Paradise Pier Hotel Review

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Paradise Pier Hotel is an official Disney hotel at Disneyland Resort with a 4-star rating, themed to a beachside boardwalk of the 1920s. It’s typically the least-expensive of the three official Disneyland Resort hotels, but it’s also the farthest from the park, and offers the least in terms of style and amenities. This review features photos of the Paradise Pier Hotel guest rooms and common areas, plus my thoughts on the hotel, and whether I’d recommend it.

Some people are fans of Paradise Pier Hotel. I am not one of those people. In fact, I honestly figured we’d never have a review of the hotel because I refused to pay anywhere near rack rate at this hotel and the type of insane deal necessary to convince me to stay here seemed unlikely. By stroke of luck, a family member of ours happened to get bumped from Disneyland Hotel for a recent convention and ended up at Paradise Pier Hotel, so we joined her for part of the stay. Hence this review.

The good news is that the experience at Paradise Pier Hotel was better than I expected. The bad news is that my expectations were incredibly low, and I still don’t recommend the place. It’s a nice-enough hotel, but it simply doesn’t offer good value.

Why is my opinion of Paradise Pier Hotel low? Well…how much time do you have? ;) (more…)

Disney Park Itineraries

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Do you have 1 day to spend at one of the Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other Disney theme parks? Our Disney park itineraries will help, with our recommended attack plans for the day, covering everything from attractions to restaurants to quiet places to stop and enjoy the ambiance.

Our patented (not really) park itineraries are dubbed “Daily Trip Blueprints” or DTBs (like the site’s acronym, “clever,” eh?) for short. Unlike most theme park strategy guides that you’ll find, these are not focused solely on efficiency. We believe Disney theme parks should be sipped like a fine wine, and enjoyed for the wonderful atmosphere and sense of place that separates them from other theme and amusement parks. In other words, if you’re a commando ride junkie who is only concerned with quantity of attractions “completed” and not quality of the experience, these itineraries are not for you.

Of course, given that the Disney Parks do cost a lot of money to visit, and for many people are a once in a lifetime trip, we also understand the need and desire to get the most bang for your buck by doing as many attractions as possible, so we balance this “stop and smell the roses” mentality with a sense of efficiency, as well. We think the result is plans that allow you to get a lot done, while also enjoying the scenery and what the theme parks have to offer beyond the rides. We do not view the parks simply as collections of attractions that should be completed checklist style, so the plans balance “getting stuff done” with “having a nice, leisurely day.”

If that approach sounds appealing to you, check out our plans… (more…)

Avengers Assemble!…at Disneyland?

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This post covers a couple of things: new Avengers food at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Disneyland, and whether a Marvel attraction is replacing Innoventions next door. Let’s start with the more intriguing subject. That’s right, the food.

I’ll admit that I was pretty hyped when I read an article on the Disney Parks Blog about the Iron Man waffle (yes, you read that correctly–it’s a waffle shaped like Iron Man) on Friday afternoon. I mean, it’s a waffle, shaped like a super hero. That’s something truly special, and I felt the need to consume it ASAP. In actuality, my excitement probably wasn’t so much about the waffle itself as the fact that I now had a pretext to head to Disneyland after finishing work.

I met up with Hawkeye4Life Fan Club Founder Guy Selga, and we each purchased all of the Avengers items at Pizza Port (besides the pricey Iron Man novelty cup). There was much excitement in the air, as the potential of a delicious waffle shaped like a super hero could instantly catapult Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port from being one of the worst restaurants at Disneyland to one of the best restaurants…in the world. I mean, c’mon, it’s a waffle shaped like Iron Man? That’s serious business.

Let’s take a look at whether the waffle and other Avengers foods we assembled lived up to the hype. Oh, and also the minor question of if and when a Marvel attraction is coming to Tomorrowland… (more…)

Cafe Hyperion Review

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Cafe Hyperion is a counter service restaurant at Disneyland Paris in Discoveryland that is a contender for the worst restaurant in Disneyland Paris. Perhaps the worst restaurant in Paris. Perhaps the worst restaurant in the World?! Worse yet, Cafe Hyperion is perhaps the most popular restaurant at Disneyland Paris, and that’s something that is really depressing. I don’t know if Cafe Hyperion has a slogan, but if not, I have a suggestion: “Cafe Hyperion: Where Unpleasant Dining Takes Flight!”

I think this slogan is really great, because it encompasses both the good and the bad of Cafe Hyperion. First, the good. The totally awesome airship Hyperion poking out from the edge of the hangar at the entrance to the restaurant. Next, the bad. Literally everything else about the restaurant.

Okay, perhaps that’s a little unfair. Cafe Hyperion has some flashes of detail and quality design, albeit on a more superficial level than other amazing restaurants at Disneyland Paris. Unquestionably the most interesting aspect of the restaurant to me is its front, which is a resurrected element of the Discovery Bay plans for Disneyland that never came to fruition.

Tony Baxter, the Imagineer who spearheaded the Discovery Bay plans also played a substantial role in the initial construction of Disneyland Paris, and you can definitely see aspects of the unbuilt Discovery Bay making a home in Discoveryland. The entrance to the restaurant was lifted from the entrance to the unbuilt attraction, “Island at the Top of the World.” (This really should just be a blog post about how awesome Discovery Bay would have been and why it should still be built, because I can sum up the food at Cafe Hyperion in one word: sucktacular.)

The backstory for this airship Hyperion differs from that of Discovery Bay, with the premise here being that the airship’s captain mysteriously vanished on the morning of its 50th scheduled flight, after a long career of world exploration. The murals around the ordering area depict this, and they are pretty cool. There are also a lot of steampunk touches in the restaurant, all of which are also nicely done.

So that’s the good of Cafe Hyperion. It could be argued that the airship is also “bad” given that it’s so beautiful and alluring that it draws unwitting guests into the restaurant, like a nefarious succubus ready to destroy all life that ventures into its lair… (more…)

Dixieland at Disneyland

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Dixieland at Disneyland was an annual special event held at Disneyland beginning in 1960 and lasting through 1970 that featured live bands, a Mardi Gras floating parade on the Rivers of America, scenic environments, and more. It was a special hard ticket event priced around $4.50, and it brought out jazz fans in droves. Dixieland at Disneyland was also a special Annual Passholder event earlier this week with some similar elements, harkening back to the early days of Dixieland at Disneyland.

I was fortunate enough to attend this week’s Dixieland at Disneyland event, and had an amazing time at the event. It has been the highlight, so far, of the Annual Passholder events I’ve attended that I discussed in the Disneyland Annual Pass Info & Tips post. I wrote there that these events demonstrate that Disneyland does care about its Annual Passholders, and having an event like this that pays homage to Disneyland history and features a presumably large entertainment budget really shows me that there are people working hard behind the scenes at Disneyland who really care and “get” it.

Because I was impressed by the event and wanted to share some of the experience, I thought I’d write a recap. At the same time, I don’t want this to come across as “here’s a look at this awesome one-time(?) event you’ll probably never get to attend. HAHA, SUCKERS!” so I thought I would strike a balance by highlighting the history of Dixieland at Disneyland as well as a recap of this specific incarnation of it.

Fair enough? We’ll start with some historical info about Dixieland at Disneyland, then I’ll share some of my photos and thoughts from this year’s event… (more…)

Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel Review: Hotel Menage

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Hotel Menage is a Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel located about 12 minutes from the parks near the I-5 freeway. The hotel aims for trendy and chic, and succeeds somewhat. This review features photos of the hotel, plus thoughts about our experience of staying here.

Let’s start the review by covering the location. With it being only a 12 minute walk from Disney California Adventure and Disneyland, the location is pretty solid on paper. It’s essentially right across the street from the HoJo Anaheim, both of which the I-5 freeway runs past. For those unfamiliar with the 5, it’s a major highway running through Orange County, which right away should raise concerns about noise. I never had any trouble sleeping or really noticed the sounds of the freeway, but light sleepers might want to think twice about booking this hotel, just the same. Likewise, when walking to the park, you have to cross the I-5 on and off ramps. There are pedestrian traffic signals here, but it still seems like a bit of a sketchy intersection.

Hotel Menage is one of the 39 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels, meaning you could book it as part of a vacation package if you so desired (although if you choose to do that, you’re going to pay an inflated rate). 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 Hotel Menage? Let’s take a look… (more…)

Frozen Port at Tokyo DisneySea & Tokyo Disneyland New Fantasyland

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Tokyo Disney Resort will be adding a new Scandinavia port with a Frozen area in it as Tokyo Disneyland adds a New Fantasyland with Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast areas, announced the Oriental Land Company (owners and operators of Tokyo Disney Resort). This is part of the company’s aggressive plan to spend 500 billion yen (~$4.2 billion) on its two existing theme parks between now and 2024.

The Scandinavia port-of-call will be located on an expansion pad in Tokyo DisneySea, while the New Fantasyland additions will mostly repurpose existing portions of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Both areas are set to be complete after the end of fiscal year 2017, which is a fairly aggressive construction schedule considering the expansiveness of these projects, and given that no construction has yet begun. You can read more about the basics of the news in this press release from the Oriental Land Company. I’d rather focus on commentary than parroting a press release that you can read for yourself.

Although this news seems like all-upside and no downside at first blush, let’s look a little closer…

(more…)

Disney World Free Dining 2015 Dates

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The Free Disney Dining Plan is now available at Walt Disney World for booking by Disney Visa credit card holders and the general public! Free Dining dates for 2015 that are currently available are listed below. We will update this page as dates change or are added/removed. You can also sign up for our newsletter to be alerted as soon as we hear anything about 2015 Free Dining dates.

Here are the current Walt Disney World Free Dining dates available for booking by Disney Visa cardholders, and for the general public:

  • August 28 through October 2, 2015
  • October 25 through October 31, 2015
  • November 8 through November 19, 2015
  • December 15 through December 21, 2015.

These dates are OFFICIAL, not rumor. For 2015, there’s also the requirement that guests purchase at least 2-day tickets that include either Park Hopper or the Water Park Fun & More option, or both. This is a new requirement as of this year. Additionally, a 3-night minimum stay is required with a maximum stay of fourteen nights. This means you can’t purchase discounted Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller, which is something to keep in mind when doing the math to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.

To answer some common questions: yes, you must purchase tickets with the offer even if you already have them (or an Annual Pass). No, bookings made with Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for the offer. No, you cannot “stack” this offer with a percentage-off room discount.

More details about the 2015 Free Disney Dining Plan promotion are listed below… (more…)