The Villas at Disneyland Hotel is a new Disney Vacation Club addition being built in Anaheim, California. This covers everything you need to know about the next DVC resort: likely opening date, construction progress photos, concept art, and answers to common questions.
The saga of this new DVC resort began in late 2019, when Disney submitted an application to the City of Anaheim for conceptual development review of a proposed 12-story tower as part of Disneyland Hotel. At the time, the plan was to open the property in 2023 at roughly the same time as Reflections — A Disney Lakeside Lodge at Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately–or perhaps fortunately if you’re a fan of Fort Wilderness and the seclusion and serenity around Bay Lake–the Reflections Lakeside Lodge projection was put on indefinite hold during the closure of Walt Disney World. We would stop short of saying those plans were “abandoned” or “cancelled,” but that’s pretty much what happened. Disney mothballed the construction site and moved onto expansion projects at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village Resorts. If or when that project ever does happen, it’ll be a totally different concept.
That’s noteworthy because it’s not the first time in recent history that Disney was forced to abandon a mixed-use resort project shortly after setting plans into motion. In fact, Disneyland cancelled a planned luxury hotel project (concept art above) back in 2018 after the closure of several Downtown Disney establishments in preparation for its construction. That was slated to have a 125-room Disney Vacation Club wing, but that was never officially announced before the project was cancelled.
That project was cancelled by Disney after the Anaheim City Council advised Disney that the hotel no longer qualified for a $267 million tax break it had previously-approved for the 700-room hotel. Disneyland moved the proposed resort’s location by ~1,000 feet, and expanded the footprint of the luxury hotel to replace part of Downtown Disney. That triggered a change of address, and an increasingly “hostile” Anaheim City Council used that as the basis for denying the tax break.
Consequently, Disney dumped millions of dollars into more recent political campaigns, and candidates backed by the company largely prevailed in elections. This is relevant to the Villas at Disneyland Hotel project because it is the indirect replacement for that luxury hotel project; it’s being built while the current Anaheim City Council is much more Disney-friendly.
To the latter point, the Anaheim Planning Commission unanimously approved the Villas at Disneyland Hotel in Summer 2020. While the composition of the council had changed, so too had locals’ views towards Disneyland. With travel ground to a halt and the hospitality industry decimated, Anaheim residents were seeing firsthand just how reliant other businesses and individual livelihoods were on tourist dollars–and Disneyland.
The Villas at Disneyland Hotel will consist of a 280,000 square foot tower located directly next door to Frontierland Tower, behind the feature pool and next to Goofy’s Kitchen.
The new 12-story Disneyland Hotel DVC tower will (supposedly) mirror the existing 1955 design of the other Disneyland Hotel towers. Those are styled after Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland.
The new tower will not replace any of the existing towers or guest-facing facilities. It will feature 350 rooms, with 253 being deluxe studios, 20 two-bedroom villas, 19 one-bedroom villas, and two Grand Villas.
The Villas at Disneyland Hotel will also offer 38 two-person studios that are similar to those introduced at Disney’s Riviera Resort, which we reviewed here. (Photo of that two-person studio above.)
Rooms inside the Villas at Disneyland Hotel will also borrow from Disney’s Riviera Resort, with rooms that have the same functional features. If there’s one thing that Imagineering really got right with Disney’s Riviera Resort, it’s the rooms.
Those designs make significant strides in space-saving design, while adding innovative features like the pull-down Murphy sleeper that is somehow both a comfortable couch and a comfortable bed. In terms of basic layout and furniture, the Villas at Disneyland Hotel will be very similar.
Stylistically, the Villas at Disneyland Hotel will (obviously) be very different from Disney’s Riviera Resort.
These rooms will have a Sleeping Beauty-inspired design style that will be present in nearly every detail. Walt Disney Imagineering is looking to the artistic styles of Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle for inspiration.
The goal is to draw castle and forest visual motifs into the rooms, with art from Sleeping Beauty inside the pull-down bed and imagery from the iconic “Once Upon a Dream” sequence. The goal is to use colors and materials that creates a softer, dream-like look.
While I’m not a fan of how the exterior of the Villas at Disneyland Hotel looks, these rooms are undeniably good. Disney Vacation Club has been on a roll lately with rooms, perfectly blending style and substance, form and function. These units should be a continuation of that.
Above is a look at concept art that reflects how the Villas at Disneyland Hotel will look from Walnut Street, which is essentially the farthest side of Disneyland Resort.
You’ll notice that the tower looks very different from this perspective. It’s actually an L-shape, consistent with the 12-story style of the core Disneyland Hotel towers in the courtyard side, but allowing for more units on the garden or street side. The structure will have a stairs-like appearance, stepping down from 12 stories to 5 stories as it approaches Walnut St.
For its part, Disney has announced very little about the project. There have been a couple of press releases back in late 2019 and early 2020 revealing the proposed (at the time) DVC project. However, that was likely only done because the project would be going to the Anaheim City Council for review, at which point the cat would be out of the bag.
Most details come from that period of public review, during which Disney submitted a 198-page info packet about the Disneyland Hotel DVC tower. Most of the details here come from that. More recently, Disney Vacation Club had a booth at the D23 Expo in Fall 2022, but not much of substance was shown there. They revealed the resort’s logo but had no new information.
Aside from a small outdoor pool bar, the new Villas at Disneyland Hotel project will add no new food, retail, meeting or banquet facilities. A Mickey-shaped spa would be part of a new pool amenity area. Disney Vacation Club guests would utilize most of the existing hotel amenities, as is common with DVC add-ons.
The Villas at Disneyland Hotel will feature multi-colored panels stretching the height of the DVC tower on the end of the building with the multi-level grand villas. A crackled cream pattern would wrap around the other end of the mostly glass building. Balconies would offer views for rooms at both ends of the building.
Additionally, a two-story open-air ground floor would allow guests to pass through to both sides of the building. Lounge chairs would surround pools on either side of the Disney Vacation Club tower. DVC guests would have access to 307 parking spaces on an existing lot.
Disney broke ground on the Villas at Disneyland Hotel in Spring 2021, and it has largely been smooth-sailing for the project since construction began in earnest. It’s unclear to what extent the project was delayed by the prolonged closure and phased reopening, but it certainly seems like it’s full steam ahead at this point.
We’ve been watching the project take shape while walking between Mickey & Friends and Downtown Disney, and it is really moving quickly–vertical progress has been something to see! Above is a look at where construction stands with the Villas at Disneyland Hotel as of Fall 2022. (We took this a few weeks ago while at Tangaroa Terrace–work has progressed even further since, I just keep forgetting to take more comprehensive construction photos.)
As for when the Villas at Disneyland Hotel will open, that’s anyone’s guess. When originally announced, the timeline simply called for a 2023 opening. To our knowledge, Disney has not publicly changed that or officially pushed the project back into 2024.
It’s entirely possible the year-long closure of the parks and slow reopening had a negligible impact on plans. It would seem that the Anaheim City Council approval process more or less occurred as normal, and construction started not too long after all zoning hurdles were cleared. Since construction started, the pace of work has been brisk.
With that said, we’ve watched Disney build similar towers (Gran Destino Tower and the aforementioned Riviera Resort) in recent years, and the vertical stage always seems like it’s going fast. Once crews move to interior work, the apparent pace slows. Given all of that, our guess is that the Villas at Disneyland Hotel won’t open until December 2023 at the earliest. Spring 2024 is probably more likely. It’s really too early to say, though. A lot remains to be done.
In terms of commentary, I think this DVC addition looks boring and generic, but it’s not as if Disneyland Hotel is the paragon of themed design. The Villas at Disneyland Hotel tower is essentially an upmarket mixed use development you’d see in Orange County or Los Angeles–superficially aesthetically appealing, but not creatively uninspired. Aside from the Mickey Mouse pool, not a whole lot distinguishes this from something like the ocV!BE project being built around the Honda Center (pictured above).
In fairness, it’s not like the current look of Disneyland Hotel’s exterior is anything special or has some cherished historical legacy. I had simply hoped that all of the buildings would match, but I realize that’s too much to ask with DVC. Given that the last significant overhaul of Disneyland Hotel was less than a decade ago, it’s doubtful that the existing towers will receive a facelift while this is being built.
If anything, I’m surprised that Disney opted against powering forward with another large luxury hotel for Disneyland Resort, and is instead expanding Downtown Disney, reimagining Paradise Pier Hotel into Pixar Place Hotel, and adding the Villas at Disneyland Hotel tower.
In part, it’s probably a matter of cold feet after attendance did not surge as expected following the initial debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It definitely feels like Disney is playing it safe with these projects. Some might think that’s due to DisneylandForward, which has many fans excited. However, many people have misread what that actually is.
There is no there there–DisneylandForward is essentially about zoning and land use. When fans say, “Disney will build X as part of DisneylandForward,” they are fundamentally misunderstanding the initiative. It’s not a project, it’s public approval to give Disney greater autonomy over what they can build–if they so choose.
My guess is that it’s less about DisneylandForward and more that Disney is waiting to see what demand and the Southern California hotel market looks like now that the JW Marriott Anaheim Resort and Westin Anaheim Resort both have opened. These are two other significant luxury hotel projects that would be direct competitors (especially for convention guest business) to any luxury hotel that Disneyland builds.
Waiting is fine by me, as nothing Disney has built in the last few years or is currently building excites me. Recent projects have prioritized function over form, with bland contemporary styles. I’m willing to wait for the pendulum to swing back towards theme.
Disneyland Resort will never have the sprawling resorts like Walt Disney World, but the Disney hotels elsewhere around the globe could serve as inspiration. Something Art Deco (like Disney’s Hollywood Hotel or Ambassador Hotel) would work well, as would leaning into California’s mid-century modern roots.
There is a ton of unsatisfied demand for another California DVC property, and this would increase Disneyland Resort’s available DVC room inventory six-fold. Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (VGC) are the most difficult to book resort, and also the most costly via the resale market.
This is in large part because there are only 71 units at the VGC, making it the smallest DVC resort aside from the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs. (The main Saratoga Springs Resort, for the sake of comparison, has 1,260 rooms.) The VGC is also a great use of DVC points as compared to paying rack rates at the Grand Californian, so it’s also highly competitive for that reason.
Overall, adding a Disney Vacation Club tower to Disneyland Hotel is a smart move that has minimal downside given the location. (In essence, the new tower would only replace an existing laundry facility. Doubtful many fans will mourn that.) It’s disappointing DVC doesn’t put more effort into blending these additions with their surroundings, but repainting of the existing towers might make the final result better than things currently look.
With a number of surface parking lots and other dead space–including the abandoned Downtown Disney spaces and the Eastern Gateway plot–we’re optimistic that this is just the start of further development at Disneyland Resort. We just hope future hotels demonstrate a bit more creative ambition than the Villas at Disneyland Hotel.
Either way, another DVC property at Disneyland Resort is a no-brainer, slam-dunk concept. There is a ton of unsatisfied demand for another California DVC property; the Grand Californian Villas are the most difficult to book resort, and also the most costly via the resale market. (If you bought here back when DCA was floundering, your asset has increased in value tremendously!)
All in all, building a new Disney Vacation Club resort as a Disneyland Hotel tower is a savvy move. Although the hotel is historic and iconic, it should be pretty easy for DVC to mirror the existing design. Unless something goes terribly wrong, this should be a nice enhancement, and not another Bay Lake Tower detracting from the Contemporary.
Are you looking forward to the Villas at Disneyland Hotel? Glad that Disney Vacation Club is adding another property at Disneyland Resort? Would you like to see something built elsewhere in Southern California? Hope Disney will resume plans to build more hotels in Anaheim? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!