticket Pool (formerly known as the Never Land Pool) remains unchanged, a new 4-foot-deep pool has been added between it and the new waterslides, with a footbridge allowing easy passage from one side of the water to the other. Unfortunately, the adult-friendly quieter Cove pools were lost in the construction, reclaimed as a grassy space for special events. Though the rebuilt amenities are attractive, they still appear inadequate in light of the hotel’s volume of visitors. On sunny days expect long inefficient lines for the slides, as well as a severe shortage of lounge chairs and elbow room.
Also destroyed were the fan-favorite tropical gardens with walking paths, waterfalls, and koi ponds. In their place is Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam’s, a casual restaurant and bar that banks on fond memories of Adventureland’s 1960s-era Tahitian Terrace dinner show. Disneyland hotel’s other restaurants include Steakhouse 55 and Goofy’s Kitchen, the hotel’s character-meal headquarters.
As concerns practical matters, parking is a royal pain at the Disneyland hotel. The self-parking garage is convenient only to the Fantasy Tower, and even there you’ll probably have a long walk. To reach the other two towers, you must pass through the Fantasy Tower and navigate across the hotel’s inner plaza and pool area. The Frontier Tower on the southern end of the property has a small parking lot to the rear accessible via Downtown Drive and Paradise Way. Unfortunately, many of the already limited spaces are reserved for the adjacent Disney Vacation Club time-share sales office. Even so, if you’re staying at the Frontier Tower, it’s your best bet. If there’s no room in the Frontier lot, you’re better off parking in the Paradise Pier hotel’s lot than in the Disneyland hotel parking garage. The only valet parking is at the Fantasy Tower, so even if you valet park, you’ll still have to hoof it to the other towers.
A California family who didn't have a car to park thought the Disneyland Hotel especially convenient:
I initially thought that staying at the Disneyland Hotel was a nice treat that we might do just this once. I now see it as an absolute necessity as it allows early entry and an easy midday retreat. That plus the great service there seals the deal. One final tip: Although the rooms don't have a kitchenette, you can request a refrigerator and a coffeemaker. We used the coffeemaker to heat water for instant oatmeal and kept juice and milk in the fridge for quick breakfasts in the room.
Like the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, the Disneyland Hotel charges a $15 per night for the privilege of self-parking, or $22 for valet.
Disneyland Hotel Dining
- Goofy's Kitchen (Table Service)
- Steakhouse 55 (Table Service)
- Tangaroa Terrace (Counter Service)
- The Coffee House (Counter Service)
- The Lounge at Steakhouse 55 (Bar or Lounge)
- Trader Sam's (Bar or Lounge)
|Park||Commuting Times||Resort Transportation|
|California Adventure||11 min|
|Quietness of Room||B|
|Shuttle to Parks||No|