Disneyland Hotel Review
Disneyland Hotel is the original hotel at Disneyland Resort, and features a theme modeled after the park’s lands and Walt Disney, himself. In this review, we’ll share room photos, thoughts on the pros & cons of staying at Disneyland Hotel, and how it compares to the Grand Californian and other hotels in Anaheim.
Although Disneyland Hotel is not the flagship hotel at Disneyland Resort (that distinction belongs to the Grand Californian Hotel), it is one of only two hotels in Anaheim, California with a AAA four-diamond rating (the Grand Californian being the other). It’s essentially a modern, luxury hotel with Disney design touches, but without any escapist themed design. As mentioned, Disneyland Hotel is themed to “Disneyland,” with its three towers representing Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Frontierland.
I consider Disneyland Hotel to be a lot like “Remember… Dreams Come True!,” the perfect self-referential tribute that excels because of how its treatment of the legacy of Disneyland, but is pretty impressive in its own right. This is truly no easy task, and it’s so easy to go for cheap plays on emotion (liberal use of Walt Disney’s likeness, for instance) rather than creating a quality product that successfully merges great elements of the past with a quality contemporary product, but Disney nailed it when they re-designed the Disneyland Hotel. As it stands, the hotel is a great mix of modern design and retro details…
This is not something I would want to see out of every Disney hotel. I am a sucker for themed design, and I love how other Disney resort-hotels manage to transport guests to different times and places through the execution of the hotel. Disneyland Hotel is not themed, it’s decorated. If every Disney hotel were simply a luxury hotel with tributes to the past, it would get old quickly. However, this is the only one, and it executes perfectly on the concept.
Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the history of Disneyland. I’ve been fascinated by Disneyland Hotel since reading Donald Ballard‘s Disneyland Hotel: the Early Years and his follow-up Disneyland Hotel: 1954-1959 (warning: these books are for serious geeks, not casual fans). These books gave me a great appreciation for the hotel even before we ever stayed there.
Although much has changed at Disneyland Hotel since its early days, it still just feels like a special place thanks to its roots dating back to the Wrathers family and the opening years of Disneyland. Basically, this hotel has just as rich of a history as Disneyland, making it an “essential” place to experience for the diehard Disney fan.
However, it’s not just the hotel’s many nods to Disney history (I wonder how frequently they have to replace the awesome paper-goods in the room because guests take them?) that earn it high marks from us. The hotel is also flat out nice.
In terms of rooms, all of Disneyland Hotel rooms were recently refurbished, and they look great. From the pretty and thick carpet to the textured wallpaper to the bedding, the rooms at Disneyland Hotel scream quality. While we love themed hotels, it seems that one stumbling block to a nice Disney hotel room is execution of a theme.
Disneyland Hotel doesn’t have that obstacle and really hits on everything you’d expect from a nice hotel room. This isn’t to say the room is generic (far from it) as there are touches of Disney everywhere, with photos of Walt Disney and early-era Disneyland all over.
There’s also a strong Mickey Mouse motif throughout the rooms, with Mickey accents and details here and there.
The rooms in Disneyland Hotel are roughly the size of the Grand Californian’s rooms, I’d say. Not huge, but not bad by any means. One thing worth noting is that they do not have balconies.
We did not stay at Disneyland Hotel prior to its big refurbishment, but our understanding is that the rooms absorbed the balconies during the refurb. We definitely will take larger rooms over a balcony, although it would be nice if they have both.
It seems like the defining feature of the rooms at the Disneyland Hotel is the “goodnight kiss” (not to be confused with the Kiss Goodnight at Walt Disney World) switch that lights up the fiber optics in the headboard and plays “When You Wish Upon a Star,” music box style.
Whoever thought up this feature is a genius, because it always seems to be the first thing mentioned when discussing Disneyland Hotel. If you have kids, they’ll love this. If you are an adult who is unduly impressed with things that light up and make sound, like me, you will want to leave this on all night.
One final note on the rooms, and those are the “Signature Suites.” These include the Mickey Mouse Penthouse, Big Thunder Suite, Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, Adventureland Suite, and others. Granted, every hotel has suites, but these look flat out awesome.
We have never stayed in any of these, so we can’t recommend them, but if money is no issue, you definitely ought to look into them. (And if by chance we have readers to whom ‘money is no issue’ who need one of these suites tested before their trip, we will gladly accept the assignment should you wish to sponsor the research! ;))
Disneyland Hotel has a variety of amenities, services, and stuff, all of which you can read about for yourself on Disneyland’s website.
Instead, we’ll focus on the two other big amenities at the hotel, which I believe are the pools and dining.
In terms of pools, Disneyland Hotel has the E-Ticket pool and D-Ticket pool, in the middle of the hotel’s inner courtyard, both of which are nice. We particularly like the look of the the monorail waterslides, as well as the overall size and layout of these pools.
There are also cabanas you can rent. As compared to the Grand Californian, we give the decisive edge in terms of pools to Disneyland Hotel.
When it comes to dining, Disneyland Hotel also gives the Grand Californian a run for its money. While the Grand Californian has Napa Rose, the second best Disney restaurant in the United States, Disneyland Hotel has Steakhouse 55. After that, Disneyland Hotel’s comparable restaurants are all arguably better.
Trader Sam’s is the best bar (it’s really so much more than a bar) at Disneyland Resort and the Steakhouse 55 Lounge is not too shabby, either (we highly recommend the 24-layer cake). Tangaroa Terrace is an excellent counter service option, which we really enjoy (it has a great, under-the-radar breakfast menu, too). Goofy’s Kitchen is an incredibly popular character meal…but the food is only so-so there.
In our estimation, the US hotel that gives Disneyland Hotel the closest competition is Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Its lobby is absolutely gorgeous, as are its details and finishing. Its location–with a private entrance into Disney California Adventure–also cannot be beat.
Disneyland Hotel feels like a luxury hotel done by Disney rather than a themed hotel. This is especially true in the rooms, which we prefer to the Grand Californian’s. It’s all a matter of preference, and while we (me, especially) love the Grand Californian for its authentic classic National Parks’ lodge look (read our Grand Californian Hotel Review to compare/contrast the two), Disneyland Hotel is an awesome place to stay, especially for serious Disney fans who love the history of the parks, and Walt Disney’s legacy.
Disneyland Hotel is often cheaper than Grand Californian, which means it gets the nod for us on those occasions. Exact rates vary based upon season and discounts, but you can typically expect to pay at least $100/night more for the Grand Californian. Paradise Pier Hotel seems to generally be about $75/night cheaper than Disneyland Hotel, although we’ve seen Paradise Pier effectively more expensive on several occasions due to no availability in its lower room categories. (We are not fans of Paradise Pier Hotel and would not stay there again.)
Regardless of the discount, Disneyland Hotel is still pricey. Whether it’s worth the cost is entirely a matter of preference and budget, but we consider it an easier pill to swallow than the Grand Californian. Still, it’s at least double the price of off-site hotels located about the same distance away (and triple or more the price of off-site hotels located farther away). We’ve previously debated the merits of staying on-site versus staying off-site at Disneyland Resort, so I won’t rehash those here, but essentially, you pay a significant premium for being “on property.” Disneyland Resort doesn’t have nearly as many on-site hotel rooms as Walt Disney World, and this likely contributes to the rates.
Ultimately, Disneyland Hotel is a nice, luxurious hotel that takes a fond look back at Disney history and is located on-site. We go back and forth over whether we prefer it or the Grand Californian, with the ‘winner’ usually being a matter of which has the better rates (we’d pay a slight premium for Grand Californian). Despite Disneyland Hotel being farther from the parks than Grand Californian, it’s still a short walk. Thematically, the two are quite different, with Grand Californian having a more rustic, California theme and Disneyland Hotel being a tribute to all things Walt Disney and the early years of Disneyland.
Overall, we both highly recommend Disneyland Hotel. It’s especially great for fans of Disneyland history, or those looking for a luxury hotel experience without the pretense of immersive theming. Those who prefer themed environments will likely prefer the Grand Californian, which definitely has many elements that are more impressive. The big question with regard to Disneyland Hotel is whether it’s worth the high nightly rates, especially with off-site hotels that are very conveniently located by comparison.
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What do you think of Disneyland Hotel? Do you like the details and decor of the Disneyland Hotel, or do you feel that it lacks something that the other immersive, themed hotels have? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!
I recently stayed at the disneyland hotel with my family and it was the worst. Here is a copy of the letter I sent them and all I got was a canned apology:
I’m composing this letter to give you some feedback on our recent stay at your resort, the Disneyland Hotel. It started off on a very negative note.
Just to give you some information about our family, I will let you know that we are not a family of complainers, usually let the little stuff go, and are all about having a great time together. We decided to go on this trip to treat our grandchildren and their parents. Our 12 year old grandson lost his mother last October, it was an usually difficult situation and this little boy has been through a lot in his short life. After the dust had settled from her death, and our grandson had to move his life out here in CA with us, we decided a trip to Disneyland would be a nice distraction for him, and way to have a little fun and cheer him up. Our other two grandchildren who are 2 (almost 3) and 5 have never been to Disneyland, this would be their first trip. They were so excited they could barely stand it. We raised their mother on Disneyland and all the characters, I think my daughter was more excited than the kids were to share this now with her own children. With that said, we decided that we would go “all out” and do Disneyland with all the trimmings. We are your normal, upper class family with the means to spoil our family with nice vacations, we have traveled all over the world. We always thought you can count on Disneyland for a great time and great customer service.
Right after walking through the door of the hotel, all excited, our smiles and laughter deflated rather quickly. Check-in was a disaster.
We had two separate reservations. The first for one night and the second for two nights. We couldn’t book three nights online all together, but for some reason, were allowed to do this separately. After I called and talked to a cast member about it, they said they could not link the reservations and we would have to check out of the room and then check back into another room. We thought that once we got there, that for sure they would be able to have some flexibility on this problem, and would be able to make the transition comfortable. The front check-in cast member went to the back to talk to the manager, but after waiting and waiting, he came out and could not offer any relief from this situation. This is where some customer service would have been helpful. If you are willing to pay $1200 a night for a room, and $800 a night for two more nights, you would think that your staff would have tried to find a solution to make us comfortable. It was painfully obvious that they didn’t care, that there are plenty of people that are willing to stay there, we could have left and it would not have mattered to them. The check-in process took an hour and we left the front check-in with no solution and felt completely disappointed after investing all that time to figure something out.
I realize that your hotel books to capacity most nights, but I believe your management has grown complacent in that fact. Your hotel prices are way beyond what a normal family can afford. I have stayed at resorts and have paid $700-$1500 a night for a room, and each room has been magnificent and the staff at the hotel make sure you enjoy your stay. Disneyland Hotel rooms are your standard hotel room with not anything special about it, obviously, you’re paying for the location, which is why we chose your hotel as well. What I expected was for the manager to come up with some solutions, instead, me and my family came up with several solutions on our own and we were told NO on each of them. One idea was to get separate rooms instead of a suite. This was offered, but only with a substantial increase in cost. Another was to get rooms/suite over at the Grand CA instead, but they were booked. The last was to simply get a late check-out, and early check-in to the new room (which they said was possible). We also asked if they could move our luggage if we had it packed and ready to go, so we did not have to come back from the park and do this ourselves. We were told NO, they could not move our luggage for us, we had to bring it down ourselves and would have to be present in the new room to accept the luggage. Of course…. the next morning, when we asked for a late check-out, we were told it was impossible because they don’t allow late check out for the suites, nor do they allow early check ins, so why did the front desk tell us the day before we could get a late check-out if it’s “impossible”? How was it possible to check-in early the first day, but then told the second day, its not possible? Not to mention, we had to physically go downstairs to check-in because you do not allow check-in’s to be done over the phone.
With a 2 year old and a 5 year old, the entire reason you want to stay inside the park is to be able to take the children back to the hotel for a nap. We had no where to take the kids for nap between 11:00am-3pm. We also were delayed getting into the park our first morning because we had to deal with the front desk check-out/check-in and the bellman, etc. Once we did finally get over to the new room, we were disappointed to find that they moved us to a MUCH smaller room. They also promised the room would have a pool view, but once we got to the room, we found that we had a view of the ugly parking lot. No view of the park or garden or pool, nor were we able to view the fireworks. So again a promise made, a promise broken and nothing to make us feel like we are valued guests. I think we were being punished for the problems we were causing them at the front desk.
This is just the first hour we were there trying to check-in. Once we got to our room, we decided to let it all go, go down to the pool and get to the private cabana we had reserved for the afternoon. Little did we know that we were headed for another fiasco. The children were hot, tired and hungry, so we were anxious to get to the cabana and get set up for the afternoon. I had called several days earlier and spoke to Alexa and asked about the cabana locations. We have little ones and we knew they would want to be by the slides and in the shallow water. It would have been pointless to get a cabana on the other side of the pool as we wouldn’t be able to be anywhere near it. The cast member told me that I could have cabana #3 and she would save it for us. Of course……when we got down to the pool, there was someone already in it. It took us 20 minutes to find the cabana crew, once we did, we found that they had given our cabana #3 to someone else. When I asked her why she would do that, she began arguing with me and caused a scene. She said there was no cabinet in the cabana, so they gave it to a walk up guest. I asked why she wouldn’t just wait and offer it to us (since we had it reserved) and she said she had no record of us wanting that cabana. My daughter and I became very upset at all of this. First we were still worked up over the front desk, hot, tired hungry, kids were whining, and then we had the cabana crew now yelling at us and telling us all of their problems. They should not have made their problems, our problems. Also, not offering us any solution other than to tell us, “take it or leave it”. My daughter was in tears and decided to go into the hotel to the front desk and get some help. They did offer a dinner vouchers and comped the cabana cost, however, I would have gladly paid for it all if I got an enjoyable experience instead. My husband was now in a fury because both his wife and daughter are really upset and we have a scene going on at the pool with everyone watching. He went and found a supervisor, he did not have a solution but asked what my husband wanted, my husband suggested they kindly ask the family to move and comp their cabana instead. Fortunately, the family was very nice, we went and spoke to them afterward and they were very understanding. All of this was unnecessary and really was disappointing. There was not one spare lounge chair free, if we didn’t have the cabana, there would have been no where to sit. I had to sit on the cement curb while all this was being worked out. My grandson was very embarrassed and the kids were crying. Not a good situation at all.
Our dinner reservations for Goofy’s Kitchen were at 7:00pm, we waited in a very long line to get checked-in, then once we were checked in, we waited another half hour for our table. If you have a reservation for 7pm, you shouldn’t have to wait an hour before you get to sit down at your table. We had very hungry children. The experience itself was very fun once we were at our table and the kids loved it. The food was also surprisingly good for a buffet. Lots of choices for adults and kids.
The next morning we had reservations at the “Biddiby Bobbity Salon”. We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to get to our appointment on time. I called on the phone several days earlier a couple of times and was assured that all we had to do was ask a cast member to let us in early, but when we did that, the cast member told us NO and made us go to the back of the line to get into the park. We found two separate cast members and were told No by each of them. In spite of me calling several times and being reassured over the phone that a cast member would happily let us in so that we didn’t miss our appointment. Obviously, mixed messages for the public. Once we got over there, we were sent to three different places to find the check-in, which was not in the same place as the salon. Once we were there, the salon experience was awesome. Our little princess loved every minute of it, they did a great job and the smile on her face was worth all the trouble getting her there.
Here are a few more items on the list:
1. Calling on the phone to get reservations took forever and were made a month in advance of our trip. There was nothing but 4:15 dinner reservations for Fantasmic dinner and show. We took them anyway for the reserved seating, however eating at 4:15 wasn’t a good choice. Once we got to the park, we had to wait 45 minutes to get seated, again, not sure why this process doesn’t run smoother. I will say that the food at the River Belle Terrace was delicious. We would have preferred the Blue Bayou, but there were no reservations available, so settled for River Belle and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food.
2. Without reservations, there was no where to eat dinner for our second night in the parks. We walked to several food venues, Cathey Circle, Wine Terrace, etc. and they were all booked. So we settled on the food court. We got dinner at the Mexcian restaurant. Once my husband got our food, he came to sit at the table with the children, while I went back for the drinks and the kiosk has closed. No margaritas. With that disappointment, I went back to the restaurant to get something to drink for my meal and they closed the windows on me before I could get back. I told them I had just been there minutes before and needed a drink with my meal, but they didn’t care, just told me they were closed.
3. We tried to get a corkscrew brought up to our room that night to have a nice bottle of wine we brought from home opened. We were told they didn’t have the staff for that, but if they could find someone they would charge us $20 to bring one up and it would be about an hour wait. Really? I paid $1200, $1400 with tax for one night in this room, and you can’t find someone to bring me up a corkscrew??? I can’t even tell you how ridiculous that is, it’s really unbelievable. That’s the worst customer service one could expect.
4. Billing troubles – Once I got back home and analyzed my bill, I had to get on the phone with your billing department to find out why I was charged some very high random charges. It seems that I was charged for two nights instead of one night for the first suite we occupied. Now I have to wait several days for my credit of approximately $1500 and had to waste time on the phone trying to figure out what was going on.
5. I cut and pasted some verbiage on your website that I read and was also something that we expected and never got. I had to call because I never received anything in the mail and was worried that we didn’t have tickets to the park. I expected the 10% (Of which no one in any store knew anything about when asked) and luggage tags, pin and lanyard.
There were several other instances where we were told NO, it got to the point that I was saying “of course” every time, because it was expected. I’m not going to list anymore of them because this email is already too long and I don’t want to spend any more time writing. I don’t expect anything to come of this email, or am sure anyone other than the guest services agent will even see it, but it would be nice if someone who has some authority to make some changes would read it. We own a condo in Hawaii and rent it out, I know how silly people can be when complaining about little things that don’t matter, believe me, we are not one of those kind of families. I wanted someone to know that in life sometimes you don’t get “Do Over’s”. First time visit to Disneyland is a first time, not a second. A death in the family is difficult, especially for a child. We wanted our trip to be special and instead was greeted with grief. I had to watch my grown daughter fall apart and cry because something so special to her, was ruined by a corporate profit attitude. I will never stay at your hotel again, not because I harbor resentment, but I choose to spend my hard earned money where I will enjoy myself and be assured a good time and comfortable stay.
My wish is that these things are changed for your future guests and someone else’s first time at Disneyland is a special experience. Below are a couple of pics of my family, having a great time anyway.
Thanks for reading this,
While obviously you had a very frustrating start to your trip with check in, there were quite a few things in your letter that, while unfortunate, were not being done to you personally. Reservations open 60 days in advance, and things book up. Now you know to be prepared for next time! And always keep an eye on the clock when you are in CA Adventure, the park closes earlier than Disneyland so it can sneak up on you. Alcohol, in particular, stops being served one hour before the park closes.
I’ve stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and had an okay time, and I’ve stayed at a Best Western across the street and had a fantastic time. I’e also stayed at The Grand Californian and had a stellar time after fearing for my life at a cheaper option. I think sometimes the more we pay, the more we expect (obviously!) but the money aspect isn’t necessarily indicative of a good time.
I hope that this hasn’t soured your thoughts on Disneyland. I am a childless adult who lives 8 hours from Disneyland but my husband and I are passholders. The magic is there, consistently, every time. And it grows with each visit… Even with the occasional hiccup. 🙂
The entitlement from the beginning of your letter to the end is disgusting. Check your privilege and understand that 90% of families deal with whatever your grandson has dealt with and more and didn’t get trips to Disney with their ‘upper class’ family to take their mind off of it. Disney is not a “right” – it’s a privilege. I, for one, am thrilled you will never be back. Less crowding with snobs.
This is the second time Disneyland hotel has messed up our room reservation and we had to suffer with uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. They want us to bend backwards and not give anything in return. My teen son had to sleep on the floor. They wanted to kick us out 11am and wait until the next day our room was available. They didn’t even offer us anything for our unmagical arrival situation. How the hell do you give a reservation room away. So disappointment. They are losing their magic.
We are at this same hotel 9/26/17
And I was doing a little horsing around nothing dangerous, just goofing offf. I acted like I was gonna tackle a life guard and they went and told on us, I didn’t touch him or her they told management and they came to us with the problem that we were making aggressive moves at there employees. I said I never came to you guys aboutva lifeguard of yours that had looks of disgust when both of my children went down your slide???
Really?? What’s the world coming to?
This hotel sucks!!!!
I just stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and absolutely love love loved it!! Our tower was the Adventure tower, we had a view of Downtown Disney on the 8th floor which was awesome! There were a couple of nights where my family made it back to the room by 10pm the first few days due to the time change, but we were able to see all the fireworks from the big window! Our room slept 5 people very comfortably. Our room had 2 queen beds, that had a wooden mural of a castle and when you push the “good night kiss button” it plays “When you wish upon a star” and it lights up. Each queen bed had a pillow, one said.. A Dream is a wish your heart makes, and on the other bed the pillow said, When your fast asleep. Our room also had a sofa which was, I think another magical touch, Because we thought the last person in our family was going to have to sleep on a sofa.. but oh no.. The back of the sofa pulled down and there was a mattress installed in the back of the sofa! No moving pillows, no pull out.. just a simple pull down of the back and push it back up when your done! And it was very comfortable as well! Needless to say we will be back to WDL and will definitely will be staying at the Disney Land hotel! Recommending the Adventure tower! 🙂
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I just stayed at the Disneyland Hotel earlier this month and I absolutely LOVED it. It is exactly as described in the article, luxurious, charming and magical.
Not sure if different rooms play different goodnight kiss songs, but mine played “A dream is a wish the heart makes” instead of “When you wish upon a star”. The pillow on the bed also said “A dream is a wish the heart makes when you’re fast asleep”.
We will be staying at Disneyland Hotel September 8-11, 2015. I thought the monorail made a stop at the hotel to take you to the Disneyland entrance, is this true?
No, not anymore. The monorail station is in Downtown Disney now, about a 5-10 minute walk from the hotel.
We are coming down in February and have booked a 2 queen bed with pull out couch room. My question is if anyone has experienced having to use all three beds?? I also have 2 kids in pack n plays (essentially). Is there enough room??? 5 adults and 2 kids…??? Thanks for the help!
We are staying at the Disneyland hotel in January. We have small children and would like a room closest to the park but would also like a good view and fireworks. Any suggestions. Is it worth paying for a view or deluxe view room? Is there a certain tower we should request? Any help appreciated. Thanks