In 1955, a visionary man built something in Anaheim, California, that would forever alter the landscape of the theme park industry. His name was…no, you’re about to make the wrong guess. The man referenced here is not Walt Disney but instead Jack Wrather.
A film producer by trade, Wrather’s greatest accomplishment in the 1940s wasn’t actually a movie. It was what happened on a movie set. He met his future wife, actress Bonita Granville, while casting his first production, The Guilty. The Academy Award nominee most famous for portraying Nancy Drew in the 1930s co-starred in Wrather’s first film, and the two were married the following year.
By Wrather’s 30th birthday, he was an oil millionaire through the company he inherited after his father took ill, a decorated World War II military veteran, and an established movie maven married to a bona fide celebrity actress.
What would Wrather do for an encore? He decided to conquer the ascending television medium as well. His first two programs were called Lassie and The Lone Ranger. Maybe you’ve heard of them.
As the tycoon established his credibility in a third industry, Walt Disney became aware of him. The two gentlemen sat down to discuss a growing problem in Hollywood. There were not enough hotel rooms to service the boomtown, and Uncle Walt knew a secret. He was about to build a new tourist attraction that would require exponentially more lodging in the surrounding area. All of Mr. Disney’s money was tied up in theme park expenditures.
As Wrather would later recount, Hilton and Sheraton officials had already passed on the opportunity to build hotels there. All they could see were orange groves rather than the future site of the Happiest Place on Earth. Where two of the most famous hoteliers ever saw nothing, Wrather saw opportunity. In his own words, he decided to “shoot the Moon” on his Anaheim orange grove gamble. He paid for a 450-room hotel that became the blueprint for luxury theme park tourism.
There are now approximately a thousand rooms at the hotel Walt Disney couldn’t afford to build in 1955. You know it as Disneyland Hotel, which the company finally acquired in 1988, more than 30 years after Wrather intuited the advantage of having a hotel right beside a major tourist destination. Disney himself attempted to buy it back once he was financially solvent again, but Wrather knew he had a cash cow. It wasn’t until after his death and Bonita Granville’s later passing that Michael Eisner managed to purchase the entire company, straight down to the rights to The Lone Ranger and Lassie.
By 1971, Walt Disney was gone, but his brother Roy wasn’t about to let history repeat itself. When his sibling’s legacy, Walt Disney World, opened that year, there were two accompanying hotels onsite. And The Walt Disney Company owned both of them. Those properties are now named Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. They’re two of the most iconic theme park hotels in the world, and yet they’re each derived from a building Jack Wrather crafted. He’s the originator of the concept of plussing your vacation by staying at a world class resort right beside it.
In the six decades since Wrather developed the Disneyland Hotel, the idea of luxurious accommodations close to Disney theme parks isn’t new. It is, however, a wonderful way to spend a vacation if you can afford it. Even if you can’t, it’s fun to daydream about all the opulent suites that Disney Imagineers have designed to celebrate their iconic characters. Besides, you can’t stay at a couple of them even if you have the money. They have specific rules about who’s invited to spend the night. Read on to see the 14 best rooms available at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Fittingly for the first Disney theme park hotel, even if it wasn’t technically owned by The Walt Disney Company at the start, the Disneyland Hotel features several of the greatest amusement park suites in the world. It also exemplifies theme park tie-ins in a capacity that differentiates these from the other options on the list. The suites at the iconic Anaheim property are more than just elegant rooms chock-full of amenities. They’re also a celebration of the early legacy of Walt Disney himself.
1. Fairy Tale Suite at the Disneyland Hotel
Rate: $700+ per night
If you have a Disney princess in your life or are one yourself, this room is a dream come true. Featuring all the royal touches one would expect from the de facto Princess Capital of the theme park universe, the Fairy Tale Suite even sprinkles rose petals across the bed to make guests feel like they’re Cinderella and that the clock will never strike midnight.
The suite offers 750 square feet of space along with a wonderful view of the park from the 11th floor of Adventure Tower, the most convenient of the three Disneyland Hotel towers. All of Disney’s thematic suites are located on this floor of this tower. While a couple of the other suites are either boyish or neutral in tone, the Fairy Tale Suite is decidedly girly. There’s even pixie dust delivered by Tinkerbell herself to the Disneyland crystal castle that will draw your eye as you enter the suite.
The entire room is like a decadent spa with a palatial bed thrown in for good measure. Bright colors illuminate every room, but they’re especially noteworthy in the bathroom. The giant tub there rests just below a hand-cut mosaic of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. The room is so gorgeous that you’ll have to fight off the temptation to spend your entire Disneyland vacation in your hotel bathroom. On the off chance that you don’t feel like leaving your luscious suite, simply luxuriate on a chaise lounge and enjoy your unique perspective of Downtown Disney below.
While the nightly rate at the Fairy Tale Suite changes depending on the season, expect to pay at least $700 a night to live like your favorite Disney princess for a day. Here’s some video of what you’ll get for that price.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, Disneyland Hotel
Rate: $2,500+ per night
This suite features Spanish-Colonial themes and 1,800 square feet, and is quite a bit larger than the cozier Fairy Tale Suite. It also comes with a much heftier price tag of $2,500 a night or more.
What do you get for that price? Twice the number of bedrooms, for starters. More than the additional space and ability to pack in extra crew members, the suite portrays what it’s like to spend your days at seas and your nights surrounded by the ill-gotten booty earned through piracy. Special touches such as silver and gold goblets, paintings of sword-fighting and debauchery, and a telescope to view the surrounding Disney wonders make you forget that you’re living in a world with smartphones and a cure for scurvy. There’s even a special treasure for movie buffs. A replica of Davy Jones’ Dead Man’s Chest from the second Pirates of the Caribbean film is on display. If you want to see how Disney furnishes a hotel room for pirates (and their fans), click here. Unlike the Fairy Tale Suite, you’ll see that this one offers an 11th floor look at Disneyland.