One of my most vivid early childhood memories happened when my brother and I were four or so. My parents said to us one evening, “Let’s go for a drive!” I remember this being especially cool because we were driving at night, and usually when it was dark out, bedtime was near. Despite the fact that we drove for over an hour, I don’t remember it feeling like we were in the car for very long. We arrived at a building that looked like a castle, and my dad said, “Hey, let’s go in and check it out!” When we realized it was a hotel, my dad said, “Let’s see if they’ll let us look at a room!” My brother and I were explorers at heart, so this sounded great. It was only when we were in the room that my parents dropped two bombs. The first, “We’re not just looking at this hotel room, we’re actually staying in it.” That was cool enough for my brother and me, but they’d saved the best for last, “And when we wake up in the morning, we’re going to Disneyland!” Disneyland, it turns out, was just half a block away. I think Kyle and I woke up the entire hotel with our shrieks of excitement.

Thirty-one years later and I still remember that trip like it was yesterday. I adore surprises and I’ve always wanted to do something similar for my own kids. This last weekend, Mike and I had the opportunity. We were invited to attend Disneyland’s Halloween Party, and Mike and I decided to splurge and stay at a Disneyland Hotel. I’ve lived in Southern California my entire life and I’ve never stayed at an actual Disneyland hotel before. In fact, that time my parents surprised us is the only time I’ve stayed at a hotel near Disneyland ever – we’ve always lived close enough to drive home after a day at the park. We decided that since we would be at the park potentially until midnight, and we’d have James with us, having the option to walk across the street to the hotel was a good idea.

Annie and James knew we were going to Disneyland for the Halloween Party, but that was the extent of their knowledge. We played it just like my parents did back in the day, “Hey Annie, before we go to Disneyland, we thought we’d look at a hotel room here! We know how much you like hotel rooms.” She was excited about that, and when she said, “Why do we have suitcases?” I thought quickly and said, “Oh, that’s where I packed our costumes for the Halloween Party.” Whoops! But she bought it. When we got to the room, Annie was really blown away by the Disney details at every turn (I was, too). It was only after she’d explored every nook and cranny that we finally told her the news.

OMG we're staying here!

She squealed with glee (and James squealed because his sister squealed) and she kept saying, “I can’t believe it! It’s what I’ve always wanted! Thank you! Thank you!” Surprise. Success.

The view from our room was so cool:

the view from our hotel room

But we didn’t look at it for long, as we had a Halloween Party to attend. Annie and James went as Anna and Kristoff from Frozen:

Kristoff, Anna, Sven

Disneyland at Halloween is so cool, everything is spooky in that perfect non-threatening Disney way. There’s Halloween music, trick-or-treating, and all the characters are in costumes. We got a tip that anyone dressed up as a character from Frozen would be able to join the parade behind the Frozen float. Annie and her friend Delilah (who was dressed as Elsa) went crazy when they saw Anna, Elsa, and Olaf “float” by, and when a woman from the parade asked them if they wanted to walk behind the float, they didn’t hesitate.

Waving to Anna and Elsa

I still can’t believe she walked in a Disneyland Parade.

James had fun at the park, too. He was able to go on It’s A Small World with Mike and the Carousel with me, and he squealed with delight the whole time.

fun on the carousel

Our time at Disneyland flew by, and the next thing we knew, it was time to leave. I was SO THANKFUL to have that hotel room, we were all tired.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, where we got to meet the main mouse himself (and James’ personal hero):

Breakfast with Mickey

After breakfast it was off to the pool, which was a good choice because almost everyone else was across the street at the amusement parks. We practically had the place to ourselves.


When we’d had enough of the pool, we walked across the parking lot to the large movie theater and saw The Boxtrolls (cute, I love stop-motion). And then, as if that weren’t enough, we had a special dinner planned (but I’ll talk about that tomorrow because it was hilarious).

In all, we were on Disney property for about 24 hours and I can’t believe everything we managed to squeeze in. It was so much fun, not just for the kids but for me and Mike as well. I feel so lucky that we can do this sort of thing. It might not be something my kids remember thirty-one years from now, but I will never forget those happy smiles and delighted squeals.