Saturday, 13 Aug, 2022

The Disneyland Hotel: What it's like staying in a hotel that combines Disney history and a new look

There are dozens of Disney hotels on multiple continents around the globe, but it all started in 1955 with one property: the Disneyland Hotel.This..


There are dozens of Disney hotels on multiple continents around the globe, but it all started in 1955 with one property: the Disneyland Hotel.

This original opened the same year as the nearby Disneyland park, which was just a short tram ride away. Today the hotel is still there, and it’s just a short walk or monorail ride away from the fun.

It now seems obvious, in a peanut-butter-and-jelly sort of way, that major theme parks benefit from fun, themed hotels nearby designed to keep the fun going from check-in to check-out. But in 1955, this was a novel concept.

The Disneyland Hotel began with 100 rooms in two-story buildings priced at $15 per night. It has evolved to close to 1,000 current rooms spread across three towers that regularly start at around $600 per night.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

You can stay at the Disneyland Hotel just to be close to the parks, for your kids to use the cool monorail themed pool slides or to be close to the Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Room. All are good enough reasons. But for me, the reasons to stay here are different.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

The Disneyland Hotel is not the nicest Disneyland-adjacent hotel. Nor is it the closest, the most modern or the most affordable – but I still adore it. I stay here primarily to soak in a bit of Disney nostalgia, which is pretty easy given the style and theming.

This hotel, in some ways, influenced the way that families vacation to this day. It is still an alive and evolving piece of not only Disney history but also lodging and leisure travel history.

In This Post

The rich history of the Disneyland Hotel

We’ll get to the traditional review aspects – or you can skip ahead now to just see what a stay is like today – but what makes the Disneyland Hotel truly special is its history.

(Photo by Alan Band/Keystone Features/Getty Images.)

That said, pretty much nothing remains of the 1955 version of the hotel. The three current towers, Adventure (previously known as Dreams and Sierra), Fantasy (previously known as Magic and Marina) and Frontier (previously known as Wonder and Bonita) were built in the 1960s and 70s. The original buildings from the 1950s are no more.

But as the list of current and former names for the towers implies, this hotel has lived many lives in its 66 years – and it continues to evolve to this day.

Disneyland Hotel in 2008 before its modern-era renovation. (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images.)

Interestingly, the Disneyland Hotel wasn’t originally owned by the Disney company. In fact, that didn’t happen until the late 1980s. Instead, the hotel that used the Disneyland name was owned for many decades by Jack Wrather, a friend of Walt’s. That ownership continued until a few years after his death.

Walt and Jack were good friends, and thus it’s not surprising that just as the Disneyland park did things that had really never been done, so did the nearby Disneyland Hotel.

It was one of the original hotel resorts that became a destination of its own instead of just a place to sleep. Especially unique for its time in the 1950s was that it did so in a way that appealed to both kids and adults.

At various points in its history, the hotel has had a helipad with daily flights from LAX, a 3.5-acre marina with both motor and paddle boats, an underwater Atari arcade, nightly shows, a waterfall, miniature cars, a service station, an RV park, an on-site beauty shop, on-site dentist and physician and more.

(Photo by Kari Rene Hall/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.)

Most of those amenities are now just a part of the hotel’s memory walls (and yes, it has memory walls). But when you think of the top resort destinations of today, it is easy to make the connections to the path paved by the Disneyland Hotel.

Fortunately the hotel isn’t stuck in its past. In fact, it is fresh off a pandemic-era renovation, which made me all the more excited for a return visit to check out its newest version … while always taking time to appreciate its history.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Quick take

As you’ve probably guessed by now, a stay at the Disneyland Hotel is equal parts nostalgia and modern-day Disney amenities and convenience.

Truthfully, without its history and proximity to Disneyland, it wouldn’t be nearly as charming. It lacks solid Wi-Fi, doesn’t have nearly enough outlets in the rooms for modern-day use, some bathrooms are especially small, room service is currently suspended and it is a very expensive hotel for what you get on paper. Standard rates are often twice that of the nearby, brand-new Westin Anaheim.

But it’s still a pretty magical place that immerses you in Disney. From the headboards that light up and play “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” to the monorail-themed slides and the character meals, it’s where you go when you want a 24/7 dose of happiness.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Getting there

My favorite way to get to Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel is to fly into the John Wayne Santa Ana Airport (SNA), which is a 25-minute drive away, depending on traffic. You can rent a car for the relatively simple drive or spend approximately $25 – $40 one-way to the airport for an Uber, more for Uber Black. Note that self-parking costs $25 per day and valet parking is $35 per day.

What it costs

There are only three official hotels at Disneyland and this one is priced in the middle of the three. The other two are Paradise Pier on the more budget-friendly side and the Grand Californian on the more luxurious side.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Unfortunately, being in the middle of those three options still translates to it being very expensive. Depending on your exact travel dates, expect standard rooms here to price from $450 – $700 many nights. If you want concierge lounge access or a specialty suite, that price shoots over the $1,000 mark in a hurry. Our weekend nights in a standard room were around $600 each.

Things we loved

  • Staying here keeps you within the “Disney Bubble” as it is less than a half-mile to the gates of Disneyland and even closer to the monorail that takes you directly into Tomorrowland (though the monorail was closed on our trip).
  • Comfortable beds and fun rooms including a great fireworks-themed light-up headboard with Disney music.
  • Nice, large pool complex including three monorail themed slides of varying sizes and lengths for kids of different ages.
  • Onsite Dole Whips with or without rum, which are of course worth a bullet point of their very own.
  • A variety of on-site dining options ranging from breakfast or dinner with characters at Goofy’s Kitchen to one of my favorite spots on earth – Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.
  • History and immersion in the world that Walt built.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)


  • It’s pretty expensive – especially if you don’t put a premium on being in the Disney Bubble.
  • The rooms, while refreshed in some ways, are still not modern in others. For example, Wi-Fi is poor, outlets are scarce and the bathrooms can be almost claustrophobic, depending on your exact room assignment.
  • It’s a large property and the tower we were in – Frontier – is pretty far from the action. Your party could be spread out across multiple towers.
  • There’s currently still no room service and no nightly housekeeping.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

The vibe

This is unofficially the “Happiest Hotel on Earth” and the vibe lives up to the hype.

There are vacationing families, moms in sparkling Minnie ears, kids walking around with Mickey balloons heading to or from the parks and adults who are kicking back and excited to be on their second beverage from the Tangaroa Terrace. This is a hotel you come to for fun and the vibe reflects it.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

The room

My two stays at the Disneyland Hotel have both been in the Frontier Tower, but I know from photos and conversations with other guests that different rooms in different towers do have some layout variations. In other words, what you’ll see in my photos may vary from what you get in your exact Disneyland Hotel room assignment.

But regardless of your exact room assignment, some good news is that the rooms are fresh off a mild facelift during the many months of pandemic closure. When compared to the look during my 2019 visit, there is all-new carpet in both the halls and rooms and new drapes.Gone are the bed skirts and decorative pillows, replaced with a fresh, all-white linen look.

Also gone was the casing around the TV; instead there’s just a wall-mounted TV. This wasn’t a total overhaul, but it was an appreciated tweak that kept the classic feel in a fresher way.

Thankfully, the magical, music-playing headboard remains. This is a very sweet touch to the rooms that reminds you are sleeping in a special spot.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Speaking of which, the beds are very comfortable and the blackout curtains get an A+ rating in case you are skipping rope drop and want to sleep in one morning.

While you do hear happy screaming children running by your room, I heard much less room noise here than I have in many other Disney hotels. I also found I had much worse cell phone reception, leading me to believe the building is quite sturdy and well made … even if that is annoying when it comes time to try and grab a 7 a.m. virtual boarding group from bed for the newest, hottest ride at the park.

On the flip side, the bathrooms I’ve had each time I stayed in this tower are pretty embarrassing for a $600 per night room. This one looks a little bigger below than it is in reality due to the wide-angle shot I used, but know that it’s tight and bland.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

It gets the job done, but for a family, it’s not ideal. It is small with a single vanity, toilet and tub all in the same tight space. It’s really impossible for more than one person to get any bathroom-related tasks done at a time.

Food and drink

Eating at the Disneyland Hotel is part of the fun. In some ways, dining at the hotel is pretty limited right now, especially with no room service and with Steakhouse 55 closed. However, I honestly enjoyed the heck out of most of our meals here.

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

Let’s start at the top of the list with my favorite spot here – and one of my favorite spots anywhere (because I’m a little weird), Trader Sam’s.

While it feels like this spot has been here forever, it actually opened just a decade ago, in 2011, as the hotel was going through its last major renovation. That’s also when the towers got their blue exteriors with current names and the hotel picked up its second pool area with the monorail slides.

Trader Sam’s was one of the crowning additions of that renovation and it blends Los Angeles tiki bar culture, the Jungle Cruise attraction and Disney Imagineering to create a spot that’s a whole lot of fun to eat at, drink at or both. When it comes to entrees, I enjoy the poke bowl the most, but the Hawaiian platter and kids cheeseburger also got solid reviews from my kiddos on our recent dinner.

The best part of eating here is gazing at the memorabilia scattered about – plus what happens when someone orders the “right” drinks from the menu. Volcanos explode, cast members shout, rain falls and it’s a whole lot of fun.

(A few drinks that can make this sort of hilarity ensue are Uh-Oa!, Krakatoa Punch and The Shipwreck.)

But there are also secret menu drinks and other hidden surprises at this must-visit tiki bar. Advance reservations can be tough to get since this is one of the best spots to eat at Disneyland, but if you come early enough in the evening, you may have luck with the mobile waitlist, as we did getting in the queue a little before 5 p.m. Kids are welcome until 8 p.m.

Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill

Next to Trader Sam’s is Tangaroa Terrace, which is also great – and the perfect spot for a Dole Whip as it has a dedicated to-go Dole Whip window. This spot is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the times in between for meals, drinks and snacks. There’s a mix of traditional American items and more island-inspired fare.

For breakfast, we enjoyed the Loco Moco burrito ($13) which is big enough for two people and consists of rice, beef, fried egg, onions, salsa and more.

On the lunch and dinner menu, you can find the same sort of poke bowls ($17) and Hawaiian platters ($17) as in the tiki bar – I give both a thumbs up.

You can mobile order in advance to go or try and get a table.

The Coffee House

Open only in the mornings, this is where you can mobile order that iced coffee and muffin to get the day started. Place your order in the Disney app when you know what time you want to eat as they do run low on certain pastries as the morning ticks by.

Goofy’s Kitchen

Last but not least, if you want a buffet with a side of socially distanced Disney characters, this is your spot. I’ve never eaten there myself, but I’ve heard about the famed peanut butter and jelly pizza. This is another spot you’ll want to make a reservation for in advance if you know you want to eat with Goofy and friends.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Delivery from Downtown Disney restaurants

For now, or at least while room service is suspended, you can also order from Downtown Disney restaurants using a QR code and they will deliver to the lobby of the hotel – which is a pretty sweet way to order a bag of beignets from the nearby Jazz Kitchen without walking into Downtown Disney.

Amenities and service

A stay at the Disneyland Hotel is about keeping the Disney vacation going from the moment you check in, from the dedicated kid area showing cartoons near the check-in desks until it’s time to say goodbye to the happiest hotel on earth.

The pools

First up on the list of special amenities at the Disneyland Hotel are the pools.

The highlight for us were the monorail themed slides that come in three different sizes: the 25-foot-tall/180-foot-long red monorail slide that dumps out into a small landing pool (so you do need to swim out), the 13-foot-tall/80-foot-long yellow monorail slide that dumps into a splash zone with no swimming required and a little toddler-friendly slide that also dumps into a shallow splash zone.

in case you want to do more swimming and floating than sliding, there are two additional pools including the 4,800 square foot E-Ticket pool and the smaller D-Ticket pool. The names harken back to the days when each Disneyland attraction required a certain letter ticket for a ride – E was reserved for the best rides.

Lifeguards are present in the pool area and you can order food and drinks from roaming servers. There are also a few cabanas available for rent if your family wants to make a day of it by the pool. Otherwise, you can snag free seats around the pool area.

Fitness center

There is a fitness center located in the Frontier Tower. I peeked in and it looked pretty darn depressing, so I walked right back out. With 10 miles of walking a given during a full park day, I personally couldn’t care less about a fitness center here, but if you need more workout in your day … just don’t expect too much.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Stay in the Disney Bubble

The pools and nearby monorail are pretty fun, but beyond that, the hotel is a little light on non-restaurant and pool amenities. There’s no spa or kids club and not much right now in the way of scheduled activities.

What it does have going for it is the intangible benefit of staying in the Disney Bubble.

There will be someone on site who can handle almost any Disney-related problem, ticket issue or question you may have, usually with that famous Disney level of service. There are also on-site Disney shops where you can buy that long-sleeved Disney spirit jersey if the weather is a little cooler than expected, which totally happened on our October trip.

Out and about

Monorail access to Disneyland

Unfortunately for us, our stay happened just a few days before monorail service to Disneyland was restored. But normally, this is an awesome perk of staying at the Disneyland Hotel since it really cuts down on the walk to the parks.

Disneyland Monorail in 2019. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

The monorail isn’t technically at the Disneyland Hotel, but it’s pretty darn close. To get to it, you need to clear security to enter Downtown Disney and walk about two minutes to the station. From there, you can fly on the highway in the sky directly into Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, which makes for a pretty great way to start or end a park day.

Related: How to use points for Disney tickets 

Downtown Disney and the Disney theme parks

The entrance to Downtown Disney (which requires no admission ticket) is no more than 30 yards or so from the Disneyland Hotel. During the prime morning hours, there may be a line to clear security, though it usually moves quickly.

Fun treats await in Downtown Disney. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Once you clear security, you’ll have your pick of Disney shops, a variety of restaurants, milkshakes and more. It’s a fun spot that doesn’t have any rides but does have a festive atmosphere that makes you feel like you are at Disney. It’s a good destination on the night you check in if you don’t have a park ticket for that day but want to start enjoying the Disney atmosphere.

Within Downtown Disney, I’m a big fan of Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, Black Tap and Salt & Straw but there are tons of great choices – including a brewery.

Once you head all the way through Downtown Disney, you arrive at the gates of both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, which are right across from each other. This makes for easy park-hopping if you want to do Avenger’s Campus and Cars Land in the morning at California Adventure and then Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the classics in the afternoon.

And since you are at the Disneyland Hotel, if you need a break, take the monorail out of Tomorrowland and you’ll be back to your bed before you can say bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.


When it comes to accessibility, there are lifts in the pool area as well as both wheelchair-accessible and hearing-accessible rooms. The website states there is an accessible path of travel to the lobby area, guest rooms, restaurants, merchandise locations, meeting rooms, business centers, pools, exercise and laundry facilities.

To book an accessible room, click the accessible box before searching and hopefully a variety of wheelchair and hearing accessible accommodations will display with either tub or roll-in shower options.

Related: 7 reasons Disney is one of the most wheelchair-accessible destinations 

Checking out

You can sleep in Disney history at the Disneyland Hotel while still enjoying a room that is fresh off a makeover.

Disneyland. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

The monorail slide pools, the magical headboard, fun tiki bar, on-site Dole Whip and the perks of staying in the “Disney Bubble” are more than enough reasons to make the Disneyland Hotel a special stay for us when visiting Disneyland.

However, know that there is adjacent construction going on to build a new Disney Vacation Club property, some normal offerings (like nightly housekeeping) are still on pause, a percentage of the room bathrooms are quite small and if you like hotel stays featuring the latest technology (or even just fast Wi-FI), you may decide this isn’t the most magical spot for you.

You’re going to pay a Disney premium to stay here, so it’s best reserved for those trips when you want to celebrate all things Disneyland – past, present and future.

Featured image by the author.


By: Summer Hull
Title: What it’s like to stay at a hotel that pairs Disney history with a fresh look: The Disneyland Hotel
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2021 13:00:43 +0000

Read More