Disneyland Hotel Remodel – Two Mickey Thumbs Up

Our family stayed one night at the newly remodeled Disneyland Hotel in late September.

Compared to our previous stay in 2009, we marveled at the magnificent changes. The lobby’s decor has been updated. The rooms have been completely redone. And the resort now features 3 swimming pools – one that is Monorail themed with two water slides!

We stayed in a guest room in the Frontier Tower with two queen beds, a flat screen TV, and complimentary WiFi (so important for people who want to tweet, facebook, pin, and/or blog their experience!).

The decor is classic Disney – sophisticated without being stuffy. A black and white photograph of Walt Disney hung on the wall in our room and Mickey Mouse accents were subtly integrated into the lamps and handles.

The headboard behind the beds was our favorite part. With the push of a button, the castle lights up and a tranquil lullaby begins to play: “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” Excellent for bedtime.

Each room comes equipped with a refrigerator and a pack & play in the closet. Plus, you can call to schedule a wake-up call from Mickey Mouse.

I’d love it if the hotel would offer complimentary vouchers for each guest to receive a giant Mickey Mouse cinnamon roll and cup of coffee (or juice for kids) each morning. That would add great value to the price.

The resort is walkable to Disneyland and California Adventure, but note that it’s more than just a few steps away. You walk a considerable distance through Downtown Disney to the park entrance. If you’re looking for easier access, choose the Grand Californian or a hotel across the street (many of which are actually closer than the Disney branded hotels).

If you have a bigger family and/or are planning an extended stay, renting an Anaheim home or condo may be your best bet. That way, you’ll have access to a full kitchen plus separate bedrooms to more easily put little ones down to bed.

That said, if you’re staying 1-2 nights and want to go “all disney,” the newly renovated Disneyland Hotel is a good pick. Staying on-property also gives you the advantage of an “Extra Magic Hour” – early admission to the park so you can beat the crowds to catch your favorite attractions.

Have you ever stayed in a Disney resort? What was your experience like?

* Thanks to Disneyland for providing us with a 1-night complimentary stay.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Sheaffer is an entrepreneur, writer, runner, and the mother of three little girls. In 2011, she traveled 20,000 miles around the USA with her family in a 300sqft RV. At the end of the trip, her 5-year-old said Disney World was her favorite stop! She now resides in Arizona and blogs at Metropolitan Mama. Follow her on Twitter @stephsday.

Videos and Photos of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Take a peek! We received a preview tour of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – including touring Suite Sized room in the Nemo section of the hotel – when we attended a dinner event at Disney’s newest Resort Hotel during the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

I’ve got lots of photos to share and a video tour too – so enjoy the virtual trip below.

To sum it up on the high level: The Art of Animation Hotel is pretty much the dream hotel for a 3-6 year old. Bright colors are everywhere along with decor themed to immerse guests into the storyline of Classy Disney and Disney Pixar films.

And the pool is stellar for kids – it is Disney’s largest resort Pool and is basically Nemo’s Playground. Kids love water, and I suspect this pool will be a giant lure for many kids who will be begging to leave the theme parks for more time at the hotel pool. For kids, this hotel really is the stuff that dreams are made of……

As soon as you step up to the hotel you are greeted by Animation Sketches galore – both on the outside of the hotel and everywhere within the main lobby. Think Bright lights, vibrant colors, and all the characters your children adore from Floor to Ceiling.

And even the light fixtures bring animations to life.  Disney is always all about the details.

What’s different about the Art of Animation Hotel:

Basically, this new Value Resort has a TON of suites at an affordable price so it’s a great option for large families to stay on Disney property. The hotel will open in several phases over the next few months – starting May 31st with the Nemo wing.  Suites also provide a great way to save on meals as they include microwaves and mini kitchenettes – ideal for a quick breakfast in the room and to pack lunch to bring with you to the park. For a large family or anyone who wants to be more frugal, this can be a major way to save money on your Disney vacation.

Pricing at Disney’s Art of Animation Hotel:

Rates will start at $248 for the 1,120 family suites which include two bathrooms, a kitchenette and three separate sleeping areas that can sleep up to six. The 864 standard rooms sleep up to four with rates as low as $94

Three family suite wings will showcase Finding Nemo opening May 31, Cars opening June 18 and The Lion King opening Aug. 10, with elaborate storytelling both inside and out. Standard guest rooms make up The Little Mermaid wing, the final phase to open on Sept. 15.

Photos and Video of Disney’s Art of Animation Nemo Suites

Here’s a video tour and some photos from the Nemo suite we toured. The kids were very impressed with the Nemo decor and theme that carries through the entire room as you’ll see.

Here’s some more photos of the room we toured. Kenzie and Kyle ADORED it as the NEMO theme is never ending within the suite.

The murphy bed down from the wall….. and here it is converted into a dining table below too!

The sitting area – don’t you love the wall hanging ? A school of fish!

The Master Bedroom is even complete with a coral type comforter that Nemo would approve of…..

Photos of the Pool area at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Kids can frolic in Nemo’s colorful reef with a giant-sized Mr. Ray overlooking their play time – his whose wings span 27 feet. A giant Crush also flanks the other side of the children’s play area.

During our special dinner, we even had a giant costume of a Coral Reef hanging around posing for photos with the kids. Entertaining and very cool!

More Lobby Photos – here is where you check in upon arrival – there were TONS of stations for Disney’s Cast members to check in guests.  This is a value resort and nobody does service like Disney – as clearly evidenced here.

Photos of the Quick Service Dining Area at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort:

When we go to Disney, our family opts for quick service dining the majority of the time – whether we are in the park or at our hotel for a quick breakfast or dinner by the pool or indoors before heading back to the parks for fireworks.

Dining options include a poolside snack bar and pizza delivery – Yeah!  The Landscape of Flavors food court will feature items such as fresh smoothies, hand-scooped gelato and Mongolian barbecue.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And of course the theme of animation is throughout the dining areas too. Light fixtures and all!

More fabulous images in the dining area.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opens on May 31st, 2012 – with suites from the Nemo Wing and remaining wings Cars, Lion King, and Little Mermaid will roll open in the coming months.

Doesn’t it look whimsical and enchanting? Definitely! The vibe was very energetic and stimulating. Full of Disney vigor and life. I’ve never stayed at a Value resort before, but it was interesting to see such an elaborately themed hotel at a price geared to please a families  budget and wallet. The major contrast I will give to this hotel versus the Deluxe Disney Resort Hotels I’m more familiar with and that we typically book – Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Beach Club and Yacht Club – is that they seem far more relaxing and like a traditional hotel compared to the vibrant stimulation the Art of Animation offers.

This hotel is a child’s dream for certain, however, for parents who prefer the Four Seasons or Marriott style deluxe resorts, they should consider that a quiet ordinary Deluxe Resort may feel more relaxing and less stimulating after a day at the Theme Parks for Mom and Dad.

Hands down kids will choose Art of Animation Resort every time – especially after they experience the pool! My 6 year old Kenzie is already begging me to PLEASE book this hotel for our next visit to Disney.

Disclosure: We received discounts and special media access to Walt Disney World Attractions & Resorts with our conference pass to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own – or the kids! 

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Photos

Families and kids will be begging to visit this new resort hotel inspired by favorite Disney animation films. Slated to open on May 31st, 2012, this will be Disney World’s 25th resort hotel.  Which themed room will your kids pine after? Lots of choices!

I think my kids will want to spend each evening sleeping in a different room!

The Cars inspired room is shown above and Finding Nemo themed room is shown below.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will feature 1,120 family suites themed after “The Lion King,” “Cars” and “Finding Nemo,” and 864 themed rooms in “The Little Mermaid” wings. Crowned by a 35-foot-tall model of King Triton, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will be located next to Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

I think this Little Mermaid themed room will be a huge hit for the littlest girls visiting Disney World – my Kenzie fell in love with Ariel when she was just over 2 years old and it’s still one of her most favorite princesses.

Aulani Disney Resort and Spa – New York Times Review

The New York Times has just reviewed Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa. Some highlights include:

  • “Refreshingly free of kitsch.”
  • “Disney is definitely here — witness the pool parties in which employees lead activities while Disney characters in aloha shirts dance — but it’s a more laid-back presence than you would expect from a Disney-themed resort.”
  • “A children’s paradise, from the series of linked pools (with water slides and inner tubes) to Aunty’s Beach House, an activities clubhouse for children 3 to 10.”
  • “A new family-friendly alternative to the crowded Waikiki scene.”

Read the full New York Times review.

Four Seasons Breaks Ground on new construction at Walt Disney World Resort

Luxury lovers will be thrilled to hear that the Four Seasons is coming soon to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The 444 Room resort is anticipated to open in 2014.  I am excited to someday experience the combination of these two incredible brands – where the magic meets luxury!

The Four Seasons at WDW Resort will also include a rooftop restaurant with views of Magic Kingdom Park; a 14,000 square foot spa; fitness center; three pools and a “lazy river”; sports and recreational facilities; as well as meeting and event space, and a business center.

Here’s Mickey helping with the ground-breaking earlier this week.

And here’s a rendering of the new Four Seasons Resort.


Dreaming of Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii

What could be more magical than combining the beauty of Hawaii with the magic of Disney?  It’s a sopping wet kind of pouring rain May day in Philadelphia and thoughts of someday visiting Disney’s new Aulani resort in Hawaii are making me smile this afternoon.

Mike and I took a 2 week Hawaiian honeymoon and we dream of bringing our children there someday to experience it. We visiting Oahu, Kauai and Maui.

The kids love looking at the photo albums from our honeymoon and Aulani in Oahu looks like the perfect family vacation spot. The weather in Hawaii is always perfect which is a huge bonus. Plus, it  looks like at Aulani you’ll get the relaxing beach days, snorkeling, and waterslides, while not sacrificing the chance to see Disney characters or experience Disney’s first in class ability to craft the perfect family vacation with their entertainment and top notch staff.

We are adding Aulani to our bucket list full of vacation destinations!

Aulani will welcome it’s  first guests on Aug. 29, 2011. Here’s the official Disney scoop on Aulani from Disney’s press release:

Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa:

Built on 21 acres adjacent to a crystal blue lagoon and a white-sand beach in Ko Olina, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, will feature 359 hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom equivalent Disney Vacation Club villas upon its completion. Rooms are housed in two 15-story towers with commanding views of the ocean, mountains and magnificent grounds. On-site are two restaurants, an 18,000-square-foot spa, a wedding lawn, a conference center and extensive water activities, including a central swimming pool, 900-foot tube floating watercourse, wading pool, body slides, sunset-facing hot tubs, a quiet adult pool, a snorkel lagoon, and a conservation pool. Aulani will also include a signature kids’ club – Aunty’s Beach House – where kids can explore Hawaiian culture through fun and games, arts and crafts, and many other experiences created just for them.

The resort will also offer excursions that invite families to discover the island of Oahu. Guests can enjoy one-of-a-kind adventures that blend the wonders and excitement of Hawaii with the Disney tradition of storytelling, choosing from a variety of experiences that include surfing, rainforest hiking and learning how to prepare Hawaiian cuisine.

Free Disney Character Dining

What a deal! The Swan and Dolphin hotel in Disney’s Boardwalk area offers this awesome service which was a total surprise to us when we ended up staying here 3 extra nights after our crazy flight issues the other day.

Kids eat free and there is free character dining at dinner daily and every Saturday and Sunday for breakfast. We loved it last night and the food was excellent.



Polynesian Hotel Video Tour

We’ve arrived! The kids are pumped to be at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. From the moment we pulled up curbside (greeted with leis) to the entrance of our room, the kids have been bouncing off the walls – in a good way. We can see the Seven Seas Lagoon from our room sliding doors and the Disney Castle is even viewable in the distance.
The room is really fun – I’d describe it as all “tiki-ed out”. We found 3 of the 7 hidden Mickeys in the room. Here’s a quick room tour:

Now we’re off to Hollywood Studios for a VIP Tour. The kids have never been to Hollywood Studios before either as we never made it there last year during our family vacation so it should be very exciting!
We’ll also be posting lots of videos on our new Disney page on Classy Mommy.
Disclosure: This trip is sponsored by Hanes.
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