Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Park Vue Inn

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Park Vue Inn is literally the closest hotel to Disneyland, and it’s pretty nice as far as the nearby hotels go. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here. If you’ve been to Disneyland, you’ve probably seen Park Vue Inn before…it’s the hotel directly across the street that has a Cold Stone Creamery attached to it.

For a while, I’ve touted Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites, calling it my favorite off-site hotel because of its combination of distance, price point, and decent-enough quality for commando trips to Disneyland. Well, Park Vue Inn has replaced it as my #1 pick. It rivals some of the nicer Convention Center hotels in terms of quality, while being extremely close. It’s tough to appropriately categorize Park Vue Inn: like the other hotels on Harbor, it probably could be called a budget, but Park Vue Inn describes itself as a boutique hotel (I guess that explains the chic spelling of “Vue” in the name), and given what it offers and the iconic mission-inspired architecture, I’m inclined to call it a “moderate” hotel.

Let’s start with the location. When I say it’s literally the closest hotel to Disneyland, I mean it. The walk is less than 10 minutes from the hotel to the turnstiles at Disneyland, which makes it closer than every single on-site hotel, including the Grand Californian (although the Grand Californian is closer to Disney California Adventure, so perhaps this is a bit of a technicality). Another caveat is that whether it or Best Western Park Place Inn or Park Vue Inn is closer is really a question of which room you get. Again, minor detail.

I think all of the hotels in that cluster right across the street are “close enough” in terms of distance, as there are several that are about 10-12 minutes away, and it’s not really worth paying a premium to save 2 minutes, so in this case, it really comes down to quality and price, and Park Vue Inn excels in at least one of these regards. Although it’s not listed as one of the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, Park Vue Inn is a Good Neighbor Hotel–they just don’t participate in the vacation packages through Disneyland. Regardless, it’s nice hotel that would earn that distinction regardless of location. You can get an idea of how it stacks up to the competition, plus our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

So what are the pros and cons of staying at Park Vue Inn? Let’s take a look… (more…)

Lucky Fortune Cookery Review

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Lucky Fortune Cookery is a counter service restaurant in Disney California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf at Disneyland Resort. This review features photos of the food and ambiance, plus my thoughts on this restaurant. The menu is very basic, consisting solely of made-to-order Asian rice bowls. You start by choosing a protein: chicken, beef, and tofu. Then you choose a sauce: Mandarin Orange, Spicy Korean, Thai Coconut Curry, or Teriyaki.

Much like the entire Pacific Wharf “land”, the restaurant here is also very simple. It’s an outdoor ordering area with limited seating adjacent to the restaurant plus a ton more in the middle of the restaurant area. Think of it as a glorified mall food court.

As far as Disney California Adventure dining goes, Pacific Wharf is often overlooked. Despite the limited menu here, Lucky Fortune Cookery is actually a bit of a hidden gem… (more…)

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel Review

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Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is a luxury hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort just outside Tokyo Disneyland. This review features photos of guest rooms, views, and common areas, plus thoughts on the hotel in general and whether it’s worth the money. With its Victorian theme, luxurious style, and location a short walk from the most popular Disney theme park in the world, this would be the flagship Disney hotel anywhere else in the world. At Tokyo Disney Resort, it’s often overshadowed by Hotel MiraCosta (read our Hotel MiraCosta Review), which is actually located inside Tokyo DisneySea. Rooms in Tokyo Disneyland Hotel start at around $300/night, and go up depending upon the view, season, and number of guests (see this rate chart).

The view pictured above is from our room at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and while this view was absolutely stunning, it is not the norm. We were incredibly lucky with our room location, and because Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is located farther back from the park than its counterpart, Hotel MiraCosta, and because the roofed World Bazaar is fairly tall, many rooms–even those that face the park–offer little in terms of view.

I mention this from the outset because I think view might be the biggest consideration for those contemplating a hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort, and Tokyo Disneyland Hotel simply isn’t as consistently good as Hotel MiraCosta in this regard. If you get lucky or book one of the rooms that’s sure to have a great view, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is definitely an incredible experience, though. If you’re trying to do Tokyo Disney Resort on a budget, there are great monorail loop hotels offering excellent views at a fraction of the cost of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel.

If you set aside the view, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is arguably the best hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort… (more…)

Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost Review

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Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost is a counter service restaurant at Disneyland Paris in Adventureland in an environment that feels like a club for explorers rather than a location themed to named after the movie The Jungle Book. This is one of the few restaurants at Disneyland Paris that is consistently open, and it’s quite a popular restaurant, despite being a sort of one trick pony elephant in terms of the menu.

There’s probably a reason that it feels like a club for explorers: it once was. The restaurant originally opened as The Explorers Club, and was a table service restaurant and cocktail lounge at the time. Given that this restaurant originally opened a few years apart from the also now defunct Adventurers Club at Walt Disney World, it’s hard to overlook the parallels between the two.

The original concept of the restaurant saw it as a stopover location for famous explorers on their way back home, with it being a common haunt for the likes of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Ernest Hemingway, Indiana Jones, and Crocodile Dundee. Obviously, the Imagineers of Disneyland Paris share in my belief that the Indiana Jones films are based on a true story. The restaurant also had a performance element, as Cast Members played the role of these explorers, regaling guests with tales of their exploits, and there were also Audio Animatronics birds perched in the rafters. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the Explorer’s Club didn’t last long. One of the many issues with EuroDisney/Disneyland Paris when it opened was an over-abundance of table service options, and the Explorer’s Club quickly got the axe, being converted to counter service. As you’ll see in this post, many thematic remnants of the original restaurant remain. The Explorer’s Club has long fascinated me, and if these tidbits have piqued your interest click the links scattered throughout the text above to read (and see) more about it on other sites.

I’m not sure if Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost has its own backstory, but it remains a cool location thanks to these holdover elements. Let’s take a look inside and at the food… (more…)

Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Orange County

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Hyatt Regency Orange County is a hotel near Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center, and is arguably the nicest Disneyland Good Neighbor hotel in the area. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here. Up front, I want to point out that there is one big downside of the hotel, and that’s the location. It’s about a mile away from Disneyland’s Esplanade, and out of walking distance for most people. However, because of its overall quality and being a Hyatt (meaning many guests might be able to use free nights here), we feel it’s worth covering in the context of Disneyland.

Let’s first discuss it from the perspective of its proximity to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the Anaheim Convention Center. As mentioned above, it’s about a mile away from the parks, and although it’s often utilized by conventioneers (last time I went to the hotel, there were about a thousand teenage cheerleaders…yikes), it’s a bit of a hike from the Anaheim Convention Center, too. It’s a fairly easy walk if you are so inclined–it’s on the same side of the same road as Disneyland–but it’s a long walk.

Since the Hyatt Regency Orange County wants to tout itself as a Disneyland hotel, it does offer a shuttle to the parks. This shuttle is nice and efficient, but it charges $5 per adult per day, which is sort of irritating. Since Southern California has nice weather and we don’t mind walking, we only utilized this shuttle once and walked the rest of the time during our stay. I timed it as being a 30 minute walk from the front door to bag check at Disneyland, but we walk at a fairly brisk pace, so your mileage may vary.

That distance is the biggest downside to the Hyatt Regency Orange County. The upside is that this is a really nice hotel. Of the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, there are only 7 in the highest “Superior” tier, and this is one of them. All of the walking distance hotels right near the parks are varying degrees of okay, as what you’re paying for is the location, not room quality. By contrast, Hyatt Regency Orange County is legitimately a nice real world hotel. You can get an idea of how it stacks up to the competition, plus our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

What’s so nice about the Hyatt Regency Orange County? Let’s take a look… (more…)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Counter Service Restaurants Rankings

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This post ranks the best quick service restaurants in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, a park with notoriously bad counter service options. In fact, “best” here might be a bit of a misnomer, as it could be more of a question of which restaurants are the “least worst.” Rankings are based upon a restaurant’s overall appeal, with factors such as cuisine quality, theme, uniqueness, and menu variety taken into account.

While I think Disney’s Hollywood Studios is actually underrated when it comes to table service dining, the same cannot be said for its counter service options. It doesn’t have a single restaurant on our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list, and accordingly is the only Walt Disney World theme park not represented. Now, the counter service options at Disney’s Hollywood Studios aren’t awful, there’s just no real draw or anything that leaves a lasting impression. If your budget allows, I highly recommend doing table service meals here; you’ll certainly have time given the lack of attractions currently operating in the Studios.

Note that these rankings focus only on the major counter service spots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so not every outdoor vending cart and little location makes the list. We’ve dined at all of these spots, but have yet to review most of them…largely because there’s little to say. Our meals at most of these spots have been out of necessity when we couldn’t get into 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, and we simply had to eat somewhere.

Let’s get started with the Disney’s Hollywood Studios counter service rankings… (more…)

Easter at Disneyland Info & Tips

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Considering a visit to Disneyland for Easter? This post will provide info and tips for Easter (and spring) in the parks concerning special entertainment, crowds, and more. It goes with out saying that you can have a good time any day of the year at Disneyland and Disney California, but during the Easter season, you’re guaranteed an egg-stra good time! That’s a bit of an eggs-ageration, but I couldn’t pass up the eggs-travagant pun there. Okay, sorry, I’ll stop.

Actually, unlike some other major holidays, Easter is sort of a blip on the radar at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. In fact, aside from minor entertainment that’s offered in the spring, you are probably better off avoiding the Easter season, as it’s also the Spring Break season, which means the parks are busier than normal. For 2015, it’s also “Refurbishment Season” at Disneyland, with the park getting ready for its 60th Anniversary kicking off in May. This means there are walls all over the place, and many popular attractions are not operating.

If you’re a local, already booked a trip, enjoy crowded times of year, or otherwise are super into Easter or meeting rabbit characters (Disney has a surprising number of them), here is what you’ll need to know about an Easter visit to Disneyland Resort… (more…)

Smokejumpers Grill Review

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Smokejumpers Grill is a counter service restaurant in the Grizzly Peak Airfield area of Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort. This restaurant replaces Taste Pilots’ Grill, and is the counter service restaurant in the park with a safe menu of standard burgers that will appeal to a broad cross-selection of guests.

The restaurant is themed and decorated to the smokejumpers who have protected California National Park Service (and other) areas since the 1930s. Like most Disneyland Resort restaurants, Taste Pilots’ Grill accepts Disneyland Annual Passes for discounts ranging from 10 to 15%. We previously were not too kind to Taste Pilots’ Grill, lamenting that its menu was totally uninspired. We’ll get to the food at Smokejumpers Grill later in the review, but let’s start by checking out the new-look of the restaurant.

Theme-wise, Smokejumpers Grill is designed to look like a hanger from maybe the 1940s or so that is owned by Herb and Millie and opened to pay tribute to, and serve, the local Bearpaw Basin Smokejumpers. You can read more about this backstory in the photo below. This backstory is a clever way to side-step having the inside be a virtual museum honoring the smokejumpers while also being a hangar–if it were an active hangar, it probably wouldn’t go to such great lengths to tribute smokejumpers, unless the smokejumpers there were serious narcissists! Besides the smokejumping motif, this is actually somewhat similar in base structure to the previous backstory in this location (you can read more about Imagineering’s backstory for Condor Flats here).

It seems as if the conversion from Condor Flats to Grizzly Peak Airfield is a continuation of the “hip” layer being removed as part of the Disney California Adventure overhaul. Imagineering continues to do a pretty good job with this… (more…)