Disneyland Hotel – Past, Present and Future

Last September I went to a conference that was held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. Being able to stay at the Disneyland Hotel had been a dream of mine for quite some time. And I was even more excited to find out that they offered a free history tour of the hotel while I was there. As a huge Disney fan, learning the history of this hotel was something I was very excited about.

Disneyland Hotel – the Past

As part of Walt Disney’s plans for Disneyland was to have a hotel next door to attract not only guest from out of town but to also attract guests from around the country who would be coming to California for several days. While this was a great idea, with all of Walt’s financial resources going into building the theme park itself, he knew he had to find someone else to finance and build the hotel.

In 1954, Walt Disney met Jack Wrather who was a producer in Hollywood and owned television and radio stations across the US. Since Wrather had the financial means and the interest in real estate, Walt asked him to build a hotel complete with a restaurant and swimming pool next to Disneyland.

Jack and Bonita Wrather, founders of the Disneyland Hotel

They broke ground in March of 1955 and in October of that same year, just a few months after Disneyland opened, the hotel officially opened with just 7 hotel rooms completed. Shortly after opening, the number of rooms completed rose to just over 100 rooms in five 2-story buildings. With the success of Disneyland, this proved to not be enough rooms, so over the following five years, they added six additional buildings, which brought the total amount of guest rooms to over 300 by 1960, making it the largest hotel in Orange County.

Disneyland Hotel in the 50s and 60s

During the 60s and 70s, the hotel went thru quite the expansion, the three towers that make up the hotel today were built during these two decades and increased the amount of hotel rooms to over 1,400. In 1961, they added a monorail station to the hotel, so that hotel guests could go straight to Disneyland on the monorail. In 1970, the marina opened at the Disneyland Hotel. At the marina, they featured the Dancing Waters show which featured water fountains set to music similar to the fountain show currently at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. In 1979, Water Wonderland opened with an updated Dancing Waters Show, the first laser sculpture show in the US, a waterfall and a rain forest.

Disneyland Hotel in the 70s and 80s

During the 80s, the Walt Disney Company made several attempts to purchase the Disneyland Hotel from the Wrather Corporation and finally in 1988, some 33 years after the hotel opened, the Disneyland Hotel was finally owned by the Walt Disney Company.

In 1999, a major renovation of the Disneyland Hotel took place. This renovation included demolishing major portions of the hotel to make room for the second theme park, Disney’s California Adventure and the shopping and dining complex, Downtown Disney. All that remained were the three towers, lowering the number of hotel rooms from over 1400 to 990 rooms. This did not take away from the amount of hotel rooms on Disney property though as two additional hotels were built, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, eventually increasing the total number of hotel rooms on property to over 2,500 rooms.

Learning the history of the hotel was definitely my favorite part of the tour, it especially added to the nostalgia I had all week looking at the memorabilia and older photos that were located in the convention center of the hotel.

Disneyland Hotel – The Present

While there may be less rooms than in previous decades, the hotel is still a top spot for guests to stay while visiting Disneyland. As mentioned above, the three towers still remain. Today they are called the Fantasy, Frontier and Adventure Towers after three of the lands in Disneyland. The Fantasy Tower is where the lobby and gift shop are located. This tower is also connected to the convention center and the dining options at the hotel.

The Frontier Tower is located on the other side of the pool from the Fantasy Tower. Fitting with the frontier theme, this tower even has a water fall and it’s own Old Faithful geyser outside the tower. Unlike Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, this geyser does not erupt at a regular schedule like the real geyser. You just never know when this manmade geyser may erupt.

The Adventure Tower is closest to Downtown Disney and has an Adventureland theme that will make you think about the Jungle Cruise ride. This was the tower that I stayed in and I loved the adventurous looking lobby in the tower.

Adventure Tower

The adventure tower is also where the suites and club level rooms are located. The Disneyland Hotel has 5 signature themed suites: Adventureland Suite, Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, Big Thunder Mountain Suite, Fairytale Suite and the Mickey Mouse Penthouse. These themed suites come with one or two bedrooms and can sleep from 2 to 6 adults depending on the suite. Normally during the tour, they try to show you one of the suites, but the day I took the tour all five of the suites were occupied so we sadly did not get to see one of the suites.

We did get to see the E-ticket club which is available to everyone staying in club level rooms. Like many club or concierge levels in other hotels, the E-ticket club features a concierge, breakfast in the morning, hors d’oeuvres in the evening and snacks throughout the day. The E-ticket club is located on the 11th floor and offers beautiful views of both Disneyland and California Adventure.

While we may not all have the opportunity to stay in the signature suites or on club level with access to the E-ticket club, the standard hotel rooms are also very special.

There are so many special touches in the hotel rooms. From the fireworks on the carpet to the light up headboards that display fireworks and plays music!

I really loved the pillows they had on the bed, it seemed so fitting…

There were black and white photos of Disneyland on the wall and so many Mickey’s in everything from the bathroom faucets to the lamps.

Even though my room was on the second floor, I still ended up with this wonderful view of the pool area. I definitely enjoyed waking up to this view every morning!

Speaking of the pool area, there are two pools at the Disneyland Hotel. The 4,800 square foot E-Ticket pool features signs displaying theme park tickets of past years. The D-Ticket pool is a great pool if you are looking to swim laps. Being a family hotel, there is also a water play area for the smaller children.

There are also two waterslides available that feature replica monorail trains. They include a 25-foot high, 180-foot-long slide and a 13-foot high, 80-foot-long slide. And the youngest kids are not forgotten, there is also a mini slide for the smaller children.

The Disneyland Hotel offers multiple dining establishments to enjoy:

  • The Coffee House – featuring coffee, pastries and snacks, this is a great spot for a quick breakfast or a small lunch.
  • Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill – Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner this quick service spot features American and Polynesian food and has both indoor and outdoor seating. They even have a to-go counter for drinks and the fan favorite Dole Whip!
  • Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – This popular tiki bar is inspired by the Jungle Cruise ride in Disneyland and offers tropical beverages. Due to it’s popularity, advance reservations are definitely recommended.
  • Goofy’s Kitchen – Open for Breakfast and Dinner, this restaurant offers a buffet meal with your favorite Disney characters. A character meal is definitely a must for kids and adults alike.

Probably the best part about the Disneyland Hotel is its convenient location. Walk right out of the hotel grounds and you will be at the entrance to Downtown Disney and walk right thru Downtown Disney and you will be at the entrances to Disneyland and California Adventure.

Disneyland Hotel – The Future

Remember how the Disneyland Hotel used to have over 1,400 hotel rooms, well they are expanding to get closer to that number of rooms again. They are currently constructing a new tower that is scheduled to open later in 2023.

This new tower will be part of the Disney Vacation Club and will feature 350 rooms, which will consist of mostly studios along with some one- and two-bedroom villas. There will also be a new pool and splash pad area included. The name of this 12 story tower will be the Villas at Disneyland Hotel. It’s good to see that this historic Disney hotel is still growing after almost 70 years in operation!

It’s definitely a very special place, like Disneyland Park, the Disneyland Hotel was Walt’s vision and he walked thru these grounds. If you are visiting Disneyland, even if you are not staying at the hotel, I encourage you to take a walk over and walk the grounds, have a meal or drink and search for the many hidden Mickey’s throughout the hotel.

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8 thoughts on “Disneyland Hotel – Past, Present and Future

  1. It was interesting to read about the past present and future of the Disneyland Hotel including the fact that it was opened with just 7 hotel rooms completed. Thank you for in depth story and valuable information!

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  2. I would love to stay at a Disney hotel one day (whether at Disneyland or WDW). It’s so expensive though! Last time I want to Disneyland with my husband we stayed at a crappy hotel in Fullerton that smelled like smoke and had the hardest bed we ever slept on.

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  3. Wow! I loved learning about the history of the Disney hotels. It’s been a while since I visited Disneyland, but your post has my mind churning now. Perhaps I’ll try to make another visit soon!

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  4. This was an interesting read. Would have loved to stay when the hotel was just 7 rooms. Always get lost in big hotels but would love to actually stay at Disney rather than the cheap (well not so cheap) and nasty motels nearby.

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