Those of us who live on the East Coast are more inclined to think of Florida rather than California when considering a Disney visit. But planners from all regions take note: Disneyland, Walt Disney's original theme park, located in Anaheim, offers attractive options, especially for meeting groups on a tight schedule. And what meeting nowadays isn't pressed for time?
The resort area is at least ten times smaller than its Florida counterpart, but that makes it simpler to move your people around. It's easy to walk to almost anything in Disneyland and the entrances to the two main theme parks—Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure—are just steps apart. The proximity saves lots of time for your attendees, whether they're heading to the park for a couple of hours at the end of a session, to one of three first-rate meeting hotels, or to a private function within one of the parks or in Downtown Disney.
I'm one of those people who like to get the lay of the land when arriving at a hotel for a conference. I want to know the most direct route to the meeting rooms, where to get my early-morning coffee, or where to send a kid for breakfast if she has outgrown character breakfasts. I found Disneyland incredibly easy to navigate.
Color Me Entertained
Disneyland's big news on the theme-park front is the opening of a new nighttime spectacular, which will offer packages for groups when it opens in March at Disney's California Adventure. It's one of those extravaganzas that every visitor to Disney plans for well ahead of time. Disney's World of Color, reminiscent of the popular television show from the 50s and 60s, “Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color,” will be a nightly 25-minute “visual symphony” where water is the primary canvas for the show's high-definition images of Disney characters projected on a 40-foot-high curtain of water. It will also feature 1,200 fountain nozzles, pyrotechnic effects, awe-inspiring laser effects, and an original musical score.
All three of Disney's hotels have ample meeting space and some Disney-only experiences. Consider, for example, the Mickey Mouse Penthouse or the Pirates of the Caribbean suites at Disneyland Hotel for your VIP (or you—hey, you deserve it). Described as the ultimate for Mickey fans, the 1,600-square-foot Mickey Mouse suite is bound to delight with the famous ear silhouette imprinted everywhere you turn. The Pirates suite offers a whole different flavor. Johnny Depp himself stayed here while his image was being cast in wax for the addition of his Pirates of the Caribbean movie character to the ride (if you haven't been to the ride lately, it's worth a return visit) and he surely felt at home with the wooden treasure chests and skull and bones decor.
The Disneyland Hotel is renovating all 969 of its guest rooms over the next two years, which will feature contemporary design and lots of business-friendly amenities. The first phase will be ready in early 2010.
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa opened a new addition in September that includes 200 guest rooms and 50 two-bedroom villas. The expansion brings the total number of rooms at the hotel to 948. Also included is a new swimming pool, a 300-space underground parking garage, and lounge areas and terraces that are perfect for group events. The addition also offers convenient access to the hotel's 20,000-square-foot convention center.