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Friday, June 8, 2012

Southern California - 2002 - Harbor Blvd Motels

            Motels on Harbor Blvd.

This is a re-print of an original post to the ThompsonFamilyWeb site about a trip we took to Southern California in July 2002. It is mostly unaltered from my original post.

Angels Baseball game
Old Towne Orange
California Adventure
Downtown Disney
Harbor Blvd Hotels

As a kid growing up in Southern California I always dreamed of staying at the Disneyland Hotel. In January of 1994 (before I started this web site) I fulfilled my dream when we went out to for my parent's 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed 2 nights at the Disneyland hotel. Unfortunately, as it was winter we couldn't really enjoy the outdoor amenities, but I confess that, for the most part, for me it was just acting out a childhood fantasy.

During those days, we would also drive by all the cheap motels that surrounded Disneyland - with names like "Atomic Inn" and "Peter Pan Inn" - and I confess I did not view the people staying at those establishments with the same envy. In fact, the motels looked cheap and tacky, and were not the kind of stuff dreams are made of.

Well, I'm all grown up now and many of the tackier motels have gone - or at least the names and facades have changed - but the establishments that line harbor Blvd. Still to not carry the mystique, aura (or cache) of the Hotels owned by Disney. What they lack in aura, however, they make up for in convenience and price. Located right across the street from Disneyland, you can walk to the parks from these motels. If you can't walk, most offer shuttle service as well.
We've never stayed off-site at Walt Disney World, so I can't comment on that experience. However, I can say that staying on-site at WDW is an all-encompassing experience that makes staying there very special. At Disneyland, however, if you stay at the Disneyland Hotel or even Disney's Grand Californian you never get that same feeling of the outside world being kept at bay at the resort's borders. Disneyland Blvd. (previously West Ave.), beautifully manicured though it is, still runs through the resort as a reminder that there is a real world out there.
All these things considered, staying "off-site" while visiting Disneyland does not have nearly the impact on your overall vacation experience as I would imagine staying off-site at WDW would. That said, would I rather stay at DGC, DH or Disney's Paradise Pier than, say, the Park Vue? Of course I would, but for the same reason I would rather stay at The Pierre than The Comfort Inn - they're simply nicer places to stay. Well, in truth, I've never stayed at PP, but it doesn't look much nicer than any one of several other hotels in the area that are probably better values. If we visit Southern California and can afford it (or if we have the DVC points available) I could see staying at the Disney Hotels, but our experience on this trip really makes me think that we will be staying at one of the Harbor Blvd. Hotels in the future.
But, which one to choose?

We stayed at the Best Western Park Place Inn - Mini Suites. Borrowing an old real estate adage, Park Inn has 3 things going for it - location, location and location. You simply could not ask for a more convenient location. The hotel is literally located directly across the main Harbor Blvd. entrance from the resort. You simply walk across the street and through the tram area to get to Downtown Disney and the theme park entrances. Funny thing, last year we stayed at Disney's Grand Californian - easily the most conveniently located hotel in the entire area - at yet it was while staying at the Park Inn that Andie made several comments about the great location. Of course, this could be because the hotel has little else going for it.
The room we had was neither very large nor comfortable. It also smelled bad - but I can't really complain about that as it was a smoking room and we knew that when we took it. You see, when checking in we asked about switching to a room with a view over-looking Disneyland. We thought it would be cool to be able to see the fireworks from the room. Well, this stinky room was the only one left so we took it. Actually, after we got used to it the smell wasn't too bad. Indeed, watching fireworks from the room (which we did 2 out of 3 nights - the other night we watched them from the street) was pretty cool.

The hotel offered free breakfast at a restaurant next door - but in truth it looked so nasty we didn't take them up on it. We did have breakfast at a nearby IHOP, but the prices were ridiculously high about $50 for breakfast for 4. Another big problem we had with the hotel - granted probably a temporary one - was that the swimming pool was way over-heated. The temperature in the pool must have been at least 90 degrees - and I am not exaggerating. It was like a hot bath. Not at all pleasant on a hot Southern California afternoon.

While we stayed there I walked around a bit and checked out other hotels in the area. I was interested in 3 things: price, availability of suites and rooms over-looking the park. The Park Vue Inn looked like it had the most rooms with views of the fireworks because pretty much anything on the parking lot side on the 3rd floor looked like it would have a view. Still, you couldn't pay me to stay there. It looked pretty nasty. The Carousel Inn and Suites did not seem to have any rooms with park views. 2 places, The Park Inn International and The Tropicana Inn & Suites both have suites that face the park - and they both looked nicer than the Park Place.

So, which one will we stay at the next time we go to Southern California? None of them. We drove by a place with a slightly worse location and probably no views of the fireworks, and yet looks much nicer. I think it's located where Belisle used to be - but I'm not sure. The place is called The Portofino Inn & Suites and it looks very nice. Although not right across the street, it's still very close and within walking distance. When we came back I researched the place on the web and it sounds real nice. The next time we're out there. I think that's where we'll stay.

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