lost weekenders

Disney History

The Pros and Cons of Staying at the Disneyland Hotel

Hotels, Disney HistoryKatComment

There comes a point in Disney vacation planning when one has to decide: do you stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, or some other (far cheaper) one? Nine times out of ten, we opt for the cheaper choice - really, all you need is a place to crash for the few hours between park closing and park opening anyway, right? The thing is, staying at a Disney Hotel has a whole lot of perks, and the more often we splurge and stay at one, the more often we find that we really, really like it. If you’re on the fence, here’s our relatively unbiased opinion on why you should consider the Disneyland Hotel, the most iconic of all Disney Resort Hotels:

disneyland hotel pillow

PROS

Location

Obviously, the main reason people choose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel is because of the location. Being right at the end of Downtown Disney, the hotel is closer to the park than most hotels and the parking structures, so when you’re leaving the parks exhausted at the end of the night, you don’t have far to walk at all.

The Monorail also conveniently stops just a few yards from the hotel entrance, so if you find yourself with no bones and unable to manage to walk even one more step, the Monorail can do most of the work for you.

Being close to the parks has another bonus: you won’t need to rent a locker for the day. Having a locker is great for when you want to shed a jacket mid-day or change into warmer clothes in the evening, but being within a short walk of the main gate of the parks means that you can just drop by your room to change whenever you feel like it. Worth it!

Extra Magic Hour

Every person who stays at the Disneyland Hotel gets Extra Magic Hour added onto their ticket for the entire time they are at the Hotel. Yes, even Annual Passholders. This means you get to enter a specific park per day an hour before the park actually opens, and you can get a TON of stuff accomplished in this time.

Sometimes, DCA is the park that opens early, and sometimes its DCA twice in a row, which can be frustrating if you really really want the best shot at getting on Peter Pan’s Flight. Also, Disneyland doesn’t open all lands when it opens early, which is kindof annoying, but it’s still a huge plus to staying at the Disneyland Hotel.

disneyland hotel aerial

The Pool

Most hotels in Southern California have a pool, and the Disneyland Hotel’s pool isn’t all that huge or special except for the dope Monorail-themed waterslides. The best part of the Disneyland Hotel pool is that it’s so close to the park (see: Location) and also that you can get food and drinks brought to you while you lounge poolside. This brings us to our next point:

trader sams menu

Trader Sam’s

We’ve talked at length about Trader Sam’s, the Happiest Tiki Bar on Earth, and staying at the Disneyland Hotel means you are within stumbling distance of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at all times.

Sending Merch Back

One of the hugest perks of staying at the Disneyland Hotel is that when you buy something in the parks, they will send it back to your room. You heard that right - you don’t have to do anything but make a purchase, and come back to the Bell Services desk at the hotel the next day (after 7AM) to pick it up. Did we mention this is free? Talk about convenient.

Reservations

Did you know if you’re staying at a Disneyland Hotel you get access to special dining reservations? That means that even if the calendar for the restaurant you want to enjoy looks booked solid, if you inquire at the Hotel, they might be able to get you a reservation.

Parking

Yes, you have to pay for hotel parking, but you don’t have to move your car at the end of the night - this means that, if you’re like us and drive to Disneyland, if you’re staying at the Disneyland Hotel you can park your car once and completely forget about it. Special bonus: if you forget anything in your car at any time, it’s super closeby and convenient - you won’t have to trudge all the way back to Mickey & Friends for a coat.

Fireworks Viewing

You can request a room with a fireworks view, or you can just hope you luck out. Either way, if you wind up with a view of the park from your room, odds are you’re going to be able to see the fireworks - and don’t worry, the Disneyland Hotel has a special TV channel that plays the music along with the show so you don’t miss a thing (except standing in the cold with the bajillions of other people in the park).

Movies

The Disneyland Hotel offers free movie viewing on select nights, which is both adorable and a great way to take a break from the parks without spending money and while still keeping in the Disneyland spirit.

History

The Disneyland Hotel is iconic in that it was the first resort hotel on the property, and you can’t help but notice the bits of Disneyland history scattered throughout. From the model of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland tower to the vintage attraction poster wallpaper in the restrooms to the Mary Blair art scattered through the lobby, you’d be hard pressed to not get swept up in a wave of vintage Disneyland nostalgia.

fantasia gift shop

Merch

Okay technically you can get merchandise pretty much everywhere in the park, but the beauty of the Disneyland Hotel is that you have an official Disneyland merch store in your hotel. Plus, you can get exclusive souvenirs from the Disneyland Hotel itself - down to the duvet cover or the pillows on your bed. You better believe we walked away with Disneyland Hotel bathrobes, and if they sold the light-up headboards we would be sorely tempted.

Characters

If character meet-and-greets are important to you (they aren’t that important to us), one thing that makes the Disneyland Hotel unique is the fact that at any given time, there might be a Disney character wandering the lobby for you to grab a photo and an autograph from. The Hotel also houses Goofy’s Kitchen, a character dining buffet where multiple characters come visit your table as you horf down at least 7 plates of Mickey waffles (just us?).

Bellhops

One of the best features of the Disneyland Hotel (and ok, most hotels) is a freaking bellhop because there is nothing on earth better than having someone else carry your bags to and from your room. Usually we just make Stephen carry everything, but at the Disneyland Hotel, even he gets to take a break!

CONS

Price

This is going to come as no surprise, and it’s probably the biggest con the Disneyland Hotel has against it - the ginormous price tag attached to reserving a room. While not as expensive as the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel is wildly expensive for a hotel, and definitely a treat-yourself expense that’s only worth it once in a while (unless you’re rolling in dough, in which case, good for you, and do you want to send some of it our way to sponsor a trip?). Booking a weekend can be staggering and will definitely eat up a huge chunk of your Disneyland trip budget.

disneyland hotel room

Not as Luxe as you’d think

For the overwhelming price tag associated with the Disneyland Hotel, you’d think the rooms would be palatial, grandiose, and luxurious as heck. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much difference between a room at the Disneyland Hotel and a room at the Motel 6 - except for the light up singing headboard and the hidden Mickey touches and the vicinity to the pool and Trader Sam’s and you get the idea. Really, it’s just an average hotel with average hotel problems and average hotel sized rooms, but hey, you’re really paying for all the other benefits.

Should You Stay at the Disneyland Hotel?

We went a very long time without staying at the Disneyland Hotel. I’m talking years of Disney trips staying at the Motel 6 or the Holiday Inn or whatever was cheapest on Hotwire, because we figured there wasn’t much point in staying at a nice hotel if you’re going to spend all day at the Parks anyway. The first time we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel was a game changer. The entire time we stayed there, we were constantly saying things like “Oh right we don’t have to walk back to the car because our hotel is RIGHT THERE” or “Oh we could just take the MONORAIL HOME NO BIG DEAL.” For us, it is SO worth it to be able to have a nap mid-day or a quick costume change and still feel like we aren’t missing out on the Disney magic.

Should you book a stay at the Disneyland Hotel? It depends on what’s important to you on a Disney vacation. If you’re ok with spending a bunch of money to really feel like you’re treating yourself, then we say: GO FOR IT.

 

 

The Original Lost Weekenders Backstory

Disney History, Behind the Scenes, UsStephenComment

Walt Disney grew up in Chicago with one of his many passions being art and illustration. In his work , he was adventurous, adding synchronized sound, exclusive rights to Technicolor, the invention of the multi-plane camera, and creation of feature length cartoons like Snow White. 

Disneyland Model

After the war, Walt and his family moved and started planning for the construction of a backyard railroad. This along with trips to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and Children's Fairyland got Walt excited to build a theme park that could be enjoyed by the young and old alike. 
Sidebar: Having been to Disneyland so much and other theme parks so little, it wasn't until I heard stories from family members and friends about visiting much smaller local theme parks that had many rides, over 75%, that the parents couldn't fit with their kids. Blows my mind. 

View through a multi-plane camera at the Walt Disney Family Museum

View through a multi-plane camera at the Walt Disney Family Museum


One day in 1953 Walt was meeting with an art director, Dick Irvine, at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Walt called one of Dick's old co-workers, Herb Ryman and asked him to come to the studio. In all that I've read, Walt spoke with such certainty to these two, non-employees, that they were going to design a theme park as Walt's brother Roy had a trip planned less than one week later to pitch businessmen and get funding and Roy needed a set of plans. Neither Dick or Herb had any prior conversation with Walt about the park, its location or any elements about it at all and were caught by complete surprise that he would be asking this of them. 

Main Street Railroad

Like any sane individual, they denied his request to jump off the deep end on such a whim. Not wanting to be humiliated by being coerced to design a failure of an investment or ruin any possibility of future design and illustration work that may present them. But somehow, Walt persuaded them to make it happen. With Walt being a master storyteller, he painted the picture of each street, land and attraction with words that Herb drew to life. Over the next two or so days, Walt and Herb stretched their imagination and engineering knowhow to create a cartoon-like rendition of what would open July 17 1955.

10 Hidden Gems in Fantasyland

Attractions, Disney History, LandsKatComment

Fantasyland is easily one of the most magical places in Disneyland and unfortunately, that means it’s frequently crowded with people all trying to experience that magic. In the rush to get to a ride before a huge line creeps up you could easily miss one of these hidden gems:

rapunzel statue disneyland fantasy faire fantasyland

Rapunzel’s Tower

This might be my favorite hidden gem in the entire park. Rapunzel’s statue, at the center of Fantasy Faire, is a great place to take a break and rest your feet while watching a (bad) performance at the Royal Theatre - but when the sun goes down, the magic really comes out: the statue lights up and plays music.

I cannot for the life of me figure out the timing of this thing, and it doesn’t happen during Swing Dancing nights (which is almost always the one night we have on our Disneyland trip), but my best guess is that it happens every 15 minutes or so. If you’re lucky enough to witness it, it’s truly magical!

snow white's scary adventures evil queen fantasyland disneyland

The Evil Queen

Keep your eyes on the window above the Snow White queue entrance to get an occasional glimpse of the Evil Queen, gazing with disdain at the passers-by.

snow white poison apple

The Poison Apple

Speaking of the Evil Queen, next time you’re entering the Snow White queue, give the bronze Poison Apple at the entrance a touch - you might just get a reaction from the Evil Queen herself.

snow white fountain

Snow White’s Wishing Well

Snow White’s wishing well is located on a less-traveled path on the side of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Toss a coin into the fountain and listen to hear Snow White sing. Perch there for a few minutes, and you might get to enjoy a small water and light show at the grotto across the water. It’s also a hotspot for Character meet-and-greets, if that’s your thing.

yeti footprint

Yeti Footprints

As you walk the perimeter of the Matterhorn, keep an eye out for a cast of a footprint believed to belong to Harold the Yeti himself.

golden spike disneyland

Golden Spike at the Center of Disneyland

Rumor has it that this spike in the ground marks the center of Disneyland - but unfortunately, it’s just a rumor. Really, it was just placed there to make sure Main Street was lined up perfectly to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It’s actually not even a spike at all, just a gold cap in the ground - and there are a few of them throughout the park. But even if there is no huge significance to the “gold spike” of Disneyland, it’s a fun gem to spot.

sleeping beauty castle walkthrough

Castle Walkthrough Special Surprises

As you’re enjoying the Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough, be sure to touch and pull on every door handle and latch you can. There are several bits of Disney magic that are only activated that way.

sword in the stone disneyland

Sword in the Stone

They say that if you are successful in pulling the sword from the stone in front of King Arthur’s Carousel, you’ll be crowned king or queen. The sword DOES come out of the stone on occasion, though it hardly ever actually does - but you never know if it will work for you.

monstro fantasyland

Monstro

The entrance to Storybookland is through Monstro the Whale’s giant and terrifying mouth - but he’s holding a few more secrets. If you watch him long enough, you’ll notice Monstro’s giant eye blinking, and you might even get to see him blow up a jet of mist (which totally terrified me the first time I saw it).

tinkerbell disneyland

Tinkerbell’s Fountain

At the entrance to Pixie Hollow, there is a fountain featuring Tinker Bell and her pixie friends. At night, every so often, you can enjoy a small light and water show at the fountain - imagine the tiniest World of Color.

 

The New Route of The Disneyland Railroad

Attractions, Disney HistoryStephenComment

We love The Disneyland Railroad because it's an original park classic, nothing beats a slow steam powered nap around the park and the smell is just as iconic Disneyland as Pirates. 

The Disneyland Railroad has a deep history, held a very special place in Walt's heart, and like most of the rest of the park, it continues to evolve.But there's some awesome new changes that bring fun new charm to the ride, great props and elements they brought back, and at this time, a view of the construction and hope for the future of Star Wars Land. 

We're gonna take a peek into a super brief history and how it's evolved, and show you some of our favorite and not so favorite updates. (Sorry new narrator, just not the same). 

The exciting new left turn!

The exciting new left turn!

A Brief History

The Disneyland Railroad was born from Disney's deep rooted passion for trains. Walt was fond of trains from a young age, in fact, one of his childhood jobs was selling newspapers and snacks on trains in Missouri. He loved this so much despite rarely making a profit.

When Disneyland was conceived and built, the railroad was so special to Walt that it was owned by a separate company, Retlaw. That's Walter spelled backward. Walt seemed to be killer at using word jumbles as company names. This separation allowed him to handpick cast members, pay special attention to attraction operation and even design their paychecks in a unique way.

Operahouse_Railroad_Display

Early changes to the Railroad

In 1955, when the park opened, the Disneyland Railroad offered two unique grand circle tours of the Magic Kingdom. From Main Street Station you boarded the Passenger Train and from the Frontierland Station, the Western Freight train.  This is the same New Orleans station you see today, but this area wasn't called New Orleans Square until 1966.

Each train steamed around Disneyland with no stops in between and had unique train cars that followed the Passenger and Freight Train theme. it's a Small World and the entire area surrounding it, the Fantasyland Theater and Toontown didn't exist yet. so the Disneyland Railroad tracked a much tighter route, behind Casey Jr., Midget Autopia, and the Motorboat Cruise.

In 1956, the Fantasyland Depot opened, approximately where the path now leads you to Small World and leading up to the opening of Small World in 1966, the track was rerouted to where you see it today.

The New, New Route

Galaxy's Edge, commonly known as Star Wars Land is a massive construction project that took a little bite out of The Rivers of America and required the railroad to slide a little south. This is the most major change to the route since Small World was added and they did a great job. You'd never know the train ride got shorter and the added elements are delightful.

The two most apparent changes are the bridge that takes you over a waterfall, visible from the Rivers of America, and the brand new left turn which realigns the tracks with the path to Toontown Depot.  

 

Bridge and Waterfall along the Northwest side of the Rivers of America

Bridge and Waterfall along the Northwest side of the Rivers of America

Under the tracks, as seen from the Mark Twain. Beavers gnawing away!

Under the tracks, as seen from the Mark Twain. Beavers gnawing away!

Keep your eye out for the relocated Indiana dog house. 

Indiana_the_dog

 

One change we're not so keen on, the new narrator. Just not the same charm. 

 

And there you go! Have you tried out that new left turn yet? 

The Ghosts of Disneyland

Disney HistoryKatComment

Halloween is right around the corner, and this is the season for exploring haunted houses, listening for whispers in the dark, and telling ghost stories. Even the Happiest Place on Earth has its fair share of ghostly legends, and we’re not just talking about the Haunted Mansion.

firehouse

The Main Street Firehouse

Above the Firehouse in Town Square, to the right of City Hall, Walt Disney built a personal apartment to oversee the building of Disneyland, and for personal use when he was in town. To let guests and Cast Members know that he was in the Park, Walt would light a lamp in the Firehouse window.

There are several legends surrounding this lamp after Walt’s death. Most involve a Cast Member turning the lamp off, only to return and find it inexplicably lit again. Sometimes They say the lamp will have been turned off multiple times, only to relight every time the Cast Member’s back is turned. Eventually, Cast Members got the picture: the light is now left burning, a symbol of Walt’s eternal presence in Disneyland.

rivers of america night

The Rivers of America

In the 1970s, two brothers hid on Tom Sawyer Island past park closing. To get off the island, and to avoid Cast Members that may still be walking the park, they decided to swim across the Rivers of America. The older brother swam across, towing his younger brother behind. For unknown reasons, he could not make it the entire way across, and drowned in the river. The younger brother managed to survive, and was found by cast members - it took until the next morning to find the body of the older brother.

To this day, Cast Members have mentioned feeling an eerie presence, seeing unexplained ripples in the water, and even an apparition around the Rivers of America - perhaps the ghost of the drowned older brother.

city hall halloweentime

The Lady in White

Stories have been told of several shops on Main Street, USA being haunted. Cast Members and guests have reported seeing a woman dressed in a white 19th century dress walking the street after dark. Could she be a woman who died on the property before Disneyland was built?

matterhorn

The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn has a bloody history  - at least two deaths have been reported on the ride, not to mention several injuries. 

One Disney legend tells of a woman named Dolly who died on the Matterhorn, thrown from her bobsled because her seatbelt was unbuckled. 

They say this woman haunts the tracks of the Matterhorn, sometimes manifesting as a ghostly figure. Cast Members have reported feeling eyes on them, cold spots, and hearing whispers while walking the tracks at night.

haunted mansion

The Weeping Boy

The Haunted Mansion has 999 happy haunts, and possibly 1 unhappy one: according to some, a Disneyland guest once wanted to spread her son’s ashes in the Haunted Mansion ride, but was not given permission by the park. Undeterred, she spread the ashes in the ride anyway.

Since that night, the ghost of a small boy is often seen at the exit of the Haunted Mansion - crying.

tomorrowland submarines

The Monorail Man

During grad night in the 1960s, a young man tried to sneak into the park via the Monorail. A Cast Member spotted him, and the young man took off running down the tracks. Unfortunately, he was struck and killed by an oncoming Monorail train.

Rumors have circulated that the young man can be seen at night, running along the monorail tracks, only to vanish without a trace.

space mountain

Mr. One Way

One ghost in Disneyland has earned a nickname. “Mr. One Way” is frequently seen on Space Mountain, described by many as a large man with red hair and a red face. According to rumor, it is the ghost of a man who died on the ride in the 1970s. He is usually reported taking a seat next to single riders, only to disappear by the end of the ride. 

You don't have to ride the Haunted Mansion for ghoulish experiences - it turns out, there may be happy (or not-so-happy) haunts all over the park.