The view from our Bonita Tower balcony, May 1991

The view from our Bonita Tower balcony, May 1991

When Downtown Disney at Disneyland opened in 2001, my excitement was for a new park, a new hotel, and a new shopping district was tempered by my disappointment in the changes made to the Disneyland Hotel.  The renovations began in 1998 and by 2001 gone were the only remaining buildings from 1955, the Monorail Cafe, the shopping area, and the beautiful Marina.  Little did I know that just nine years later, I would step onto the grounds of a Disneyland Hotel where a crane sat in a pit that once housed my beloved Horseshoe Falls and koi ponds… but that’s a different post for a different day.

The Disneyland Hotel of my childhood was billed as a playground outside of the theme park… a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Disneyland proper.  One 1991 hotel brochure billed the hotel as,

“Staying at the Disneyland Hotel is just like staying at Disneyland. It’s a playground with a marina, tennis, games, boats, dancing, lots of free entertainment, 11 restaurants and lounges, shops all around and even a tropical beach. And the Disneyland Hotel is the only hotel on the Monorail, so guests may enter Disneyland Park via the Monorail Station with the purchase of a daily Disneyland Passport.”

It was the kind of resort hotel that you would be sure to carve time out of your vacation to explore.  The centerpiece of this retreat?  The Marina.  The Marina spread throughout the large courtyard area of the hotel, primarily, in what is now the Neverland Pool.  This glistening body of water was replete with paddle boats and a large, underwater arcade.  I have very fond memories of both.

The first time my family stayed at the Disneyland Hotel was in 1991, as we stayed at the Jolly Roger Hotel across the street from the hotel for our first Disneyland visit the year before.  The second we stepped out of the shuttle and onto Disneyland Hotel property, we were hooked.  Our room in the Bonita Tower had a Marina View, so we could see and hear the fun below us right from our balcony.  I had read in our guidebook that the Disneyland Hotel arcade was not to be missed, and I remember my mom taking me into the underground arcade and spending more time than she probably would have liked playing The Simpsons pinball with me. :-)

The paddle boats were a whole other adventure… my mom and I loved paddle boats.  We rode them at a local amusement parks and I remember them being lots of fun.  For some reason, however, Disney seemed to have purchased the industrial quality boats for their Marina playground because these weren’t ordinary, light-weight paddle boats.  My nine-year-old legs didn’t seem to be helping my mom navigate the Marina waters in these, increasingly heavy, little boats, and by the time we reached the center of the Marina, I’m pretty sure my poor mother thought we would be out their for the rest of our vacation… she was worn out!  :-)  We never knew exactly why these were the hardest boats we had ever peddled but we did laugh a lot and we had a lot of fun… and, eventually, we made it back to the dock.  The only problem is that we were paying for the amount of time we spent out on the Marina, so my mom got a very expensive workout that day!

These are the kind of memories that flashy, new water features and a “Wedding Lawn” will never be able to duplicate.  I’m sad to see so many of these truly unique and special pieces of the Disneyland Hotel being demolished and hauled away.  What are your favorite memories of by-gone Disneyland Hotel experiences?

© 2010, Rays of Disneyland. All rights reserved.

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