IMG_2142The second hotel in Disney’s group of three official resort hotels is the second oldest, and wasn’t even originally built by the Walt Disney Company.  Originating as the Emerald and then Pan Pacific Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel has undergone many expansions and changes since it originally opened in 1984.

Standing 15 stories tall, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel towers over the nearby Paradise Pier area of California Adventure.  Rooms facing the park have
stunning views of attractions like Mickey’s Fun Wheel, California Screamin’, Silly Symphony Swings, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and more.  Sunrises are uniformly spectacular.  The only better sunrises than those over a Disney park are those that take place in some of our National Parks–the Grand Canyon, Arches, etc.  But if you can’t get there, the sun over Paradise Bay on an early morning is a pretty grand view.

IMG_8015Because it’s the “low end” hotel in Disney’s resort hotels, you may think that Disney skimps on excellence, but everything about the Paradise Pier gives a great experience.  When you first pull up to check in, you notice the glass elevator providing access to all 15 floors, including floor 13 (a rarity in most US hotels), the incredibly friendly and helpful bell service team, and the lobby with a life-size Goofy, ready to surf.  The entire hotel is beach themed, with many small touches here and there to complete the laid-back atmosphere, including a surf-inspired soundtrack featuring versions of old songs like “Under the Boardwalk.”

The rooms are actually pretty large and comfortable, with amenities the same across the board.  A small refrigerator, HD television and DVD player (not blu-ray, sorry), and ample drawer space make up the large armoire, while a convertible couch/bed adds an extra space for a family member to sleep.  Fun beach ball pillows are a hit with the kids, and even the lamps reflect the fun beach theme.  Mickey as a lifeguard, a surfboard carved with the famous mouse ears, sand colored carpeting and photos from a classic Donald Duck cartoon complete the atmosphere.  Hallways are large and bright with window sections giving great views of both California Adventure and the pool area.

The City ViewIf you don’t get the pool view, but end up with a “city view,” it’s still not a bad sight.  You can see the swimming pool area, along with its water slide, as well as nearby Disneyland Hotel, and one of many cast member parking lots.  Sunrises aren’t quite as spectacular, but on a clear day you can see (nearly) forever.  The windows here even open up a bit, so you can get the ambient noises nearby.  On the city side, it’s pool laughter and splashes, while on the park side, it tends to be more screams from Goofy’s Sky School and California Screamin’.

Paradise Pier Hotel PoolThe pool at Paradise Pier is on the third floor of the hotel, and parts of it are fantastic.  As the deepest pool at the Resort (going to six foot depth), it’s fun for the older kids to jump into, and it has a nice kiddie pool wading area.  Lifeguards are uniformly excelent, always attentive and always on hand to keep kids from running and hurting themselves.IMG_7991 Unlike the pools at the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian, there are no cabanas, and there is a lot of unused space.  The spa is small and frequently crowded, and because there is only one large pool, it can feel more “full” than the pools at the Disneyland Hotel.  However, the California Streamin’ water slide is a great hit with the kids, with more loops and a little more speed than the slides at the other hotels.  The laid back atmosphere continues here, with food and drink offerings a bit more spare, although still to the quality one would expect.  Some rooms on the third floor actually open to the pool area, making it easy to sit out and enjoy the sun on a private patio and have easy access.  All in all, it’s a great place to take some rest from a busy day at either of the Parks.

There is only one real restaurant at Paradise Pier Hotel, and it’s also got an exclusive that no other restaurant–even at Disneyland–has.  The PCH Grill (named for the Pacific Coast Highway along California’s beaches) has a character
IMG_3321breakfast and is the only one to feature Mickey Mouse himself.  Other friends include Minnie and Daisy, but other than Mickey, the real draw is Stitch from Lilo & Stitch.  This is also one of the only places to meet the lovable alien.  Featuring some fun surf activities and games with Mickey and the rest of the characters, the PCH Grill’s “Breakfast with Mickey” is “all you care to enjoy” buffet style, and the choices are similar to other buffets around the resort.  Made to order omelettes, kid-friendly items, and lots of fresh fruit make it easy for everyone to choose something they like, and beverages are included in the cost.  Dinner is character free, but a new buffet menu, inspired by California beach cuisine is full of tasty choices for all ages and is, again “all you care to enjoy.”  There is also a small, family friendly lounge where food is also available all day, varying from sandwiches to burgers and more.  It’s a wide open space, right across from the “Mickey in Paradise” store which features Disneyland souvenirs, toiletries, candy, etc.

For convenience, Paradise Pier hotel actually feels closer to Disneyland than the Disneyland Hotel, due to a quick walk across the street and through the Grand Californian into the Downtown Disney area.  Until 2004, Paradise Pier Hotel guests had their own entrance into Paradise Pier, which was awesome.  Sadly, it was closed to make room for an expansion to the Hotel Entrance to DCAGrand Californian, but guests still get exclusive access to the entrance to California Adventure through the Grand Californian hotel, making Extra Magic Hours (an early hour of admission to either Disneyland or California Adventure available to hotel guests) even easier to get into.  It also makes it easier to use that Extra Magic Hour to miss the lines for Radiator Springs Racers.  Again, guests get use of all the hotel pools, so if your family wants to check out the others after swimming at Paradise Pier, quick access via connecting walkways make it easy to do.

One last thing to consider is the Beach Comber Club, the Paradise Pier Hotel’s concierge lounge.  At an additional cost, guests get breakfast, unlimited water, juice, and soda all day, early evening appetizers and beverages (including Uncrustables and chips for the kids), and a later evening dessert bar.  The staff is phenomenal.  They have taken care of our family in a IMG_1949wide variety of ways, and are always friendly and go above and beyond to ensure our expectations are exceeded.  The chips and salsa during the appetizers are superb.  The breakfast is typical continental style, with fruit, danishes, oatmeal, bagels, etc.  Guests can also check out movies from their extensive library for use with the DVD players in the rooms.  Is it worth the cost?  Considering the food and water alone, plus snacks you can grab and take into the park with you, most likely, yes.  We also enjoy the Mickey Mouse shaped rice krispy treats delivered on the first night as well as turn down service and Disney chocolates every night.  The cast members, who have helped us on many trips and actually remembered us by name after visits, make it worth it as well.

Finally, it only gets better at night, especially for park view guests.  Watching the lights come on throughout California Adventure is quite spectacular, and the vista from Cars Land’s Cadillac Range is amazing.  The lights stay on all night, and I honestly love sleeping with the curtains open and seeing that view in the middle of the night.  Even better, you get a unique and bird’s At Nighteye view of World of Color, made even better through the music piped in through your room’s television.  It’s a phenomenal experience you really can’t get at any other hotel in the area, and nearly makes it worth the cost of the stay alone.

THE DISNEYLAND DAD SAYS: A warm and inviting hotel, with great views from nearly every room, Paradise Pier is an excellent choice for families wanting a Disney hotel experience without spending too much.  A great pool area, large and well-appointed rooms, a friendly and helpful staff, and an exclusive Mickey Mouse character breakfast only add to the overall mood and experience.  We love this hotel and it’s our “go to” for our Disney vacations.  Check out the concierge for an enhanced experience, and try to get a “park view” for spectacular views day and night.