The Disneyland Hotel: A Mid-Renovation Review

Last weekend we had a chance to stay at the Disneyland Hotel for Patrick’s birthday. Although it is still mid-way through a 2-year renovation, the hotel has finally gotten to a point where guests can begin to enjoy the improvements—and I have to say, we were impressed! Previously, our favorite resort on property was the Grand Californian, and the Disneyland Hotel was the cheaper alternative we turned to when we wanted someplace slightly better than a motel. It was just kind of bland and outdated, especially in the last few years before Disney launched the renovation—we actually found mildew on the wallpaper in the room we got for D23 Expo! I know the Disneyland Hotel didn’t start life as a Disney owned-and-operated hotel, but even after its post-sale Disneyfication, it never felt like a Disney resort the way the ones at Walt Disney World do.

Now that is beginning to change, starting with the rooms and the renovation to the pool area. (You can check out my review of the new Tangaroa Terrace counter-service restaurant HERE and photo tour of the pool HERE.) The rooms in the Magic Tower are still being remodeled, so only the two renovated towers—Dreams and Wonder—are open to guests. (I mean, look at that—even the soon-to-be-changed names of the towers are bland!) This means there’s no longer any chance of getting stuck in one of the crummy older rooms.

The Magic Tower is the last building to get a facelift

This time we got a room in the Dreams Tower (soon to be the Adventure Tower) with a view of the new pool. The Neverland side of the pool had just closed for refurbishment, so construction walls kept us from entering through the more convenient poolside doors. However, the detour around the back of the building makes you realize how beautiful the tropical landscaping is back there—and what a great “borrowed” design element it will be in the lobby when the Adventure(land) theme is in place.

Beautiful tropical landscaping not pictured...

I am hoping that they aren’t done with the interior decoration of the Dreams/Adventure Tower, because it is waaaaaay “corporate-office bland” and not even as cool as the lightly themed lobby of the Wonder/Frontier Tower (which I’ll show you in a minute). There were a couple oversized prints of Adventureland concept art in the smaller lobby at the far end of the tower, so maybe some wall art will be in place at the main lobby soon.

The furniture only *looks* like cheap foam-filled stuff—it's actually pretty comfy!

Here's the borrowed design element I was talking about — the lush landscaping is so close to the windows that it becomes almost like wall art

The smaller lobby at the far end of the tower seems to be more finished than the main lobby

Totally impractical Hidden Mickey!

Over in the Wonder/Frontier Tower, the theming is more distinct—plus they have a re-creation of the concept model for Big Thunder Mountain to look at. That’s pretty dang cool!

OK, I know I'm always on about this lately, but this is not "recreation"—it's a "re-creation"! And why is "Concept Model" in caps and quotes? Are there NO proofreaders on staff at Walt Disney Imagineering?!!

We were kinda underwhelmed by the new geyeser and waterfall that replaced the fountains all the fans loved. Once again, the Disney Parks Blog steered us wrong: They said it was going to be an homage to Mine Train Thru Nature’ Wonderland, so we were expecting multiple geysers and colorful pools in a kind of desert landscape. Instead we got an anonymous shopping center/business park waterfall with one geyser, which we were told goes off every 22 minutes (we never got the timing right to be there to see it).




Back to the Wonder/Adventure Tower! On the guest floors, they seem to be going for a more subtly classy Disney theme than any specific era or locale like in the resorts at Walt Disney World. This means alternating navy wallpaper with beige wallpaper featuring a subtle diamond print, plus plenty of wainscoting and sleek silver fixtures. The carpet’s kinda fantastical though…

We got a corner room with a king bed that had a really long entry hall to accommodate the ice machine in the hall. Fortunately we couldn’t really hear the ice machine over the noise of the air-conditioner. On the left before you get to the sleeping area is a bathroom with separate sink and closet area. The closet had some handsome doors, but when they were open they completely blocked the doorways on either side of the narrow sink area, so you got trapped. I wonder why they didn’t do folding doors on the closet.

Theat wall sconce isn't really a blinding ball of white light—I just had to bump up the brightness so you could see the toilet/tub area!

The bathroom features the highest concentration of the “subtly classy” Disney theme the designers were after, with Mickey heads on the faucets and faint hidden Mickeys in the tile that only really appear when it’s fogged up. There was also neat Tarzan’s Treehouse art on the wall, although a closer look revealed that the print was so low-res it could have been downloaded off the Interwebz.

I *may* have scrubbed water spots off this handle with toothpaste after forgetting to shoot a pic before I took a shower...

 

Nice pixelation, WDI—what, did you download a 24kb gif you found with Google image search?

These are a holdover from the old decor, but they have new shades

I think my favorite part of the new look is the floor-to-ceiling windows, and having a corner window was even better! I was worried that the rooms would feel airless when they glassed in the old balcony space to make the rooms a few feet deeper, but it was no different than being in any high-rise hotel, and the view was fantastic! The only drawback is that the blue tinting makes for some weirdly retro-looking photos of the view, but at least it keeps out prying eyes in the daytime.

OK, so maybe a view of construction is not that exciting for non-nerds, but think how nice it'll be by summer 2012!

I was not knocked out by the decor when I first saw pictures of it online (um, kinda of like you are now…), but in person it looked very nice—modern, clean lines, and much more plush than before. Yes, it is totally not “adventure” themed, and I think they’re going to get a lot of people’s hopes up with the new tower names only to disappoint them with the room decor. But I liked it the way I like the decor at the Contemporary, or maybe just because everything is fresh and new. The old furniture felt like it was kind of dumped in the room and pushed against the walls, but the new layout seems well thought-out. Add in the great views from the huge windows and these rooms make the Grand Californian’s seem dark and tired by contrast (I mean, what is up with those wacky printed bedspreads?).

I also love that you get a real duvet here instead of a yucky polyester bedspread, and the pillows and mattresses are really comfy (I like a firm pillow, though—if you like them squishy, check out the spare pillow in the closet).

Hidden Mickey!

The light-up headboard is so cool! The fireworks twinkle a bit, and it plays “When You Wish Upon a Star” once when you first turn on the effect. I thought it gave off the perfect amount of light in a darkened room for a child who’s afraid of the dark (like I used to be!) … Also, it makes a fun gag photo if you shoot its reflection in the window at night.

The photo collage was a little random, though. Most of the shots were going for arty detail but seemed more like improperly framed excerpts from bigger photos. And one of them was taken from such a bad angle it made us do a spit-take and then burst out laughing…

That

And that's adora—oh dear LORD!!!

Another neat touch was the cake towel and chocolates left in the room for Patrick's birthday.

I guess I can see why some people are grumbling about the new theming at the Disneyland Hotel, because it really isn’t as imaginative and transportive as the areas of Disneyland they’re emulating. The pool area could be Jungle Cruise-themed and tropical, and the rooms in the Adventure Tower could be more like those at the Polynesian Resort or Animal Kingdom Lodge. But my expectations took a nose dive a few years ago when we learned that Disney had nixed plans to completely replace these outdated ’60s and ’70s towers in favor of mostly cosmetic changes. So I was pleasantly surprised when the rooms really did feel different—plush and comfy but sleek and streamlined at the same time. And no matter what you think about the theming of the new water slides, they’re awfully fun to ride. I have a feeling from now on we’ll be choosing the Disneyland Hotel over the Grand Californian even when we’re not trying to save money.

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25 Responses
  • Kimberly Simpson
    March 21, 2012

    GREAT JOB with this site! Your info and fantastic photos are marvelous! We go to DL about once year, but it’s always neat to really sit back and look at/read about what we still need to enjoy, or new things ahead!

    Planning to go there in November.. My son was hurt and in the ER at Downtown Disney, so DL gave us vouchers (and paid the medical) to allow us another trip.. Still bummed though, we have to travel from Oregon to make up for what we missed, and they didn’t give us even 1 night of lodging.. Oh well!

    Keep up the good work! I’m going to share this with my mom, she’ll love it!

    Kimberly
    Oregon

    • Carrie
      March 21, 2012

      Wow, sorry to hear about your son, but I’m glad things are OK and you’ll be getting to go back to Disneyland. Thanks for the kind words!

  • Andrea clements
    August 1, 2011

    I am very disappointed in this hotel. There are no empty chairs by the pool. Nothing relaxing about sitting on cocrete while waiting on the kids. No chocolates on our pillow and no one here seems to know it’s our sons birthday. The housekeeping missed the coffee. I am a traveled Disney fan and the moderate resorts in Florida offer more magic for less

    • lurkyloo
      August 1, 2011

      Interesting! I do find that the birthday/anniversary/special occasion treatment varies widely at Disney. Sometimes some kind cast member will go out of their way to make a magical moment and sometimes you wear a button and nobody even notices!

  • Mark Taft
    July 29, 2011

    Thanks for the great look at the changes at the DL Hotel! I loved the place as a kid and cannot wait to see it for myself this fall.

    • lurkyloo
      July 29, 2011

      Ooh! It’ll look even better by then—have fun!

  • Becca
    June 13, 2011

    I noticed the picture right off the bat and started laughing when i noticed you posted close ups. How do you not notice! Thank you for your great review though. I just book my first stay in the Disneyland Hotel ever today for Wed night (even though I’ve had an AP for over 10 years). We got suckered into a concierge room so I am anxious to see how that goes, another first. But I am excited to be able to see the new additions you’ve mentioned for myself!! I am very glad they went with the subtle yet elegant changes. I just think it is more comforting and suiting than a crazy themed hotel (unless it’s what I am looking for in my vacation).

    And I feel ya on the lame expensive themed rooms. I tried to book the fantasyland suite during the 40% AP discount time period and for the price of one night I could have gotten a week’s worth! I couldn’t image someone paying full price for just a little theming. Just not worth it in my opinion. So sad.

    • lurkyloo
      June 13, 2011

      Seriously! They just need to give it up and theme one floor of one of the towers, and then price the rooms at only a moderate premium over regular rooms. Hope you have fun in Concierge!

  • Hope
    June 13, 2011

    Another timely review Carrie! I love the rooms and the carpet in the hallway. Such lightyears away from when I had a birthday stay there when I was “little”. I don’t like the office feel of the Dreams tower. I’m glad they didn’t have that last year when we were getting married. It just wouldn’t have felt very “Disney” being around that especially since our getting ready rooms where in that tower. I’m not sure about they geyser. I’ll have to check that out up close next week.

    What a hilarious picture! So THAT’s how you make friends with forest animals. I didn’t know that! 😉

    • lurkyloo
      June 13, 2011

      BWAAAhahahahahaaaa! 😀

  • ATG
    June 13, 2011

    Great photos. I really enjoyed staying at the DL hotel last year for Destination D and will likely stay there again. It’ll be my #2 hotel (wait…) as I can’t quite quit the Grand Californian!

    I did not notice that photo montage so your pics were greatly appreciated. You got me with that pic, tho! At first I thought ‘Awwwww’ and then, ‘EEEEWWW!’ and after that I chastised myself for my dirty, dirty mind.

    • lurkyloo
      June 13, 2011

      Yeah, the GCH’s being inside DCA is quite appealing, I have to admit! But the wall art in the rooms is not good for as many laughs… 😉

  • Elizabeth
    June 13, 2011

    That picture nearly made me ruin my keyboard with Diet Mt. Dew! Oh my!!

    The rooms look nice, I stayed there once years ago and can’t even remember what they looked like before to make any comparison!

    Also, I hear ya on the quotation marks…add the misuse of apostrophes to the Disney sins as well…seen last week on a door leading out of the specially set up Jabba’s Hutt store…”Employee’s Only”…uh…[shaking my head].

    • lurkyloo
      June 13, 2011

      Oh lordy—misused apostrophes are another of my copyediting pet peeves! It’s like people throw them in as “seasoning” the same way they do with commas…

      • Elizabeth
        June 13, 2011

        Luckily it was only a temporary sign on a sheet of paper…I love misused apostrophes on billboards and painted on vehicles! LOL

  • Jensey
    June 10, 2011

    Oh my, now this makes our decision even harder for our next trip! I, personally, love the understated decor! And I may just make the “A dream is a wish your heart makes” pillow myself for our guestroom! So cute. I did love the Grand Californian, though… The gorgeous lobby and proximity to the parks makes it a tough call. Decisions, decisions…

    • Jensey
      June 10, 2011

      Oh! And yes, the collage was… Interesting. At least someone has a sense of humor, I hope? 😉

      • lurkyloo
        June 10, 2011

        I dunno—judging by the slap-dash nature of the rest of the photos in it, I’d say they just weren’t paying attention. Boooooo!

      • Kaylin
        June 13, 2011

        Jensey! I didnt know you commented on these blogs!

    • lurkyloo
      June 10, 2011

      Here, I’ll solve it for you: The rooms at the Grand Californian smell funny. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s this paint/carpet glue/treated water smell… I dunno what it is. Maybe I’ve imagined it. But I didn’t pick up on it at the Disneyland Hotel. 😀

  • Kaylin
    June 10, 2011

    Ooooh it is a nice looking hotel after they renovated it! I nearly died laughing when I saw the pics lol!

    • lurkyloo
      June 10, 2011

      Yeah…. wasn’t sure how to introduce that one… 😀

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