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 It was just kind of bland and outdated, especially in the last few years before Disney launched the renovation—we actually found mildew on the wallpaper in the room we got for D23 Expo!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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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).
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…
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.