Families are Going Goofy for the Disneyland Hotel
By Melissa Klurman
Fresh off a two-year head-to-toe makeover, the Disneyland Hotel is now a modern family travel destination for family vacations. Renovations retained the original landmark feel - you'll see black and white images of Walt around the property and cool classic photo montages as well -- but modern changes such as new family fun pool facilities, sleek rooms, and updated public areas now make this a family vacation favorite for a new generation. And as always, its location just steps away from all the Disney fun in Anaheim can't be beat.
The fun starts in the lobby, where loveseats shaped like teacups are as much fun to play hide-and-seek in as they are to sit on. Staffers fuss over kids while the grown-ups speed through the well-designed check-in, handing out free helium balloons and "celebration" pins. Disney shows and movies play on a small screen surrounded by mini-thrones in a corner of the room.
Goofy is the king of the characters at the Disneyland Resort (see Goofy's Kitchen, below) and the big dog makes appearances in the lobby mid-afternoon; a great crowd-free, air-conditioned opportunity for a character meet-and-greet. Don't worry if you forgot your autograph book, two gift shops are merely feet away.
Bigger, better, cooler -- the new pool area is so popular with families I overheard a young girl ask her mother if she could move there (sadly, the answer was no). There's a massive main pool, two smaller pools, a giant hot tub, and the eye-catching centerpiece: a three-story waterslide structure built to resemble the original monorail at Disneyland. It zigs, zags, loops and swirls much to mini thrill-seekers delight. There are also several smaller slides for tykes and tots as well. Speaking of small fry, swim diapers are required, but are provided for free at stations around the pool -- a nice touch. Also available free of charge are flotation vests so novice swimmers can enjoy the pool fun, too. There are plenty of pool-side seats (probably because most folks are off exploring Disneyland and California Adventure); cabanas are available for rent as well.
Spacious and modern rooms are located in three separate tower buildings: Fantasy, which is closest to the check-in area and Goofy's Kitchen; Adventure, which is closest to Downtown Disney and park access; and Frontier, which is the furthest from the hotel amenities. The newly redone rooms here have an upscale Hyatt-like-aesthetic with whimsical Disney touches, but without any of the kitschy mouse decor that used to fill Disney's resorts. We went wild for the double size, dark wood headboard that covers most of one wall. Hit a switch and LED lights create a virtual fireworks show across the headboard while a lullaby version of When You Wish Upon a Star plays. When the song finishes, the headboard twinkles until you're ready to switch it off for the night (which would probably be never if the kids have their say). Blue velvet pillow spell out "A dream is a wish your heart makes" on one and "When you're fast asleep" on the other. Large bathrooms have double sinks (with chrome Mickey handles), combined shower/tubs, and a separate toilet area - a plus for families.
Food and Dining:
The big dining attraction at the Disneyland Hotel has always been, and still is, Goofy's Kitchen, "the" place for a character breakfast or brunch. Made-to-order omelets, breakfast pizza, hot dogs, soft-serve, Mickey pancakes, crepes - you name it, it's on the massive buffet here. Characters move throughout the room while you eat and usually run the gamut from Pluto to Chip and Dale to Mulan to Cinderella (and of course Goofy, wearing his signature chef's hat).
Otherwise, for a quick bite, Tangaroa Terrace has counter service and indoor and outdoor seating right above the pool area. Adjacent is Trader Sam's, a true "Tiki Tiki Tiki room" that serves fun tropical drinks and has a great outdoor fireplace. Near Goofy's Kitchen is fine-dining Steakhouse 55 & Lounge. And there's coffee and snacks available all day The Coffee House, located off the lobby.
-- Ask about the special Disneyland hotel FastPass promotion. This gives each member of your party a FastPass that allows two immediate, go-to-the-front-of-the-line FastPasses -- as good as having the Force when you're at perennially crowded Disneyland attractions such as StarTours.
-- Plan to get up early on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday when Disneyland opens 1 hour earlier for resort guests (be sure to bring your hotel ID with you).
-- At Goofy's Kitchen, ask to be seated in the main, window-lined dining room (not in the side rooms or tables near the buffet). Characters appear at breakfast in a circular pattern, giving you princess views even when they're not at your table, and providing you with a good idea of when Goofy's headed your way so you stay put instead of heading to the buffet.
--Be sure to pick up a weekly "Neverland Adventures" guide at the front desk. It lists special activities available only to resort guests such as free craft workshops and VIP access to Downtown Disney shops such as Build-a-Bear Workshop and Disney Studio 365.
-- Disneyland tickets expired but not ready to leave? Spend time at Downtown Disney, literally 10 yards from the back of Disneyland Hotel. Fun dining opportunities here include New Orleans fare and live music at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen; balloon artists and artisanal pies at Napoli Pizza; and kids classic Rainforest Cafe. After you eat, check out a free, live music performance at Downtown Disney stage.
Melissa Klurman is an award-winning travel writer and mom to Aidan, 8, who thought the Disneyland Hotel was a "fantasy dream".
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