Goofy greeting us in the lobby helped reinforce that the Paradise Pier hotel is a Disney hotel

Goofy greeting us in the lobby helped reinforce the Disney spirit

Although the Paradise Pier Hotel is a Disney Resort hotel, it’s clear from the lobby that this is not a Disney-built hotel. The floor plan, for lack of better description, is odd, with not so much a lobby as a check-in/concourse/semi-hub area. Whereas the “typical” Disney hotel has a clearly defined check-in counter facing an expansive lounge area, the Paradise Pier Hotel is unexpectedly disjointed, with check-in seeming like an afterthought, as it’s off to the left of the main entry, with bell services and concierge hugging the small rotunda as if wallflowers at a dance. That aside, the check-in process was pure Disney, from courtesy and thoroughness to going above and beyond with a celebratory spirit that leaves one smiling and excited for what’s to come.

Our decision to stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel was founded in the practical, in that it was the least expensive among the two other contenders: the Grand Californian Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel. It was also a spontaneous decision, as we only committed to spending the night three days before Mark’s birthday, and the Paradise Pier not only had availability, but purportedly a view of Disney California Adventure (DCA). Even a friend of ours raved of the views from the Paradise Pier, but we remained skeptical that we could only get so lucky given our last-minute reservation.

DINING & ACTIVITIES

The hotel has its own restaurant, the PCH Grill (named for California’s renowned Pacific Coast Highway), which opens as a character buffet for breakfast and becomes a more adult, higher-end, California-themed experience come dinner. There’s a lounge area located between the Grill and the lobby, but if you’re going to take the time to enjoy a cocktail, there are, quite frankly, better cocktail options elsewhere on Disney premises.

A rooftop pool (on the third floor) boasts the lengthy “California Streamin'” waterslide, a tribute to classic boardwalk roller coasters. There’s also a jacuzzi and a snack bar. Our visit took place on an uncharacteristically cold, windy and rainy day in October, which made for no less a fabulous day in the parks, but precluded any desire to go near a swimming pool.

The hotel also provides fitness facilities and a diminutive arcade (an opinion based on being an arcade lover). Paradise Theatre, located off the lobby, is an adorable beachscape room for kids. Worth a look just to admire the imaginative beachside charm.

THE ROOM

A nice touch to the room that reinforces the Boardwalk theme while maintaining the Disney fun

A nice touch to the room that reinforces the Boardwalk theme (and who doesn’t love Goofy!)

Our requirements for the room were basically “we just want a room.” We didn’t ask for a king and we didn’t specify a view. Our plan was simple: Spend Mark’s birthday park-hopping between Disneyland and California Adventure and then enjoy the luxury of being able to freshen up for our dinner at Napa Rose and not have to designate a driver to get home. So, we went in with low expectations, even with the confirmation that we’d have a view of the park.

It was somewhere around midday that we were texted with our room number, #1404. 14th Floor, we mused. That was definitely high up there. As California natives, we know that views of Anaheim can be either picturesque or… industrial, depending on what you’re facing. We were determined to not let ourselves get too excited. If we had a view of parking lots, highways and motels, well, no matter, we didn’t come for the room.

In the small glass elevator, where we had to coordinate with the family of four in order to enter and exit, we noticed we were on the penultimate floor from the top. As we turned down the corridor to our room, we observed that the even numbers were facing DCA. We were starting to get excited. We opened the door of our room and gasped. The room was cute with its beach ball pillows and California surf theme, but it was the view that caused our eyes to shoot from their sockets and pull us along for the ride. We stood gaping out the picture window that presented a picture unlike anything we’d ever seen: the heart of DCA right before us with the San Gabriel Mountains a distant presence. We marveled how the reality of the mountain range in no way lessened the illusion of reality imagineered in the park.

The view of DCA from our 14th floor room. The Cadillac Range in Radiator Springs is aglow at dusk.

The view of DCA from our 14th floor room. The Cadillac Range in Radiator Springs is aglow at dusk.

A VIEW WITH A ROOM

The plan was to have cocktails across the street at the Hearthstone Lounge in the Grand Californian Hotel. That was, until we inhaled the view from our room. We decided to put our bottle of vodka to good use and stayed put, watching the lights come on in the park, one section at a time, as the evening came to rest and the fiery glow of the Cadillac Mountain Range in Cars Land took dominance over the no longer visible San Gabriel range.

Upon our return from a sublime Napa Rose experience, some time around 10:00, we were immediately disappointed to see Mickey’s Fun Wheel was no longer illuminated. “How sad,” one or both of us commented, our faces glued to the window. Then all of a sudden the World of Color fountains sprouted from the still water beneath and took our breaths away. Instantly mesmerized, we stood captive as the fountains played through several sequences and then went black. Wow. That was some birthday present! We assumed they were running some after-hours tests and we were a very fortunate and unsuspecting audience.

We poured a nightcap to enjoy what was still a once-in-a-lifetime, jaw-dropping view, Mark sitting on the unmovable couch/trundle bed that required his head be turned to the left in order to look out the window, and Amy sitting on the less than comfortable desk chair that she’d moved in front of the window. It would have been nice to sit together, but disappointingly, the bed did not afford a view of the park and the room had but one chair: the one Amy was sitting on. Pity. It wasn’t the ideal way to view the ideal view, but when the fountains unexpectedly shot back up and resumed their colorful dance, we weren’t thinking about comfort.

It was midnight when we finally gave in to the need for sleep, but the fountains kept going. We wished we’d asked if this was standard for all Paradise Pier guests to behold, but we missed our chance. Amy was mostly content to believe it was a special gift to Mark.

IN THE END…

Would we recommend the Paradise Pier Hotel? Emphatically, yes. Despite all its shortcomings as a Disney hotel, it doesn’t fall short if you’re looking for an affordable, short-term stay with convenient access to all Disney Resort destinations and the potential for a view that’s almost as good as being in the park after hours. For us, the view turned out to be everything, and everything else was just fine.

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