There’s always a fear when Disney announces an overhaul to a structure that stands as a landmark in your heart of being disappointed. Even though you know Disney rarely disappoints, it’s always a possibility, and as much as you try not to voice it, it’s almost impossible not to think it. As kids, we both stayed at the Disneyland Hotel where so many happy memories were forged that, as adults, we reveled in reliving. That’s the continuity of the Disney experience, after all. And yet, when Disney revealed their plans to do a complete renovation of the Disneyland Hotel, we breathed a sigh of relief. It was time. And even though we knew some things would be retired rather than restored, we were as ready as the time-beleaguered hotel for a new life for new generations. Our memories would never fade, whereas the hotel, in many ways, had. Yes, we were ready.
When the Disneyland Hotel reopened, it didn’t take long before we found an excuse to spend a couple nights. Just driving up to the valet the sparkle of the revitalized structures was apparent. Then we beheld the lobby and check-in where the confluence of nostalgia, Disney and modernity was immediately gratifying, such as the long beloved wall maps of Disneyland that were still where we remembered them, and the clever adaptation of the the Alice in Wonderland tea cups as lobby seating was a delight. The check-in counter itself was stylish, sleek and contemporary—and the check-in process was friendly and efficient.
Three Disney towers comprise the hotel: Adventure, Frontier and Fantasy (previously Dreams, Wonder and Magic, respectively). Having requested a pool view, which is less costly than the Downtown Disney view, we were assigned to the Adventure Tower. Friends of ours, who requested the same, were treated to the Fantasy Tower. In fact, we’ve only ever stayed in the Adventure tower (coincidence, view request, availability… it’s just the way it’s worked out). As you’d expect, each has a unique character reflective of its theme, while offering its own conveniences and advantages depending on one’s priorities: The Adventure Tower is closest to Downtown Disney and the parks, so that works well for our “let’s get there!” approach. the Fantasy Tower is where you’ll check in. The lobby and gift store are here, so it’s a fun tower for browsing, buying and remembering to get a couple bottles of water (or vodka) before getting up to your room. It’s also where you’ll find the hotel’s signature restaurant, Steakhouse 55, along with the lounge and Goofy’s Kitchen. The Frontier Tower is farthest from the pool and parks, but it has the most suites and larger rooms, some with spectacular views of the fireworks.
What a standard Disney room may lack in luxury it tends to make up for in charm and detail. Our Adventure Tower experience was no exception. Even without a balcony—or much of a view beyond the palm trees’ frame of the pool, the room itself said “Disney” everywhere we looked, and even held a couple hidden surprises. The renovation had successfully replaced the dated interior with a clean modern flair, both in the decor and the appointments, and we couldn’t have been happier or more relieved to be back at the Disneyland Hotel of our youth but in a more up-to-date incarnation.
A Not-so-Hidden Oasis
Possibly the best reason to stay at the Disneyland Hotel is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. Located in the pool area, this Polynesian retreat is a must-see even if your whistle doesn’t need wetting. This is a unique experience with surprises and delights beyond compare—including some of the drinks (and the food’s surprisingly good, too!). Seating is very limited, which is why you’re likely only to experience this magical destination when staying at the Disneyland Hotel.
Still an Original
While the renovation breathed fresh air into the towers’ interiors and gave the exteriors a crisp refinement in complement to the sky, the structures themselves remain the 1955 landmark memory makers they had always represented. And the newly refurbished Never Land Pool looks fun for all ages, with two monorail-themed water slides and plenty of cul de sacs for hanging out and relaxing in the rarified Disney air.